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How to Publish Your Diary
Publishing Your Journal as a Book
Have you been considering publishing your diary or journal as a book? It's a successful format, because people love to get honest glimpses into another person's mind and life. From famous writers' diaries (think L.M. Montgomery, Anais Nin) to recent successful bloggers (Dooce, the Bloggess), the diary-as-memoir is a tried-and-true path to seeing your name in print.
However, what should you consider before you publish your diary? Should you self-publish, or try to get a traditional publisher to accept your book? Should you change others' names in your diaries to protect their identities?
Read on for tips about how to publish your diary, and what to consider before you publish your diary.
What to Consider Before Publishing Your Diary or Journal
A diary deals not only with events in your life, but also with your innermost thoughts and feelings. More importantly, unless you live as a hermit on a mountaintop, it also describes your interactions with friends, families, and co-workers, and how you feel about them. A diary doesn't always portray the people it describes in the best light, and in some instances it may portray them offensively.
If someone in your published work is angered by what is written about them, they may sue you for libel--a published, false statement that is hurtful to the person's reputation. The defense to libel is truth, so if you can't back up your words, you may be at the losing end of a lawsuit.
However, even if your work doesn't rise to the level of libel, it still has the potential to deeply hurt your family and friends. It's best to ask their permission to have them in your published diary; edit them out if they don't agree, or change their names.
If your diary is nothing but sunshine and happiness, it won't interest readers--it still needs that blend of drama, humor, and emotion that will capture a reader's attention. However, if you know your words are going to destroy a relationship with someone you value, you might want to re-think publishing your diary (or consider editing it down and publish it as fiction).
The Path to Publication for Your Diary
Once you've decided to publish your diary, you will have to decide between self-publishing and choosing a traditional publishing house.
Self-publishing: Choosing to self-publish means that you can get your book out quickly and hire your own contractors--editors, cover designers, formatters, etc. The challenge of self-publishing, however, is marketing--you will have to work tirelessly to engage readers for your book. This will involve book signings, participation in forum, internet and social media campaigns, and more.
One way to build momentum for a self-published diary is to start a blog and chronicle your life there. Read other blogs and interact with their authors; develop a following. Those who follow your blog will serve as a built-in audience for any eventual book.
Traditional publishing: Publishing a diary/memoir through a publishing house can prove to be an uphill battle. Publishing houses exist to make a profit, and you will have to convince them that your book will sell (again, a popular blog can give you some leverage in this department).
Generally, successful diaries/memoirs deal with an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances; the writer overcomes odds and is inspirational, or writes about everyday events with humor and relatability. (Consider books like "Reading Lolita in Tehran" and "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" versus books such as Laurie Notaro's or David Sedaris's.)
An excellent diary/memoir CAN capture a publishing house's attention, however, so don't despair. Pursue which option feels right to you, and know that you can always self-publish if a traditional house doesn't work out.
Would you ever publish your diary?
Final Tips for Diary Publication
Publishing your diary is a brave choice, and good luck with its success! Here are a few final tips:
- Consider changing others' names or using initials to protect their privacy, whether or not you've written controversial things about them.
- Never put in detailed contact information such as phone numbers or addresses.
- Edit your diary--your readers won't be familiar with your past, so don't leave them wondering about certain references.
- Hire an editor to polish your diary before you publish it or submit it for publication; a well-written book has a much higher chance of success than one that's riddled with errors.