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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Interview: Erica McNeal on Self Publishing Christian Book

Recently I did a book review of Good Grief! by Erica McNeal. She is a self published author with an amazing testimony. Since a few of you are aspiring authors and/or have testimonies that need to be shared, I asked Erica to do an interview to help us get an idea of the publishing process. 
This is a different type of post for me. Hope you enjoy!

1.       What led to your decision to write and publish your book?
a.      Good Grief! was originally one chapter in my overall memoir. But, after receiving a growing number of emails from people asking how to respond in tragic situations, I decided to publish Good Grief! as an eBook on June 11, 2011. Within two weeks of publishing, I received 6 requests to speak to Women's, Church, and Military Leadership groups. Each group asked when the printed version was going to come out. I was dumbfounded; I never expected this reaction. So, I decided to turn this chapter-gone-eBook into a printed version, tripled the word count, and 6 months later I was holding my first copy in my hands.

2.      How did you decide to go with West Bow Publishing?

a.      I had developed relationships with a couple of people connected with Thomas Nelson Publishers. I trusted the brand, and as I talked over the project with a few different people, we all came to the same conclusion that self-publishing was likely the best option for Good Grief! because of the niche of the book. As I have learned more about traditional publishers and first time authors, I remain confident in my decision. What I didn’t realize about traditional publishers is that for most authors (especially those of us without a huge Platform - see Michael Hyatt’s book Platform), the publisher will help out with cover design, editing, getting your book into stores/online, and social media. But, I had assumed going with a traditional publisher would also mean receiving a publicist and a marketing team devoted to helping get my book out. In fact, to me this would be a main reason of going with a traditional publisher. However, the more I learn about traditional publishers, this does not seem to be the case unless you already have “celebrity” status. So, since I would still have to take on those responsibilities myself or hire someone to help, getting Good Grief! out quicker through self-publishing seemed the way to go (for me).

3.      Were there any parts of the book you were unsure/uncertain about writing, but you felt God telling you to share it anyway?
a.      There were some of the things people said that I really questioned whether or not to put into the book, based on the relationships I have with the people who said them. However, I wanted to be true to what we experienced, and how the words made us feel. When I began to learn how common even some of the most hurtful words spoken to our family are, I felt compelled to be as real and open as I could.

4.      Did you have any trepidation of publishing something so personal? If so, how did you overcome those emotions in order to follow God’s plan?
a.      Honestly, I didn’t, and I don’t know why. I am very open to anyone who asks about our story. In fact, sometimes I forget that our story is so dramatic, because to us, we do our best to live day to day and do not dwell or live in the hurt or medical drama. It’s not that I forget what we have been through, I just don’t think about it all compounded together until I share our whole story with others. I have become so passionate about helping people understand they are not alone, that the only way I can develop this rapport with others is to be real, and raw, and honest with the emotions. And, I believe the best way to help people understand why certain words and inactions are so hurtful is to explain these same emotions from the perspective of the hurting.

5.      What has been the most surprising aspect about this publishing journey?
a.      People often talked about how writing the book is only half of the work, marketing and getting the book into people’s hands is the other half. And, this is so true. Post-publishing has definitely been a lot more work than I anticipated.

6.      What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
a.      Michael Hyatt has an incredible eBook about Writing Winning Book Proposals, get a copy. Even though I self-published, this proposal helped me to organize Good Grief!, my thoughts, my outline, pinpoint exactly who my audience is, and the direction I wanted the book to go. Also, whichever publisher you go with, ask a lot of questions, find out what their expectations are of you, and talk about your expectations of them before you make any commitments.

7.      We all make mistakes, what was one mistake you learned from during the writing/publishing process that you care to share so hopefully aspiring authors don’t make the same mistake.
a.      There were times I was so excited about getting my proofs back that I began to read what I wanted to read, instead of what the text said. This led to me missing quite a few errors because I did not take enough time really digging into the proofs.

8.      What is your favorite Bible Scripture?
a.      For a long time my favorite verse has been Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” I talk about how I specifically break this verse down in Chapter 11 of Good Grief! when my circumstances begin to feel overwhelming.

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