The Long Road to Print

41QYVx8F5vL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_My first published novel, Sister Issues, is finally in print. It only took a dozen or so years after I wrote it for this to happen. What took so long? Paradoxically, my impatience to be published is what held this book back from seeing print for so long. Readers of this blog know that I’m a fan of publishing online. When the Kindle came out, I already had one book in print, an indie non-fiction title I used to teach creative writing. My campus bookstore kept it in stock, so I had a built in distributor in a brick and mortar store.

In 2007 not many people even knew about the Kindle. E-readers had been around for awhile but only a few tech savvy readers were on to them. Amazon popularized e-readers, and I took notice. One day I decided to upload my own book to the Kindle Digital Platform (KDP) for students who preferred an online version. I think I may have charged 99 cents, a significant savings. What I found was other people, not just students, bought that book. Which amazed me. And gave me an idea.

I’d been writing novels and knocking on the doors of traditional publishers for a long time. I’d also been blogging for five years. I knew how fun it was to be published digitally. Maybe I should just by-pass all the traditional publishers and put my most polished book out on KDP. I well remembered the hassles and the long months of indie publishing a print book from my experience with the creative writing manual. Had I known the work and time involved, I don’t think that first book would have ever seen print.

So I was not anxious to do that again. Enter KDP. Suddenly, everyone was using it to self-publish their novels, why not me? So I went ahead and did it. What a thrill. Then the bigger thrill came when The Wild Rose Press (TWRP) accepted another novel I’d written. Soon I had a book contract with a bona fide publisher and didn’t have to worry about cover art, formatting, ISBNs, uploading or printing a book. All that was done for me. As I continued to polish my manuscripts and publish them with TWRP, I never forgot my first novel. I couldn’t submit it to my publisher because it was already published online. If only I’d waited!

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All this time I was teaching too, so life zoomed by pretty fast. Before I knew it I had ten books to my name. Amazing! And yet…I really wanted to publish a print edition of Sister Issues. I wanted to hold it in my hands. A decade into my career as a published author, specialized companies run by tech savvy entrepreneurs sprouted up everywhere. These companies helped indie authors do all the zillions of things I had to do myself when I self-published my first book. I started to see the impressive results of friends who worked with one such start up here in Detroit.

Another idea was born. I could hire Woodward Press to bring Sister Issues out in print! Really, how much could it cost? I was sure it would be less than the $3000 I’d paid to order a modest print run of 500 books on my first endeavor. After all, with POD there is no need to order a print run. A single book is printed as it’s ordered. So I called Woodward Press and found out that the costs were significantly lower to publish this way, even a decade later. Working closely with Woodward Press, I began the process of preparing Sister Issues for print. From start to finish the project was significantly less anxiety provoking than doing it myself. And it only took two months for me to receive a copy of Sister Issues and hold it in my hands.

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If you still prefer print books to e-books, and many many people do, now you can order Sister Issues in print from Amazon.

Free Week Results…so far

I am not a marketing genius; the past 5 free days were my publisher’s idea. Wow it was fun. I printed out the page showing Blue Heaven at the top of the chart. It’s fun being #1. Today’s a different story, of course. Everyone got the book free and it’s down somewhere around 500K in paid lists. However, there has been some unexpected added benefit.

My first book, a writing manual with dollops of memoir, is #75 on the paid list, (which, let’s face it, that’s the one that counts) for adult and community education. I have the whole story of that book, how I came up with the idea right down to how I created a small press and handled distribution.

Your Words, Your Story was printed in ’07, early indie days. The chapter on self-publishing mentions Amazon’s Create Space. I interviewed someone who published with them and she graciously allowed me to use her experience in the book. Today, I could add more now with KDP and the digital book explosion. But the basic facts are there.

I also noted that my indie novel, Sister Issues, is about six times higher on the lists than the two newer books. Both my indies are .99 cents, and that may be a factor in their continued sales. What happened is that those free days for Blue Heaven made me and my back list more visible. And I’m pretty happy with that outcome.

 

Discovering Theme

Alice Munro has a new book of stories out. In Dear Life, the final four stories are as close to memoir, she says, that she’ll ever write. I was disappointed when a reviewer mentioned that the quartet takes place when Munro was a young girl growing up on a fox farm in Ontario, Canada. She’s written about that before. What I hungered for were stories about her adult life, her writing life.

Munro is one of the few fiction writers who has been successful with  that short form, bringing out a dozen or so books. I’ve read them all. Twice. But so far, not the new book. Reviews can sometimes dissuade me and one in particular, by Sam Sacks, regarding Munro’s themes, caught me up in surprise. Sacks says that “…her themes are psychological estrangement, spiritual emptiness, sexual degradation and the pitifulness of death.” Sacks goes on to comment that  Munro’s overall take on life, at least in her stories, is “methodical bleakness.”

Wow. I think I probably have a naturally bleak outlook on life, because I love Munro’s stories and think they are beautiful. The writing is elegant and crisp, the stories compelling, but more, her themes strike my soul in a way that Sacks captured through close examination. The review made me think about my own themes. How do I hold up against Munro? Do I love her work because her themes mirror my own? I wish:)

Yes with psychological estrangement, no to spiritual emptiness. I’m spiritually optimistic, but if anything of my spiritual nature translates into fiction, I don’t see it. That’s my loss, and some day, when I’m braver than today, I intend to correct it.

Sexual degradation–yes, I find to my surprise that all of my work has that undercurrent. Somebody somewhere is sexually degrading someone else in my novels. Sometimes they do it to themselves. In The Paris Notebook, that theme was mostly excised from the text by my editor. Later, I used the story of self-degradation as a gift to readers of my blog. Sarah’s Survival Guide can be read right on my website or downloaded as PDF. So that theme was not lost, just placed elsewhere.

My novels are more about life than death, and I have not really explored the theme of death in fiction. I’m still getting used to experiencing it in life–when loved ones die, the grief of it. When they sicken and a sad slide into senility or physical incapacity begins, yes, it is pitiful. I’ve always thought it was more than pitiful, horrific in fact.

Except at a distance, like when Cher’s grandmother dies in flashback in Sister Issues, I don’t feel skilled enough to take on death in my fiction; it’s difficult enough for me to deal with in real life. In real life, I think of it every day. I mourn friends who have passed; I plan my own exit strategy. (Move to Oregon or Washington). Looking deeply into Munro’s stories, I see the shallowness of my own themes. But, also, I would rather write hopeful stories than bleak ones.

#amwriting

My favorite hashtag on Twitter is #amwriting. If I do nothing else in my day, I want to write. And then I want someone to know. I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year, but I am writing. One project out of the way: A 15 page report on how to put together a writer’s conference that DWW members requested I write. I didn’t want to do it. I was over the conference and all the time it took away from my own work. But I did it, because I was asked and because the info was fresh in my head.

Tomorrow critique group meets here, so I wrote another chapter on the Sister Issues sequel. I am only at about 20,000 words into that one. I am not sure why I’m finding it so difficult to string together some writing days for just that fiction project, but something else too ofen calls.

I have another writing project, this with a friend. I can’t believe I’m collaborating on a book. I never thought I would do that. But this is a non-fic project close to both of our hearts and I’m giving a ton of time to it. It is time well spent and when I can I will say more.

Also working on an essay about Steps (as in step families) for possible inclusion in an anthology. I have a draft written but it needs more work. My sons have a step dad and a step mom and we’ve been in this step situation 28 years. So…I have a few things to say.

Congrats to everyone who is tackling NaNoWriMo. With several writing projects pulling me in all directions, I just can’t fit it in, but I #amwriting.

Indie vs ePub

I have three published books, published three different ways. I will never, ever, ever again self-publish because it is way too difficult, costs too much, and the books take up a lot of room in my closet. It was right at the time, but not going forward. My next book was an indie novel and then I had a novel ePubbed just a few months later. So I got to compare.

What’s the difference? With self-publishing you do everything. With indie publishing, Kindle does a lot, but not all, of the work. For me, ePubbing wins and here’s why. They give me an editor. They hire a cover artist. They print the book as well as eFormat. They get the finished product out there to an impressive list of reviewers. They distribute and sell the book to readers on their website, and also set it up for sale on Kindle and Amazon. 

Call me lazy, but I really like how much The Wild Rose Press did for me. It was by far the easiest. Well, not in terms of editing. And the fact that they only publish romances sets me some guidelines I’d rather not follow (like losing subplots). But really, thinking about all the novels I have ready to roll, two of them are already romances.

Just to make it easy on myself, I’m going to try to publish the romances before I tackle the revisions on my sequel to Sister Issues, which is not a romance, but a family drama. I have two more novels, paranormals with love stories, so maybe they’re paranormal romances.

So for awhile I’ll stick with TWRP and the next time I go indie, I’ll know I have to hire an editor, a cover artist, and a formatter who can get my book into print as well as eFormat.