How did you come to self-publish? Did you try to get published traditionally?
As I was writing Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress, I was uncertain as to whether I wanted to pursue the traditional publishing route or opt to self-publish. Like many, I was on the fence for a long time. The idea of signing with an agent—of being taken care of by a seasoned professional who would lead me through the wild tundra that is the publishing world—sounded great! With a title like mine, I was certain that getting representation and securing a contract would be a slam dunk. But then, did I really want to surrender the rights to such a personal story?
Then, I attended a big writer’s conference in which writers had the opportunity to attend classes and schedule appointments with agents and publishers. I got the impression that even if you publish with a traditional publisher, you’re still expected to do all of the things a self-published author is supposed to do: blog, network, sign books, endear yourself to any stranger who might buy your book or who knows someone who might appreciate your prose. They give you the hoops to jump through, but you have to jump through them all the same. And at the end of the day, for doing the same work you would do as a self-publisher, you end up with only about $1 a book.
The big thing publishing houses have to offer their authors is distribution. A self-published author is not going to get her book into Target. End of story. What publishers fail to mention, however, is that the odds are against most books being available at any bookstore.
One spring morning, I was sitting at my son’s dentist office, perusing the BOOKS section of People magazine. I read a review of a book that was about a married woman who meets a man on an airplane. They have an affair. I felt like I was reading about my own story! Her story was fiction and mine was memoir, but the similarities made me feel sick to my stomach…and desperate to get my hands on a copy of her book.
Later that day, I visited three major Seattle bookstores, only to find that the book that had been so gloriously featured on the glossy pages of People magazine wasn’t available at any of them. I was told I could order the book and return to pick it up once it arrived. For me, the distribution myth was broken.
I wanted the book that day, so I went to Target and bought a Kindle and downloaded the book with ease and decided then and there to self-publish.
What self-publishing service did you use? Happy with the service?
Amazon made self-publishing so easy! After having the PDF file converted to an HTML document, uploading the book was a piece of cake. I have to confess that I utilized the services of a graphic artist to do the book layout and interior design. She also set the file up for me, so I cheated a bit.
Initially, I had only wanted to offer an e-book. However, I was encouraged to make my story available in standard book format. I researched a few on-demand publishers and decided to go with CreateSpace, both because of their good reputation regarding payouts to authors and because of their affiliation with Amazon.
Working with Amazon and CreateSpace has been a breeze. Both have customer service numbers for authors and offer daily sales numbers. Any problems I’ve had have been dealt with promptly.
I am in the early stages of getting Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress available on the Nook. They are not as easy to publish with, as they want to know things like my marketing plan and my willingness to do in-store promotions.
Personally, I think they want a lot at “Hello.” Also, they take up to six weeks to offer a book after submission, while my book was up on Amazon within days.
So, as a consumer and an author, I am a huge fan of Amazon!
What avenues have you taken to market the book? Have you gotten reviews, interviews, TV, print media coverage?
I am about to sign with a public relations company and let them do their magic. I’m really excited about this new phase. Given the current media fascination with “the mistress,” this is something I need to try to tap into now, while the iron is hot. I don’t know that I would go this route if the topics of infidelity and mistresses weren’t so high-profile right now
What drove you to write this particular book?
Carlos, my lover, fought very hard to survive Amyloidosis, the rare disease that took his life. While he was in the hospital we talked extensively about his desire to start programs to educate primary care doctors on the typical symptoms and proper diagnosis of his disease. He had a Rolodex filled with contact information of doctors from around the world. He could have made a huge difference.
After he died, I tried to do things to honor his memory, but I soon realized I was trying to honor him in the ways I thought his wife should. I was trying to live someone else’s life. Then I thought about what I could do, as the widowed mistress, to raise awareness for his disease and I got the idea to write Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress.
Is the book in any one particular genre? Is it a genre that’s familiar to you?
The personal journey of my story is what makes it a memoir.
As the story opens, I meet Carlos, an attractive married man, while seated next to him during a five-hour flight to Hawaii. We exchange numbers, and two months later I called him. I was needy, vulnerable, and lonely after another argument with my husband about our empty sham of a marriage. I wanted a distraction…an escape. Initially, that was what I found with my affair.
But then we fell in love.
And in the midst of our passionate yet tender affair I begin to see myself through Carlos’s eyes. I came to terms with my abusive childhood and unusual past—and with myself. In the end, he gave me the thing I’d most needed my whole life—to love and be loved and with that, I learned to love myself.
Who are your greatest writing influences?
I was more aware of what I did not want to do rather than having any stylistic aspirations per se. I did not want my story to spend three pages on an insignificant detail. I did not want to offend the reader with too much information, as sometimes happens in memoirs. I wanted to write a book that was complex; to offer something for the voyeur, the psychoanalyst, the lover of memoirs and the romance reader, and insight for those who wonder what really happens in an affair.
Ultimately, I tried to write a memoir that I would want to read.
What’s your writing regimen? Any tips for keeping focused?
I am not a morning person. I love to sleep in. According to my natural biorhythm, the best breakfast is an early lunch. However, I have found that I write best in the early morning, before the birds wake up. So, when I am writing, I wake up at 5 a.m. and use the two hours before my family rises to set the framework for what I will tweak throughout the rest of the day.
I also pay attention to stagnation and give my creative energy a break when nothing is flowing. I’ve found that when I can’t get in the zone I am just spinning my wheels and writing then becomes an exercise in frustration. However, if I take the day or two (or week or two) off that my mind wants, I return fresh and with a heart full of creative ambition.
Would you self-publish again?
At the time of completing this interview, my book has been available for about three weeks. It is too early in the game for me to have any opinion about self-publishing. But so far I am loving the challenge—and meeting some wonderful people along the way.
Any final words of advice for those looking to self-publish?
Yes, leave time for the process of preparation and publishing. I think as self-publishers we are fueled by passion and want to put our books out there right away. But impatiently wanting to share your words with the world is more about ego than professionalism. Do the steps. Create the cover you want, not the one that will do. Employ the services of a professional editor and proofreader. They see your book differently than a friend or relative—unless that friend or relative is an actual editor. Get your manuscript proofread. I thought this would be a waste of time and money and I couldn’t have been more wrong. Getting your book up to snuff is the step many self-published authors think they can skip, and yet it’s the very step that separates us from what you find at Barnes & Noble. It’s not quality of writing or strength of storyline…just due diligence.
To find out more about Megan, visit her website at www.widowedmistress.com