In January of 2016, I sat down to write a story about reuniting with my birth family from El Salvador and my experiences as I got to know them. Originally, I had planned to tell this story in a series of blog posts. After three months, I had 19 posts made up of over 20,000 words. As I reviewed everything I had written, I realized that I had a lot more to say, and that's when work on the book began in earnest.
Now, almost exactly five years later, I have a completed manuscript of my autobiographical novel. It is roughly 117,000 words in length or approximately 460 pages. As someone who struggled with writing when I was younger, more on this in my next Beyond The Book post, I never imagined I would take on a project like this, let alone finish it.
It's hard to describe all the emotions I'm feeling at this moment, but more than anything, I feel a mixture of relief and excitement. Relief that I finished and excitement for whatever comes next.
After talking with book marketing coach Sue Campbell, I've decided to pursue traditional publishing, which is also something I never thought I would do. Being entrepreneurial and having experience with crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, I have been leaning towards self-publishing. But there is one important reason why I've decided to go the traditional route, and that is representation.
I recently finished reading Salvadoran author Roberto Lovato's incredible book Unforgetting: A Memoir of Family, Migration, Gangs, and Revolution in the Americas. From it, I'm getting a better sense of how important it is for Salvadorans to tell their own stories. As Lovato points out:
It was the year 2000, twenty years after Salvadorans had arrived in masse in the US... and our voice was still missing in the telling of our story. With the exception of a few Salvadoran writers publishing with independent presses, Joan Didion and other white US writers were the only tellers of Salvadoran stories in the English language.
I'm excited by the potential for my book to represent the Salvadoran experience. Even though most of the story takes place in other countries, I think it gets to the heart of the fractured family structures that many Salvadorans live with.
Another critical issue for me is to show a side of our culture that isn’t rooted in the country’s violent past. Lovato continues:
In fact, the best-known English-language book about El Salvador is Salvador, written by Didion after spending a total of two weeks there—most of it in the air-conditioned company of US embassy officials. Her statement, "Terror is the given of the place, is arguably the best-known description of El Salvador in the English language.
While my story touches on and is shaped by the countries civil war, it is not a story about violence or “terror.” Instead, it is a story about a family that is trying to do their best with what they have been given. For these reasons think it’s worth pursuing the somewhat cumbersome process of traditional publishing—more on that in a bit.
I had plans to share the manuscript more widely now that I’m done, but I have been advised not to do this because traditional publishers look down upon it. This is just one of the tradeoffs of going this route. That being said, I'm hoping there will be opportunities to share it a little more broadly in the future. I will be sure to let you know as soon as I know more.
Over the next month, I'm working on getting my "ducks in a row" before I start looking for a publisher. I’m learning that this process is a bit… complicated. First, I need to research agents who represent stories like mine. Then I need to submit a query letter, a synopsis, and an excerpt from my book. If I’m lucky enough to find an agent willing to represent me, it will be up to them to pitch my book to publishers. From there, who knows what else will need to be done.
In short, before I start reaching out to people, I want to make sure I have a system in place to manage the process. I also want to keep up with my marketing efforts. Speaking of which, the website for my book is live! There isn't much there yet, and I will be building it up over the coming weeks, but it's at least one of my ducks in place! 🦆