Becoming A Published Author – Chapter 24

Becoming A Published Author
Agony and Ecstasy of Writing a Book
By Evan and Lois Swensen
Chapter Twenty-Four
Mama Will You Read To Me
Peggy McMahon

In 2011, when I was ready to publish my two books, I turned to the yellow pages. I had no idea how to go about finding a publisher. Publication Consultants was listed under “Publishers, Book,” and I started there. I had self-published my first book Abba, Hear My Prayers, for Times I Cannot Pray Myself, and it was for sale at Providence Hospital gift shop. I wanted the book to have more of a finished and professional look and be available to a broader audience. The book is a prayer journal I wrote during a serious illness, and it is personal. Since the book was to be read like a journal, I laid it out day by day. I also quoted scripture that supported my journaling. During the editing process, I had so many changes: wording, spacing, font, back cover, front cover. You name it. I had it all. Sometimes I didn’t know what I wanted until I saw what I didn’t want! There were so many changes that I was coming a little bit unglued. But Evan was patient and understanding with me.

My second book, Father Hear My Psalms, for Times of Prayer and Praise, was somewhat easier, as I knew the process I needed to get a finished book. Writing this book was also very personal as I drew on my spiritual beliefs and based the book on Psalm 23. I would write a psalm and then support it with Bible scripture. I probably proofread it 20 times! Even though my books were very different from the Alaskana books Publication Consultants publishes, I was always made to feel that my books were as valuable as any other book.

My coming-out publication celebration for my second book was at my church, and I was so grateful that my church fully supported me. My close friends helped me celebrate and ensured that everything flowed smoothly. There was my banner in the church’s foyer, flowers on my signing table, books spread out, and finger foods for eating. I couldn’t have done it on my own; my friends came together to make my initial signing a success. It was an event that brought the community into my church.

There is a unique niche for the marketing of these two books. I remember Evan telling me that I would be the one to sell my book, and he was right. Since both books are spiritual nature, I turned to Providence Hospital, and they agreed to put both books in their gift shop for sale. I have had a slow, but steady request for the books. I wanted a broader audience, so my book was placed on and available as an eBook. However, my books still needed exposure. I had to come up with something creative. At the time, I did not feel like they were appropriate for a book signing at Costco or Fred Meyer, or other retailers. I had heard that certain stores sometimes turn down spiritual books. I may decide in the future that I am ready to pursue signings at these commercial sites.

I called churches in town to reach the religious community and told them about my books. One church bought the books online and invited me to come to their Bible Study, where they were using my book. For national exposure, I looked up the websites for all of the Disciples of Christ churches in the country. It turned out to be 40 pages long! I started a slow process of emailing churches, starting with Alabama. I have been surprised again and again at the connections I have with some of the churches across the country. About one in five churches responds and wants to preview the book. I did not write to every church in each state, but selected ones randomly. In the process of doing this I wrote to a church in Southern California and learned that their minister did the memorial service for my father 28 years ago! It’s a small world.

I have had ideas about a children’s book in my mind for several years. Even though I had ideas, I had no idea how to illustrate it. I contacted Evan for help, and he put me in touch with a schoolteacher who is an illustrator. We have had a good time working together; her paintings have captured the story beautifully. I got the inspiration to write my story from my love of books and promoting reading to my children. I read to them every day, and I wanted to get the message across to parents that reading to your child is a special and loving thing to do. The book is appropriate to read to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. I think that first- and second-graders will be able to read it themselves. It is the story of a mother reading to her little girl. I am now publishing this children’s book, Mama Will You Read To Me.

As soon as the paintings were done for the illustrations, they went to the photographer, and we will work from there on text placement, color, biography, picture, and other details within the book. With experience from the other two books, I knew more what to expect. I am still quite naïve about marketing, and with this third book, I will have to reach out to a broader audience than with the first two. I talked with a librarian and gave her the rough draft of the book. She thought it might be appropriate for the “Battle of the Books,” a program that wants you to have 2,000 copies ready and available. I would love that! It would give me great exposure in Alaska. You sometimes sell more of your first books when you come out with a second or third book.
My book writing is not my “day job.” I am a nurse practitioner, and I work teaching medical providers, so I sometimes feel very out of the loop in the publishing world. I am learning about marketing and how to become more visible to my target audience. It will be a small victory if I learn how to start a blog and interact with future customers. I have difficulty navigating Facebook, so it will be a steep learning curve.

It’s exciting to push myself toward new beginnings, so I try not to become discouraged by the marketing aspect of publishing. I believe in what I write, and in the end, if I make some money from my books, that will be good enough for now.

Evan, who lives in Anchorage, has 9 children, 25 grandchildren, and 6 great grandchildren. As a pilot, he has logged more than 4,000 hours of flight time in Alaska, in both wheel and float planes. He is a serious recreation hunter and fisherman, equally comfortable casting a flyrod or using bait, or lures. He has been published in many national magazines and is the author of four books.