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The Journey to Authorship
by Alice Plouchard Stelzer
Scratch a journalist and you will usually find the desire to write a book. We have stories to tell and often feel strongly that some stories MUST be told.
My journey to authorship began after an assignment to write a few short profiles of East Haddam, CT women from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. After the profiles for each century were printed, I gave a talk to members of the community and they loved these women but it made them hungry to know more regarding the women profiled and to learn about more women. Several people suggested I write a book.
With my background of supporting women through volunteering in women’s organizations and publishing a women’s magazine (Women Unlimited) that promoted the accomplishments of women, I found the thought of another journalistic project encouraging women very exciting. Little did I know the research would take six years.
Of course, if we knew ahead of time how difficult goals would be to reach, we would never start anything.
From the research came Female Adventurers: the women who helped colonize Massachusetts and Connecticut, published in August 2013. I have always compared the research to doing a jigsaw puzzle.
I developed a research form, which listed questions that, when answered, supplied the minimum information I felt was necessary for a good profile. I would find a birth date at one place, maybe a child’s name somewhere, and/or find out someone had a stepmother.
This continued until I had put enough of the puzzle together to develop some conclusions on the information that was missing, or decide there just was not enough information available on a woman and I would move on to someone else. Out of the women I researched, I chose the ones whose stories added to our knowledge of women’s history.
Anyone who has started a big research challenge knows that as more information is gained the project takes twists and turns. Mine was no different. About a year into the research, I began to see that most of the East Haddam women, though very interesting, brave and important, were not first generation.
At that point, I felt telling the story of the first generation of women who set foot on New England soil and helped turn the wilderness into communities as the more important story. That meant discarding a year’s worth of research and starting again by researching backward from the first three towns of Connecticut – Windsor, Wethersfield and Hartford – into the early records of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and England. The dozen women in Female Adventurers are all first generation.
What many authors do not realize is that the publication of a book, though meeting a goal, is not the end of the road.
The marketing of a book in today’s flooded marketplace is a huge new challenge.
Having been a marketing consultant, I had some grasp of the difficulty ahead of me and the steep learning curve of the book publishing and marketing industries. You have to be open to new ideas and opportunities as they present themselves. Go with the flow.
In most marketing, you have to wait until you have a product but not in publishing. All the experts agree you have to start way ahead of publication date and set up your social media announcing the book’s pending arrival.
I set up Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter and started a blog. Each one meant learning something new. Sometimes the frustration level was high. The thought of throwing the computer out of the window seemed to be with me quite often.
After one and then another was set up correctly and operating, there was a great feeling of accomplishment – something like beating the odds. It was not long before I realized that as soon as you have something set up, the social media sites change the way they want things done. Facebook is great at this.
As soon as the social media sites gained popularity, there were social media experts flooding everyone’s email with advice and saying that social media is the way to go. I agree some of your marketing has to be through social media but I believe nothing will ever replace the good old face-to-face. Yes, it is hard work and time consuming but to me the rewards are greater. I put together a marketing packet to use to introduce the book and myself to radio and television stations that might interview me, and for potential book talk locations. Soon I was on the road doing book talks throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut, finding appreciative audiences everywhere.
All this travel had not been planned and it soon became apparent that some changes to my schedule were going to be necessary. Unfortunately, it meant resigning from my volunteer positions to be available when a group wanted a presentation.
Female Adventurers is a non-fiction history book. Unless you are a history buff, few people are going to go online and try to find this book. On the other hand, by the time I finish talking about these wonderful, courageous women, the audience wants to buy the book to read about them. If they do not buy then, they can always go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble to purchase later. I have found that it is necessary to redefine a book’s audience constantly. After a while, I saw that some groups were interested in my research and the challenges of researching women. They wanted to know just how I found these women.
Consequently, I developed other presentations around the research. Since in writing Female Adventurers, I wrote a dozen family history stories and I prepared a two-hour “Writing Family History” seminar that has been very successful. These efforts gave me a larger market.
Last year, during the holidays, I was thrilled that many people were buying Female Adventurers to give as presents to the females in their families. This fits right in with my goal of getting this book into the hands of youth because they have not been taught in school that women were right on the front lines of the wilderness, helping to colonize this country. Our youth should know this.
What is next in my journey? I cannot wait to find out. When will you start your journey?
Available at Amazon.com
Alice Plouchard Stelzer has been writing for over 30 years as a publisher, magazine editor, newspaper editor, columnist, and journalist.
She has produced hundreds of newsletters for clients and been a public relations consultant. Alice has also been a mentor/coach for writers. She has taught writing workshops on journaling, creativity, autobiography/memoir, and turning memoir into fiction.