This week Sapling speaks with Linda Lee Blakemore.
Sapling: Tell us about the process of getting your book published. Did you enter contests? Open reading periods? What transpired between sending the manuscript out initially and its acceptance by your publisher?
Linda Lee Blakemore: Although this is my first memoir, I did previously publish a book to help children, Kids Helping Kids Break the Silence of Sexual Abuse, under my previous name, Linda Lee Foltz (Lighthouse Point Press).
With this second book, Entrenched: A Memoir of Holding On and Letting Go, I first reached out to my previous publisher. I was shocked when he agreed to publish my memoir, but only if I changed my name. Isn’t there power in the truth? Of course, I declined. After that, and before seeking professional edits (big mistake), I sent the book to three other publishers. All three declined. A fourth publisher expressed interest in taking the project, but he was very open about his lack of distribution. I thought that could be a mistake. Another interested publisher went belly up in the midst of covid. I was back to the drawing board. This time, before I sent my manuscript off to anyone else, I decided to make sure it was the best it could be. I needed an editor.
Sapling: What was your experience with the editing of the manuscript? Did you have an opportunity to make revisions either at your own suggestion or at the suggestion of your editor? How involved were you in the design aspects of the book's production (cover image, design, etc.)?
LLB: I think I may have followed a non-traditional path when it came to finding an editor. I didn’t have experience working with anyone and, honestly, I didn’t know where to begin. So, I asked around. I also dug through the internet and found the names of some who seemed to be well-qualified. But how would I really know who to choose? I decided that I would request sample edits of the first 3000 words from the top ten editors that I had selected. All agreed. A few of those folks felt I only needed minor edits. Although complimentary, I knew that was not the case. Others offered a light-handed pass over the pages, writing a few notes here or there in the margins. (Were they holding back because this sample edit was free?) But then there were those who stepped in and marked up the white space like a fifth-grade English teacher. (Thank goodness) In the end, it came down to three who stood out professionally and who also seemed to align with my view of my project.
But how to decide? My writing group and my husband and I evaluated those three edits. Then each gave me his or her opinion. Although it was difficult, I chose. Being the indecisive person I am, I couldn’t help but worry about whether or not I had made the choice. But selecting Laura was the best thing I could have done. After performing a cover-to-cover comprehensive edit, she immediately noted three over-arching issues, for which I was grateful. The funny thing is I had already written the scenes that she was requesting, so I’m not sure why I ever withheld them. Either way she and I were in sync.
There was another reason why choosing Laura became a blessing. After Laura and I worked together on two complete edits, she told me that she and a few professionals from small publishing houses that had not survived the covid crisis had come together to form a small independent press. She asked if I would like to publish with Leonella Press.
The cover designer was amazing. Because it's a memoir, Stewart felt that a personal picture was the way to go. At first, I wasn’t sure, but he made me a believer. I sent him several photos. We chose the picture that fit the timeline of the backstory and I’m so pleased.
Sapling: Did you publish any excerpts in literary journals or other periodicals before the publication of your book? If so, did this seem like a necessary part of the process for this particular project?
LLB: I did not previously publish any excerpts, but I have a marketing background and immediately began networking with credible, industry specific (vertical market) professionals and highly regarded memoirists. I introduced myself to everyone (in person and online) that I could find, and wasn’t shy about asking if he or she would be kind enough to take a look at the full manuscript, or if time was tight, look at the book proposal (a shortened version designed to give a sense of the writing, the storyline, and the theme) and possibly/hopefully provide a few kind words (an endorsement). As of today, I have 24 professional endorsements and reviews, and I expect more.
Sapling: In what ways have you been involved in the publicity and promotion of your book thus far? In what ways is your publisher helping you with marketing your book?
LLB: Publishers publish, authors market. My old writing friends from days gone by had drilled that into my thick head even before I ever considered publishing anything. They were right. For self-promotion, I have launched a professional website that includes all the endorsements I have received. I have been proactive in building my network on LinkedIn and Instagram, also in making personal contacts on those sites. I am not shy about thoughtfully mentioning my book and asking credible people to take a look and possibly/hopefully provide a few kind words. I’m letting folks know about my upcoming book on Facebook and Goodreads. And I am letting folks know that I am available for speaking engagements. I have also begun reaching out to libraries and bookstores to tell them the book will be coming and I have sketched out the details for two separate book launch parties. Lastly, because my husband and I feel so strongly that this book is an important contribution to women’s empowerment, women’s healing, and the overall well-being of women everywhere, we have hired a PR team who will be launching a marketing campaign about a month or two before the book is set to be released.
Sapling: What are some things that surprised you about the process of getting your book published? Is there anything you wished you'd known beforehand about putting a book out into the world?
LLB: The thing that most surprised me the most, or perhaps disappointed me the most, was when my first publisher agreed to publish the book but would only do so if I changed my name.
Linda Lee Blakemore is a published author, national speaker, and advocate for women and children. Her first book was written with the help & support of Erika Harkema (Pittsburgh Child Advocacy) and Dr. Walter Smith (Executive Director, Family Resources of Pittsburgh). Kids Helping Kids Break the Silence of Sexual Abuse (Linda Lee Foltz, Lighthouse Point Press) tells the true stories of fifteen child survivors. Designed to educate, intervene when a child is trapped in silence, and offer hope through healing, the book received prestigious endorsements from hundreds of professionals and coverage in national magazines including America's Family Resource, Seventeen, and Teen Voices. Blakemore has traveled the U.S. advocating for children and appeared on local, national, and international radio and television including The Montel Williams Show. With her second book (and first memoir), Entrenched: A Memoir of Holding On and Letting Go, Blakemore aims to advocate for and educate women, especially those who struggle to confront the past or break from unhealthy relationships.
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