Why don’t you use your next “holiday break” to start writing that book?

Whether you’re staying at home or going away, why don’t you use your next holiday break to tell or write your story,  or at least to get a start on writing your story? (Then, later on, you can publish or self-publish it as a book.)

Arguably, the easiest story to write is your own life story – because you don’t have to use your imagination. It all happened. It’s all there, in your memories.

Why write a book about your life?

When writers, or people with a story to tell, actually write their story, or tell their story and others to write down for them, they can feel a deep sense of satisfaction to get that story out of their memories or head and onto the page.

And if they publish or self-publish their story – i.e. produce an actual book that represents their story or their life – they can feel real happiness and fulfilment, almost as if they have brought a baby  into the world. In my experience, this is especially true where the storyteller has lived a difficult or challenging life. But even stories told by people who think their life has not been very interesting are, if presented properly, well worth telling, and well worth reading about.

After you have told your story (either in writing, or verbally with a person assisting you to document your story), it can be produced as a book and shared with the audience of your choice (family/friends, or the public).

‘But I am not a writer!’

A writer or storyteller doesn’t need any experience in writing. To write your story, you just need to be able to write (or type) well enough to put your thoughts down on paper (or into a computer).

But if you don’t feel comfortable writing, or if you’re a far better at talking than writing, you don’t need to do the writing yourself. You can simply tell your story, and ask someone to type it up for you, in your own words.

For example, you can sit with a typist (like me) and tell your story; they will type what you’re saying as you speak. Or you can ask someone to record you while you’re telling your stories then have the recordings typed up. Even though you have verbally told the story, not written it, you are still the storyteller, and can still be the author and the copyright owner of your story.

Note: if you are a storyteller, not a writer, and want someone to document your stories and compile and produce your book, this will take at least a few months to do. The more stories (or the longer the book), the longer it will take.

Finding something worthwhile to write or tell a story about

If you want to write a book about your life, it needs to have a focus.

Try doing this, to help you decide what your book is going to be about:

  • first, list all the stories about your life that you could tell
  • then, choose the story that will be the most difficult to tell or write. Because that story is likely to be the most interesting and helpful to your readers.

Your life story’s audience

Whether people will want to read or hear your story depends on who they are. For example, if your chosen audience is your family members only, they will probably be interested in every aspect of your story simply because you are a  member of their family and your story is about people they know in real life.

On the other hand, if your audience includes members of the general public, your book will have to be attuned to that outside audience.

Knowing your audience may not affect the way you write your book, but it will affect the way your book needs to be self-edited, edited and designed.

Will writing a book make me rich?

The short answer is: no.

It’s  highly unlikely that writing a book will make you rich – of course, it’s alwasy possible, just like winning Tattslotto.

Well then, is it likely I’ll break even?

If your book is for sale, it’s likely you will sell some. The earnings from sales will help you cover the costs of producing it (e.g. editing, design and printing). Your book may even make a profit. But if you add up the hours you spent writing it, and compare that to your profit (if you have  made a profit), it is very likely that you will discover that your hourly earnings as a writer were very low.

In fact, many published writers who are making a good living earn their main income from activities other than book sales. They run writers’ courses, or  present seminars at conferences. Only a very small minority of authors are able to make a living from book sales only.

So, if getting rich is not a realistic goal.

But maybe there’s another reason why you should spend all that effort writing a book, such as (a) helping others understand issues by reading how you coped with them in your life, (b) educating others about how to overcome difficulties such as those you have faced in your life, or (c) finding fulfilment or happiness through self-publishing your life story.

What are the steps (and costs) of publishing or self-publishing?

After you have used your holiday break to start telling or writing your memoir, life story or whatever type of book you want to tell, you will need to continue writing until you have completed what we editors and writers call the ‘1st draft manuscript’.

The next step is to:

  • send your MS to a publisher (who may or may not wish to publish your book); this means the publisher will fund the cost of producing your book; or
  • self-publish your book, which means either (a) paying someone else to design and print or e-publish your book, the cost of which will depend on how long your story is, or (b) if your book is for family or friends only, and your budget very low, you may choose to simply photocopy and spiral-bind the document.

‘Self-publishing’ compared to ‘publishing’

Self-publishing simply means distributing your manuscript to anyone (apart from a publisher). Distributing a spiral-bound copy of your book to your family and friends is, technically speaking, ‘self-publishing’. Getting your book professionally designed and printed and distributing it is also ‘self-publishing’, whether you distribute it to the general public or just to your family.

On the other hand, sending your manuscript to a publisher who then publishes it for you, with the publisher paying all the costs of production and then paying you royalties for book sales, is known as ‘publishing’, not ‘self-publishing’.

For more information, go to:

Edited by Dee Sansom, On Time Typing, Editing and Proofreading

Image: Darwin Sunset – Copyright SW Kane.

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