Finding the Market (and how to reach it)
OK - we'd lived through it. We did the deed: we assembled the bits and pieces of writing from a variety of sources, ran it through the juicer (Shadan7) to blend & refine, then edited the heck out of it.
We had figure out how to get it to market. We knew the market existed: we had several years of feedback from our diaries and from some external sources that confirmed it. But could we get it out to that market?
We started out traditionally, querying both agents and publishers with different formats. We got occasional nibbles of interest, but no bites, over the course of a couple months. We decided it was time to take it in-house.
We created a small company called HFY Publishing, LLC, and - after reviewing a few options (Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon CreateSpace etc.) - we decided to go with Amazon's CreateSpace. From there, we could publish the book as a Print On Demand (POD) as well as for Kindle, and reach one of the largest markets available. We'd review our level of success after a while to see if we wanted to expand the options, but in the interim we looked at pricing: how much would be too much, how much would be too little, and what would allow us to cover expenses while also making a small profit and providing us with a $1 margin from every sale that could be contributed toward Alzheimer's and dementia-related organizations like the Alzheimer's Association and Hospice?
Once that was settled, there was the cover design, the book layout & formatting (we wanted to be sure that the Kindle version closely matched the print version), and then the "fun" part: marketing.
We knew that we needed a base website that allowed us to explain the book and the care-giving & recovery journey as well as provide a point-of-sale for folks to get either the print version or the ebook. We also wanted to set up a Facebook page and a Twitter account in order to avail ourselves of the potential power of social media.
We did all that, and still felt like we needed to do more - not simply for the purpose of advertising, but to help talk out the process we'd been through and continue (even in a small way) contributing to the capacity for others who may be following a similar path.
One thing we knew was that - whether we self-published or not - we weren't likely to end up on a publisher's list. We weren't famous; our posts and entries and interaction online wasn't "the next big thing" and we had no delusions of becoming such. We did, inadvertently, find that our participation in other online fora was making an impact. People appreciated the experience that we brought to the discussions, and our suggestions for their issues based upon our own trial-and-error approaches through our care-giving period. We've since learned that some online participation1 in groups and fora is recommended to help get people familiar with our names & our story.
We had some additional (basic) strategies, too. First, we provided free copies to those who'd helped us through the beta-reading process. Then, we sent out some copies to folks who had indicated they'd be willing to read it and provide some honest feedback after the fact so that we could build some buzz. We've spoken with local libraries and provided copies to them so that the book is in the system; we've also donated copies to local Councils on Aging. Of course some family, friends and businesses who are mentioned in the book got copies. At the end of August, I'm scheduled to appear on a local cable show to be interviewed about the process of writing the book, and our local town paper will be doing a small article about it. My college and high school alumni associations have been notified, and Shadan7 has taken some similar steps with his school contacts and local papers (well, one is actually a pretty darn good-sized paper - definitely larger than a "local").
And now we wait.
And this is where you can help us.
Current reviews on Amazon
We've got (as of this writing) four reviews up on Amazon.com from people who have read the book - all very positive, for which we are grateful. Here's a rundown with short excerpts:
- "Highly recommended for anyone dealing with dementia," posted July 23, 2011 by Pam Crabtree
- "Good resource also for those not directly involved with dementia related care giving," posted July 26, 2011 by James Kasper
- "For folks who have already walked this path, (and could possibly walk it again), this is a must-read book." - from "Review of HER FINAL YEAR, A Care Giving Memoir," posted August 13, 2011 by Paige A. Strickland
- "This is an open and honest book about the realities of caring for someone with Alzheimer's or dementia. Expecially for those just embarking on this experience, the book is a great reality check for what probably lies ahead." Posted August 21, 2011 by Steve Austin in the review titled The Best Caregiving Account That I Have Read.
We are very thankful that the book has been so well received so far, and hope that others here can help us spread the word about it. If you'd like to read it for yourself and can't swing a copy right now, don't worry - you can enter to win two copies, one for yourself and one for a friend, just by reading the next subsection. We'd love it for someone here to win - this community is where Shadan7 and I "met" during our care-giving roles and it was the support of this community that sparked the concept for the book.
And that is how you can help us out now.
How to get a free copy
This part's easy. We've been doing giveaways on our Facebook page as part of our efforts to broaden our readership base. We've got another one that ends tomorrow (Wednesday, 24 August 2011). The basic rules are easy:
Simple: get a friend to "like" this page, and say that you sent them in a comment or wall post - they have to name you. Each pair will be entered for two books. You can enter as many times as you get someone else to name you (must be a new person each time). And you have until Wednesday noon CDT to get your names in.
Yes, it's that easy. And as of this writing, there's only ONE entrant, so chances are pretty good that you could win. (Of course, you have to enter to win, and both you and your friend have to have "Liked" the page.)
Here's some additional information about the book itself, taken directly from the website. You can get a little more information by clicking on the various links, and you can read a whole chapter by clicking on the May link.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken"
We often hear that life is a journey, and it's the journey that matters – the path and the experiences – more than anything else. The family faced with a loved one struggling against the onset of Alzheimer's Disease often faces new, unexpected twists and turns in their journey.
Both Jim's and John's families faced this several times throughout the care-giving experience. When their loved ones were in the early stages, minor changes to daily life were required – a small diversion to the normal routine, a minor turn in the road. As the disease progressed and care-giving needs changed, the roads diverged from their original paths. Both families opted to care for their loved one at home throughout all or as much of the process as possible. For the Downey/John family, Martha Sr's initial frailty was taken into consideration and routines adjusted accordingly. For the Bourke/Smith family, Georgia's mobility factored in and new routines came into play – running errands, visits to friends or jobs around the house became somewhat regulated and structured into routines, but slowly changed as some aspects became increasingly difficult to pursue or continue.
January: Suspicions that something is wrong
February: Detection, diagnoses and enabling decisions
March: Confirmation & preparation.
April: Shifting responsibility
May: Deliberate blindness
The entire "May" chapter is online - take a look and read through, if you'd like to get an idea of how the contents is laid out.
June: Losing proposition
July: Coming to terms
August: The hardest job you’ll ever have
September: The crisis
October: Hospice, or placement?
His First Year: The long, slow process of recovery
1 Some of this material is based on information from diaries written by, and as part of, the series A Kossack's Guide to Book Publishing by Swordsmith. In particular, Part 9 - Marketing and Publicity and Part 6 - Publishing Lists.