The memoir SPLIT by Maggie Walters writer is an extraordinary read and an exemplar of the best of non-fiction indie publishing in Australia

The memoir SPLIT by Maggie Walters writer is an extraordinary read and an exemplar of the best of non-fiction indie publishing in Australia

May 22, 2024

‘I exist in an unsettled life.’

Thus begins Maggie Walters’ must-read new memoir SPLIT: A life shared: living with multiple personality disorder.

Not only is the book a fascinating read about an extraordinary way of being in the world, but it comes with sparkling literary credentials.

An early draft was longlisted for the prestigious Richell Prize, and Maggie has worked on her craft over many years with the help of writing mentors including Laurel Cohn, Lee Kofman, Sarah Armstrong and most recently, Alan Close.

The book has been beautifully produced

The striking cover for Split was designed by award-winning designer Hazel Lam who is renowned for her covers including Julia Baird’s Phosphorescence and Holly Ringland’s The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart.

Three book covers by award winning book cover artist Hazel Lam
Book covers by award-winning cover designer Hazel Lam

 

But it’s the writing and Maggie Walters’ story that will see readers recommending it, book clubs devouring it and bookstores hand selling it.

It is a very difficult read in a few early sections and these have a trigger warning so you can avoid if needed, but, the bulk of the book is Maggie’s unique and engaging journey to healing from complex childhood trauma. In its entirety, the book is memorable and uplifting…and the structure, the voices of Maggie’s ‘alters’, and Maggie’s own writing style are compelling.

 

In my endorsement for the book SPLIT, I wrote:

‘Illuminating, fascinating, harrowing and hopeful, this beautifully written memoir will keep you reading, feeling and thinking to the very last page. An exquisitely written memoir of an extraordinary life.’

 

Am I biased? Yes. And no.

No. Because it truly is an exceptional book, content and craft coming together into something more powerful than either could be alone.

Yes. Because I have been Maggie’s publishing mentor.

 

How attending writers’ festivals and writing workshops helps authors

Maggie and I met when she attended the workshop I ran for Byron Writers Festival in August 2023. It was a ‘Marketing for Authors’ session and I was there to share innovative ideas about how trad and indie authors can market themselves without feeling like they’re selling themselves.  (NB: I will be running a Marketing for Writers course for Byron Writers Festival again in 2024 if you’d like to come).

Maggie came to the workshop because she was still trying to land a traditional publishing deal. She had received marvellous feedback on her manuscript amongst the 14 rejections she’d already received from agents and publishers, but most of them had said things along the lines of ‘though we love it, no one knows who you are’ and ‘we don’t know how we’d sell this’.  As many authors know, this is all too common feedback for writers who aren’t celebrities.

So, she attended the book marketing workshop to learn how to build her profile, still with the dream of preparing herself for and getting a book deal.

 

But…she also left the workshop with a book.

Maggie bought a copy of my title, Look-It’s Your Book! Write, publish & promote your non-fiction book: a self-publishing guide for Australian writers as it has chapters on book marketing and how authors can leverage their books.

And she read it.

Cover to cover.

Did more research, emailed me questions, and began to wonder if a trad deal at this stage really was the best publishing pathway for her…many author friends encouraged her to hang out longer waiting for a deal but she started to inch closer to the idea of being an indie author.

And then she just decided: she was going to go full steam ahead with the self-publishing option.

The self publishing book Look It's Your Book! next to Maggie Walters memoir SPLIT
So delighted to see authors like Maggie using Look-It’s Your Book! as a guide to the creation of their own.

 

Maggie’s key personal drivers for deciding to go indie rather than continuing to pursue a traditional publishing deal included: 

  • The level of control self-publishing grants the author.
  • The speed at which she could bring her book to market (and move on to her next book).
  • The potential for much higher royalties.
  • The ability to retain all rights to her life story (it’s also important as she’d like to do advocacy work in the mental health space and will be able to reuse/repackage any of her manuscript as needed without needing permissions or being delayed).
  • The opportunity to learn the backend of publishing so for future books she can decide whether to continue to be an indie author, or to go with a traditional publisher if they come knocking.

 

The prologue to SPLIT arrives

On August 22, 2023, just a few weeks after the workshop, she emailed me the prologue to SPLIT. I was HOOKED. Her story, her writing style…I could not believe multiple people in the publishing industry had turned this manuscript and author away. From that moment, I was even more in her corner (like…really wedged in!), and there was no stopping author Maggie Walters or her book.

 

A bold author indeed

By August 29, in addition to massively sticky-noting Look-It’s Your Book!, she’d completed the course I’d created for Bold Authors: The Ultimate Timeline Guide to Successfully Self-Publish a Book.

She printed out all the ‘what to do when’ to-do lists from the Bold Authors course as her guide and began ticking them off as she completed them. There were a lot of ticks!

Maggie then stockpiled a list of questions for me and booked in an “ask me anything” call. Thus began a wonderful author-mentor relationship that has turned into professional respect (both ways!), friendship – and a truly readable, well produced, memorable book with all the elements it needs to reach and then be recommended on by its audience of readers.

It wasn’t always easy, the back end of bringing a book you can be proud of to market normally takes an entire publishing team. But I was there to support Maggie as she DIY’d. We had plenty of laughs amidst the hard work and brainstorming, strategy and spreadsheets, initial PR plans and outreach, layouts, printing and book distribution strategy.

We had a LOT of fun too, did you know Officeworks can literally split a book in half? I wouldn’t normally recommend cutting books in two, but for this occasion, the split book of SPLIT at the launch really showed a coming together of Maggie’s story and efforts, while being right on theme too!

Alan Close, Maggie Walters and Anna Featherstone at the launch of the memoir SPLIT
Alan Close, Maggie Walters and Anna Featherstone at the launch of SPLIT, with prop books ‘split’, right on theme!

 

Why it’s important for authors to be active in the writing community

Maggie also was actively engaged in writing groups and writing programs run by Byron Writers Festival, as well as reaching out, supporting and chatting with other authors, both traditionally and self-published including:

 

The foreword

The foreword to SPLIT is written by Dr George Blair-West, one of the world’s foremost experts on Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), a condition formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder(MPD).

He said: “If I was asked to capture DID in one sentence, I would say: it’s a testimony to how the human mind really can develop superpowers … and fly away. This is the most important thing to understand about this condition – it is not a mental illness, it is, perhaps, the most powerful adaptive response that the human mind is capable of when it is faced with the most powerful trauma that humans are capable of.”

Dr Blair-West also thanked Maggie for her contribution to the further understanding of DID/MPD. What an honour for any writer to be recognised in that way!

That’s right people, the way Hollywood and the media portray and sensationalise this condition is one of the barriers Maggie is trying to change through this account of her life. If she didn’t push through to publish this memoir herself, her book would not be able to be out in the world, engaging readers or making a difference.

 

Working with author Maggie Walters

Working with Maggie has been incredibly fulfilling. She is a writer who is curious, open to feedback and accountable. She is also fun to be around. Her book will stand proudly amongst the best memoirs to be released in Australia this year.

It takes grit to write, publish and market a book…and sometimes even more to live the life you’re writing about. Maggie is giving all of them an incredible crack!

 

The hometown book launch for SPLIT (there’ll be one in Sydney too!)

SPLIT was launched in Maggie’s hometown of Lismore on May 16, 2024. It was years after she first began writing the manuscript, but just 10 months since we first met at the marketing for writers workshop.

It was a special evening with a full (and rapt!) room, a wonderful host in Alan Close who has worked very closely with Maggie on the edits, and her fab family, friends and members of the Northern Rivers writing community.

As MC, I teared up at the momentousness of the occasion and the huge effort I know Maggie has put in behind the scenes to live, write and publish this book.

Maggie, reflecting on the book launch a few days later, called it ‘fun’, ‘therapeutic’ and ‘transformative’.

 

Self published author Maggie Walters has a huge grin as she hugs her publishing mentor Anna Featherstone. A second picture shows a full crowd at the launch
Author Maggie Walters and publishing mentor Anna Featherstone hug out with happiness. A full room turned out to celebrate the launch of SPLIT.

 

Bookstores

The morning after the book launch we headed into Lismore’s Book Warehouse to see Maggie’s books on the shelves! What a buzz! Every author dreams of this, but it’s not always possible for self-published authors.

Already many bookstores, having heard the buzz (including random readers coming in after hearing Maggie in the media) are either taking SPLIT on consignment or ordering the book in from IngramSpark. This is an important part of Maggie’s strategy. Sure, she could have engaged a book distributor, but as much as she wants to get her book out there to help raise awareness about mental health, the costs (and potential returns/freight) would have just made it prohibitive to her plans to write more books. Yes…authors need to earn a living to be able to continue writing, and Maggie is more than happy to support bookstores and libraries with author talks and signings!

 

Author Maggie Walters wearing a colourful denim jacket beams as she points to her memoir SPLIT on display at a bookstore
Author Maggie Walters beaming to see her debut memoir SPLIT on display at Book Warehouse

 

Book marketing and publicity

SPLIT began receiving  book publicity even before launch – a moving interview by Angela Catterns on ABC North Coast, a spot on the NBN evening news, a piece in the local news, various podcasts including a mention from me on the Publishing for Profit podcast for the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), and ABC News Online. And now with Nicole Webb book publicist on the case, so much more will flow, so there’s more to come!

 

How to get publicity for a self published book – or even a traditionally published book!

  • Write a great book
  • Know your stuff/be an expert (in memoir…you are literally the expert on your life; for business books you need to have really honed your thinking)
  • Be authentic
  • Publish at the highest of standards
  • Help journalists out…give them ideas for stories and questions. For local media, write as much of the story as you can so they can build on it.
  • Provide images as needed
  • You cared enough to write this book, so understand that if you want people to read it…you are going to have to tell them about it!
  • One story won’t move the needle, but every piece of coverage can lead to something else.
  • There are other ways to spread the word about your book besides traditional media.
  • See further below for some samples of media coverage for Maggie Walters and her book SPLIT.

 

Thank you

On the night of her book launch, Maggie Walters gave me a thank you card with the words of John Burroughs’: ‘Leap, and the net will appear’.

She wrote:

“Anna, you’ve been a nurturer, cheerleader and rocket up my backside to get me motivated to find a way for SPLIT to make it into the world…I have been able to strive ahead and do all that I have – not only because you were a great resource I could rely on, but your warm personality helped me to believe in myself…”

Thank you Maggie, for the experience of working with you and for the happy goosebumps. Thanks for opening my heart even more. Thanks for bringing this book and your story to the world.

And thanks for getting straight onto your next book!

 

If you’re a reader:

Ask your library (SPLIT is listed with key library distributors) and local bookstore to get copies of SPLIT in, or encourage your bookclub to buy a set direct from Maggie. Bookstores can purchase direct from Maggie or through IngramSpark. SPLIT is also available via all your favourite online retailers. Spread the word, it’s a great memoir.

Also, if you’d like to attend an author event with Maggie, see her event listing on her website as well as:

  • I’ll be in conversation with Maggie Walters at Better Read Than Dead bookstore in Newtown, Sydney on June 13 – bookings via their website
  • Maggie will be in conversation about SPLIT in a ‘behind the writers’ talk with the wonderful LibraryLadyLee at Port Macquarie Library on June 21 at 10.30am Bookings via Mid North Coast Libraries
  • Stay tuned for where you will be able to see Maggie at writers festivals

 

If you’re a writer:

Whether you are hoping to be traditionally published or are looking at your self-publishing options, it takes a village to bring a book to the world. If you need a writing and publishing mentor in your corner, I am here. I can answer your burning questions over a short 30-minute call (though we can pack a lot in!), or you might prefer an ad-hoc or longer-term mentorship. Just get in touch and let me know a little bit about you and your project.

 

Extra resources for writers and writer friends:

  • What is the right publishing pathway for you? It may be trad, it may be hybrid, it may be indie…or a mix depending on how many books you have or genres you write in. Check out the Publishing Pathways explainer on Bold Authors where traditional publisher insider Nadine Davidoff and I run you through your options and the upsides and limitations of each.
  • A copy of Look-It’s Your Book! will answer many of your questions. You can borrow it from your local library, or buy from retailers or direct from me.
  • The on-demand short courses at Bold Authors offer incredible insights and will save you time and money as an author
  • And, if you’d like one-on-one mentoring, I’m here to give you and your book the personal and professional attention needed.
  • You’ll also find a series of blog posts about Writers’ Festivals and how they can help you as an author, plus a list of Australian Writers Festivals to help you on your way.

It makes me incredibly happy (maybe even giddy!) to help writers bring their unique stories to the world, whether it’s by working with you personally or referring you on to others in the industry who can help.

 

There’s a different publishing pathway for each of us:

Maggie Walters forged hers, and I look forward to helping you discover and make the most of yours. And definitely, definitely get your hands on a copy of SPLIT, not only for the moving read, but to see a book done well.

 

Finally, here are just some of the pieces of media coverage for author Maggie Walters and her memoir Split  (updated when I can)