Author Highlight: Teacher, Speaker and Author Marilyn Myrick Watson
It’s a little-known fact that Steuben Press gets its name from the town where founder Adam Ellis and his family grew up, Steubenville, Ohio along the Ohio River in the southeastern part of the state.
It’s also a little-known fact that Steuben Press author Marilyn Myrick Watson went to the same high school as Adam, which they discovered when Watson approached Steuben Press decades later to print her newest book.
We got to sit down with Watson to talk about her book Encore!: A Boomer's Guide to Rocking Your Retirement, (which is not about finances), her process as a self-published author, and her advice for aspiring self-published authors.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author?
*Cue long peals of laughter*
To start, when I was in high school I was editor of our school newspaper and section editor of our yearbook. When selected, I was told, “We need people like you to tell the truth.” That was back when journalism told the truth, and you didn’t go to print until you got all your facts straight.
For 25 years I taught school, and 22 of those were as an elementary school librarian in Arizona. Students would often come to me for books about famous Arizonans for school projects. The problem was, there really weren’t any. When the book vendor came in I would ask for some, but it was the same problem statewide.
This inspired me to spend my summer at the ASU library doing research. Over the next six years, I ended up writing five biographies for children about Arizona’s historical figures.
They were about Barry Goldwater, Rose Mofford (Arizona’s first female governor), Raul Castro (Arizona’s first Hispanic governor), Frank Luke, Jr. (a World War I hero), and Poston and Hunt (two of Arizona ‘s Founding Fathers). For these children’s biographies, I was awarded an accommodation from the Arizona Historical Society for lasting contributions to Arizona’s History.
When I left the teaching world, I went to the mandatory retirement seminar. The only information they gave us was basically “Here’s your information about Insurance and Medicare. Okay bye!” Beyond finances, there was no real information about all the other parts of retirement.
I talked to the superintendent and said, “Let me prepare a presentation and come alongside you next year.” And he said,
“When you’re ready, let’s do it.” Unfortunately, the superintendent left the district and this idea never came to fruition.
When I moved to Denver, no one knew me. In order to present myself as an authority on the various experiences people had when they retired, including health & fitness, making new friends, living 24-7 with a spouse, part time work, etc., I wrote my book.
How did you find your publisher?
My book is self-published, but I used a publishing consultant to help with all the moving pieces.
I met Polly, head of My Word Publishing (a publishing consultant agency for self-published authors), at a National Speakers Association monthly meeting which she sponsored. My thought was, “If she’s good enough to be sponsoring the National Speakers Association, that’s good enough for me!”
My Word Publishing has editors, illustrators, designers, etc. As a publishing consultant, she guided me through the system, gave me proper expectations along the way, and saved me from bad decisions. Everything you need comes from the consultant, which is invaluable for the self-published author who’s trying to manage everything themselves.
What are a few challenges you encountered during the self-publishing or printing process?
At first, I was afraid of my editor. I was always afraid he would tear my work to shreds. I was afraid he would criticize my work or propose massive changes — which very seldom happened.
My editor ended up being a dream to work with. A few times he would challenge me — once he told he, “This passage sounds a little tired.” Well, I was tired! He helped me liven up that passage after I’d hit a bit of a wall.
Self-marketing has never been easy for me, either. When you write the book, you don’t just write the book. Press, publicity, advertising, book shows and book fairs, signings…it’s a whole other life. One that I’ve chosen to start at the age of 70 — my encore!
And just like any self-published author, my biggest challenge was always money.
But as far as going to print, Steuben Press was the easiest thing in the world to work with. Printing was the simplest step of all.
How did you choose your cover design for Encore?
We were choosing between the cover design I went with and a blueish-gray image of people applauding. At first I really liked the “applauding” design, just because it really screamed “encore!”
I put both options on Facebook, and took the two designs around town with me to get feedback. It was pretty much split 50/50, but slightly leaned toward this cover. So that’s the one we chose.
Do you have any advice for self-published authors looking to find a publisher?
I think going with something like My Word Publishing – otherwise known as hybrid publishing – is the way to go.
I’ve seen some self-published books that just look awful — from interior design to cover. Encore looks so much better than my first five books that were published in Arizona by an editor, thanks to all the help from My Word.
Other than that, I’d say you need a big deep breath, a long-term plan, money in your bank account, and to not trust everything you read on the Internet. Get a good advisor. I’ve tried several things over the past 2 or 3 years that were dead ends, and didn’t get my head straight until I found the right consultant.