I had the pleasure of giving a speech about my journey to becoming an author at the Illumify Global Media conference at the Arapaho Community College in Littleton, CO in July. I hope you will enjoy the story of how Spirit Baby came to be a book.
Hello. My name is Nina Little. One year ago, I attended the very first “Write, Market, Publish, Sell” conference with a manuscript and a dream.
I have a journalism degree and had been writing for newspapers and magazines for decades, but I had never published a book. Leading up to the conference, I spent two years writing and attempting to publish children’s books (only to find the children’s book publishing market to be seriously overwhelming and discouraging). So, I decided to switch gears… as a survivor of a five-year battle with infertility, I figured I had a useful, relevant memoir inside of me. So, I got to work writing my story, but my journey to motherhood followed many different paths. I ended up writing a book that is part emotional journey through the trials of infertility and part physical journey to China due to an international adoption effort.
Needless to say, agents were confused, editors were overwhelmed, and publishers were apprehensive. Everywhere I turned, I was told “You can’t blend two genres, you can’t publish a book that is part memoir and part travelogue, it can’t be done.” But all I could think was… Eat, Pray, Love! For what is this wildly successful book, turned movie starring Julia Roberts, if not a mix of an emotional and physical journey to survive a nasty divorce? Bestselling travel books always include a personal and often humorous back story (ever heard of Bill Bryson?). I saw no reason for a story about infertility to be technical and depressing or a book about traveling in China to be a one-sided, history lesson.
I had a vision to tell my story the way life often happens: one step forward and two steps back. I take readers on a journey from the historic cities of northern China to the stunning landscapes of southern China while reflecting upon my tumultuous childhood, marriage highs and lows, fertility treatments, miscarriages and the adoptions process. In the end, Spirit Baby weaves together themes of longing, loss and learning to live again. It’s a celebration of the healing benefits of travel and the many roads to motherhood.
I had a clear goal and a complete manuscript but no support and few prospects. Until I learned of Illumify and this conference through the Northern Colorado Writers group. Illumify believed in the value and integrity of both parts of my story and didn’t question my vision or try to completely change it.
I was very fearful of hybrid publishing and completely overwhelmed by the costs, but I was greatly intrigued by the opportunity to honor my journey and write my real story. Throughout the editing process, Karen helped to identify sections that needed more personal backstory and to re-organize my chapters for better flow (and answered lots of questions and offered lots of support). Then, Geoff perfected my grammar and punctuation and made sure my book had consistent tone and style (and was always professional, considerate and kind).
By the end of the editing process, my book flowed off the page and was completely polished, but it was still mine. I was directly involved in the entire publishing process and was always given the final word. I greatly benefited from the Illumify team’s professional knowledge and have a far superior body of work due to their efforts, but I can look upon my published work and know that it contains my voice and my true story (the same cannot be said for traditional publishing). Plus, I have a high quality, fully edited book, with a beautiful cover and back cover I helped design, with personalized interior artwork, as well as, mainstream distribution and availability with major online dealers including Amazon and Barnes and Noble (the same cannot be said for self-publishing).
It was a terrifying leap of faith, but I am very glad I jumped. I’m no competition for Elizabeth Gilbert, but I’m selling books, have done numerous book signing events and have all five-star reviews on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The marketing benefits of my publishing package include advertising on Amazon and a free Kindle download weekend (over Mother’s Day), when nearly 500 people world-wide downloaded my book. Plus, I hosted a book launch party at Book Bar, have been interviewed for two podcasts, have submitted two guest blogs, and will be a speaker at an infertility conference this fall. And I’m in the process of becoming an ambassador for the China Highlights tour company. I’m not a millionaire, household name or a New York Times Bestseller, but I’m happy, and I’m already working on my next book.
I wish you all the best of luck with your writing!