Publishing a book used to be so much simpler, and so much harder. While the 21st century has democratized the process of publishing— it’s easier than before—it’s now up to you to machete your way through the thick jungle of possibilities.
There are self-publishing outfits. There are small, regional presses, university presses, and niche, genre-oriented small presses. And the traditional publishing model does still exist. My partner and I run a local hybrid, Bilbo Books Publishing. We shepherd people through the process of writing, editing, design, and printing. However, there are many other options for the would-be memoirist or writer of any genre. I talked to three published authors who took different creative paths.
Charlotte “Chip” McDaniel chose the Amazon-owned Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP, formerly CreateSpace) to produce her moving, nostalgic tribute to the world of her Atlanta childhood, “Girdled and Gloved: From Radio to YouTube.”
“I have no complaints. There was a long trial-and-error period, and you must be technically-oriented.” She reminds authors that, “…it’s an extremely detailed process, but once you’re satisfied with your book content, uploading your file and cover takes no time at all. You get an online proof for your review. Then you can order Author Proof copies. I got four copies of my latest book, ‘Love Your Fate,’ for $17.75, which included mailing.”
In general, McDaniel’s experience resembles that of most authors who choose online, self-publishing outfits, though there are some differences. Amazon is so big that they set their own retail prices. iUniverse is good with royalties and has great add-ons.
McDaniel’s advice to first-time authors who follow her lead is simple. “Set up your account. Set up a bank account from which you can order Author Copies and have royalties deposited. You must give your Social Security Number. Then, there are many choices, like book size, kind of paper, genre of your book. You can even use one of the many designs in Create-a-Cover to add to your book.”
McDaniel admits, “On-demand printing isn’t for everyone, but, hey, if you’re willing to put in the techno-effort, you’ll wind up an author with your book on Amazon!”
Roger Bailey is a storyteller’s storyteller. Talking to him is like owning your very own time machine, especially if you want to travel to Appalachia in the mid-20th century. His detailed stories of growing up “in a holler” transport you to another place and time. In order to better facilitate story construction, Bailey encourages authors to join the OLLI memoir group (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute). Obtaining knowledgeable feedback is essential, especially if you’re doing it on your own. Bailey’s group has created a helpful space for memoir writers to bounce ideas around and learn what works and what doesn’t. If you work at your craft, you could be featured in one of their annual compilation books.
The group inspired Bailey to continue his family research. “I discovered that my maternal grandmother was Cherokee. The process helps you to understand yourself.”
Juanita Denton, 90, has been editing and writing since she was a child. She edited everything her professor husband ever published and wrote a book herself.
When she and her late husband, Wallace, decided to write their memoirs, they approached it like a job. They had a 30-ft. long trailer parked in the country, and every morning, six days a week, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., for nine months, they each wrote.
“You back into it at first—but if you get on that road, prepare to be surprised at what you discover. Sometimes you just sit and think. Memories can be covered in dust and like cleaning, you first have to dust to find the memories.”
Although the publishing path is your own, it helps to have helpers. Bilbo Books can walk you through the process. Bailey’s advice can help you get started and help you get better. McDaniel’s advice can help you get published and help you get read.
I sat in on a rehearsal of the New Horizons Band one Monday afternoon at The Church on College Station. The acoustics were great. The people were even better. I met a former Redcoat Band Leader. I met an 87-year-old clarinetist actively planning a vacation to Bhutan. I met a few musicians who had put down their instruments 30 or 40 years ago and only recently had picked them back up again. New Horizons is about inclusion and socializing. It’s about the music and everyone’s musical potential. Everything else is secondary.
About half of them have a story that begins: “I put down my trombone for forty years, and never thought I’d pick it up again…until.” A few of them just decided that, in retirement, they’d always wanted to learn how to play the flute and now there’s time. They’ve got some talent or desire. They’ve got lots of drive. They’ve got rhythm. They’ve got music. And honestly, who could ask for anything more?
There are also those with no musical experience at all or those who were made to feel unmusical, either by parents or music teachers. These folks need encouragement and some lessons. And that’s what New Horizons Bands and Orchestras at the UGA Community Music School can provide. New Horizons is an international organization but here in Athens, it seems to resonate especially well.
Like any musical group, New Horizons (subtitled “ensembles for beginning adults”) is not divided by age, or even by the number of hours spent practicing. It is, however, to an extent, divided by skill level. You must be proficient enough to rehearse and play with the group. However, if you want to join New Horizons and you’ve never touched an instrument before, you can. You start with individual lessons. Total novices can take personalized lessons each semester, and join the band or not; typically, the ensembles can integrate one new beginner at a time.
Kristin Jutras, director of the Community Music School, listed the excuses she hears and refutes each one: “I don’t have enough musical talent.” – “Yes, you do, or, if you really don’t, we’ll give you lessons.” Or, “I sold my flute at a yard sale twenty years ago.”– “You can rent an instrument at Chick Music downtown. It’s pretty cheap.” “I don’t want to play that electronic nonsense I hear on the radio.”– “Don’t worry. We play real music for real people.”
The band and orchestra play at a lot of assisted living facilities and most of the members told me a similar tale, a tale of the power of music. The story goes like this – They go and set up at an assisted living facility. They’re tuning their instruments, setting up their music stands and scanning the audience. At first the audience looks listless, not necessarily completely aware of their surroundings. And then the band begins to play. Old, familiar tunes, like the bleating horns and jazzy rhythms of Glenn Miller, begin to ring out, echoing off the walls. A man who couldn’t communicate a few minutes ago begins to tap his feet. A woman with mild dementia begins to slap her hand on her thigh. A few people stand up and dance. The potent mixture of music and nostalgia can lift people up and transport them to a place they hadn’t visited in decades. As the New Horizons philosophy points out: “Making music is a way of making vital connections to life.”
A typical set includes such favorites as Danny Boy and Tennessee Waltz to Rock Around the Clock and Louie, Louie (really!) It’s a versatile group.
There is a lot of research being conducted on music and aging, nearly 40 studies are listed at the New Horizons website. Peter Justras, associate director for research and graduate studies at the Hodgson School of Music, authored one with 1,823 participants. It rated the existence and importance of 42 potential benefits organized into four categories: Health, Personal, Skill, and Social/Cultural. The highest number of responses with highest ratings included accomplishment, play/fun, new friends, skill refinement, and challenge. These responses were much higher than a similar study of adult piano students, suggesting, that while participants are interested in musical improvement, they also place high value on personal and social benefits of the experience.
New beginners are welcome any time, and rehearsals are open for observation. Contact the Community Music School at: email@example.com
$75 per semester for the New Horizons Band
$95 per semester for the Orchestra
$75 per a semester for private music lessons
$110 for piano lessons
Free Christmas Concert
The New Horizons Band will be playing at the state Botanical Garden on Dec. 8, 2 p.m.