Posts Tagged ‘self-publishing’


There’s some really good news for us writers who are self-published – a.k.a. “indie authors.” It’s even the kind of news that just might make the Big 6 traditional publishers get very nervous.

The New York Times has reviewed a self-published book.

Did you hear me?  The freakin’ NEW YORK TIMES!  Not only that, its grande dame of reviewers, Michiko Kakutani herself, wrote the long review of The Revolution Was Televised, by blogger Alan Sepinwall, and called it “a terrific book.”

OMG. I mean, this really is a breakthrough.

Think I’m kidding? Forbes ran a piece under the headline, “New York Times Reviews Self-Published Book.”  And what, among other things, does the Forbes article say?  “The best of self-publishing can compete on equal terms with the best of traditional publishing, as Sepinwell so ably demonstrates.”

And that’s not all.

The Revolution has also been reviewed by the New Yorker (double OMG) and Time and The Hollywood Reporter.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are witnessing the dawn of a new age in publishing.  Slowly, very slowly but inevitably, some nourishing raindrops of respect are falling upon books that have not been approved by any gatekeeper but instead have been humbly self-published by the lowly author.

Of course there are important details to point out.  First off, the author WROTE “a terrific book.”  Then he tried to be as professional as possible with the publishing details, including hiring an editor and cover artist.  There’s an interview with Alan Sepinwall about his process here:

Kudos to him.  Oh, and what helped him promote his book was the platform for his popular blog and his “social media presence.”

Okay, so in this last respect I’m at the bottom end of the SMP feeding chain.  But I do like to think that at least I pulled off a professional job in the publishing details for my own Compass Master.  It’s just my promotion that sucks.

So for all my blogging friends – both the indie and the traditionally published – have a wonderful week.  I really do think things are looking up for us all.

Kick in the Gut

on September 4, 2012 in Misc 8 Comments »

Have you ever had a stranger rip apart one of your manuscripts?

That happened to me this last week and I feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut.

I think I’ve mentioned here before that I have two manuscripts I’m editing for self-publication: Charity Macay and the Almighty Dollar, and a sequel to it, Charity MacCay and Holy Relations.  They’re funny, rollicking tales set in New York and elsewhere in the late 1860’s.  I’m very proud of them, and after some effort I finally convinced a few friends and a family member to read them.  To be clear, these are people who, if they don’t like something, will absolutely tell me.  They’ll be kind and diplomatic, but they’ll give me their honest reactions and try to be helpful (“Maybe you can fix the story…”).

They all LOVED Charity MacCay.

Loved as in carrying the manuscripts back and forth to work, or staying up into the wee hours to read them, or calling me up or emailing a reaction as soon as he/she finished one.  They also marveled that they had never read anything quite like these two novels.  So I started feeling pretty confident.

But then one of these friends sent a manuscript to a friend back East; seems this woman is a successful freelance magazine editor.

Her reaction?  She delivered a kick right to my solar plexus.

After saying something about how the story kept her going, she proceeded to deliver a hatchet job.  How she just didn’t “get” this character Charity or why did Charity make such bad decisions, and she compared her unfavorably to Scarlet O’Hara, who doesn’t make such mistakes because she is “cold and calculating.”


Also, I have too many minor characters (something no else thought), too much description (again, no one else had this impression), too much vernacular speech (gee, obviously I hadn’t done my homework after reading about 50+ non-fiction books on the period, including ones from the 1860’s that I could only access on microfilm).  Finally, she recommended that I read Edith Wharton in order to learn how to write description and dialogue.

OMG, I don’t write like Edith Wharton?  I have committed a literary crime!  By the way, Edith Wharton puts me to sleep.

My first reaction upon reading this woman’s email was to feel as if I’d been stabbed and left to bleed to death.  Then I broke down her points. There were, admittedly, a couple good ones about a couple scenes.  But the rest of her opinion was flat out insulting.  I didn’t write another Gone with the Wind?  I didn’t scribble an Edith Wharton tome?  NO SHIT SHERLOCK!

Ultimately, what this “professional’s” opinion did to me was remind me why I’m self-publishing.  Among other reasons, I would have to compare in a query letter my manuscripts to books that are already out there.  I must make sure they fit neatly into a specific genre.  I must have a “product” that a publisher’s marketing department would know how to sell.

But what if I’ve written something that can’t be easily pigeonholed?  What if I’ve created something that’s kind of – oh, I don’t know… original?

Since at this point I’m waxing sarcastic, I figure it’s time to sign off.  I’ll just end by adding that this experience has also made me even more sympathetic with my fellow writers who have had similar experiences at the hands of “professionals.”

I feel for you.


on February 20, 2012 in Misc 13 Comments »

Well, this has been a painful weekend.

See, I visited a couple friends (Doug and Cil who are a couple), and while it was great to see them I was also prepared for the grim news they warned me about ahead of time…

First the good news:  they both finished reading The Compass Master and really enjoyed it.

Now the bad news: between them they found approximately 25 typos/mistakes in my book.


I mean, this really hurts.  This is so embarrassing.  Most of the slip-ups are barely noticeable.  But some others? Oh, they hurt.

Of course both Doug and Cil emphasized that I had done a good job, especially considering TCM is 523 pages long.  He told me he’s read, just for example, all of Clive Cussler’s novels and finds typos in all of them , and those tomes are published by one of the Big Six in New York.  Cil told me that as a teacher she’s unusually good at proofing and spotting mistakes.  And I told them I wish I’d known how good both of them are at this proofing stuff ’cause I woulda asked for their help BEFORE I published TCM.

So okay, my book has some mistakes, just like books put out by traditional publishers.  But the fact is I’ve always known that if you want to make it as a self-published writer your standards have to be very freakin’ HIGH.  Like you have to aim at putting out a better book in every possible way than those put out by the professionals if you want to be taken half as seriously.  And 25 or more typos is really, really asking to be laughed out of the book business.

Hence y’all know what this means – I gotta look into seeing how much it would cost me to reprint TCM with the necessary corrections.  Then there’s the matter of how long the Kindle version on Amazon has to be taken down so that the new one can replace it.

Damn. And I thought my biggest problem was figuring out how to promote my novel.

At least, in another literary vein, these same friends fiercely nagged me about getting my other two novels into print. They read both, love both, insist that it’s those two (shorter than TCM) books that would take off in women’s book clubs and other venues.  And since I really do love those two other novels as much as I do TCM (we all love our writing efforts, don’t we?), their support means so much to me.

So that’s it, folks.  As spring and warmer weather approaches, along with opportunities to finally start doing Layla stuff again, I’m gonna be turning into an editing/ proofing/ publishing whirligig.  I might even be mostly finished by mid-summer.  And Doug and Cil will be proofing my manuscripts BEFORE I publish them.

Anyway, that’s my sorry news. Hope your own literary announcements are happier ones than mine.

And Ciara – in my next posting I’ll be giving a way overdue shout-out for The Curse of Gremdon.

Wow.  I’m almost there.

Sometime in August, I’ll be getting my first real, live, OMG this is it hard copies of my very fat novel The Compass Master.  Both the hard and electronic versions will be on – along with a gazillion other books. Then within a few more weeks I hope to make it available electronically at Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

Yesterday I finally applied for the copyright.  I’ll have one more read-through of the entire text whenever CreateSpace gets the final layout to me.  And that’s it.  Time to concentrate on what promotion (all free, with my budget) I can muster.

You know, everything was so much easier when Bantam published my first novel.

I mean, I had an agent who had my back.  An editor who blue-penciled my manuscript like a crazy woman.  A copy editor.  A marketing department.  An artist to design the cover.  The sacred imprimatur of the publisher to mark my book as a thing worthy to be sold in bookstores.  A few book reviews in substantial publications.

I can not tell you how different the process has been this time around.  Self-publishing has been really challenging.  Hell, it’s been expensive and TOUGH!  All those advertisements and testimonials you hear about how easy it is to self-publish these days are full of crap.  Yes, it’s easy if you have low standards and delusions of literary adequacy.  But if you want your self-published book to be taken seriously by anyone, you must try to maintain professional standards as high as those of the big guns in New York.  That way maybe your stuff will be almost as good.

But ya know what’s kinda ironic?  For all the challenges and expenses of self-publishing, a part of me now believes that every writer should at some point self-publish something.  Here’s why.

Only now, when I look back to my Bantam days, do I realize how passive I let myself be in the publishing process.  I had already done the hardest work:  I’d written the book.  So when the professionals stepped in to take care of everything else, I felt overwhelmed, certainly amateurish, and figured just let the experts do their job.

When you self-publish, on the other hand, you have to rewrite and edit and copy edit and proof and polish your manuscript until it’s ready to go to print now.  If you’re like me and can’t afford a professional editor, then you have to question every friggin’ sentence, every punctuation mark, every character and story twist and yes, you must even keep questioning and doubting what you take to be your writing talent.  You must never be satisfied with what you’ve written because that can lead to complacency, which is literary death.

You must also really THINK from all angles about what you’ve written because YOU’RE the one who must figure out the artwork for the cover.  Does it grab the potential reader?  Does it convey the heart of your story?  And the title better be something that sticks in readers’ minds.  And the blurb you write for the back cover and the Amazon/whatever webpage must grab and hold them.

Then there’s formatting the text.  The title page.  The acknowledgements.  What kind of headers do you want?  What kind of font for the text?  What about the chapter numbers?  You don’t want gimmicky but you also don’t want bland.  What are the physical measurements of the book itself?  White or cream paper?  What about the electronic version – will the pages still look good?

And through it all be sure to retain the rights to your work.  That way your book is always yours.  If you want to take it to another publisher-for-hire, you can do it.  If a big publisher in New York or a small indie press gets interested in your book (and they’re starting to look at self-published works), you’ll be free to sign with them.  Buying your own ISBN number instead of being assigned one by the publishing service is also a good idea.

And I haven’t even gotten to the promotion angle yet.

Then again, traditional/legacy publishers have for a long time now expected authors to do most of their books’ promotion anyway.  The onus is on authors to pay for or design their books’ websites and make themselves heard across the internet, get interviews, get reviews, you name it.

I could go on and on about this whole legacy vs. self-publishing issue.  But I’ll do y’all a favor and just summarize my experience, to whit….

I’m glad I’ve self-published.  Because of all my hard work I’ll be able to point to The Compass Master and say this is MY book.

Except for the wonderful guidance of some friends who read the manuscript and gave invaluable advice (thank you especially Ann and Rich and Robert), this baby is mine.  I didn’t just do all the historical research (and there was a shitload of it), I didn’t just write every last blessed word, I rewrote endlessly and edited and copy edited it.  I hired the artist for the cover.  I made all the final decisions on how the physical book looks.  I’m getting it Kindle ready.  I’m doing the promoting.   And I really, truly feel like I’ve accomplished something good and solid.

Of course the odds are overwhelming that The Compass Master will sell no more than 50 or 100 books, tops.  But you know what?  I think I can live with that.  When my Bantam novel didn’t sell that publisher dropped me like a stinky turd.  If this self-published novel doesn’t sell it’s no big deal.  I’ll still be comforted by the simple fact that my novel is no longer sitting around uselessly on my computer and in a manuscript pile on my desk. It’ll be out there and a few people will read my baby and I hope they’ll love it.

End of story.

Scary Time Begins

on February 25, 2011 in Misc 6 Comments »

The time has come.   I’m about to jump off the OMG cliff.

I’m about to self-publish The Compass Master.

(Pause here to take a deep breath and steady my nerves.)

In reality (and often I can’t be bothered with reality) my finances are such that I should hold off for a few months before making this financial commitment.   Trouble is, I had settled on publishing through Amazon’s CreateSpace and they’re running an offer that ends on February 28.   Before now I couldn’t be bothered with most of their specials, but this one gives a big discount on the price of the cover design.   Well, the heftiest upfront expense I had always planned on was the cover art.   Nothing makes a book look amateurish from the get-go than a cheap or even not-quite-right package.

Hence the time has come for me to commit.   I signed up for a higher-level cover and professionally-done internal layout.   These two items are far and away the bulk of my publishing expenses.   Of course (damn it!) there’ll be a few more charges (getting the manuscript Kindle-ready, etc.), but those are almost money hiccups compared to the initial outlay.

As a few of you may recall, I did have at one point an agent for The Compass Master and she almost got a couple bites (at one big publishing house my manuscript went all the way up the chain to the editor-in-chief, who turned it down – blast him).

Yes, I could have kept plugging away and sent it off myself to smaller publishers or maybe other agents.   But every time I contemplated doing just that my gut turned itself inside out.   I just can’t, CAN’T keep my spirits up and keep plugging away at the commercial publishing game.   There comes a point where I just want to get on with my life.

In the next few days I’ll drive myself crazy getting ideas  for my book cover and looking over lots of other covers.   Then I’ll be able to work coherently with the graphic artist on my assigned CS team.   Of course in the end it’s the story that readers care about and the cover is just a come-on.   But since I’m paying for this baby and I’m ultimately in charge of my own book,  I want to get everything right.

Funny thing is, I already have a growing sense of peace and accomplishment.  Sure, I’ll be scared when my American Express bill arrives at the end of this month.    I’ll be a full-fledged neurotic as I go meticulously through the manuscript one last time to check for every errant comma or too-oft repeated word.   But this is it.



My pal Hart over at her (much more spectacular than mine) blog CONFESSIONS OF A WATERY TART is throwing a Delusional Doom Blogfest for Beware the Ides of March!   Here’s the link  (hope it works) explaining all.   If the link doesn’t work, look under her February 17 entry.

Basically, you get to predict a death or write an obituary, and the only requirement is that it be strange or bizarre or conspiratorial or fun.

So be morbid and literary and participate, y’all.


on September 7, 2010 in Misc 8 Comments »

Ever get the feeling that you’re disappearing under the pile of stuff you have to get done?


As of now I’m more than halfway through editing The Compass Master.  I should feel some relief.  I should pat myself on the back for seriously editing about a hundred pages of my big honkin’ manuscript over the three-day holiday weekend.  Sitting at my desk and working longer than a normal (non-writer) human being should merits some kind of praise.

So why do I feel that per usual I didn’t get enough done?

You know how it is.  Just when you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel (I’ll have my manuscript fully edited by the end of September!), you remember that you also have a *1%$# load of related tasks to see to.  I want to self-publish my novel before the end of the year (a goal my tax accountant is strongly encouraging)?  Then I have to start creating simultaneously the support structure around that publication.  

This means having a website for my novel ready to go, and since I lack the appropriate geek savvy to design it myself I have to pay someone else to do it, and be ready to tell him or her exactly what I want.  My book could be available at least on Amazon before Christmas?  Then according to publishing experts I should be launching my publicity efforts for Compass right about… NOW!  Oh, and don’t forget that I also need to have a clear idea of the cover for my book so that I can give good instructions to my hired artist, whoever he or she will be.

Anyway, enough of my whining.  The fact is, I’m the one who has chosen to go the self-publishing route. Yes, I wish so much that my agent had been able to find a big, fancy New York publisher to take a chance on my book.  I came very close a couple times – once all the way up to the editor-in-chief. But it didn’t happen, hence here I am in my self-publishing predicament.

But on the bright side…

My novel is finally going to be in print very soon.  That means it’s going to be REAL.

moby sculpture

If you’re a writer you know exactly what I mean.  Doesn’t matter if your friends have read your manuscript and loved it.  Nothing counts if your relatives (if you’re lucky and have a couple supportive members in that crowd) swear your stack of loose pages are better than all the published books they’ve read this year. If your novel is still just a photocopied manuscript in a drawer, it’s somehow not really a book. If it’s only in an electronic format you’ve emailed as an attachment to some loved ones, then it’s merely virtual.  For a writer, a novel has to take a physical shape with some heft and texture to be real.  And no, I don’t want to get into the argument about e-readers and electronic downloading today, ’cause I’m talking psychology, not technology.

Well, very soon now The Compass Master will be a real book. A hold-in-your-hands, genuine trade paperback.  I’ll give away some copies. I’ll do what promotion I can on it without going crazy or worrying about sales. And maybe because my novel is finally in print and real and I can touch, then maybe I can go back to having a normal non-writer’s life.


Taking Charge

on March 23, 2010 in Misc 10 Comments »

printing press

In the second half of this Year of our Lord 2010, I plan on turning into a self-publishing maniac.

Remember how back in December I wrote about why I was planning to self-publish The Compass Master, starring Layla Daltry?  Well, I have a confession to make:  I’ve got three manuscripts ready for printing.

The other two are historical romps set in America in the late 1860’s.  I finished them both several years ago, tried to get an agent, and after more than dozen rejections (nearly all in reaction solely to my query letter for the first manuscript only), I grew discouraged and gave up.  Next I wrote Compass, thinking it was more commercial, therefore more likely to be snapped up by a publisher …

Damn, I was delusional!

Bear in mind that I already have one published novel (way back in 1989/1990), Prophecies, on Bantam.  So I’m not a novice to the publishing game.

You know, having three unpublished novels sitting around in your head and in your home ain’t healthy.  It’s kinda like having writer’s constipation.  Like putting a fundamental part of your life on hold.   And so I really can’t tell you how deeply happy and strangely free I feel (no more backed-up crud in my soul) every time I think that in only a few months at most, after I finish editing, my novel Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar will be in print.  Shortly after that, Charity MacCay and Holy Relations and The Compass Master will come out, and all under my control.

three books

The reason I have to delay Compass’s printing is because I’m still in the process of obtaining copyright permission.  Two stanzas of a Monty Python song appear in the manuscript along with quotes from a non-fiction book.  Let me tell you, this permission stuff is really tedious and takes so LONG!  Especially if you’re dealing with solicitors in London.

When these novels are finally in book form I will, of course, shamelessly talk them up on this blog and include a link to them on Amazon (and hopefully in local Denver bookstores).  I will also have to thank writers like Hart Johnson.  She has a great blog with her Confessions of a Watery Tart, in which she encourages fellow writers and provides a helpful list of other literary blogs.

And while I’m at it, I SWEAR I’m going to get my geek up and figure out how to list other people’s blogs and stuff here in my own space.  I also have to figure out how to replace “Admin” with Helena.  Not that Admin isn’t a lovely name.

Finally, a postscript of appreciation to a couple of readers:

Robert – you’re a “barely-competitive Olympic-style weightlifter”?  Wow.  That’s a whole lot better than anything I’ve ever been, physically speaking.  What goes on in those competitions?  Besides a lot of grunting and sweating, I mean.  (Hot, sweaty men – what a pleasant thought.)

Ben – if you’ve got a blog, send me the link, because I definitely want to check it out.   It’s good to know you’re a writer too.