Why readers’ opinions matter

Published on Sunday 21st August 2011 by DJ Kirkby

A couple of years ago I accidentally self published my memoir of growing up with undiagnosed autism. Yes, accidentally. It could only happen to me! If you want to know more about this fiasco then there is an full length article about it in the November 2010 issue of Writers’ Forum.

Much to my delight my memoir From Zaftig to Aspie got many favourable reviews from readers. However, once I realised that I had self published I was overcome with embarrassment. I felt that I had inadvertently sold my readers the literary equivalent of damaged goods because my book contained a multitude of typos and other mistakes that any editor working for a real publisher would have picked up.

So, I withdrew my book from publication and was astounded at the numerous comments I had from readers who said it was better to have it available with all its typos than not available at all to other readers. Thank you to everyone who voiced their opinion, you made me feel wonderful but I was still convinced that I had done the right thing by taking it out of circulation. That was until I met a managing editor this year who had somehow heard of From Zaftig to Aspie and showed interest in it and dismay when I explained that it was not available anymore.

This experience coupled with readers comments got me thinking seriously about my memoir again. I spoke to my agent who agreed to read it to see if she is interested in representing it for me. I’ll let you know what she says…

26 comments so far

  • Well I hope she does. There is clearly a need and a readership for this book. Autism is so poorly understood, the more first hand discussions around it the better. Fingers crossed. xx

  • Oh, I really hope she does represent it. When I read it I was so engrossed in the book that I didn’t even notice any typos and normally they would jump out at me! I definitely think there would be a market for it, perhaps in an expanded version? Your story is so unique and your achievements bring to mind some others with autism who’ve written very successful autobiographies – Temple Grandin, Wendy Lawson, Donna Williams etc.

    • Well I do hope so but there is no certainty that my agent will agree to represent my memoir. She only takes on books and novels that she loves because it would be impossible to effectively present a book she didn’t love to commissioning editors and publishers. Keep your fingers crossed for me please 🙂

  • This is great news. It’s wonderful that people want your book in any form they can get their hands on, and even better that you might have the chance to see it republished in a way that you’re happier with. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you!

  • I’m afraid the typos did bother me, but I still enjoyed the memoir very much. However, it wasn’t really what I was expecting. From the way it was described, I was expecting a lot more about Asperger’s and how it feels.

    • Thank you for the compliment. I am sorry you found the description misleading. Although there were several chapters where I did solely focus on trying to describe how autism ‘feels’ I clearly did not do it well enough. However, it is a difficult thing to do and would be akin to asking a mainstream person to explain what it feels like to be neurotypical! I will try to add in more clarity around this if the book gets published again though and would appreciate it if you could email me with specific questions about what detail you would like.

  • There isn’t as much stigma surrounding self-publishing these days and people are making a successful business for themselves being indie publishers. My book hasn’t won me any awards or been picked up by one of the big six, but I have sold a lot of copies and I’ve been happy with the outcome.

    I really hope this happens for. It’s hard work writing and publishing a book and we authors do deserve some recognition. Good luck xxxx

    • Thank you for your good wishes. My issue wasn’t with self publishing at all. I was embarassed that I had been mislead into believing that I was being properly published and therefore ended up with a book on the market that hadn’t been properly edited. I am all for self publishing when it is done properly and my first novel Without Alice was published by an Indie. I hope you have continued sucess with your book sales and that you write many more.

  • I really hope she likes it. Reading it, with all the typos, etc., was wonderful to me. To be honest, your life growing up was so interesting, I didn’t realize there were errors!

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