You wrote the book, now what?
Last week, Patricia Hamilton talked about the book she created for her community in California (listen here). Today, she discusses the ins and outs of publishing books for individuals and for life story writers.
Excerpt from our interview
Patricia: Yes, as a publisher, I work with private clients and it's the self publishing service that I provide. I have clients all over the country and even a couple in foreign countries due to the Internet. Usually I give a free consult and when they called me they wanted to know what I do about their their book. They have questions about writing or any stage. I said, well when you come, come with the list of questions you have about publishing process and if you're working on something, tell me what you've got, text and images and what you visualize, what type of a book you want. Soft cover, hard cover, 8x10, 9x12, whatever. And we'll talk about who does what, how long it takes and what the costs will be. So I actually do even more than that if they haven't even started yet and want to know if it's a feasible idea. We go on the Internet and do a little research to see if there's similar books on Amazon bigger or better than theirs or if they actually do have a market for it.
Patricia: Generally I don't take people who want to make a lot of money with the book because I found that takes a unique book and a lot of time and investment. I told a woman yesterday about her husband's novel that she could plan on spending $20,000 minimum to try to make it sell across the US. So I love to work with just private clients and make nice books for them. And about five years ago I realized that about 30 to 35% of my business was memoir. And then I had grandchildren and I thought well, I need to do mine. So I got interested in, got his autobiography. Someone had sent me a link to Cheryl's Spence and who runs the program now, Dr. Barren has passed. And that got me going on specializing in story gathering and that's what I mainly do today.
Amy: So when you say story gathering, that's, are you working with private clients who want to write their own memoir and they're coming to you to help them actually get the story down? Or are you also, well and this might be a second part of a question, but are you also doing books for people like me and other life story writers who are hired by clients to write their stories for them? And then we need to find somebody to actually produce the book.
Patricia: Actually there's three different ways I'm involved with story gathering. You mentioned two. One is clients that do come to me, maybe they've already got their story done and want it published. And I [crosstalk 00:03:10].
Amy: So those are authors who have already written something and they're coming to you because they want to get it out in the world?
Patricia: Right. But at the same time, people come that need a ghostwriter or someone to go into their homes. And I hire ghostwriters and people to do that here locally. And then when APH was involved, I would get calls from the Bay Area and locate someone up there, a personal historian. So I refer from out of the area to professional people. But I've also done I think three books for APHers in the past from the Bay Area that had clients and I publish the books for them and get them printed and put them on Amazon and get them personal copies to give their family or to sell at book signings, whatever they want.
Amy: Okay. And just for the listeners who may not be familiar with it, the APH is the Association of Personal Historians, which we've mentioned before on this podcast. It was a professional organization representing people like us who do life story work. And it was around for about 20 years and they just closed down in 2017.
Amy: So your involvement with that was, that's interesting. Your business model sounds very interesting. So you were not the one actually going and sitting down with clients and doing the interviews and writing up the books, but people would come to you because they knew of you as a book publisher and then you were you were the liaison between say somebody who wanted to have their story written and a life story writer.
Patricia: Yes. And even more so I sort of fulfilled, well I do fulfill the position of say you're building a house, there's a general contractor who hires trades. So I hire ghost writers, photographers, professional editors, critiques, book designers, whatever the client wants and needs. Or if it's a simple book, I do the book design and I do, my main work that I do personally is book page design and layout. That's what I enjoy the most.
Amy: Say a life story writer has has a manuscript and they have all the photos and everything and they're ready to have that produced for their client. But it's a client who doesn't want to have anything go out on Amazon or they don't want an ISBN number or anything like that. So it's not really published because they don't want any kind of publicity for it, but they just want to produce something that's for their family and friends. Then you would be a person to call to have that book, the layout and design work and then the printing and the binding done. Is that correct?
Amy: Oh, that is such a good resource because people are always asking me where do I go? When I have this done, where do I go? And Patricia, you know obviously there's everything. It runs the gamut from Blurb, using an online service that has templates all the way to having, there's John Bennett is a man in St. Louis who does design work and the sort of project management. It sounds like you offer that too. So if somebody doesn't want to worry about picking out the type of paper and picking out all of that thing and then overseeing that production, because it can be pretty scary, especially when people are spending thousands of dollars to have not the writing done and not the interviewing done, but actually to have the book produced. It can be pretty nerve wracking if you don't know what you're doing. So that's a service that you provide.
Patricia: Yes, I understand it's terribly, through the years that I've been doing it. Of course now I have vetted printers, but some of my clients come to me with books they've had printed themselves. And I shudder when I look at them.
Amy: Oh, so that's interesting. What are some of the marks of an inferior job? Because if people aren't in that industry, sometimes it's hard to recognize or maybe you now it. It's sort of like porn, you know bad stuff when you see it. But you can't maybe define it. So some of the bad jobs that you've seen, what makes it bad?
Patricia: Well, there's two things that are main considerations for making a book look bad. One is the interior layout and design. Because of the computer capabilities now people are doing it on their own using just Word, Microsoft Word. And putting it right up into a book through Amazon KDP and CreateSpace and other, Ingram. And there's a lot of those places where you can get a book printed. But they don't put a table of contents or a title page or versatile page or an introduction or chapters start on the left hand side. It's really an art to make interior pages look professional and you can't just put up a Word doc and use ... Microsoft Word is a word processing program. It's not a page layout program. You can't make a good book with the word processing.