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 Publishing & Prison 

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Michael Santos

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How to Publish a Book from Federal Prison

Article:

I didn’t know how to publish a book when authorities locked me in federal prison. I was 20 when I broke the law, and I had not done much of anything before I went to prison. While inside, however, I knew that I wanted to prepare for success.

Publishing a book would be a tactic in a long-term strategy that would help me cross through multiple decades in prison.

How to start?

To become an author in prison, a person must use the same strategy that it takes to succeed in anything else. We have to:

Step 1: Define success

Step 2: Create a plan

Step 3: Put priorities in place

Step 4: Build tools, tactics, and resources

Step 5: Measure progress with accountability metrics

Step 6: Adjust as necessary

Step 7: Execute the plan daily

In my case, I had to go through multiple iterations of this strategy. Since I had not been a disciplined student before my imprisonment, first I had to learn how to write. That meant enrolling in correspondence schools and working toward a degree. I disciplined myself to write at least 1,000 words per day. That strategy helped me develop confidence as a writer.

Then I had to understand the rules. I read title 28 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Section 500 of that book pertained to the rules in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Section 551.08 pertained specifically to the rules of writing manuscripts. While I served my sentence, the CFR indicated that a person did not need to ask permission to write a manuscript. In fact, the policy statement encouraged people to write manuscripts (See policy statement 5350.27 on inmate manuscripts).

Sometimes, however, a person may encounter a staff member who wants to obstruct a person from writing. For that reason, each person should know the rules and understand how to present the CFR in an approprite manner.

Once I became more confident as a writer, I began publishing. First, I published articles for other authors. Then I wrote chapters. Eventually, I began publishing books from prison. The strategy of publishing books from prison helped me feel productive in prison and it helped me open many income opportunities while I served my sentence, and upon release.

If you’ve written a manuscript, and you’ve edited the manuscript, the next step requires you decide how you want to publish. Do you want to pursue a publishing deal with a publishing house? Or do you want to publish indepently?

By using both formats, I can describe advantages and disadvantages to either option.

While I served my sentence, I published books with Thompson Publishers, Greenwood Praeger Publishers, and with St. Martin’s Press. Those types of companies provide editors and also distribution. Further, they provide a payment and royalty system. The disadvantage is that it takes a long time, and the royalty split is not favorable to an author.

The other option is to publish independently, through Amazon. I use that option frequently.

I encourage people to think about using time in prison to write. The skill will lead to income opportunities upon release.

Another great way to get started is to begin publishing on Prison Professors Talent. Anyone can start by visiting the website or sending an email to: [email protected]. Our team will assist people in publishing stories that memorialize the journey through prison. It can be the start to building a knowledge base for Artificial Intelligence–which will become an enormously valuable asset for those who want to build careers upon release.

Critical Thinking:

If you’re interested in memorializing your journey throgh federal prison, consider responding to the following question as a prompt:

  • In what ways will your published writing help you recalibrate after a criminal conviction?

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