When you have edited and rewritten and polished your manuscript until it’s the very best you can make it, you’ll want to publish your memoir.
I’m not going to recommend a publisher because in recent years the industry has changed significantly and continues to do so. But you have several options: (a) traditional publishing, or (b) indie publishing (independent publishing, sometimes called self-publishing, including POD—print on demand), or (c) something else—like photocopied and bound at an office supply store. (One of my friends wrote her stories by hand and that’s okay too. What a treasure that will be for generations to come!)
Some people, especially older ones, turn their noses up at indie publishing—they believe the only respectable publishing choice is traditional publishing. Indie publishing used to have a bad reputation because authors didn’t write well, edit well, or format well.
But indie publishing has improved greatly in recent years. Most companies offer packages that include editing, formatting, and other helps. Some companies are so professional nowadays that a number of established writers are choosing the indie option, including authors who have had previous success with traditional publishing.
If you choose indie publishing, I strongly recommend that you have critique partners and beta readers go over your manuscript. If they do their job well, you can consider both as your best friends and allies—they’ll help you work hard to make your manuscript as professional as possible. (Be sure to read Belinda Pollard’s informative post, What is a beta reader and why do I need one? Don’t miss the additional links she put at the bottom of her post.)
In addition, consider hiring a professional editor before you publish your memoir. This is pricey, but if you’re striving for professional quality, hiring an editor is, in most cases, a must. And, like critique partners and beta readers, you can consider an editor another of your best friends and allies in helping you craft a professional manuscript. (If you are already skilled in editing, critique partners and beta readers might be all you need. Watch for more on editing in a future blog post.)
Explore the internet for indie publishing companies and you’ll find a variety of options, packages, qualities, and prices. It’s mind-boggling. Get recommendations from other published writers.
If possible, get an in-person look at a book published by each company you’re interested in. You might be surprised at how different the finished books are when it comes to (1) paper quality, (b) font choice and size, (c) spacing of lines and margins, and (d) photos.
For example, take a look inside a few indie books:
In the photo below, notice that the paper is so thin you can see writing on the back side of the page. In fact, you can even see the print on the page before it! This might be #20 or #24 pound paper like you use in your printer at home. In my opinion, 70# paper is the best. Don’t settle for anything less than #50.
In this next picture, the author typed his manuscript on a manual typewriter—the letter t in the word “often” gives it away. Bless his heart! (In my youth and young adulthood I typed thousands of pages on manual typewriters so I know what a task that was for him.)
Notice that sometimes he left one space between words, other times two spaces. When you format your manuscript, be sure you’ve put only one space between words and only one space between sentences.
Compare the above picture with the one below which was not typed with a manual typewriter; this looks like Times New Roman font, which is popular. Once in a while you’ll run across a book using one of the sans-serif fonts like Helvetica.
Also notice this page has more space between the lines than the one above. Such spaces make reading easier.
In this next picture, notice the smaller spacing between lines as well as the margin, which is only 3/8". That narrow margin is something to avoid.
In the picture below, you'll see a good space between lines and a good margin at 9/16".
In the photo below, notice how close the lines are together as well as the very narrow margin, only 3/8". It doesn't look user-friendly to most people.
Include plenty of white space on your book's pages. Compare the photo above with the photo below.
Strive for quality photos. Below is an example of a poor quality photo and it's from my first memoir. I made the mistake of not checking with the publisher as to the quality I could expect. I won't do that again!
Compare that with the good photo below. Night and day difference!
It’s not easy to choose a way to publish your memoir. If you choose indie publishing, you’ll have to decide how much money you want to spend. Click on links below to compare the following companies. (If you want less pricey options, soon I’ll write about a couple of more affordable POD options, that is, Print On Demand.)
HIS Publishing Group
In making your decision, note such things as whether the indie publisher does cover design, provides editing services, an ISBN number, a US copyright, and book distribution.
Also check to see if color photos are an option; if not, ask yourself if you’re okay with black and white. Either way, check out the quality you can expect from each company by asking to see, with your own eyes, one or more of their books. Strive for quality photos. Make it your business to learn how to use a photo editing program to make your photos the best quality they can be. Poor photo quality is the most irksome problem I’ve seen in indie books.
Once you choose your publisher, you’ll still have a lot of work to do, but if you’ve done your homework well and strive for a professional product, if you write well, edit well, and format well, you could be very happy when you hold your published memoir in your hands and when you give copies to your family and friends.