When did you get the idea for a book, and why this particular genre? After having what I consider a “God experience” on New Year’s Eve of 2008, I decided to use writing as a way of dealing with issues that a lot of women face: rejection, unforgiveness, brokenness, a desire to find my purpose, a lot of things. As a single mother, I found that my experiences were universal: every woman is looking to find the missing pieces in their life – often times we lose pieces of ourselves in old relationships, burdensome jobs, broken dreams. How do we go about reclaiming these “pieces” of ourselves? This book was birthed out of the process of finding my own missing pieces and its purpose meets the needs of so many women in various phases of their life.
How long before you got around to working on the book, what research did it involve? Because the book uses anecdotal stories about my life, the research was real-time, being lived out day to day! When something happened in my life that I felt was there to teach me a lesson, I wrote about it in my book. I used the Bible as a means to shape the stories, using some biblical stories to explore the spiritual principles behind the experiences. Writing the book, actually, ended up being very therapeutic!
When did you feel you had a finished book to take it to the next step? I’m not sure when I knew that the book was finished – I prayed a lot during this process because I wanted to be sensitive about what God had to say about the book. I didn’t want it to be about me in the sense that I was making every decision based on what I thought. Because I knew the book had a greater purpose for it, I wanted to be sensitive to what the Spirit was showing about the writing process and even myself. When it was done, I just knew it.
What was the most challenging part of the writing process? Because my book was personal in nature, it was hard trying to assess what information to include and what to leave out. What I found, however, was that it was important for me to be and remain as transparent as possible in order for the overarching message I was trying to convey to do its best work.
When did you do most of your writing, did you have a schedule? Interestingly enough, I did a huge chunk of my writing during Lent of 2009. Instead of giving up something, I decided to make use of a gift God gave me. I turned my phone off from 8 p.m. - 11 p.m. every night for 40 days and I wrote. Some nights were better than others, but during this time, I was very intentional about getting the words on the paper. It was probably the most impactful time I had spent that entire year.
Did you have any collaborators, editor, designer, co-author? I was blessed to have some friends who were highly skilled in the editorial and design part; a Soror of mine did some heavy duty editing while a college classmate designed my book cover and online graphics for me! The process of self-publishing is truly a collaborative process!
What technology did you use to write your book? Before I got hip to Mac Books, I used my trusted old desk top PC and laptop. I also used Scrivener, a program that many professional writers use, to keep chapters organized and complete the outline and layout of your manuscript.
What methods of publishing did you consider or had plans for?
Initially, I thought that going the traditional route of pitching the book to a major publishing house would be the only way I’d get my book published. I bought a copy of The Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino and I combed through it looking for every agent who would be interested in representing my type of work. After sending dozens of pitch letters and packets (which also came with dozens of rejection letters), I decided to publish the book myself. Waiting for someone else to believe in my book, a book intended to help people overcome defeat, in itself, seemed so self-defeating. So I did the work myself!
What was the process after that, once you had your book ready to be published? I set up an account on Lulu.com because they were one of the few online sites that did printing and shipping. I invested some money in my project by buying a couple hundred books so that I could sell them at different events, book signings, etc. A number of my supporters wanted to have their book autographed so this was helpful in that process. It was a bit cumbersome trying to mail out the books myself, but the reward definitely outweighed the inconvenience. I relied heavily on social media and my website to promote and sell the book and even secure a few speaking engagements where the book became the focal point of the experience.
What has the response been to your book? The response has been overwhelming and, more importantly, has impacted the lives of women all across this country. From lawyers to stay at home moms, women have been able to reflect on their own lives and create opportunities for growth – but it is more than just individual change; Pieces allows women to change so that their families, homes, and communities can be better. When a woman is at her best, the entire community thrives!
How did you market it? Social Media, Social Media, Social Media! Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr were essential in making sure I got the word out about the book. I also created an email account for the book (under the To the Nines Publishing umbrella) to contact local media (TV, radio, newspaper) to send press releases about my book signing and general information about the book. It became a one-stop-shop: I did the marketing, promoting, and public relations!
Your advice for aspiring writers planning to publish in the near future? Basketball players dribble basketballs. Singers sing. Writers write. You can’t make a claim as a “published author” without first taking the time to write! Do your research as well; there’s nothing that you need to know how to do that you can’t find out on the Internet! I taught myself how to lay out a book, market, and publish a book all on the Internet! You can too!
So what’s next? Alisha has spent a lot of time blogging but has two books in the works. She has been revisiting her manuscripts and hopes to have one of them ready for publishing in 2014.
Thanks Alisha for sharing your author journey and being the first author to participate in the author series. Good luck!