Adventures in Self-Publishing

When I wrote my first novel, Love Like A Dog, I entered into new territory. For anyone who has considered self-publishing, read the tips and insights here.

Fact: Self-Publishing (if you are on the cutting edge called Independent Publishing) is different for women than men

At this moment, in this summer of 2010, if I Google “self-publishing” one male writer’s self-publishing adventure pops up an inordinate amount of times. To preserve myself from charges of slander, he shall be referred to as Sun King/Southern Nut. I was on a fiction reading panel with him once at Chicago’s Printers Row Festival. He wrote a piece about highly adventurous lusty sex; I wrote a piece about a lonely single mother’s propensity to steal. The Sex God yawned and fidgeted and kept checking the time. I am not objective about this writer. I believe I experienced a gender divide. But if he knows something, I want to know it too.

Besides a friend of mine says The Sun King does this to men too. I have unfairly genderized his disdain.

The Sun King has discovered the Expresso Book Machine, which “turns a pdf into a library-quality paperback in minutes.” Anyone for whom pdfs are a piece of cake could not employ a more direct means of publishing. You and the printer are both on site; it’s near instantaneous and cost-efficient. In his case, “one of the most celebrated illustrators in country, and lucky for me, a friend” designs his book cover. Ah, fame follows fortune. I prognosticate that when the Expresso Machine runs a campaign ad, the Sun King will be its virile featured author. He doesn’t exhibit any hair problems.

Continuing…: Differences in Male/Female Hair when self-Publishing

This is really what I want to write about. I have noticed that self-published male writers never have hair issues. Their children sit quietly on a bench, or read at home patiently, while giant machines print out their father’s books. These kids never actually have to be with their father, say, throwing tantrums, or vomiting, or spilling juice. All events which will wreak havoc on a mom/gal’s appearance. No, not one hair on the male self-publishing author’s head frizzes out of place.

I did not know what a huge toll Independent publishing would take on my appearance. Before we began converting files, writing copy, soliciting blurbs, seeking permissions for lyrics, and decoding royalties, my husband took my author photo (well, more like 1,426 pictures because, given that dogs are central to LOVE LIKE A DOG, we tried to photograph me with both our dogs, but they are ill- trained, and did not understand they should sit at the same time). My hair, however, had just been cut, colored, shaped, the works. My hair looked good. Which is a day to remember, because it has not looked so good since. Hair care is a gender-biased, multi-billion dollar business lodged in my female brain, depleting my already thin wallet. Daily now, I experience horror and chagrin.

I have no time for my wispy tresses. I am the Queen of the scrunchie, addict of the hair clip. I get up, throw myself at the computer, downing coffee in my nightgown which sometimes doesn’t come off until 3 p.m. or so, clicking away at the self-publishing venture (why has the pagination changed in pdf? Why do blank pages suddenly appear? What is the best font type? Is ivory paper always the color of choice for fiction?). Unfortunately, at three in the afternoon, I do not transform into a lusty bedmistress, as do the Sun King/Southern Nut’s characters. My youngest child comes home from school, begins machine-gunning animated people on his computer. He wears headphones and shouts tactics at the screen. Right before complaining to me about the lack of snacks. He reminds me I must drive him somewhere important, like Best Buy or his friend, Jackson’s, house. Scrunchie yanking my hair back, glasses on, shorts zipped, I proceed to be the driver/housewife/cook/cleaning lady I am in the summers when I don’t teach. James Frey (author of A Million Little Pieces) once famously suggested in an interview (this is a paraphrase) that his success was due to his working harder than most writers. I think he said, “I, instead, can put in an eight hour day.” Only male writers say such silly things. I think it’s some chromosomal advantage that enables some men to see themselves as centers of the universe. In this universe, hair is a non-issue.

Despicable hair is a privilege reserved for frantic middle-aged mothers & other busy women. Still, the disheveled, devil-may-care look could become a fad; an over the top, fuck-you-for-expecting-me-to-try, thumb-in-your-face, I-am-strong-I’ve-got-unwashed -hair-type-of-woman writer fad. Billions of dollars in services and products will mean nothing to me, nothing.

In fact, the Sun King convincingly reports that: “…the book industry is shifting in fundamental ways….Rather than bemoaning the contraction of corporate publishing, writers … should focus on what might replace that model….I foresee a day when writers will prefer to print chapbooks … I love the idea that these works will move directly from the artist to his or her readers, literally hand-delivered.” If some of these writers are women, they’ll be wearing sunglasses and hats.

A Miracle, A Generous Writer

A miracle occurs. Trust in miracles. Thomas Wolfe wrote, in Look Homeward Angel:

“And who can say, whatever disenchantment follows, that we can ever forget magic, or that we can ever betray, on this leaden earth, the apple tree, the singing or the gold.”

Sometimes the miracle is a living person.

A talented writer, Mark has two published novels and teaches high school. I met him years ago; now and again we catch up on email. He is forging a Chicago Writers reading series and pow-wowing for recommendations . I blurt out that I have a manuscript being published by CreateSpace. And, because he is a writer, he cares about manuscripts; he asks to read it. He likes it! I am suddenly/transformatively/miraculously one of the authors on the summer reading list for Juniors and Seniors at Rolling Meadows High School. I want to buy one hundred helium-filled balloons and free them into the sky.

Mark will soon learn why generosity is not for the faint of heart. To do anything for anybody is a labor, real labor of love and fortitude.

The school asks me to sell my novel, as soon as it comes out, at the local Borders. Borders will certainly be pleased to have a ready-made order of 200-300 books!

Borders Hates Self-Published Authors

Wrong! They are not happy, not at all. The General Manager reports that Borders has been “burned” by independently published authors. These authors ask Borders to order multiple copies or their book that don’t sell and then can’t be returned. These authors refuse to remove or pay for this unwanted inventory, at a huge cost for Borders. Self-published writers are a new dangerous invasive species, as welcome as Asian Carp! They have ruined everything for me. Though I know no such demonic, self-destructive writers personally, these people have made my book unwanted dreck. Also Borders will only sell a book if it has a BINC Number. This is the little sticker Borders has on each of its books & CDs etc. But getting a BINC # is a secret rite of passage, known only to invisible address-less Borders Buyers. They are more wary than anyone of being burned yet again by the roving mobs of dysfunctional writers out there. I remember the Will Smith movie with that gorgeous German Shepherd: I Am Legend. The rest of the world is permeated with roving soul suckers. I Am Legend is the story in code of what has happened to Borders; soon there will be so many soul suckers, Borders will board up its doors, and use dogs as guardians.

Independent bookstores

In I Am Legend one woman and her child (besides Will Smith), have survived as humans (to his knowledge). They seek a small remaining colony of people. They are like independent bookstores whose numbers have been decimated by 75% or mote. Struggling, if heroic, stores like “Women & Children First,” in Chicago, “The Strand” in New York, “The Tattered Book Cover” in Denver. Stores whose business integrity springs from on a deep love of books. Stores devoted to sharing that knowledge, guiding you gently toward miracles of imagination.

I love independent bookstores. Borders has just proved to me once again why chains are the enemy of literacy and literature. I call the independent bookstore closest to Rolling Meadows High School. About a 15-20 minute drive away. The five other nearby independent bookstores are Christian bookstores. The store manager here says: “First of all no one will drive 15 minutes to find your book. Secondly, sure we’ll take your books on consignment to support you as a local author, but I can assure you they will just sit here gathering dust.”

Now, independent bookstores shove authors away, too.

Well, the Portal of Independents site says:

Self Publish, Author Publish and Print On-Demand Publications
We appreciate the interest so many writers show in NewPages, and over the years there have been a growing number of self-published authors wanting to have their books listed on NewPages. NewPages will list these titles as “Received.” It may take several weeks for the book to appear on the site. Please do not call or e-mail us to see if the book has been received.

If your book is self-published or printed by a POD company like iUniverse or PublishAmerica, send only one copy if you want it listed on the Books Received page. We do not review self-published/POD books. We are not reviewing e-books at this time.