More editorial suggestions for your consideration:
- Create a glossary and list of abbreviations for prison lingo and legal jargon (e.g. pretrial, celly, BOP, MCC, etc). Some are less obvious than others, and I imagine many readers aren’t keen to google it every time they come across a new word or phrase. I wouldn’t suggest reducing jargon because it’s meaningful for the culture and story, but being able to consult a an Appendix would be helpful. (Not common in memoirs, I know, but this isn’t what I’d call s common memoir! It’s more like a prison ethnography being published as a memoir, so some formal elements will be acceptable). You could publish the glossary as a story here on Medium with links to relevant parts of the story. This will translate nicely into an interactive ebook when you’re ready to publish.
- Create entire chapters that focus on in-depth description and analysis of policies and practices that you believe are problematic. This serves 2 purposes: A) provides convenient background info for readers unfamiliar with legal frameworks and judicial precedents associated with criminal justice in this country, and B) creates an opening for educational markets. Your goal is not only to tell your personal story but to give voice to the entire prison population and to shine a light on human rights, social justice, and rehabilitation concerns. The outcome is that people who picked up your book (or read your stories online) for entertainment purposes will also become informed U.S. voters and visitors who can demand actual justice and reform. You’re not just telling a story — you’re increasing awareness for a worthy cause (which also creates opportunities for charitable partnerships and donations — some of which could go to you as a staff member or consultant for the cause).
- Hyphenate pre-trial. I know “pretrial” is correct but the purpose of the hyphen is to increase readability and accessibility. (Also, it’s driving me crazy! I got all the way to end of “Hangin' Up" (the first chapter I read) before asking someone wtf is “preetreeull.” I felt silly at first but (even as a former editor with a background in linguistics, communications, and law) I’m still having to double or triple process “preetreeull” everytime I come back after a break. Considering your primary target audience is probably not cops, lawyers and felons (although they can certainly buy the book too), I’d lean towards the assumption that your most enthusiastic readers will be bored housewives, single women, academics in social sciences (and their students), and underemployed college grads “doing time" in low wage labor. Don’t make your sheltered and naive “white collar" readers translate “pretrial” into “pre-trial” themselves.
- Research “prison to print” author,authors, memoir, memoirs, book, books, and variations thereof. Document: Who are the publishers? Which news outlets covered press releases and features? What were the crimes? What were the lessons? What are the authors doing now? (The purpose is to collect models of success along with potential publishers and PR opps. Create a spreadsheet (e.g. Google Sheets) with at least 10 book titles with links to press, publisher, author bio, and/or wikipedia entry. Include a note on why the example warrants inclusion as a case study and indicate your favorite 3 success stories. If possible, include at least 1 example that became wildly successful for reasons that are not readily apparent to you (e.g. wild card). Bonus points if you can find the sales figures. Set the sharing feature to “anyone with a link" and copy/paste the link in a comment reply here on Medium. I’m not doing email these days, and maybe some other folks will get interested and offer suggestions too).
- Look up Nathan McCall and his first book “Makes Me Wanna Holla.” He went from “prison to print,” graduated college (after prison, unlike you), earned an honorary doctorate (possible for you), and became a university lecturer (also possible for you) at Emory (which is how I know about him). Read the book or don’t read it. Mainly I’m suggesting you look for marketing and monetization ideas. You may also want to learn more about guest lecturing and honorary doctorates. Let me know if you get any ideas you’d like to pursue. (You can use this case as an example in your spreadsheet. If you need help, I can create a starter template for you
Just let me know).
Hope you find something useful here.