Book drafts, online courses and publishing options.
I began to write the first draft of my manuscript, basing it on the script I had written for my cancelled, in-person presentation. I then introduced new material to the manuscript from new newspaper, books, and other sources. The new sources also provided me with various interesting “side stories” that I had not initially been aware of.
The discovery of this new material presented me with a new problem: how to organize it and incorporate it into a manuscript in a logical, readable, and interesting manner. I also began to realize that it had been a long time since I wrote anything that even approached the size of a book. I decided that I would have to brush up on some of the mechanics of writing.
Luckily, my local library–the Talbot County Free Library–has an excellent online array of research and educational resources. One of the resources is a large selection of Gale Online Classes through the Eastern Shore Public Libraries. The various courses were interactive, instructor-led course that I could take entirely online. I decide to “go back to school” while continuing to work on my manuscript.
At the beginning of December 2020 I began my first online course: “Write and Publish Your Nonfiction Book”. Over the next six months I also enrolled in: “The Keys to Effective Editing”, “Research Methods for Writers”, and “Beginner’s Guide to Getting Published.”
Taking these courses was a real eye-opener for me. I had to re-acquaint myself with the finer points of grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation, style, and citing sources. I also learned about the various approaches to getting published: self-publishing (a la Amazon Publshing), “vanity” publishing (where the author pays a publisher to have his/her book published) and traditional publishing (where the publisher pays the author for the book).
I also learned that it was quite a long shot for an author to get a book published through a traditional publishing company. The courses taught about the importance of a query letter, both to get an agent and a publisher. The query letter is usually a one page letter that should “hook” the agent and/or publisher to further investigate your book idea. The query letter usually contains the topic of the book, a brief description of the plot, the target audience and a brief biography of the author. If the agent or publisher is “hooked” by the query letter, they will then ask for more information about the book. The query letter is the author’s first step in getting the book published
The courses also emphasized that, no matter how interesting the subject of a book, the driving force for publishers is “Will it sell?”. The courses advised using an agent to get a “foot” in a publisher’s “door”.
Just getting an agent seemed to be a feat in itself. Publishers and agents both had to be convinced that a book would sell, and most required the author to present a marketing plan to demonstrate the economic viability of a book. Creating a marketing plan for my book seemed like a daunting task, since I had no background in marketing. Getting an agent and/or publisher to even consider my book and then preparing a marketing plan seemed rvery challenging.
Another option was to submit my manuscript to a “vanity” publisher and pay the publisher to print my book. This option didn’t strike me as a very good idea. The idea of paying a publisher to print one’s book didn’t sit well with me. It didn’t seem professional and–after all–if I thought I had a good enough book, why should I have to pay for someone to publish it for me? Also, some of the online course that I took advised against using “vanity” publishers.
I started to research how to self-publish a book on the Amazon Publishing website. Like most things, it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. However, it seemed like the best option for a person who had never been published before. Self-publishing with Amazon Publishing seemed to be a middle ground. Self-publishing had been gaining greater acceptance, even with some established author’s. Well, why not self-publish? Self-publishing with Amazon Publishing seemed to be the one for me.