Thinking of writing and self-publishing a memoir? Get off to a flying start by reading this case study by ALLi author member Dawn Brookes, who shares the benefit of her experience gained from her two self-published memoirs containing stories from her early nursing career.
Why I Wrote My Nursing Memoirs
I started the first memoir while working full time as a community matron in Derbyshire. Initially I was writing for myself and for future generations who might want to explore family history. I became determined as I remembered the patients from those early days, I wanted their brave stories to be told, and I was remembering the fun and camaraderie of nursing in the 1970s.
Progress was slow going as I had hardly any spare time.
Set Back by Lost Work
In 2014 my computer crashed, and the hard drive was irreparably damaged. I lost the majority of the memoir. At that point, I gave up. Work was too busy and I began to doubt the value of writing it. I had major things going on in my life, as I was about to semi-retire and work part-time. I forgot about the book.
Fate conspired to remind me about the memoir when, following a fall, I broke my foot in three places and ended up in plaster. I was confined to the house and bored out of my brains – when I remembered!
I was able to concentrate on one thing, in one place and I completed the work in seven weeks.
The most challenging part for me was developing patients’ stories without identifying them due to confidentiality.
I had to change things around a bit and mix up details while remaining true to the facts.
Mistakes Made & Lessons Learned
I made a whole load of mistakes in August 2016.
The biggest mistake was not having the manuscript proofread, although I had read it numerous times and asked a few friends to read it, we were all too wrapped up in the story and missed the numerous grammatical errors.
The next mistake I made was joining the Amazon Advantage programme. I ordered 200 books. The pricing of memoirs is relatively low at £7.99. I had sensibly had the book cover designed by a graphic designer, and the Kindle book formatted and converted by a professional. I published the book on Kindle.
The orders were coming in from Amazon Advantage, but I was posting books to their warehouses all around the UK, wasting time at the post office.
It was costing more money than I was making!
The next major faux pas was when I read the book and noticed an error on the second page. I was learning a harsh lesson. In spite of this, complete strangers were reviewing the book favourably – even on Goodreads it was getting three stars! This encouraged me that the content was at least readable. I found ALLi’s Debbie Young via a blog post, and she kindly agreed to read the book. Debbie was encouraging about the content and gentle with her advice.
I bit the bullet and hired a proofreader which was the best thing I could have done.
I was able to correct the mistakes for the Kindle version, but the print book was more difficult. I had sold about 90 books when I decided it was time to cut my losses and do a reprint.
I realised that the Advantage programme was not right, and I moved the book to Createspace after a few emails to Amazon Advantage.
Change, Change, Change
The beauty of spending decades working in the NHS is that constant change requires flexibility which is vital, and I applied those skills to publishing.
The second memoir flowed better because my writing had improved.
- I found it easier to mix up events and personalities to protect confidentiality.
- The whole publishing process was much simpler.
- I learned how to format books for kindle and epub and for print too, which saved me money.
- This money was spent on proofing and editing the second memoir.
- I saved a fortune by using print on demand.
More Memoirs to Follow
With lessons learned and readers requesting more, there is likely to be another memoir or two in the future. I still have around eighty print copies of my first book if anyone wants one – as long as they don’t mention the grammar!
OVER TO YOU If you’ve learned lessons from writing a memoir, do you have top tips to add to Dawn’s list? We’d love to hear them!
As published on Alliance of Independent Authors blog 26/10/2017