Tag Archive | self-publishing

Can We Talk?

Yes, the title quotes Joan Rivers.


She’s said a lot of stuff with which I don’t agree, but Ms. Rivers has been one of my stand up comedy idols since I watched her on Merv Griffin ,with my mom (and even though we exchanged on phone call in 4 years before she passed, she was still MY MOM. I miss her, but the emotional distance was necessary. I digress). Joan told one of my all-time favorite jokes on the old Flip Wilson Show: “I bought a waterbed to , you know, spice up my sex life. Edgar stocked it with trout.”

Now THAT’S great writing. Losing Joan so soon after losing Robin would be a hard thing to take. She’s been eternal for years.

On the subject of writing and writers who talk about writing and writers…



This is Sue Grafton of the alphabetical mystery novels (“A I’d For…”) featuring Kinsey Milhone, a medical examiner. Her work is carefully researched, well written, and has made her a very wealthy woman.

Last month, the Facebook independent (generally romance) author pages were on fire with denunciations of Grafton for calling  self-publishing authors “too lazy to do the hard work,” meaning perfecting one’s craft, dealing with rejection, and going back to Square 1. It should be noted that Ms. Grafton’s first 3 novels were rejected for publication.  She went on to describe self-published works as “often amateurish.”

The dumbass thing about this “controversy,” as with other notable blowups on Facebook, her remarks were over two years old when the author groups got roiled in Zuckerworld.

Lazy? Allow me to share a one star review of her most recent entry in the Kinsey Milhone universe, “W Is For Wasted”:

“Golly, I wish I wish I had the hours I spent slogging through this book back. I kept hoping it would get better…and it didn’t. Here is a book desperately searching for an editor. The story, trite and predictable, slogged along for four hundred pages. Then, it was like Ms Grafton realized she was nearing her page limit and hurriedly wound up the story by introducing new characters and tacking on an epilogue. So sad a wind-down for a once great series.”

And there’s Jodi Picoult weighing in, also two years ago, also not a fan of self-publishing.




She said NOT to self-publish because “it’s already too hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.” Ms. Picoult is know for her literary and deeply emotional novels such as “My Sister’s Keeper.”
Here is a one star review for “The Pact”:

“Not only is this book painfully boring but its so far fetched. Without spoiling it, you grow to hate the main character Emily vs feeling sorry for her. Seriously do not waste your time.”
Would this be considered wheat or chaff, Ms. Picoult?

I don’t completely disagree with them, though…

As mentioned, I belong to a number of author groups on Facebook, mostly dealing with romance (because that’s what I’ve written so far). The great blessing of online publishing technology is also its curse: anyone can now publish.

I see Facebook posts that demonstrate the author doesn’t exercise a fifth grade level aptitude for spelling, grammar, sentence construction. The big issue (especially for me) is the total failure to use the correct homonyms in a sentence. I have seen authors turn into drama queens over bad reviews that cite their poor language skills. These same authors cite their degrees in writing as proof the critics are wrong. Of course, the rest of their sorority rush in to comfort and defend. I sit back and watch a train wreck of inexcusable spelling, usage, punctuation…everything the one star review cited.

I’ve mentioned the Facebook bad English and it gets dismissed with “Oh, well, that’s just Facebook.” I see.

So, as your “friend” on Facebook, I am not entitled to your best efforts at writing? That’s insulting.

Just because someone has read dozens,if not hundreds, of novels, doesn’t mean the reader has absorbed the skill of the writer. The success stories of Stephanie Meyers and E.L.James (first time novelists strike gold) combined with the ease of e-book publishing has led to legions writing and publishing their own offerings with varying degrees of quality and success. There is wheat in self-published works, but there is also a shitload of chaff. One author, writing “erotic” fiction (you’ll understand the quotation makes in a moment) put up a promotional teaser for her upcoming book. A lot of us do it (We independent authors have to do our own marketing and publicity, unlike, say Sue Grafton, who works with a publishing house that has a department that handles all that for her). However, this teaser had language describing a sexual encounter that involved “contracting bladder muscles.” This is as off-putting as the time I read a short story in Playgirl (I sold them a couple of stories) that had the narrator talking about her “global breasts.” Really? Those knockers travel the world without you? That must hurt. “Globelike” or “globular” were the appropriate words, but I wouldn’t choose either for a sexy description of a round, firm, yielding breast, glistening from the bath water, making him long to trace his fingers from the hollow of her neck down to the pink, inviting nipple, and lower….

Actually, Ms. Grafton’s “lazy” comment was directed at newbie authors who turned out a book and felt entitled to overnight success simply because they had published fan fiction of the latest sensation. I have seen the wailing Facebook posts wanting to know why, why, why, hasn’t their book cracked the Amazon Top 100 of their category. They also bitch about bad reviews (Sack up. It’s like bad calls in baseball; part of the game. And the critic may have a valid point).

Going the traditional publishing house route has become as difficult as being elected Pope. Houses have merged or been bought up by media corporations and the emphasis has shifted from discovering new voices to guarding the bottom line. If you go through the “Writer’s Market,” you’ll see “no unsolicited manuscripts” or “agent only” submissions for the big players and even the smaller regional houses. Tom Clancy, the insurance agent who sold a manuscript for “The Hunt For Red October” to the Naval Academy Press, wouldn’t be able to get a foot in the door of Putnam, who published Tom Clancy, author of blockbuster military thrillers, the first of which was “The Hunt For Red October.”

Were it not for the self-publishing ease of Createspace, I would not have books to offer. I like to think mine fall I the “wheat” category as opposed to “chaff,” but we all do (even those who don’t understand the phrase). I’m grateful to have it available. I have control over the process, I take in a far greater percentage of the sales, I’m in charge. Would I trade it for a traditional arrangement with someone else taking care of printing, formatting, and publicity? Offer me an advance and we’ll see what happens.

Bottom line, as much as I think Grafton and Picoult should have perhaps been more delicate in their disparagement of bad writers and their expectations, they’re not completely wrong.

Of course, if they read MY works, they’d doubtless hail my pioneering efforts to create the “real love” genre.



How I Did It (For those who ask “How’d you do it?”)

(This is MY blog. I get to gaze at my own navel every now and then. And yes, I can see it when I want to. Without a mirror)

So, the paperback version of These Foolish Things  (trying to remember proper grammar and punctuation. If I remember rightly, you’re supposed to underline book titles) is now available through Amazon.

This is after 12 years of rejection by publishers and literary agents (“We don’t know how to market it” ).  I’m attaching a link to a CNN.com story about an author who re-typed a National Book Award winner, submitted it to 14 publishers (including the one who published it and the literary agent who represented it)…and they all rejected it. (This was in response to “The Cuckoo’s Call” author being unveiled as J.K. Rowling)

Bob Greene, Better Story than JK Rowling.

For most of that time, an author had one of two choices: submit something through the tradition publishing houses and hope it was accepted or pay for self-publishing through a vanity press.

Once upon a time, there were a lot of book publishers.They would compete with each other for titles, hoping investing in an author would pay off with handsome sales. The investment would include professional editing, layout and printing, jacket design and marketing/distribution. If they thought the author had hits in him/her, they would pay advances (and the Stephen King/Tom Clancy/Mary Higgins Clark kind of authors would get multi-million dollar ones). It was possible for a great novel such as Ordinary People  to be pulled from the “slush pile” (unsolicited manuscripts) and published.

However, the great herd of publishing houses was thinned by mergers. And they became more cautious about who was let through the gates into Publishing Paradise. At first, they wanted only manuscripts from literary agents (who also became cautious), then only certain literary agents, then only authors with proven track records.

They still exists, but it’s like the wild buffalo of the United States: gone from a herd of millions down to the ones living in Yellowstone and those guys are in danger of getting shot if they wander into Montana. And their output is substantially reduced.

The other “Old Timey” means of getting a story from your ink-stained fingers (well, with the advent of computers, more like Doritos and Red Bull. My thing is coffee) was to go to a vanity press where YOU paid for all the services (instead of the publisher) and it was up to YOU to get the things sold. For every “Christmas Box” (the first self-published book to reach #1 on the New York Times bestseller list)  there are thousands of people with boxes of unsold books stashed in garages, basements and attics.

This is the quick and dirty version of the story:

Richard Paul Evans Wikipedia

And for every story of his, there is the vast army of Roger Sterlings (“Mad Men”) whose gamble on self-publication goes nowhere. A recent episode showed Roger pulling copies out of his briefcase and tossing them. He couldn’t even give them away.

Self-publishing was an expensive option and up until the early part of the 21st century, the “most affordable” packages were still pretty expensive and included all the services provided by a full-service house, but the author paid the costs. This is a link to Xlibris, a Print On Demand house still in business. See the cost of the top package? $15,249. I don’t have that kind of dough. Most people who have to go through self-publishing don’t have that kind of dough.

Xlibris publishing packages

However, technology doesn’t stand still.

Now, through services such as Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords and Bookbaby, an author can publish his magnum opus (NOT Tom Selleck crossed with a penguin) without it costing an arm and a leg.

magnum pi opus

Get it? Magnum Opus?

Through Amazon’s Create Space, you can publish a paperback for free (of course, like a nail salon, they try to upsell you at every turn (I opted for $25 for additional distribution channels, did not go in for the cover design, etc. BUT COVER ART IS VERY IMPORTANT! I HAD MINE DESIGNED BY PROS!  The barter system is alive and well).

I have my first paperback order and I find this very exciting. I’m sitting here, 12 years down the road from something that started as disjointed chapters written in a grade school composition book …

2013-07-13 17.23.22-1

(Seriously: I write in these things. No worries about battery life)

…to an actual “hold it in your hands, dog-ear the pages and spill wine on it” book. I am expecting great things of it (I have the mindset of a 6 year old in that “this will be the greatest ____ ever.”) . But my main point in telling this story is to show that it is possible to to get published despite the barriers.

That’s how I did it.