Monday, February 21, 2011

The market for schizophrenia memoirs with a twist

I attended a writers' conference this week-end. There was a opportunity in the program for me to sit down with a real, live New York City agent and get feed-back on twenty pages of my manuscript.

The agent didn't leap up and grab me and demand to know where this manuscript has been all her life. Instead she said, after complimenting me on my strong writing, that it looked like "Holistic Recovery from Schizophrenia: A Mother and Son Journey" was for a niche market. I hadn't convinced her of the potential market in my query letter, and even though she, as an agent, knows lots of publishers, she's not a mind reader. She doesn't know the schizophrenia market, nor the holistic treatment side of schizophrenia treatment. She needs facts and numbers. I didn't provide any.

I'm prepared to self-publish, but I'm not there yet, mainly because I like the idea of someone else of influence believing that there's a market for this kind of book. The twist in my book (actually, there are several) is that I'm a mother who believes in minimal medication, if any, I've undergone some very unusual types of treatment with my son that aren't on most people's radar screen, and I believe that schizophrenia begins at home.

Please contact me if you are aware of books or websites showing facts and figures that can help me determine the book market for 1) memoir; 2) schizophrenia; 3) holistic treatments; 4) energy psychology or psychiatric literature. I need to know more than just that schizophrenia affects 1 in 100 people.


  1. I wish I could reel off sites and stats, but I cannot at the moment. I will do a bit of research to see what I can find, but any information likely won't come from me because I just don't know. I do think it's GREAT that you met with that NY person. I'm very excited for you and for me and for us. While I do have one relative with schizophrenia (or, who's received that diagnosis), the person I cared for until recently did not receive that diagnosis and most of his issues or many could fall under geriatric care, though of course psych was a huge (and is) component of his care. My point is, I am EXTREMELY interested in your writing and I am not caring for anyone with a schizophrenia diagnosis, but I get a TON of value from this blog. In other words, as a geriatric caregiver, I found your blog useful. So maybe consider adding another category - that of caregiving.


  2. Rossa,

    I'm sorry I don't know any resources for the info you're looking for. I am wondering though based on the little I've read of your manuscript, your book is in fact has something to offer applicable to all of the markets you mention?

  3. Perhaps it's better to get out of the niche.
    Perhaps market it as a warm mother and son story: "Chris and Me"...something like that, cycle the Schiz to back-story and make the central key your relationship and add more like the breakfast.

    Nobody knows "Anhedonia" but "Annie Hall", the renamed title is well known.

  4. The vast majority of books - ninety percent - sell less than a hundred copies. [This is from Andrew Keen and the Long Tail (2006)].

    In the magazine world there are 2 big concepts: circulation and readership.

    The readership figures are much bigger because they show who reads the magazine. 1 person could buy the magazine but 5 people could read it.

    At the moment I am reading about The International Society for the Subtle Energies of Medicine. There are 1,450 members. If one of them could give the book an endorsement...

    I am looking for an Independent Exploration group which might deal with energy medicine and schizophrenia.

    Also there are industry magazines like Publisher's Weekly and The Bookseller which have information on various genres which can help query letters to talk in publishing language.

    The holistic medicine articles on Wikipedia are pretty big in terms of their readership.

    Anything which sells >5000 books is not niche.

    62% of adult Americans have used complementary or alternative medicine in the past 12 months. [Centre for Disease Control]. 42% in the United Kingdom have also used complementary or alternative medicine. But only 22.5% of Danes have done this. (Marian?) And it might make a good market leader in Germany.

    How the readership might convert into dollars...

    It might be good if you could list the [numbers of] memberships of associations like Soteria, the Hearing Voices Network, Paranoia Network...I'm sure each would be in 4 or 5 figures.

    Soteria is BIG on minimal medication.

  5. I'm getting some good ideas here. (Anhedonia was the original title for Annie Hall? Who would have thought?) I hadn't considered the geriatric market, but it's interesting, as schizophrenia used to be considered almost undistinguishable from dementia. I think schizophrenia does share a lot in common with dementia, and there is the caregiver aspect to it which has something in common with geriatrics. (I hate the word "caregiver" when it comes to families - sounds like people don't care. Adelaide - great ideas for me to consider. These organizations certainly publish their stats. (I could also list NAMI, ha ha!)

  6. "Anhedonia was the original title for Annie Hall" Heard that from a TV writer - Used as a classic example of a bad title. Woody had to be talked out of Anhedonia.

  7. Wouldn't you know, "anhedonia" is a term associated with schizophrenia. Everything in life shares a connection with SZ, so it's not surprising.

    In psychology and psychiatry, anhedonia (< Greek ἀν- an-, "without" + ἡδονή hēdonē, "pleasure") is an inability to experience pleasurable emotions from normally pleasurable life events such as eating, exercise, social interaction or sexual activities. Anhedonia is seen in the mood disorders, schizoaffective disorder, schizoid personality disorder and other mental disorders. This is considered as one of the negative symptoms of Schizophrenia where patients describe themselves as feeling emotionally empty.[1]

  8. Adelaide, in the mid 1980ies, a few years before I moved from Germany to Denmark, I'd caught a bad cold that wouldn't go away, no matter how many gallons of warm milk with honey, herbal tea, and hot water with lemon and ginger I gulped down. So I paid my GP a, reluctant, I've never completely trusted them..., visit. He was one of the in Germany already at that time not at all so rare, "traditional" medical professionals who had an additional education in "alternative" medicine, and he recommended a pill entirely composed of Mother Nature's ingredients. It worked miracles. So, when I caught another bad cold in the early 1990ies, after I'd moved to Denmark, I went to the pharmacy, and asked for these pills. The pharmacist had never heard of it. Did I know what the active ingredient was called? Yes I did: myrtle oil. - Myrtle oil?! Like in myrtle, the plant?! - Yup. - (Rather hostile) But that's not a chemical! I can't imagine it's proven to have any effect. Sorry, we're a pharmacy. We don't stock that kind of, er, substances.

    Never mind that "this kind of substance" actually is proven to have an effect, and that every pharmacy in Germany has it in stock. The Danes are always and in regard to almost everything -- except for things like biological psychiatry... -- at least ten years behind. Another example is organic farming. It's booming here now. It was already booming a good 20 years ago in Germany, when the Danes hardly knew how to spell the word "organic".

  9. "Wouldn't you know, "Anhedonia" is a term associated with schizophrenia. Everything in life shares a connection with SZ, so it's not surprising."
    Yeah I read that recently . I did experience that as a Schizophrenic and I understand it. It's completely natural. The strange thing is why would anyone think it is a bizarre symptom? People look at a symptom list of Schizophrenia and think they "understand" Schizophrenia.
    They don't. The list doesn't tell it, it's what is behind the list.

    This symptom is something like emotional shock. Once again showing that SZ. is indeed an emotional dysfunction. Of course this would happen , it's withdrawal, a person withdraws from what they have been blocked in getting.
    blocked in getting something real or blocked in attaining the fullness of emotional feeling and expression.
    But even so, Anhedonia is relative and even at that the desire for pleasure is forced underground or disguised is schizophrenics. Schizophrenics are still desiring machines, coveting machines, just like everyone else. So long as there is coveting, there is something to work with nd something that can develop. Every human being seeks to complete themself. Many symptoms whether useful or not are the consciousness's reaction to try to "solve" itself. To interfere with the process in a repressive way instead of assistive way is to kill the human being, to take away their pain and suffering entirely is to kill the drive for pleasure.
    Drugs combined with growth facilitation can cure at least the category I was in and extremely likely many other kinds.

    The "recovery platform" that kills all suffering, also kills all desire and the social encouragements to avoid "stress" in actuality avoid all possible growth processes. What is left is that there is "no one there", and empty shell that is less problematic for society.
    For instance an Establishment doc would kill all the fear of a SZ. with meds. They would not understand that this is also killing all possibility of emotional development and of the patient experiencing other emotions. The patient lives in the fear , anger and suffering. Killing the fear prevents it's transformation,resolution and energy flow into the development of other emotions. They need to leave enough suffering to grow on. However if the Canon is that schizo. is incurable, this will never happen and handing out meds are handing out death sentences.

    In fact the recovery model" is a "death model".

  10. Marian,

    Herbs are medicinal... There's a reason that families used to pass on their mystery from generation to generation.

    The Germans are the best when it comes to their knowledge of how to use them.

    A good book is the Commission E Monograms. They are available (English translation) from the American Botanical Council out of Austin, Texas -

    I use it as a desk reference with my family... It's a great source of information... It was worth every dime of what I paid for it!

    The Director of the American Botanical Council, Mark Blumenthal has done a wonderful job in getting the word out on herbs. I had the opportunity to meet him a couple of years back... He's a great guy!

    You mention organic gardening... Why is it we are so reluctant to believe that the body, minid, and spirit heal when we nurish them? I suppose, at the end of the day, I believe in the body's innate ability to heal... It's what it does best!

    Duane Sherry

  11. Dear Marian:

    Thank you for the words about Germany, Denmark and your experience with myrtle oil and allopaths who seem to appreciate/get things.

    With that bad cold, that was a lot of swallowing of liquid! Good to have something solid once you could manage it.

    (Does myrtle have any loosening properties?)

    And your wonderful response!

    Myrtle doesn't seem to be an ingredient which clashes with body or brain systems.

    It is in the same family as primrose and magnolia, both of which are very helpful oils for changes of life and menopause.

    We have herbariums in my house as well.


    Thank you for the Herbalgram link.


    Anhedonia is very interesting.

    I have already read lots about alexythmia, which really rose into the consciousness around the time of Daniel Goleman [of Emotional Intelligence fame: once upon a time he was a Psychology Today editor].

    Basically the latter is about calling/labelling your feelings things. Like "I feel pleasure when..." or "because..." Sort of congruent.

    Thinking lots about Kitchen Gardens, and how they might need to grow plants that are not immediately edible or nice-looking.

    And the healing, yes, it is a blessing!

  12. Adelanide Dupont,

    Thank you for your response!

    Oops, typo... I obviously meant to say herbal 'monographs' (not monograms).

    Another good resource on herbs, as well as vitamiins, and possible interactions with medications is Vitasearch -

    Click on 'Health Notes' (bottom left)
    It opens to a great page of resources!

    My best,

    Duane Sherry

  13. Rossa said: "I'm prepared to self-publish, but I'm not there yet, mainly because I like the idea of someone else of influence believing that there's a market for this kind of book."

    It must be very exciting for you. I wish you all the luck with this. I too, felt the same way about a year and a half ago. I knew POD was always an option, but I wanted my book to be done, well, "by the book". First the agent, then the publisher, then the book deal, then the editor, then the book gets done.

    I never got past the first thirty query letters. I have no credentials to my name. I am not a big shot PhD at Harvard or a professor of law at a prestigious uni. I was never previously published. I have a small platform (blogs and vids) and a limited audience. I am no one important and have no outstanding qualifications (being a former blue-collar laborer is not very glamorous or prestigious nor does a knowledge of industrial manufacturing confer any niche-appropriate expertise, like say, a PHD in psychology). For all those reasons and more, I totally understand why agents would hesitate to bite. I felt my story could and should be helping people now and not three, five or seven years from now when I finally got my MS across an agent's desk.

    So no one in the agenting biz was interested and I wasn't going to drag the query process out for years and years hoping and hoping. I don't like rejection and I believe in my story so I went with POD rather than pony up for more form letter rejections about how X agent doesn't think my story is "Right for our collection."

  14. Thanks for letting me know how it went with you. Print on Demand seems like a good idea to me, too.


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