Self-Publishing Update — Project derailed

I have bad news to report today. Although my imprint business is coming along nicely, I no longer have a book to publish.

Two of my siblings interpreted my story as negative and derogatory to family members and have refused to sign release papers, requesting that I remove them from the book. I believe underlying this complaint is a discomfort with having private family information made public.

Beware memoir writers. I don’t know how I could have avoided getting to this point. I gave my mother a draft very early, about seven months ago, because I wanted to be certain what I was writing was okay with her. She could have stopped the project at that time. Instead she has continued to encourage me. I am just grateful I chose to self-publish and haven’t spent a lot of time seeking an agent without having all necessary releases in hand first. That would have been really awkward.

I had a very bad day yesterday.

Today I am beginning to feel better, as my daughter told me I would last night.

I intend to print a few private books for myself and for my mother. This will also give me experience with Createspace for my next project.

I am going to remove all references to and photographs of my two siblings from the manuscript.

Then I am probably going to post it one chapter at a time on my blog.

I may also decide to publish it as an e-book if I feel it retains enough substance, although I likely will do minimal marketing.  I don’t believe it will be long enough to be a viable POD book any longer.

It’s time to move on the the next project, which you can rest assured will contain no references to siblings.

My apologies to high school friends who were hoping for signed copies.

I hope to begin posting the story, whatever remnant is left, by sometime next month.

Please feel free to comment with any suggestions you may have.



28 thoughts on “Self-Publishing Update — Project derailed”

  1. Can you fictionalize your story to the point where family members won’t object? Change people’s names, tweak some of the details to make it a fiction book that still tells your story. I have to do this with my life’s story. I know you are disappointed, but many times nonfiction books can’t be written until all the parties who would object are deceased.

    1. I did consider fictionalizing it, but I really want to include photos. I think the photos are important.

      I may however, write another work of fiction about my family in the future. 🙂

  2. I’m so sorry this happened to you. Maybe Lynda is on to something. Could you fictionalize the story? You could change things slightly and give all your characters different names. It might work and would be better than scrapping the book. Once you call it fiction and begin changing things, no one really can complain because they aren’t really the characters in the story any more. Just a thought.

  3. Sounds like it was a tough day for you. I am sorry. I know you must have been really excited about the prospect of publishing your book and it is a huge disappointment to not have the support of your family. I would imagine you are right when you say your siblings are worried about things being made public. At least you found out before it got published—I guess those release forms are for a reason. 😦 I am sure you will be able to work around this somehow and I look forward to reading selections on your blog! Thanks for sharing your disappointment….lets us all be there for you!

  4. I’m so sorry, Christine — what a terrible disappointment for you; I know you poured your heart and soul into this project. I’m glad your mom and daughter are there to support you. To be honest, this is one of the reasons (despite my children and husband’s suggestions) that I’ve not written about my somewhat-unique childhood — my father is less than lukewarm about the idea, and my only living sibling could never be portrayed to his satisfaction. No matter, I’m so sorry!

  5. Sorry to hear this. Your publishing journey is interesting; now, it just got better. We can’t always see around the corners in our journey. Set-backs, like corners, can be a “turn for the better”.

  6. I feel for you in this situation. There are some stories I would like to write that are really important to me however I know it would create a lot of angst in the family. Someone suggested I write my stories using different names – maybe one day.

    I hope it works out for you – obviously you have put in lots of work and energy.


  7. yes, I am sorry to hear this. but I still think you can so this project.

    I am sure I would have this same problem if I put my sibs in a memoir.

    I agree with others this can be made into a positive. It may take time to figure out the best way.

    If it were me , for now I would place it aside. And do nothing with it. no removals even…for in a not so happy state of mind I would remove too much. I would not post it in my blog until time has truly past and there is no true viable option.

    Perhaps this could be a time to research how other people have written memoirs w/o having to include everyone ‘as-is’. Dragnet comes to mind…:) except you would have to change more than names.

  8. I am so sorry, Christine. I’ve been following your posts on this, and know it is a huge disappointment. You’ve received some great suggestions here in your comments. I particularly like what Debra wrote about not changing anything just yet because disappointment can color whatever you do. Let it sit. Let it rest. Let yourself rest. The solution will come to you eventually.

  9. I can’t express to you how much all of your kind words and support mean to me today. Last night my daughter suggested I post about it and in her wisdom she was right once again.

    I am keeping the original document file and not altering it in my haste and pain.

    I am, however, busy writing my two siblings out of the family in a revision, and photoshopping them out of photos.

    It’s the least I can do.

  10. Christine, I am so sorry for this happening to you. As a memoir writer I know that people often experience the same things we do and interpret them differently. They often don’t want to be written about even if it’s in a positive light. I’ve learned that not everything I write is suitable for publication or even necessary to be put out for others to read. I know this is a terrible setback for you. Sometimes, the healing effects of a project can be enough for us though. Maybe it’s something you can pick up again later and decide how you want to approach it. I often find that if I let things sit for a period of time my own perspective changes and I would not have made the same changes in haste that I feel are needed after a peiod of time. I wish you this best in this. I know you’ve put your heart and soul into it.

  11. I’m stunned, to say the least. You’ve been so diligent and disciplined in your efforts to have this happen. I agree with LeRoy Dean, this is just a hiccup in your journey. Take a moment, a long one, to think about your options. It’ll come to you, I’m positive.

    In writing for my blog, I’m always conscious that my relatives are reading what I post. So there’s always a little voice in my subconscience that pulls the plug on certain things. My mother-in-law in her wisdom has always maintained “Don’t say anything you’ll live to regret. Once it’s out there, you can never take it back.” This may not apply in your case, except that others obviously don’t want to “go public.”

    do what’s right for you…long term. hugs… 🙂

  12. You can leave your ms for someone to publish at a future date. My cousin is writing a book regarding our grandmother’s life. One of my brothers didn’t like the way she portrayed our grandfather. I guess you just never know how a work will be received. I’m sure you’ve learned a lot about the process, and expect you will be putting that information to good use, Christine.

    1. Communication is a tricky business. What you are thinking you are saying can be interpreted in an entirely different way depending on the receiver’s personal history, experience and point of view.

      Sometimes it makes me wonder if I should retire my pen.

  13. Everyone has a differing perspective on events . . . and a differing level of comfort when it comes to living in the public eye.

    Hope that your mom enjoys reading the book “as is.” 😀

  14. I hardly read memoirs of even famous people. Who does? Don’t trash it . Some twists, some turns, and you now have a novel. I think novels sell better than memoirs anyway. Clinton’s memoirs are titled My Life. What a dopey title. I’ve always wanted to interview him and ask “So what’s the book all about?” You have the rough draft of a novel now. Take off with it.

  15. Thanks for all of your comments. You have all been good friends to me.

    I have spent the last two days surveying the damage and I think I will be able to salvage the story. I may have to write a few more sections to fill in the holes. One of my sisters has given me great support. The other sister, who wanted out, has concerns about how I portrayed her. I have repeatedly made offers to rewrite and revise. She has kept the line of communication open. I don’t know where this will net out. But even if she continues to want out, I have a story. I just lose some of the details I would have liked to include. My brother has not given me the courtesy of a reason and is not willing to discuss it. He has been fairly removed from the family for many years and largely stays in contact only with my parents with a weekly phone call and an occasional trip home for a funeral, a friend’s wedding, or someone’s milestone birthday. He hasn’t been here for a holiday celebration in probably 15 – 20 years. He hasn’t been back for a visit in the two years since Annie died. He lives six hours away by car.

    You gotta love families.

    I do think I may be collecting some new material for a fictional book. . .

  16. Christine – sorry to be late to the party here. You might give your sister some space to think it over more – maybe she will change her mind.

    Also, Jeanette Walls fictionalized her two memoirs, “Glass Castles” and “Half Broke Horses”. Her story has some pretty nasty things in it – her parents were pretty neglectful. After reading your story, I’m wondering if she fictionalized it because of release problems. You might read her stuff over for some ideas. I can’t tell what is fictional and what is not.

    I’m sorry for you to go through this. You set out to honor Annie, and got a family problem back instead. I’m glad to see you’re staying encouraged; thanks for the replies to the comments.


    1. This was one party you want to be late to. Trust me.

      I read both of Jeanette Walls memoirs and didn’t realize it was fictionalized. I’m not sure how that works. I’m going to get “Glass Castles” off my shelf and see what she says.

      My memoir doesn’t even contain anything “nasty” in it. Although my sister read it as very negative and derogatory towards her, which truthfully, it wasn’t. I wrote her as an in-charge professional who was upset and did things like watch the clock in the hospital so Annie would get her pain meds on time. Anyway, I still don’t understand a lot of her concerns. I still believe it has more to do with privacy issues.

      My brother hasn’t seen fit to explain his complaints to me. Word from my mom is that he feels I am exploiting Annie’s death. Hurtful.

      It’s going to take me a while to get over this.

      The few people who have read this story for me in an editing or feedback mode are touched by it. “I am weeping here,” Carolyn Walker said. “The reader doesn’t want Annie to die.”

      The reader doesn’t want Annie to die. So maybe my brother has a point. Maybe I have exploited Annie’s death, or my/our grief at her death. I exploited her death to show the value of her life.

      Thanks for understanding. All my blogging friends have helped me pull through this.

      1. As I read your comment about your brother’s reaction, I think his grief is the cause. Given time, I think he will be open to having Annie’s life shared with others, but it is too painful for him to deal with right now. My dad gave up when his sister died before him, he said it wasn’t supposed to be that way, and died four months later. Brothers take losing their sisters very hard.

      2. Thanks, Patti,
        My mom thought that might be the cause for his strong reaction as well. It hurt to read it, so he turned the hurt to anger. I don’t know.

        It’s hard to understand because he is just never around and doesn’t call.

        If I was just doing this for a lark, I would shelve it. But I have felt compelled from the beginning to write this story. I’ve always known I would eventually write a story about Annie. I had started a short story while earning my English degree a few years back. My teacher wanted me to publish it. I didn’t. It is threaded throughout the memoir now.

        I feel bad about this whole turn of affairs. And it certainly has shot my confidence in moving forward, not to mention tarnished my book.

        I need to do it for me, so that I can clear my mind and my writing space. Annie’s story has always been waiting there inside me and kind of blocking anything else.

        I started it, and then set it aside. But many times her story woke me up in the middle of the night forcing me to go to my computer and type.

        I think it is a good story about being human.

        And I need to do it for Annie.

  17. Wow, I hadn’t even considered that I would have to have releases from the people involved. I doubt that my mother will ever give it, and I am still hoping my story will have a lot of popular appeal and I wouldn’t have to self publish. Is it essential to have these releases? How does one write a mother out of a memoir? It will partly be about her (and she was often abusive). I can’t just omit that stuff, then the story would be a lie. Gosh, this is all disturbing. Thanks for sharing this link.

    1. I don’t know the legalities. And I guess it’s only a problem if someone decides to sue you. I don’t think my siblings would have sued me, and what I wrote was true, so it probably wouldn’t have gotten very far. I just don’t know. It’s probably wise for you to do a little digging before you get your manuscript polished. There’s stuff out there on the internet about other memoirists. I also used photographs, and I know you need release form for those.


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