[The wonderful folks over at JKS Communications reached out to me about hosting a leg of The Concrete Killing Fields blog tour. As someone who puts together blog tours both professionally as CCLaP's Marketing Director, and out of my sheer love of literature as a blogger, there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to help spread the word about Pat Morgan's small press memoir.]
In today's day and age, it is so easy to become a published author. If you are ever in doubt, just take a look at this blog post by Chuck Wendig. So it's no longer a matter of "Will my book ever get published?" The question is, "Do I want to be traditionally published?" Pat Morgan took some time to share her journey from manuscript to finished product, the hard work she had to put into it, and the people she pulled in to end up with a memoir she could be proud of:
It was way past time for me to get serious about getting published. My manuscript was finished—again. I’d basically re-written it at least twice, trying to find a balance between what I wanted the reader to know about the people I had written about, including myself, and what any potential readers might actually want to know. It had been painful at times since I’d written about some of the homeless people who stole my heart and broke it. Too, I’d read that if you write about yourself, you need to be willing to “open a vein.” I’d gone further, I think, and maybe hit an artery a couple of times since what I’d written about why I felt so connected to homeless people seemed to come in spurts. I’d been to a few conferences for writers and “wannabee” writers and twice I’d come home thinking I’d struck gold but neither of those opportunities to land a publisher had panned out. I’d learned a lot, though and even deleted some of the “get even” chapters after I read half a dozen books about how to write a memoir. Finally, I’d edited my manuscript until my eyes crossed and I could almost recite it verbatim. My literary friends had edited it as well, some of them a couple of times. I’d fulfilled my lifelong dream of writing a book but it had taken so long that getting it published was now on my “bucket” list.
I was well aware that thousands of people have self-published books and many of them have done well but for several reasons, that didn’t matter to me. I wanted a top-quality product and the credibility, the “good housekeeping seal of approval” that comes, rightly or wrongly, by having my first book published by someone who publishes books for a living. It hadn’t occurred to me that I could be that publisher until I signed up with a brilliant, bossy “book shepherd” who teaches and helps people become independent book publishers so they can turn out a quality product and make far more money than they can make by having their book(s) published by a traditional publisher.
All the editing that had been done before I sent it to the “smart, sassy, salty” woman who would quickly become my “book shepherd” clearly paid off. Other than a lot of sentences that were a full paragraph long (which is how we speak and write in the south) she and her chief editor said my manuscript was “clean” which made it easier for them to work with me. My willingness to be open to edits by professional editors who did a lot more than catch typos and incorrect punctuation marks helped as well. What I especially liked, even though it was a lot of work, was the way she and her chief editor worked with me to be sure that we were on the same page (literally and figuratively) with their edits and that those edits were compatible with what I was trying to communicate. (By this time, it had become clear to me and my book shepherd that I lacked the technical skills—and the motivation—to become an independent publisher and she had agreed to be my publisher as well as my book shepherd.
When we finished our marathon rounds of editing, the book then went to “layout.” There a computer genius converted the manuscript into a more easily readable font and fit the entire manuscript, including the endorsements, acknowledgements, afterword, and table of contents into the form and size of the book. Then we edited it again, and edited the edits that had been incorporated until we agreed that it was as close to perfect as it could be (within reason).
While all this was going on, my publisher was working to get the best people—and prices—for the book cover, paper, printer, distributor, etc. She was also “encouraging” me to get top-notch endorsements for the book, write the acknowledgements, the afterword, and my personal information for the cover—and venture into the world of social media—an absolute must for marketing. That it all came together at the same time is a testament to her persistence and professionalism.
One of the things I learned along the way is that traditional publishers, which are corporations, may not even like some of the books they publish. If the book will sell well enough to make money, the traditional publisher likes—and gets—most of the money. Conversely, the small independent press that published my book wants me (the author) to make the lion’s share of the money. I like that even though my goal in writing the book and getting it published wasn’t to make a lot of money. My goal was to keep my promise to tell the stories of the people I loved and lost to the concrete killing fields of homelessness. In doing so, I hoped, and still hope, that readers will understand why they were homeless, why some of us are so driven to help them, and what we need to do to break the cycle of homelessness in our communities—and our country.
Pat Morgan is a self-confessed political junkie and “Arkansas Traveler” veteran of the Clinton for President, and Clinton-Gore campaigns. She is also a mostly unsuccessful political candidate (won 1, lost 2), a former elected official in county government, an unabashed policy wonk, and relentless (ask anybody who knows her) advocate for effective services, especially mental health care, and housing for homeless people.