My Online Self-Publishing Success Story

by Memoir Mentor on July 3, 2014

Readers:  At the end of this post, click on the link to an online magazine I’ve created for you with articles related to this topic.


Some years ago my husband and I published Breathe Life into Your Life Story with a regular publisher. It takes a lot of work and luck to find a publisher willing to risk their time, money, and reputation on your book, especially if you’ve never published before. We were delighted to have snagged a company that we both admired.

Breathe Life BookIt was a small publisher, however, with a small budget and limited personnel and resources to put toward promoting our book. It’s only the Hillary Clintons who publish with the likes of Simon & Schuster that get the book tours and ads in the Sunday newspaper. But you know that. After our book came out, the promotion part was largely left to us, which we did through our teaching and seminars. Still, I’ve always felt a little swell of pride when I referred to “my publisher,” because it seems to give the book an extra stamp of approval, indicating that someone else liked it enough to put resources into it. Our publisher designed the whole thing—and did it well—and continues to print and sell it at no cost to us.

A New Day in Publishing

It has been seven years since Breathe Life came out, and during that time the self-publishing industry has matured and gained far greater acceptance. My decision this spring to self-publish The Parrett Migration seemed like a no-brainer. It would have been impossible to find a publisher interested in taking on a family history about an obscure family of farmers, no matter how well written the book. (A little pride showing here, folks.) If that farming family was, say, J. K. Rowling’s family, it would have been another story, of course.

Self-publishing was the way to go–but with whom? After looking at options that included local small presses and online offerings, I decided to go with an online, print-on-demand (POD) platform. Why? I didn’t want to have to estimate in advance how many books to print or handle distribution myself. If more people ended up wanting the book than I estimated, it would have been expensive to have a small press run a second printing. The same would be true if I decided I needed to change a few details later or correct some typos. With print-on-demand, customers order your book from an online bookstore, usually Amazon. Amazon prints books as they’re ordered and handles distribution for you, eliminating you having to deal with money or make regular trips to the post office.

After scoping out the various POD companies, I decided to go with CreateSpace because they are an Amazon parrett coveraffiliate, and they offer the best royalties. (By the way, I’m earning far more royalties per book for The Parrett Migration than I did with Breathe Life into Your Life Story—another benefit of online publishing.) So, what’s the downside? You have to design your book yourself—which means a lot of work–or hire someone to do it for you—which means a lot of money.

I hired designers to create some custom maps and format my cover and interior. I will likely never recoup in book sales what I put into designing it. I figured, though, that I had already spent thousands of hours researching and writing my book. I didn’t want to put more time into the book’s layout. Besides, I wanted it to look good—better than I could ever do myself. My cover and layout designers sent me pdf files of their final product in mid-May. I uploaded it on the CreateSpace website the next day. Within a week to ten days, I held a copy of the book in my hand. It was that fast. The book appeared on Amazon’s website on May 23.

I have no complaints with CreateSpace. I had a couple of questions during the process. Once I entered my question into their help menu and asked them to call me, I received a call within 30 seconds. I plan to make a few changes to the book at the end of the summer. I can make those changes and upload a new pdf to CreateSpace. The new version will appear on Amazon within a week.

There are other options besides CreateSpace you should check out, like Blurb, Lulu, and Lightening Source. I find that these companies are evolving quickly, continually upgrading their author services. Since publishing The Parrett Migration, Blurb and Lulu have also developed ties with Amazon. And Blurb is now offering BookWright, which provides a variety of formatting templates that may make formatting the book yourself a lot easier. If you click on THIS LINK, you can access an online magazine I’ve created for you through Flipboard. The magazine includes more than 25 recent articles about self-publishing with online publishers.

Of course, promoting my book still falls to me. More about that in a later blog post. If you have any questions about my publishing experience, please contact me.

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I was so pleased I had been asked to signed books after I spoke at Jamboree a few weeks ago. Jamboree is an annual genealogy conference sponsored by the Southern California Genealogy Society at the Burbank Marriott. It’s one of the biggies.

So, I sold and signed what I thought was a respectable amount of books–for me.  (There’s Pat Williams, one of my students, on the far right, buying a copy of my new family history, The Parrett Migration.) I went home feeling like I’d done something kinda special.

Book Signing








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A Book is Born! The Parrett Migration

by Memoir Mentor on June 12, 2014

When I was a bride in my twenties (many years ago), my husband and I stopped at a farm in Locust Grove, Iowa, on a cross-country trip to the East Coast. The farm was owned by Ken and Lois Parrett, distant cousins of mine I had never heard of until that day. They took me on a tour of the area and showed me land my ancestors once owned and cemeteries where they were buried. That visit turned out to be Dawn Thurston, The Parrett Migrationone of those turning points that send your life in a new trajectory. I wanted to know more about these Parretts, whose name I’d carried since my birth. Over the years, between raising children and being busy with a thousand other projects, I occasionally set aside research time to visit genealogy libraries and communicate with distant cousins and various record keepers. It wasn’t until the last decade that my research took on an added focus. I was intent on writing a book that brought my paternal family to life.

And so it happened: I published my family history in late May and, book by book, readers are becoming acquainted with the Parretts–a family that had largely had been lost to history.

The five generations of Parretts profiled in my history left few records behind. As I became better acquainted with the eras in which they lived–America’s colonial and frontier periods–I began to realize that they took part in significant events in American history, including the major migration periods that spread the country’s borders ever westward. That realization gave me the theme that drove my story–and its title, The Parrett Migration: Their Story is America’s Story.

It’s been interesting to hear comments from readers. They tell me, “My ancestors were involved in these events, too.” Or, “I could write a similar story about my people.” It’s true. I suspect nearly anyone who reads my book will see their family’s story in the Parrett story. (And they should write their own version, shaping it to their family’s particular circumstances.)

My book was a challenge on many levels. Could I bring to life seemingly obscure people and tell an interesting story about them? Could I incorporate the writing techniques I stress in my classes? (I felt nervous about that one, for I knew I had strict judges!) Could I do justice to five generations without being too superficial? Could I finish such a mammoth undertaking?

I did finish, so I overcame at least one challenge. The jury’s still out about the others. However it’s ultimately judged by readers, I hope the book will stand as a sincere effort to honor my family and preserve their story for future generations.

To learn more about the book, go to and purchase it at