• Roni Beth Tower
  • [SWP: Behind the Book] Why She Writes Press has Been the Perfect Publisher for Me
[SWP: Behind the Book] Why She Writes Press has Been the Perfect Publisher for Me
Contributor
Written by
Roni Beth Tower
November 2016
Contributor
Written by
Roni Beth Tower
November 2016

Psychologist Henry Murray, founder of “personology,” is quoted as saying  “All men are in some ways like all other men, in some ways like some other men, and in some ways like no other men.” The same is true of women. And the same is certainly true of authors. On all three levels, She Writes Press has been the perfect publisher for me.

            At the broadest level, I am like all other authors: I wanted my manuscript turned into a finished book I could feel proud of  I wanted it well-edited, free of typing and formatting errors, and attractive to people who might find it inspiring or entertaining or useful. 

            Like some other authors, I wanted it easily available through on-line and bricks-and-mortar outlets.  My traveling readers might prefer an e-book, but those of my generation could favor a print edition. I wanted broad distribution because my book was a hybrid: it would appeal to readers who were as diverse as Francophiles, single-again adults, mid-lifers looking for change, or romantics of any age. It was a memoir, a sort of extended travel essay, self-help in non-manual form, a spiritual guide. I was one of those whose work Brooke Warner could have been referring to in a recent post on hybrid books. Especially problematic to a traditional publisher.

            I was also well aware of what I could learn easily and what I could not. Being mechanically challenged, mastering technological skills was possible but time-consuming. A techie I was not. Nor was I a professional designer, and graphic skills were necessary in order to produce a high quality book. And then there was my lack of platform. The one I once had was not only the wrong kind – that is, it was science and volunteer-oriented and I am a memoir author – but the most impressive or sexy entries were long gone from internet searches. 

            On the other hand, I knew how to write and had  several  lifetimes worth of self-discipline and ideas for things I wanted to write about. My part in the publicity partnership lent itself to creating “content”.  

            What mattered most to me, however, was the ways in which I was like no other author. First of all, I had happily retired from professional life and had no intention of reversing that decision. A book I had written for my children and grandchildren sat graciously ignored  in its box on a shelf in my office ever since I had written it shortly after retiring from academia. I was well aware that 465 manuscript pages – over 165,000 words – were way too long to interest an agent, a publisher, or even a reader. Nonetheless, the pages told the story I wanted to tell to the audience I then wanted to reach.

            Five years later, events pushed the manuscript off the shelf and in a new direction. In my Acknowledgements, I list several of the synchronicities that conspired to make me speed up completion of the quilt I was creating with a granddaughter in record time so that I could follow a trail of blessings that led me down the path to publication. I had learned to listen when the universe was sending me messages – indeed, that was the primary point of my memoir, at least to me. 

            The trail led me to discover hybrid publishing and then specifically Brooke Warner and She Writes Press. Brooke assigned me to Annie Tucker as an editor; the fit was perfect. In three intense months of hard work, Annie helped me reduce the manuscript to about 90,000 words. I signed the contract with SWP on New Year’s Eve, and squeaking in under the deadline for 2016 fall publication.

            My need to publish quickly was both a group difference and a personal one.  At the group level, I wanted my book in print before my 73rd birthday. I knew that starting an encore career at my age might be fine with me but, as my respected colleague Becca Levy has shown so brilliantly, ageism is real and it was not fine in the eyes of the world.  Indeed, in the eyes of the world, I had not only deliberately made myself invisible but had become a target for all the assumptions that people can make about others they do not know based on a single characteristic – often age, gender, race or religion, for example – that allows them to dismiss the person, thus simplifying their intellectual lives. So, like many other older women who had completed one career and wanted to begin another, especially one that took advantage of their experience and any wisdom it had brought them, I was unlikely to be taken seriously. Especially by agents and publishers looking to discover a young up-and-coming new-and-exciting voice.  Same true for publicity. Who wants to look at my grey hair, sagging chin and wrinkles while ignoring the twinkles in my eyes, my stamina, and  my tendency to see things outside the box?

            At the personal level, my life had been punctuated with messages that I was not – could not – “run the show”. My destiny was going to unfold the way it needed to and I could either ignore it, insisting that I knew better what I should be doing, or allow it to flow, doing my own part and allowing events to unfold. 

            My book wanted to go out into the world and I needed to help it get there as best I possibly could.  She Writes Press was the perfect partner:

  • Time. At my age, I did not have years to spend learning to query agents and select a publisher and watch my book inch to publication.
  • Autonomy. I had worked so hard towards my integrity. With SWP, I could maintain control over those aspects of the book that were truly important to me – what stayed in and what got cut, how the cover looked, and what format fit the finished book.
  • Excellence.  At the same time, I needed the work to be as excellent as it could be. That meant relying on partners who helped produce it.  I needed to be able to trust others, people conversant in the various processes, to do aspects of it that I could not and to teach me about the unfamiliar industry. My memoir was NOT a refereed journal article or a technical book chapter and the “rules” were different. In addition, distribution and everything associated with that aspect had to be done professionally.
  • Priorities.  Last, and perhaps most important to me. I wanted to work with people who understood my priorities.  As much  as I wanted my book to be excellent in all ways, in the end it was only a book. The people in my life continued to come first.  Should a conflict arise, a lifetime had shown me how I would choose. I was hoping that SWP would provide a shelter for my values; I doubted that same respect for my values would exist with a traditional publisher.  And I was right.  She Writes Press is indeed a perfect fit.  The bonus of Sisterhood catapults it beyond.

 

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