I haven’t blogged for a while, but it’s been for a really great reason. I’m excited to announce that my memoir, Whispers from the Valley of the Yak, is in the publication pipeline, to be released in September 2023!
You may be aware of how the publishing world has changed in recent decades. For those who aren’t, my experience can provide some insight.
I opted a year ago to sign a contract with She Writes Press, a hybrid imprint focused on women authors. “Hybrid” means the publishing process is more of a partnership between the publisher and author than the arrangement with the more “traditional” publishing houses. Self-publishing is yet a third way to get a book into the world of readers.
Last summer, although my general story was set, I was deep into revising my manuscript based on feedback from various people. But other tasks surfaced that I’d committed to as part of the agreement with She Writes Press.
I am primarily responsible for the marketing and publicity for my book, both of which are necessary these days for a first-time author to sell her book. I’ve just hired a publicist as She Writes recommends. But I had to come up with the content—the words and descriptions—that enables my publisher to interest bookstores in carrying my book. Similarly, my publicist will use this same content in designing a marketing and publicity plan to create the buzz that will attract readers. Without getting too deep into the weeds, I offer an example of what I’ve been doing over the last months besides making final changes to my manuscript.
Late last winter I attended an online writers conference, with tracks on book publishing and marketing. One very helpful session was “Hooks, Loglines, and Descriptions: Writing the Most Powerful Short Descriptions for Your Book.” Presenter Pamela Sheppard said that once you have a complete manuscript you must shift from telling your story to selling your story. [i]
She detailed how to develop these three “selling” tools. The hook is the most concise of the three—one sentence or less that grabs the attention of an agent or a browsing, prospective reader. The logline is a one or two sentence description that often doubles as a hook. The third, 300 words or less, persuades the reader to buy the book. These descriptions can be used on the book’s front or back cover, the inside jacket of a hardback, or an ad. Note that these are different from a synopsis, which summarizes the entire story and gives away the ending—a no-no for marketing.
Related to these selling tools are “keywords”—words and phrases people type into online search engines to help them find a book to their liking. A genre, like “memoir,” can be a keyword, as are words related to the book’s tone, like “noir,” “gritty,” or “dark humor.” Other keywords specify the story’s time frame—“futuristic,” “contemporary,” “WWII”—or the setting—“Victorian England” or “Alaska.” Sheppard recommends brainstorming fifty keywords, choosing the ten best to construct your selling tools. Short phrases can serve as keywords too.
Among my keywords: “quest memoir,” “finding your authentic self,” “work-life balance,” “mountain landscapes,” “aging parents,” “healing from emotional abuse.”
My logline: Jackie knows tumultuous times—she escaped war-torn China as a toddler with her medical missionary parents, grew up with emotional abuse, and came of age in the 1960s. After returning to China at thirty-eight with her aging parents and being stunned by a revelation about their past, she begins an unexpected quest for forgiveness, self-fulfillment, and the authentic life she craves.
I plan to blog regularly in the coming months, and some of the posts may provide more peeks into what it takes to birth a book. It has certainly been a learning experience for me.