Monday, July 27, 2015

Becoming a Publisher: A Positive Choice for Authors


The book is written, proofed, edited and re-read until you feel as if your eyeballs will bleed, you've "sent it out" and now the wait begins. If you have chosen to go the way of traditional publishing, you have either submitted through an agent where you have discovered that most agents contract your work for a minimum of a year in which time they actively send a proposal concerning your manuscript to acquisition editors at publishing houses. Or you have submitted your work through a submissions section of an established publishing house, one that accepts un-agented manuscripts.

While you've gone this route, you are completely aware that there are lots of great books that don't get picked up by the industry and many authors who feel disempowered by rejection responses. However you are also completely, all right almost completely, certain that your book will be an "exception to rejection" and you will have a best-selling novel. You know that many writers going the traditional route never sold a thing, but those who did have their books chosen by the big publishing houses received affirmation as a writer, received an advance, and had a chance at being the author of a best-seller. You have to take the chance. And, I firmly believe that you should take it. I did and after my share of rejection letters, six of my books were traditionally published.

In less than a year, reality sets in. Your novel is either picked up for publication or you receive a polite rejection letter or email. After the initial hurt,(You rejected MY novel? Two years of my life and blood, sweat, and tears! Why, oh why? hair-pulling, teeth-gnashing, crying), you take a breath, decide to regroup your resources, and look around for other options, one of which may be to find a new agent. That's starting all over again on the crazy merry-go-round of sending out your work. Okay, fool around with the idea of self-publishing. Let's face it, you believe in the book. You have years of "creation" left in you and you definitely want your books to be published. So why not do it on your terms? You have to ask yourself these questions: Is this a book in which a traditional publisher really might be interested? and Is this a book over which I want to relinquish control? Should I self-publish?

Now I know a few authors who self-publish their books. Some are successful, some not so much. You need to do your homework very well before venturing into the realm of self-publishing. I highly recommend checking the web site Preditors & Editors. It is a legitimate, well-known web site that gives information on a large number of publishers and agents as well. You will learn which ones are recommended, which ones are not, and, most importantly, which ones to avoid at all costs. Vanity publishers are ones to be avoided as they are, to put it bluntly, thieves. They sell you services they aren't competent to provide and they overcharge you for what they do. Steer clear!

So now what? Rather than becoming self-published, a very good option is opening your own small or boutique publishing house by yourself or with other authors. I do recommend that you have at least one other person in this business with you. Doing it alone is not a good option as there is a lot to do.You also have to remember that this requires a cash outlay and a lot more attention to detail, as you are responsible for the financial aspects of your book from the purchasing of the ISBN number to the printing of the books themselves. You also need to purchase a domain and set up a professional looking website and obtain a tax ID; this makes your publishing house a real business and you a real publisher. 

Your best move as a publisher is to hire legitimate custom publishing professionals who will provide the services of editing, marketing, cover design, printing, warehousing, and distribution. A good custom professional and design studio is a Godsend to you as the publisher. Your boutique publishing house is a smaller version of the big league ones. Make yourself knowledgeable about publishing and have the skills to do some of the work and the ability to hire smart people to do what you can't. It's a business, treat it like one. Many professional novelists are opening small publishing houses to republish the out-of-print novels they wrote years ago for traditional publishers. 

The final thing you have to do, one that many authors with the bigger publishing houses have had to largely do on their own is marketing and publicity. This is easier with social media; use it well.

The world of publishing is changing dramatically and rapidly. Authors are looking for ways to get their books published and boutique publishing houses look very attractive because of the personal touch afforded by a smaller house. You may start out small publishing books of your own and a select few other authors and stay small or expand later on. Becoming a publisher is a wise choice for an author.

Happy writing!

Grave Misgivings, the second book in A Cate Harlow Private Investigation series will launch on July 15, 2015 and will available where all books are sold.
©copyright 2015 Kristen Houghton The Savvy Author all rights reserved


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Monday, July 20, 2015

Innovative Novel Formats


Generally, novels are very similar in terms of page layout, the amount of words on a page, and the the splitting of chapters. Words form sentences, sentences join together to make paragraphs, and paragraphs build to create a chapter. Rinse and repeat a few dozen times, and that is the consistent format of most novels. Readers and most writers do not pay much concern to the way the writing looks on the page, but there are daring authors that provide meaning to their work through the use of unique and innovative formatting. Sometimes, these books can be recognized purely by looking at the formatting without reading any words, a feat that the standardly designed novel cannot claim. Here are a few novels that reimagined what a novel should look like within its physical binding:

Joshua Cohen's Book of Numbers

Starting with the recently released novel from the thirty-four year old that is so prolific that he has multiple collections of his heavily researched short stories at bay waiting for publication, a draft of a followup to the book that came out just over a month ago, and still finds the time to write incredibly detailed reviews of new books for venues such as Harper's. His prose is dense, intricate, full of words that require a dictionary, and researched to an almost obsessive degree. He makes the average literary writer look lazy in comparison when he consistently releases big works of writing that obviously took a large amount of time and dedication. Cohen's dedication to his craft has reached a whole new level with his latest novel, Book of Numbers. At first glance, the novel seems to be formatted like any other novel, but Cohen implemented a mind-boggling level of detail for readers that study novels as if they are complicated puzzles. Following the complex math and technological themes of the story, Cohen as the writer decided to set certain rules to its structure. Each section of the book has an even number of paragraphs and each paragraph has an even number of sentences. Diving further in, "every sentence has a number of syllables metered to work out to fulfill certain metric principle," says Cohen. He adds that even though most sentences add up to an even number of syllables, the ones that he wanted to rhythmically stick out have an odd number, but the number of odd syllable sentences add up to an even number in their respective paragraphs. Joshua Cohen has taken formatting to a level that is unparalleled, and his writing is staggeringly intelligent and beautiful, showing that he is a novelist that strives to make readers think and read closely.

The Fiction of Mark Danielewski

Mark Danielewski is best known for perhaps one of the only truly frightening novels of all time, the modern cult classic, House of Leaves. Any type of unique formatting that you can think of is present within House of Leaves. The way words are arranged on the page is never the same as the previous page, font size and style varies throughout, and the disjointed experience is jarring, adding to the suspense and mystery surrounding House of Leaves. There are many ways to interpret the story, in large part because each reader will consume the novel in a different way because of the formatting. Masters of style tend to be highly ambitious, and Danielewski has embarked on what will become the longest novel of all time in terms of page count with The Familiar. Volume one, an almost 900 page tome with the the unique Danielewski style apparent on its pages, and volume two will be released later this year. The story has a long way to go as it is a projected twenty-seven volumes, making Danielewski as prolific and dedicated as any writer around, along with being one of the most daring.

The Fiction of Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer's most well known novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, might sound familiar to those who saw what is commonly called the worst movie to ever be nominated for an Oscar, but the novel that it was adapted from is astounding. Foer is one of the best young writers working in America, and his style of writing is one of a kind. Combined with his unique prose, Foer added an innovative style to his writing as well. Novelists abandoning quotation marks is nothing new, take a look at the work of one of the greatest living writers, Cormac McCarthy, but Foer's implementation of it makes the look of the novel change. He uses short, snappy dialogue that a lot of the time, abandons tags, allowing it to come to life. Some pages have just a few words, others contain pictures, but the narrative flows seamlessly together to form one of the most impressive novels of the century, with the most precocious narrator in many years. His 2010 work, Tree of Codes, was a passion project as it revolved around his favorite book, The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz. The novel is not written by Foer, instead, he cut words from the pages to carve a new story. It had a limited release due to each copy having to be hand cut, but the ending result was a work of visual art that could be read in numerous fashions. Foer has shown that he can innovate with his own prose as well as reimagine the work of others through artistic pursuits and a clever imagination.

S. by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams

The J.J. Abrams conceived idea turned fictional experiment written by Doug Dorst was one of the most interesting book releases of 2013. S. was released in a slip case that needed to be cut open in order to pull out the novel that stated it was actually Ship of Theseus by V.M. Straka. The book stands as one of the most inventive meta-fiction, story inside a story, novels in recent memory. It follows two college students that are trying to figure out the identity of the mysterious author. Throughout the novel, there are handwritten notes in the margins of the work of fiction inside of another work of fiction by a fictitious author that Dorst and Abrams are writing about. If that was confusing, try jumping down the rabbit hole that Dorst and Abrams created. There are random postcards, pictures, and notes inside the pages of the book that are used as clues, and they are not images, they can physically be removed from the book as they are loosely wedged in at various points in the narrative. The novel was as much a literary experiment as it was a work of art. It was designed for people who love and cherish books and shows fervent passion towards its subject with the help of the vastly unique and revolutionary format. It really is a treasure of a book for those who love physical books, all the way from the way it appears on the outside as a library book with dewey decimal system labeling on its spine, to the immersive and personal touch of handwriting in the margins, and the complexity of its formatting. S. demands to be read more than once, and the experience that it delivers is due to its brilliant form.

There are other novels that have stretched the standard constraints of formatting, but the works of Cohen, Danielewski, Foer, Dorst and Abrams are some of the most innovative examples released in recent years.


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Monday, July 13, 2015

The new platform luring readers into short fiction

Manchester’s Comma Press has launched MacGuffin, which not only allows authors to self-publish in text and audio, but also gives detailed analytics showing when readers get bored
It remains one of the paradoxes of publishing that while the popularity of essays and shortform writing (or longform journalism) multiplies online, short stories – as books or ebooks – remain one of the hardest sells around. Everyone seems to have time for the latest political thinkpiece or tech industry encomium, but few people spend a comparable time with short fiction.

Manchester-based Comma Press specialises in short stories, so this paradox is something it’s interested in addressing. Comma has always been experimental, starting as an artists’ group and developing by publishing small booklets and anthologies of new writers. Now it is launching MacGuffin , a self-publishing platform for fiction, essays and poetry, as text and audio. The clean, minimalist interface echoes popular blogging platforms, and visitors are encouraged to search for something to read by theme and length: trending tags at time of writing included #crime, #humour and #10minuteread. Currently in beta on the web and launching mobile apps in the next couple of months, the site already contains plenty of stories from Comma’s own authors.

The subtle joke in MacGuffin’s name – tricking busy online readers into spending time with fiction through interaction and ease-of-use – might also point to its most interesting feature. Alongside every story published are its open analytics, visible to both author and readers. Mercilessly, these detail the exact number of people who have opened a story, and the number of people who actually finish it. They even display a chart of exactly when each reader stopped reading: which, while painful, does give writers the chance to test their narrative structure. Whether this will prove a digital innovation too far for more sensitive writers remains to be seen, but if MacGuffin does take off, mining this data for insights into human attention might be one of the smartest things any publisher has done in some time.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

What's the Difference Between Genre and Category?

Publisher of She Writes Press; President of Warner Coaching Inc.; Author of 'What's Your Book?'

A simple look at the definition of "genre" might cause confusion for any writer seeking to understand the difference between genre and category. According to Merriam-Webster, genre is:
"a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content."
So if genre is a category of literary composition, what's a category? And why does genre matter? A post on articulates a great response to "why genre matters" with the simple statement that genres are "a staple of the publishing world." This characterizes what genre is better than the actual definition above because it speaks to something universal in the world of publishing: If it matters to publishers, it's important, even if you don't fully understand why.

Genre is a classification system, subject to change over time and based on trends. For instance, right now we're witnessing the rise of a new genre called "New Adult," a fiction genre that's different from Young Adult (YA) because it skews a little older (ages 18-24), whereas YA has typically been targeted toward young people ages 12-18. This came about because authors and publishers saw a market for New Adult (older readers reading YA) and felt that YA wasn't representing what they were doing. And so they needed a new genre. And that's how it happens.

Now let's turn to category, which Merriam-Webster defines as:
1. any of several fundamental and distinct classes to which entities or concepts belong
2. a division within a system of classification
In book publishing, #2 is a more apt definition. We're talking about a division within a system, and that division happens to be sliced and diced hundreds of different ways once you start to drill down. At a very high level you have two categories: fiction and nonfiction. These are like the X and Y chromosomes of all written material. It's pretty much either/or, with a handful of experimental authors throwing a wrench into this binary (just like actual biology). Within these two big categories, you find your identity, your self-expression. This is your genre, and there are a lot of genres to choose from. Some people have genre identity crises that create confusion, just like in the real world. A writer might call their book a "fictionalized memoir," for instance, because they're riding between memoir and fiction. Another writer may have written women's fiction, but the book is also a thriller and has hints of romance. These writers, and I've met them, are tempted to explain the ways their books defy or cross genres, but they shouldn't. Publishing, after all, is not particularly progressive when it comes to futzing with their classification systems, and you're not a rebel because you're trying to be clever, or straddle three genres; you're just an amateur.

After you choose one (yes, just one) genre, you'll come back to category. To continue our analogy, this next level of category is comprised of your identifiers, the things that tag you as part of a group--like race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, where you grew up, your level of education, etc. If you think about these kinds of identifiers as ways you connect in the world with other like-minded people, you'll understand how book categories are similar. You're looking to tag your book with identifiers (categories) that will draw interested readers. There's an old saying in book publishing that writers should not try to be all things to all people, and there's good reason for that. You cannot appeal to everyone, and you don't want to. Identifying your book specifically, drilling down to the essence of what it is and naming it, is actually going to increase your chances of being read--because you're articulating for your readers what your book is, what it aims to do, and exactly who it's for.

In book publishing today, there are two categorizing systems, one for traditional publishing and one for self-publishing. On the traditional side you have BISACs. While the acronym technically means Book Industry Standards and Communications, this means nothing. In the industry, BISAC is a noun. When industry people talk about a book's BISACs, they're talking about its subject codes, or categories. The list of BISACs is massive and frustrating at times. (For instance, there is no BISAC for memoir.) You can browse it on There are 150 fiction BISACs alone. Some of these line up with genre classifications. For instance, you'll find:
FIC031000: FICTION/Thrillers/General
FIC028000: FICTION/Science Fiction/General
But many others are so specific that you'll see how they fall beyond the scope of genre alone. For instance:
FIC059000: FICTION/Native American & Aboriginal
FIC042020: FICTION/Christian/Futuristic
There is no such thing as a Native American and Aboriginal genre, or Christian/Futuristic genre. But for novelists writing on these topics, it's comforting to know that you can find these identifiers and mark your book so that readers drawn to these subjects will be able to find it.

If you are a self-published author, you won't ever deal with BISACs. Instead you'll deal with the individual and various platform categories you're uploading to. When you self-publish, you upload your own files (or someone does it for you). You can work with an aggregate, or you can choose a self-publishing platform, like CreateSpace or Ingram Spark, and then upload your ebooks separately. Having control of your categories (and beyond that, your keywords--which are basically the final piece of the identity puzzle, like your favorite color, or what you like to eat) directly through Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon's digital self-publishing solution) is reason enough to maintain a direct relationship, and not hand it over to CreateSpace or Ingram Spark. Amazon's Kindle browse categories are similar to BISACs, but they're more intuitive, more precise, and there aren't as many to deal with, so most authors who have to suffer under the archaic BISAC system are understandably frustrated. However, one thing traditionally published authors need to keep in mind is that Amazon's categories are just Kindle categories, and they're only one piece of the bigger picture. Authors tend to get myopic about Amazon (a subject for another blog post), and while they're the biggest game in town, they're not the only game in town.

Regardless of what categorizing system you end up with, pay close attention to what categories (and keywords) you choose. (Here's a helpful post from Amazon about keywords.) Ask your publisher, if you're traditionally published, what your BISACs are. You can tell if your BISACs or categories are off if you find yourself in bizarre company on Amazon. If this happens, make a change. Even if you're traditionally published, research BISACs on your own. Don't be afraid to ask about making a change. Categories are incredibly important to searchability on search engines like Amazon, notably, and other online retailers as well. There are marketing experts out there who offer strategy services designed to get your book to #1 in its category. You start this process by trying to drill down and figure out just how niche you can get while still being relevant. At the end of the day, the fact that people pay good money for these services proves my earlier point--that you can't and don't want to be all things to all people. Choose one genre, and then let your categories do the job they're supposed to do. You get to choose two to three, depending on your platform, and then usually up to seven keywords. Each piece of data you provide paints a composite picture of your book, so spend time thinking through what you have and how you want to present your book to the world. Genre, category, and keywords impact both how you talk about your book and your readers' ability to find your book. Good luck!


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Monday, June 29, 2015

Waiting for the Gatekeepers

by Author of THE MEMORY BOX

Some people will waste a lifetime waiting for the Gatekeepers. I was almost one of those people. By nature, I'm a rule follower. Even unwritten rules. If there's a way something is "supposed to be done," that's how I'll do it. When I finished writing my first novel, I queried agents. This was the way it was "supposed to be done." And, since I had aspirations of being traditionally published, I didn't give it a second thought. 

That second thought didn't muscle its way in for years. That's because I typically espouse a "never give up" philosophy. I also clung to "If you don't believe in yourself, no one will," through 81 rejections. But my believing in myself wasn't exactly convincing the Gatekeepers. The options were clear: move on, or self-publish. I had no interest in self-publishing. I had no interest in giving up either, but I'd be lying if after those rejections I said I still believed in myself.  

So I moved on. And after a good amount of sulking, I started book number two. A couple of years later a friend of mine, who'd read book number one, called me to ask if I'd heard of Gone Girl. When I said I hadn't, she said, "I'll be right over. You need to read it." 

Reading Gone Girl changed my trajectory. Witnessing the success of a book of that ilk convinced me there was a readership for my book. What the heck was I waiting for? I was so entrenched in my traditional thinking that agents and editors had the first and last word on what was worthy, and what readers wanted (a.k.a. what would sell), I had never considered that a book could be a success without their stamp of approval. Perhaps I should have followed a different philosophy: "You can't win it unless you're in it." The wonderful difference about the time we live in now, as writers, is that we can let the readers decide.

Last summer, I self-published book number one, my psychological thriller. It was released in the midst of the Hachette/Amazon debacle, the timing of which, I believed, couldn't have been worse. Pleas and petitions from traditionally published authors to boycott Amazon were circling the literary world. Articles about Amazon's passive/aggressive tactics affecting writers' careers were awhirl. 

I empathized with the authors, many of whom I'm fans of. Some are my friends. They'd toiled away at their craft, doling out copious amounts of blood, sweat and metaphors. They'd finished their manuscript, queried agents, accepted representation, sold their book, released it, and now, after all those unquestionable triumphs, at the exact time they expected to celebrate their book's release, they were met with a brick wall from their biggest distributor. I identified with them. Sort of.  

Simultaneously, I was days away from releasing my first book, albeit somewhat differently. 

I felt conflicted. My future distributor was flipping the bird to my tribespeople. Should I postpone my release? I called a writer friend of mine. "What'll I do now?" I asked her. "How can I cross the picket lines? How could I do this to those authors? What about those publishers?"

"What about them?" she said. She went on to reiterate the cold hard facts. I had tried and failed at the traditional model. I'd queried agents for years and speed-pitched them at conferences; I courted them on Twitter, and followed them on Publishers Weekly. All of that led to some serious blasé interest which nearly culminated in a solid maybe from one of them. Two publishers read my manuscript, praised, and promptly rejected it. The only thing that kept my manuscript from crashing on my hard drive was Amazon.
I pressed the publish button.

The days that ensued were punctuated by emails and phone calls. One friend reading the book in Hawaii was approached by someone from California who'd just heard about it. News came in that the book was spotted in Duck, N.C. and on a beach in Cape Cod. On an island in Greece, and a bus in Canada, in the mountains of Colorado, at a doctor's office in New York, and in Boston, and on a bench in Nice, France. It soon became the buzz of book clubs and my offer to appear at discussions was snatched up by nearly 60 clubs worldwide. To my amazement, my book had shot up to the No. 1 spot on Amazon three times in twelve months. 

The events of the last year have far exceeded my expectations. But, I'm not suggesting the self-publishing route is for everyone. There are many days it's not even for me. Neither am I saying that the events herein have been typical. I continue to be challenged by all that it involves: getting bookstore space, publicity, reviews, readers. But, these are good challenges to have, and I very nearly had none of them. Nor would I have experienced the rewards, if my manuscript remained on my hard drive. Waiting for the Gatekeepers.

Eva Lesko Natiello is the award winning author of the bestseller, THE MEMORY BOX, a psychological thriller about a woman who Googles herself and discovers the shocking details of a past she doesn't remember. 


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Monday, June 22, 2015

Dear Authors: Don’t Respond to Goodreads Reviews

Another day, another classic Goodreads author meltdown. Someone gave self-pubbed author Dylan Saccoccio a one-star review, and Saccoccio (rather predictably, as Goodreads veterans well know) went apoplectic. Saccoccio’s contributions to that thread have since been deleted because his account has been banned, though you can read some of his comments here and check out the archived thread here, because everything he wrote was ridiculous and abusive. Goodreads reviews are nothing if not dangerous stuff, folks.

Props, by the way, to reviewer Cait’s composure through the whole thing.

I’ve talked before about how this kind of behaviour led me to quit Goodreads, and the gendered stuff I was talking about in that post echoes a similar dynamic here, with a male author attempting to shout down a female reviewer. But there’s another dynamic at play that we need to talk about: authors, regardless of their intentions, should not be responding to reviews on Goodreads.

Not everyone is going to like your book. If they post an honest review — even if it’s blatantly wrong, or you don’t agree with it, or it hurts your feelings, or you think they’re a big stupid butt-face with a butt for a face — you have to just breathe and move on. Breathe. And move on.

You know who looks terrible in an author-versus-reviewer shouting match on Goodreads? The author. Always the author. Because an amateur reviewer on Goodreads, even if they post an awful screed, has nothing to lose in the situation. Even when the author isn’t behaving in a completely unhinged fashion as in this latest example, the author is the one with the professional identity to uphold. When it does go off the rails as badly as we all know it can, it’s the author who will lose sales and face.

I had never heard of Saccoccio before this weekend’s confrontation, but you can bet I would not feel comfortable picking up his book because he has made it unsafe to speak publicly about his work. And he’s made himself look, frankly, dangerous.

But it’s not just the one-or-two-star reviews. I also don’t think authors should respond to positive reviews, even to say thanks — the dynamic is too weird. Perhaps not all reviewers feel as I do, but I think the reviewing space needs to be its own thing, unadulterated by the feeling of the author’s hot breath on the reviewer’s neck as they try to make an honest assessment of the work in front of them.
Authors, I implore you: shake it off and back away from Goodreads. Here are ten things you can do that are better and more productive than responding to a review that is eating at you.
  1. Take a long walk. Find a tree. The tree is now the reviewer. Yell mean things at the tree. Explain to the tree how hard you worked on the book. Kick the tree. Let your dog pee on the tree. Get it all out before you go near your computer again.
  2. Look at animated GIFs of kittens doing crazy things. See? Don’t you feel better?
  3. Write out a response to the reviewer in longhand. When you finish, put it in your sink and light it on fire. NO ONE NEEDS TO READ THAT. EVER.
  4. Call your mom and tell her all about how the internet is stupid and full of mean assholes and let your mom remind you that you are the best little author she knows. Bonus marks if you also have explain what the internet is to your mom.
  5. Close your eyes. Imagine a penguin. The penguin thinks you’re a great author.
  6. Put your head in a pillow and scream. Curse. Cuss. Blaspheme. Have your own little tribute to The Aristocrats. (Wash the pillow after, because that’s not good mojo for sleeping later.)
  7. Use all your pent-up anger to write a blindingly good fight scene. Or a blindingly good sex scene. However your cookie crumbles. Add it to your next book and know that you triumphed over that review.
  8. Remind yourself of the Stephan J. Harper affair. You don’t want to be that guy. And you don’t want that to be your Google legacy, either.
  9. Have you considered eating your feelings? My feelings, in times of stress, often taste like lightly salted Ruffles and glass bottle Coke. YMMV, and experimentation is strongly recommended.
  10. Take the useful feedback to heart and write another, better book. Win many awards and become famous without being famous for having a meltdown. Remember: living well is a far better revenge than becoming a wide-spread Twitter joke.
So what do you think, Rioters? Should authors respond? And what other awesome advice would you give an author to help them shake off a bad review without going bananas? Meet me in the comments and we’ll hug it out.


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Monday, June 15, 2015

How I Succeeded As a Self-Published Author

Writer, author, blogger, mother
Sold out: reflections of a seasoned self-publisher

With the exception of 9 copies sitting in an Amazon warehouse in Indiana, I have completely sold out of A Regular Guy: Growing Up With Autism, the book that I self-published 7 years ago. The book, which tells my story of raising a child with autism (my son Matthew) from babyhood to young adulthood, is forever available digitally, which I find comforting.

I had no intention of self-publishing my book. It was the traditional route or nothing for me, and on the afternoon that an agent--a really good one--called and said "Yes! I will represent you" it seemed that I was on my way.

My agent got close with a few publishers after three rounds of submissions--but alas (as they say in the publishing world), not close enough.

This was back before self-publishing packages did everything for you. iUniverse and existed, and print-on demand was in it's infancy. But after going to a few workshops about publishing and marketing, I decided to do the whole thing myself. This included a zillion tiny details, including finding a printer and deciding how many books to order.

I went the volume discount route. When the first shipment of 1,500 books arrived in (roughly) 34 heavy boxes on large wooden flats, the first thing I thought was "I have made a catastrophic mistake." And a very expensive one. My husband was 10 times more freaked out than I was.

But then I figured out how to sell the books. I did it logically. I thought "If I wanted to find out about a book like mine, where would I go?" And I went to those places. I got a distributor to sell to book stores. I went door-to-door to independent bookstores in my area and asked them to sell them on consignment *just* as a chapter of my book was published in the local paper, on the radio, or in a magazine.

I pitched book clubs, called schools, libraries and disability groups and offered to speak for free if I could sell my book. I even got on a local morning show. I almost got on Good Morning America, but then I didn't

I should mention that these marketing activities did not come naturally to me, and it pained me to be a smiling and semi-pushy self-promoter. And there were times when my efforts bombed in a big way. Like the time I flew to Chicago at my own expense to speak at an event in the suburbs in a torrential rain storm...on the night of the Obama/McCain debate...and no one showed up. But the image of books stacked in my garage kept me going. I learned from my mistakes, and retooled.

In all, I sold about 7000 (paper) books, really great for a self-published book. The digital sales are impressive too, though I haven't counted the exact number. "Is that all?" commented many, "A friend of a friend's sister wrote her book in three months and has sold many millions" or something to that effect. "If only you could get one Oprah..."

I learned to smile and shrug. 

You write a book, you sell a book, then what?

I'll tell you what. Writing that book changed my view of the world, and my contribution to it.
When I started writing, it was all about the trials of having a child with autism. How hard it was. How it affected me, my family and friends. And there was a lot of tricky stuff. But in the process of writing the book, I grew to appreciate how hard it was to be my son Matthew, and other people with disabilities, in a world that wasn't ready to accommodate them.

I learned more and more about the world of disability as the author of an autism and disabilities blog on (the web version of the San Francisco Chronicle), the most valuable and life enriching non-paying writing gig a woman could ever ask for. (I'm still at it, by the way).

There, I continue to write stories from a parents perspective. But not as much as I used to. Now, I am spending more time listening to people who are living with disabilities, and hearing their stories.

"We are living in a world not constructed to house us," says my friend, self-advocate Stacey Milbern. "Regardless of whether it's an intellectual, behavioral, physical, sensory or chronic health disability, almost everything we touch was not meant for us, and we have to -- on our own or if you're lucky, with other people -- figure out how to make it work."

From a practical standpoint, the writing, speaking, advocating, and listening has helped me become a great communicator (if I do say so myself) an even better writer, editor, marketer, SME (Subject Matter Expert. YAY!) which has enabled me to do good work elsewhere. 

And all of it has enhanced my sense of humor, and made me a better mother. At least I think so.
Let me go ask my sons.


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