I’m writing a narrative on visiting all the southern National Parks. There are 70 in all, now that I’ve added the Underground Railroad. I sent out a few queries and talked to my old publishers. Several small publishers just blew me off, not answering emails or bothering to reject me officially.
But it became obvious that if this book was going to hit the bookshelves in 2016, the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, I was going to have to publish it myself. For a while, I was not a happy camper. I’ve had three books published by traditional presses and I knew what they did. Now I was going to do it myself.
But I decided to look at the bright side, make lemonade out of lemons, and have an adventure. In November, I attended the NC Writers Network Conference to jumpstart this project. Writing a book is one thing, publishing a book is quite another. Where do I start? I went to lots of workshops but the most helpful was Karon Luddy, author of Bewilderment of Boys, who had a chart of all the services she used and the decisions she made to publish her book.
One of the many decisions but a most basic one, is a title, a zippy, catchy title, that captures what the book is about. To help me with that, I called on several friends who understood writing, marketing, the outdoors and hiking and hosted a brainstorming session. I sent each participant a table of contents of my book and several pages. Each person got a different set of pages. I laid out several creative nonfiction books with good titles.
After a casual dinner, we gathered in my living room. Holly Scott Jones, Director of Community Outreach and Strategy at Friends of the Smokies, agreed to facilitate the session. We got some ideas on how to run a brainstorming session for several articles, including this one from Forbes. Holly brought a shaker in the shape of an avocado to keep us straight. If anyone broke the rules or wandered off topic too much, Holly would shake the avocado and bring us back on topic. Anna Lee wrote down every idea that was flying around on large Post-it notes and we stuck them up for everyone to see.
A nonfiction title usually has a couple of words to grab the reader’s attention. Then a phrase to explain the book. Think Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America and the Fight for Cumberland Island or Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History.
The group generated lots of ideas.
Some were funny: More than Bojangles, Rubber eating crows and many things you didn’t know, and NJ Yankee in southeastern parks.
Others were serious: Your national parks in the Southeast, Journey through time, Hiking through history.
Becoming Southern one national park at a time had great potential but Lenny thought it was misleading. More were about food: Southern fried parks, Sweet tea trail: parks in the Southeast, Sweet Tea challenge.
Forts, caves, criminals is certainly an attention getter. I can play around with the three words but the concept is good. Someone suggested Seventy shades of green and blue, also an attention getter but the book is not just about natural history.
Next subject: who could blurb the book?