Traditional or self-publishing: that is the question

  It’s time to report back about the status of my novel. First of all, I’m happy to say I’ve completed revision nine. The purpose was to cut out unnecessary words and bring my word count more in keeping with the number agents and publishers suggest. After I added a lot of needed new material, as suggested by my critical assessment editor, my word count grew from 85,000 to 103, 052 words. So, my goal was to cut at least 5,000 of them. I’m happy to say I exceeded my goal, and cut 5,675 words. Hopefully I didn’t cut anything that I’ll have to put back later. My next job is to break up several long chapters into smaller ones. That is an easy fix. And now I feel I’m at a point to think about getting my book published. The question is, should I shop around for an agent or publisher or should I self-publish? That’s a question I never thought I’d be asking. I’ve always said I didn’t want to self-publish. I didn’t self-publish my memoir, so why go that route with my novel? … [Read more...]

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I loved the movie, Rebel in the Rye

I don’t care what the reviews say or what the rotten tomatoes score is, I loved the movie, "Rebel in the Rye." It kept me enthralled from beginning to end. Maybe it’s because I was and still am a huge fan of J.D. Salinger and his novel and short stories. And maybe it’s because I am a writer. My first thought as I left the theater yesterday is that I must tell my writer friends to see it. I think every budding writer should see it. The teaching of Salinger’s professor Whit Burnett, a lecturer at Columbia University, editor of Story magazine, and a mentor of young Salinger, played by Kevin Spacey, and the encouragement he got from Dorothy Olding, the loyal agent who supported the young Salinger throughout his career, played by Sarah Paulson, is something all writers should strive for. This movie also gave me a greater understanding of Salinger’s decision to become a recluse and never publish again. He suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome as a result of his World War II ex … [Read more...]

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Two newly published poems

I've had several poems published over the last couple of months. I wrote the first in response to one of Robert Lee Brewer's Poetic Asides Wednesday prompts. I think it's the first one of his I ever responded to. The prompt asked us to: "...write a box poem. This poem is either about a box or includes a box somewhere in the poem (or title). Don’t be afraid to poem outside the box this week (sorry, I had to say it)." Thank you Editor Ted Badger for including my poem in your Lucidity Poetry Journal International (a venue for understandable verse). Things in Boxes He left a black canvas box filled with his music recordings next to his bed, the cassette tapes neatly packed in order of performance. And on his closet shelf we found a cardboard box filled with little games, cars, toys, 1984 Olympic souvenirs, and Russian buttons and buckles his uncle brought back for him. He fit these favorite things together like an intricate puzzle, before he left his body for u … [Read more...]

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What’s a platform anyway?

A few weeks ago I was a panel member at a writer’s conference workshop. The subject was building a platform. Today, I’d like to share a few points that we made at the workshop. But first, here’s my go-to person for all things writer-ly, Jane Friedman, who tells us what platforms are and are not: "What editors and agents typically mean by platform They’re looking for someone with visibility and authority who has proven reach to a target audience. Let’s break this down further. Visibility. Who knows you? Who is aware of your work? Where does your work regularly appear? How many people see it? How does it spread? Where does it spread? What communities are you a part of? Who do you influence? Where do you make waves? Authority. What’s your credibility? What are your credentials? (This is particularly important for nonfiction writers; it is less important for fiction writers, though it can play a role. Just take a look at any graduate of the Iowa MFA program.) Prov … [Read more...]

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How I got my book published

Now that this piece was rejected for inclusion into the Authors Publish anthology, I'm free to post it here. Hopefully my experience and perseverance and will to get my book published will inspire other authors to keep sending their work out. Please don't give up. It's worth it in the long run. How I Got My Book Published By Madeline Sharples Two years and sixty-eight queries later I finally got a book contract with a small press – the now defunct, Lucky Press. I found Lucky Press through the the firstwriter.com Publishers Instant Alert Service, and followed the submittal instructions so carefully that in her response, the publisher told me my query letter was perfect. (The instructions said: Send query by email with cover letter, short bio, how you can help with marketing, 300-500 word synopsis, and first chapter, all pasted into the body of the email. No attachments. Write "Manuscript Query" in the subject line.) With that and her request to send her my manuscript, I thought … [Read more...]

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Happy 90th birthday, The Great Gatsby

The Los Angeles Times posted an op-ed piece by Meg Waite Clayton* today commemorating the 90th anniversary of The Great Gatsby. The history of the book and its interest to readers when it was first published is fascinating. It wasn’t well-received or reviewed. I reread The Great Gatsby a couple of years ago as an assignment for the novel revision workshop I attended. That it’s still taught in schools and still beloved in the film industry – three actors have played Gatsby (Alan Ladd, Robert Redford, and Leonardo DiCaprio) – is definitely contrary to its early reception. I loved rereading it. I loved the last film. I can never get enough of the “old sport.” So, I’ve decided to publish Ms. Clayton’s op-ed piece verbatim (fully acknowledging the Los Angeles Times and Meg Waite Clayton). I hope you find it as interesting as I did. Goes to show even famous authors have their ups and downs – and perhaps their so-called duds. Gatsby, literature's party animal, turns 90 By Meg Waite … [Read more...]

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What’s next after the words are on the page?

My guest today is Jason Matthews, an author of the novels, The Little Universe and Jim's Life. He's also the author of How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks All for Free, How to Make Your Own Free Website and Get On Google Front Page. I met Jason on Google+ where he generously promoted my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. I'm glad to have the opportunity to finally return the favor. Jason has worked with thousands of indies to build author platforms, expand social media, learn to blog, make websites and sell ebooks. Here are his thoughts about writing, why he writes, and what comes after the writing is finished. What's Next? by Jason Matthews Your words are on the pages. The cover brings a smile. It’s published as an ebook at all the major retailers and available as paperback. It’s selling some. Congratulations. How does it feel? I don’t know much about postpartum depression, but it feels like publishing a book that’s taken a year or several to produce might be the closest … [Read more...]

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Meet master-networker, Sonia Marsh

I'm delighted to host Sonia Marsh, author of Freeways to Flip-Flops, today. I got the opportunity to ask her several questions about her writing and publishing experience. As you'll read from Sonia's answers, she is a master networker. I have learned an immense amount from her. Plus Sonia is very generous about imparting her wisdom. If you are thinking about self-publishing, and even if you have a publisher, take some tips from Sonia about how to market your book. I believe you formed your own publishing company for the release of your book. Why did you decide to do that rather than go the traditional publishing route? Like most writers. I was hoping to get a traditional publisher; in fact a small traditional publisher loved the premise of my story and kept asking me to show my manuscript. I knew it wasn’t ready, but after her third request, I finally e-mailed it to her. She agreed it needed more work, and a year later, she asked to see it again. It still wasn’t quite ready, b … [Read more...]

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Introducing my guests

For a change of pace I’m going to devote the next three weeks to the voices of other wonderful and experienced writers and publishers. I’ve asked eight people whom I’ve either met personally or online to tell you about their writing, publishing, and marketing experiences. I feel so fortunate that they have agreed to be my guests here on Choices. I hope you will keep coming back for more and more. You’ll find the information interesting and very helpful to your writing lives. Here’s my guest lineup in order of appearance: Sharon Lippincott       November 26 Sharon is the author of The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing, knows she's been successful. Her insightful questions and observations have challenged people in many areas for decades. Today they are primarily aimed at students in her lifestory and creative writing classes along with readers of her blog, forum posts, book reviews, and other publications. Kathleen Pooler       November 29 Kathy is a writ … [Read more...]

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Outline a novel first or just go for it?

A recent discussion on LinkedIn in my Authors, Writers, Publishers, Editors and Writing Professional group was about the question: Do you write with an outline or without one and just from your mind? The answers are all over the place, some for an outline, some against an outline and for the free-writing approach, and some for a little of both. I am of the outline-before-writing school of thought in most cases. When I worked on proposals in the aerospace business, the maxim was plan the writing before you write – that was to have a top level outline, annotate it with details and a graphics plan, get it approved, and then begin the writing. For my novel I did it a little less formally. In the first novel workshop I ever took, I learned these steps: write the first scene, write the last scene, and write a middle scene. Then write a list of scenes that go in between and start filling in the details of those scenes. Once all that is done, go back and fill more details: results of r … [Read more...]

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I’m querying again

Well, I’ve already sent out mini query letters to a couple of recommended prospective publishers. I’ve included information about my book and links to sample chapters of my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On, and I’ve told them I’ll have all the files in native QuarkXpress and pdf. So if they want to add my book to their portfolios it should be a slam-dunk. Plus I’m not interested in another hardback run. I would prefer a paperback and/or e-book. I've also made a little pitch about my current writing work with links to my blogs Choices and Red Room, and to the PsychAlive and Naturally Savvy websites, where I blog every month. And now the waiting begins. I hate this part. The querying and waiting.   I thought I wouldn’t have to do it again until I’m ready to market my novel. And, now I wonder if it is even worth it. Readers, I need your advice on this one. Should I even try to find a new publisher or should I just go ahead and self-publish? What do you thin … [Read more...]

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Published Twitter-length poems

I was so busy during the month of June with the WOW blog tour, I didn’t get a chance to post my two Twitter length poems that "unFold" magazine published. Here they are: Riding the Waves [June 13, 2011] Hummingbirds are skinny-dipping in my garden pool, bouncing off the fountain, surfing the surrounding leaves. Since He Left His Toothbrush [June 15, 2011] He recited Byron’s words yet we’ll go no more a roving by the light of the moon as a final fare thee well, but she knew he’d be back. To read more of these fun and challenging 140-character or less poems go to: http://unfoldmag.wordpress.com/ And I’m happy to say, "unFold" will publish one more of my new short poems in the Fall. … [Read more...]

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Permission process update

Way back in September I began the process of getting permission to use quotes in my up-coming book, Leaving the Hall Light On (to be released May 9, 2011 by Lucky Press LLC). And I must say the process seems to go on and on. Actually I heard from Random House that the Anne Lamott quote from Operating Instructions I want to use falls within the realm of fair use and doesn’t need permission – at least by Random House. However, they referred me to the Wylie Agency for permission to use the quote if my book will be distributed in the United Kingdom. Of course to be prepared I have now embarked on getting the Wylie okay. My other request to use a quote by Ann Pachett from her book Bel Canto has had several back and forths by email, but still no okay. I was told both publishers would take about five weeks to process the requests. Right now I’ve been waiting about eight. One other request was for use of two lines from one of Paul Simon’s songs. Still no word yet on that one – no email … [Read more...]

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One month countdown

Even though my publisher has given me a December 18 deadline, my goal is to have everything ready to send off to her on December 4 -- one month from today. Here's the list: complete and merged manuscript cover photos photos for inside the book photos of me copy for the paper back cover copy for the hardback dust jacket Here's what's left to do: finish creating almost-final chapters. I have four left to go have the almost-final version reviewed front to back incorporate last review comments if I so choose merge and copy-edit the final document finish picking out photos for the body of the book have my photo taken write the cover and dust jacket copy Sound daunting? Well, I'm a deadline-oriented person. I have no doubt I will get it all finished -- on time. … [Read more...]

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Advice is just that – advice. It’s not a directive.

Yesterday my Lucky Press publisher, Janice Phelps Williams gave me some very sage advice regarding my revision process. She of course knows I’ve farmed my book out to readers and editors for comments, and she just wants me to stay on purpose. She said, "I know you are working very hard on the final draft of your book, and I like that you are keeping in mind that it is YOUR book, YOUR story, and YOUR voice. Others can only offer advice. Only you can write this book." This advice is so true and useful. It reminds me of the way we worked on proposals to secure government work contracts at my former day job in aerospace. We had many reviews throughout a rather lengthy proposal planning and writing process. We addressed the comments from those akin to Janice’s advice. We especially assessed the review comments from people outside the proposal team – a necessary review part of our process – because they in fact were not intimately involved in the book like the authors and book captains … [Read more...]

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Getting permissions — second, third, fourth, fifth rounds

After I proudly thought I was on my way to getting permission to use a quote from a Paul Simon song in my book, I got an email from the organization (the third one) I had last communicated with telling me they were not the guys who give out the permissions. However, they were kind enough to give me the name of another permissions-giving-out organization, and I promptly sent off a query and information I thought would be pertinent for their going ahead. But, no. The next organization wasn't the right one either. They too gave me the name and contact information for another organization that gives permission for using Paul Simon lyrics (the previous one only dealt with the music side of permissions). And, duh! It's called Paul Simon Music. Well, I called them right away, left a voice mail for the contact in charge, and within minutes I got an email back with a form to fill out with the book’s cost, when it would come out, and the publisher. They also requested a couple of things … [Read more...]

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A schedule – in stone!

I’ve gotten my marching orders. Janice, my Lucky Press LLC publisher, and I worked out a book preparation and publishing schedule that works well for both of us. And, I’m excited about it. Like all of the work I did on proposals in the aerospace industry there is a beginning, middle, and end – and plenty of time for reviews along the way. It also makes the end product seem more and more real. I have to keep pinching myself to believe that this is actually happening – and happening to me! Here’s what the schedule looks like. I will have the book to Janice on October 31 for her review – also send any photos for consideration for the cover. Janice will return the book to me with her notes on November 15. I’m so fortunate. She says she trusts that all the helpful professional help I’m getting now will preclude any major rewrite requests from her. I’ll then return a final electronic file back to her on December 18 – my choice. I want to be free of all memoir work during the last two weeks … [Read more...]

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A lot of editing going on

Last week I started reading my book chapter by chapter. I decided to do this using a hard copy and making comments with a red pen – a way that has always worked well for me when I was editing proposals. I’ve decided not to make any changes to my manuscript until I complete this first round of edits. And much to my surprise I’ve found lots of things to edit. I’ve found typos and awkward sentences. Unbelievable! And after all the times I’ve looked at this document. This proves how important it is to let something alone for a good amount of time before trying to edit it. It’s important to look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. I used to tell engineers that when I trained them in proposal writing. Unfortunately on proposals, which are deadline constrained, there is not a lot of time between the writing and editing stages, but here on my manuscript I had the luxury of several months in between. It is almost as if I am reading the document for the first time. I’m also finding repetiti … [Read more...]

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A publishing contract – oh, my!

I now have a contract with Lucky Press, LLC to publish my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. Our plan is to have it on the shelves by Mother’s Day 2011. Before I get into all the details on how Lucky Press and I connected, I want to tell you a bit about my wonderful publisher, Janice Phelps Williams and her publishing company. From the LP website: “Lucky Press, LLC is a traditional, independent publishing company located in the beautiful Appalachian foothills of Athens, Ohio…. its original aim to publish books about ‘characters, real or imagined, who overcome adversity or experience adventure,’ ” So, I feel that Lucky Press is a perfect match for my book. From the minute she read my query letter Janice understood exactly why I wanted to tell the story of my oldest son’s bipolar disease, his suicide, and how I and my husband, Bob, and son, Ben, survived. My goal is to tell people that it is possible to survive the loss of a child and how I did it. And Janice got it immediatel … [Read more...]

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Progress report

I have to admit I've been a little lax this week. But, like all slackers, I have an excuse. My laptop was stolen and I had to replace it, download umpteen hours of software on to it, and then figure out where I left off. I had backed up my stuff up to two days before the theft, so I only lost a few pieces -- a journal entry, a poem, a piece for Red Room, and about a day's worth of novel work. I have since rewritten most of it, so I'm in pretty good shape. The scary part is that there is someone out there with all of my writing. I hope the thief just cleaned off the hard drive before he got rid of it (I know it was a he). As a result I've learned some lessons: put my name and contact data on every piece of hardware I own, backup continuously (I'm now using Mobile Me religiously), and install a security system on every traveling computer (I have LoJack on my new laptop). But all is not entirely bad in the writing department. This weekend The Survivor's Chronicles, an online zine … [Read more...]

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