Writing a Book is Hard

I wrote this thing, this book-type thing. It’s a memoir of my years in retail management, and I’ve been working on it for over five years now. Today, I finished it. I’ve done all I can do by myself. I’ve written, re-written, re-organized, cut and pasted and added and deleted. I’ve read it and re-read it, had a few people read early versions that bear little resemblance to the manuscript now sitting beside me. And I think it’s done. I mean, of course, it’s not DONE done. I’m sure there will be more edits in the future. But I feel good about it (as good as one can feel about their own writing). It FEELS done. I think the major revisions are done, and now it’ll be tweaking to take out boring sections, flesh out good sections, building up the themes. For that, I need people.

My husband will be first, and I know he will be supportive and encouraging, and gentle in his suggestions. I’ve got a former co-worker in mind too, to make sure I wasn’t unfairly harsh or critical of our team. She’s a smart, well-read woman whom I trust to be honest but kind. And then I need someone who’s not related to me and who wasn’t part of that retail world, and I’m still pondering that. How do you find a good beta reader?

Then, I have to figure out what steps to take next. It would seem that memoirs are hard to sell, based on what I’ve read from agents. They need to be exceptional, and I’m not convinced I am, or that my story is. I’m a good writer, but does this story stand out? Why would a reader pick my book? What would they get from it? Is my story different enough from so many others? Would an agent even consider me without a strong platform? What the heck IS a platform anyway?

I’m still trying to find answers to those. And I’m pondering self-publishing too. It would be quicker, and I know that most of my former co-workers would love to read it. But I can’t help it: there’s a part of me that wants the validation of traditional publication. It would mean that someone out there valued my writing, thought it was worthy of sharing with the world. But why does that matter to me? Why can’t my own opinion be enough? Because I’ve seen too many self-published books that should never have been published, and I don’t want people to put me in that category.

So I’m going to find the list of memoir-friendly agents that I made, and I’m going to start researching. What do I lose by trying? (I mean besides my self-esteem and confidence.) Maybe I’ll get rejected 100 times, and then I’ll reconsider self-publishing. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll find that one agent who thinks it’s worthy. Wouldn’t that be something?

18 thoughts on “Writing a Book is Hard

  1. For a beta reader, maybe talk to your local librarian for suggestions, they might know someone who searches for that genre to read? I’ve worked retail as an assistant manager, but couldn’t imagine writing a book- good for you! And good luck on publishing.

  2. I think it’s definitely a topic people care about. As far as the memoirs part… Maybe you could reframe the book into a teaching book as opposed to just a memoir. “17 Indisputable Truths about Retail” That kind of thing?

    I completely agree regarding self-publishing, and don’t think it’s wrong to seek that validation. But I think our market is changing, and we have to change with it. Think of self-publishing as being the way you now pave a path towards traditional publishing. Once upon a time, you’d send 100 manuscripts, and finally on the 101st you get accepted. Now you build a track record of success with 40 manuscripts, the publisher sees and knows you are profitable. It’s more like building a road than playing the lottery.

    • Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate our suggestion, but I don’t think I could write that book with as much passion. My story is more of a love letter to my work family and my customers. It’s how the retail world changed me as a person, as a mom, as a daughter. I think the heart is what readers will connect with. I’ve considered shaping it into a novel, and I might still go that route, but right now I think I’m committed to memoir.

      I do agree with you about self-publishing; it’s a huge new avenue of modern publishing without the stigma that it used to have. It’s definitely something I would consider!

    • Thanks so much! But really, it’s not that much different from blogging, right? We all write semi-regularly; for a book it’s just on a singular topic. Still, it feels good. But I’m starting to wonder if the writing was the easy part, and these next steps will be a lot harder!

      • I sort of agree that the hard part is yet to come. On the other hand, just taking that first step, writing the first page, the first outline, that’s the part I imagine to trip most people up. If you don’t start, you’ll certainly never finish! You’ve great progress so far! Good luck continuing the momentum!

    • Haha! Yes, exactly: “And here it is, the uncomfortable awareness that no matter how much of myself I’m willing to bare for you, it’s still just my bloviating self going on about myself. Am I a boor??” Similarly, am I a bore? Good luck on your proposal–I am learning that book proposals were invented by the devil. I mean, seriously, why do people want to read my book?? Um, because it’s good and interesting? It’s ridiculous. But these are the hoops, kids. Sigh. And thanks for the congrats. I feel like it doesn’t count unless I get it out there for people to read, you know?

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