Amanda Luedeke

August 1, 2014

How I tried to market my memoir and ended up starting a small business (A Guest Post)


UNL_0031Lisa McKay is an author with MacGregor Literary.

One of the things I’ve heard Chip McGregor say more than once when talking about marketing is this: “Find your audience, and then figure out how to go and stand in front of them.”

In 2012, when I published my memoir, Love At The Speed Of Email, that is exactly what I tried to do.

Love At The Speed Of Emailtells the story of two humanitarian workers who mckay_fin_online_72dpidefy the uncertainties of distance and the isolation of working in some of the world’s most remote and challenging corners to build a long distance relationship entirely via email. As they risk love, the narrator struggles to better understand the legacies of her nomadic childhood and find a satisfying answer to that simplest of questions, “where’s home?”

In my thinking, there were two obvious “specialty” audiences for this book – third culture kids (people who grew up like I did, moving a lot) and those in long distance relationships. So one thing I did to try to “stand in front” of people in long distance relationships was self-publish another little book called 201 Great Discussion Questions for Couples in Long Distance Relationships.

201_comps_72dpiThis book is exactly what it sounds like – 201 discussion questions for couples, a bit about my own story, and an excerpt from my memoir. I wrote it and put it up on Amazon with no fanfare, about four months after Love launched.

Much to my surprise, it then started to sell at a modest but steady rate. In 2013, that one little book earned me more than $2000.

In all honestly, I’m not sure it’s done much to boost sales of my memoir (which still sells 20 or so copies a month, but certainly isn’t breaking any records despite recently being honored with a Writers Digest award). However, what 201 Questions has done, is convince me that there is both a need and a market out there for long distance relationship resources. It has helped me realize that my personal relationship experiences and my professional qualifications as a psychologist equip me well to address those needs. It has made me wonder whether I can earn some income off of products related to long distance relationships – income that could free me up in the future to invest in writing more novels or another memoir. It has, in essence, prompted me to start my own small business.

I’d love to be able to tell you that it’s going great and that I’m making money hand over fist.

I can’t.

What I can tell you is that I’m giving this a serious shot.

I’ve started a website for couples in long distance relationships called Modern Love Long Distance.

 I’ve also self-published two additional books in the long distance relationship and online dating space – From Stranger To Lover: 16 Strategies For Building A Great Relationship Long Distance, and Online Dating Smarts: 99 Important Questions To Ask Someone You Meet Online.From_Stranger_To_Lover_cover_small

I have plans for several more books or courses relevant to this market. Some I expect to self-publish, one or two I hope to publish traditionally.

All up, I would liketo be making at least $1500 a month off of my long distance relationship products. I estimate it will take another 6-18 months of hard work on my end before I have a chance of reaching or exceeding that goal. Right now, I’m nowhere even close to that, and there’s no guarantee that I’ll get there even if I put in the hard yards.

I’m OK with that.

I figure I win either way. Even if I don’t start making the money that I’d like to be making off this venture I’ll have learnt a huge amount about business, websites, marketing, and relationships. I’ll have spent time trying to help others in an area where my passions intersect with my skills. That’s all a different sort of valuable than money in the bank and, who knows, I may even sell a couple of memoirs along the way.

Your turn now. Do share, I’d love to hear your stories.

What have you tried to market your books?

Have any of your marketing efforts led you in unexpected directions?


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  • Julie Surface Johnson says:

    Lisa, I love your strategy and your fearlessness in mixing self-publishing with traditional publishing. It encourages me that I didn’t make a mistake in self-publishing Over Coffee (We Shared Our Secrets), a book that has solidified my base in the pro-life niche. For the past several years, I’ve given them away to pregnancy centers for use in their post-abortion ministries, and my CPA writes them off as advertising for future books which I hope to publish traditionally. In the meantime, I’m polishing my craft and improving my writing skills. Best, Julie

    • Lisa McKay says:

      Thanks, Julie. All the best with pushing forward to work in your niche. I resisted identifying any “niche” for a long time, but I’m happy about the one I’ve finally settled on (though am starting to get excited about writing another novel or something else, too).

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