Some of you are making New Year’s Resolutions. If one of yours is to write and publish a book, I offer these thoughts and suggestions.
During my twenty-nine years at the helm of the Jesse Stuart Foundation, I have had more than a thousand conversations and meetings with individuals who want to publish a book. Only a tiny percentage of those meetings and discussions led to publication by the JSF.
We’re a non-profit publishing house that focuses on books about Kentucky and Appalachia. Our author’s list includes Jesse Stuart, Billy C. Clark, Harry Caudill, Thomas D. Clark, Allan Eckert, and Edwina Pendarvis, but we have published books by first-time authors, too.
Our production schedule is full-to-overflowing for the next decade, so we will not be reviewing any new manuscripts for several years. However, I do have some practical suggestions for those of you with a manuscript and no publisher.
1. If your manuscript is complete, look into print-on-demand publishers like lightningsource.com, lulu.com, and authorhouse.com. Print-on-demand technology allows prospective authors to have their books published in small quantities. This is particularly beneficial to folks who have a personal story or memoir that they hope to share only with family and close friends. If you have questions about the expenses, you should contact the publisher.
Many of these books are not books that the JSF would consider publishing because they have a very limited market and some of them are written informally. However, there is a big distinction in my mind between publishable and valuable.
Many manuscripts which I would judge not publishable are still very valuable. Print-on-demand publishers can help you share your valuable stories.
2. If you cannot seem to finish your manuscript, get some professional help before you approach a publisher. I’ve never read a manuscript which could not be improved by proofreading and/or editing, and I’ve never written a manuscript that could not be improved by the input of qualified readers. It’s all part of a slow and difficult process.
3. A good way to get a professional reading or review of your manuscript is to attend a writing workshop. Some very successful Appalachian writers, like Silas House, began their writing career at the Hindman Settlement School’s Writers Workshop. For more information, call (606) 785-5475.
4. Another bit of advice: If your neighbor happens to be a college English professor, a journalist, a published author, or just a highly-literate person, don’t ask them to read your manuscript as a “favor.” That’s too big a favor to ask. You wouldn’t ask a friend or neighbor to paint your house for free or to install new plumbing as a favor. Be willing, as you would be in any field, to pay for professional assistance. It’s money well spent.
5. There are several businesses in the Ashland area that can help you. I recommend Right Eye Graphics, a design and marketing business run by Adam VanKirk. If your manuscript is complete, Adam can help you with design, layout, and production. Call Adam at (606)393-4197 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
We have some “how to” books in our inventory which might be helpful to prospective authors.
Good luck with your writing projects!
James M. Gifford is the CEO & Senior Editor of the Jesse Stuart Foundation.