To self-publish or not to self-publish, that is the question

At a recent book-selling event that was a topic of conversation among many of the local authors.  We had time to talk because a snow storm put a damper on sales.

Given the opportunity to self-publish thanks to companies like Create Space, Book Baby, Lulu and more, authors can put their books into print, at least print on demand. This route is the alternative to the more traditional one of seeking an agent who will negotiate a sale of your work to a larger publisher.

As a writer who has gone both ways, there are pros and cons to each.

Make no mistake; the largest obstacle to the more traditional route is getting an agent because most of the very big publishing houses won’t look at you without one. Your writing and/or subject matter (hopefully both) must be compelling to get their attention. Once you land an agent, they will do the work to present your book to a publisher. Publishers will provide editors to make sure your work is the best it can be, as well as cover designers. Once published, they roll out their formidable marketing machine.

With a publisher you will get a percentage of the profits from book sales, and don’t forget the cut to your agent. But hello, an established publisher had enough faith in you to publish your work. I felt very, very proud of that when a New York house picked up my children’s book, “Red Ridin’ in the Hood and Other Cuentos.”

More and more writers, even ones who have been published by traditional publishers, are looking at self-publishing. In this route you will have to take care of the things publishers do from editing to cover design to marketing to distinguish your book from the many, many more books there are out there because of self-publishing. That is a downside because the time you spend doing this takes away from your writing time.

If you take this route, my best advice is to spend money on an editor. Readers usually don’t care who publishes a book, but they will care if it’s poorly written and full of grammatical errors that bump them out of the story. Then they’ll ask, “Who the hell published this book?” On the plus side, there are lots of editing services and cover designers available and plenty of advice online about how to market. All the profits from the sales of your book go to you.

The end product is also a published book.

So when asking the question to publish or not to publish, remember both ways mean work. Ultimately, you will never get paid for the hours upon hours you put into writing and rewriting your book unless it makes the bestseller list and you sell the rights for a movie starring Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock.

In the end, no matter what route you pursue — love the writing.

Patricia Santos Marcantonio

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Book signing at The Twin Falls Center for the Arts

Book signing at The Twin Falls Center for the Arts

Author Sherry Schubert McCallister

 

 

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Gift and book fair this Saturday!

Please support local artists by joining us this Saturday for The Art of the Gift at The Twin Falls Center for the Arts. This gift and book fair features 15 Local authors & artisans. We will be there. Stop by and say hello.
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Question of the Month: NaNoWriMo, Who’s winning?

It’s day 20. By now you’ve written 33,336 words of your great American novel. You’re on the home stretch. You’re ahead by 3 words. You’re still in the race. You’re winning, right?

If you’re like me, probably not, although I know some writers participating in *NaNoWriMo this year have reached their goal of 50,000, or are really really close. But not you, you’re still slugging away at that mountain of words wondering why you let so and so talk you into this messy frustrating confusion when you’d rather be thinking about turkeys and Christmas trees. But you can’t because you have to stay focused on characters who won’t behave and plot lines that wander off into the desert and disappear. You’re tired, frustrated, and hate the project you’re working on. Or you’re behind in your word count and looking for any reason to stop writing and return to the real world.

Before you do, give yourself credit for attempting such a daunting task in the first place. Writing takes discipline. Writing every day takes a great deal of discipline. In a perfect writer’s world every morning you would rise to an already prepared healthy breakfast and a pot of coffee. You would write all day without distractions. You would retire at night with a ream of polished words, a real page-turner ready to meet your publisher. But in the real writer’s world you have to prepare the healthy breakfast, feed the pets and get the family off to work and out the door, maybe vacuum the rugs, or even put in a day’s work at the office before you can settle down and write. Squeezing enough time to generate 1,666 words a day is a chore in itself so why bother?

Because you’re a writer. Stories buzz around your head dying to be told. Because when you’re not writing, everything seems in a constant state of chaos.

If you’re stumped and ready to throw in the towel, here are some suggestions that may help you reach your NaNo goal this year.

Write from a different point of view. Or write in a different tense. Mixing it up might lend new energy to your writing.
Kill your internal editor. Now is the time to write. You can edit later.
Do some free writing if you can’t think of anything to write. Just the action of moving your fingers releases something in the brain allowing you to move forward.
Don’t stop to do research. Add asterisks. When your draft is done, you can fill in the blanks. And, you might discover that a date or fact you thought was important no longer is.
If you’re feeling low or depressed talk to other writers or read the pep talks provided on the NaNoWriMo website. Visit their “procrastination station” for inspiration.
Don’t delete, don’t edit, just keep writing.

So it’s November 20. Ten days to go. You’re 2,000 words behind. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and it’s easier to focus on the green bean casserole than keep your fingers and brain moving. But look how far you’ve come. You’re in the middle of your book where things usually tend to get messy anyway. It would be so easy to quit.

But instead of giving up, dig deeper. Time travel back to October when NaNo sounded like a great way to whip out a draft of your story. Capture some of that creative energy then sit down and start writing.

Because you can do it. You’re so close. You’re almost there.

-Bonnie Dodge

*NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. On November 1, participants begin working towards writing a 50,000 novel by 11:59 on November 30. It’s free and a fun way to write a novel. For more information visit NaNoWriMo.org.

 

‘Hauntings from the Snake River Plain’ book signing and reading

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Thanks to all who attended the reading and book signing for HAUNTINGS FROM THE SNAKE RIVER PLAIN Oct. 26 at  Barnes & Noble in Twin Falls.

Authors who attended included Jay Michaels, Sherri George, Loy Ann Bell, Bonnie Dodge, Patricia Santos Marcantonio and Giselle Jeffries.

Taking those extra steps will make you crazy, but they’re worth it.

I have neared the mouth of madness. I have sat on the tongue of crazy.

And it’s all because I’m working on getting it right. Taking those extra steps to make sure my writing is the best it can be to quote the Army slogan.

This work entails printing out the manuscript, not once, but twice, sometimes three times because reading the print version helps me catch stuff I can’t always see staring into a computer.  This also helps me find when I have used a phrase or word over and over.

This means going through and getting rid of adverbs, and declaring war on passive and vague words like there, was, am, it, must, could, and try, among others.

Reading the story for content problems, such as closing gaping holes in plot and that your characters stay in character. Making sure the theme is consistent and your symbolism isn’t overt. Ramping up the conflict in each scene, be it emotional or action. Searching for clichés.  Being on the lookout for the times I have changed the name of my characters in midstream (Come on, haven’t you done that?)

Let your critique partners have a go at your work to suggest improvements and what you did right.

One other thing I do is beat back the impetuous urge to send out my first and second draft because I think the work is done.  It isn’t. Maybe geniuses will have the perfect novel after two passes. I can’t.

Despite the craziness of rewrites, the more you work on your piece the better it becomes.  That makes the madness worth it.

Patricia Santos Marcantonio

Dixie Thomas Reale – “Mush”

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Our friend and partner Dixie Thomas Reale succumbed to cancer September 1, 2013. One of a kind is an overused description, but in Dixie’s case, it was true. She had a great sense of humor, a fierce will, and loved to tell stories. Here is one of our favorites, published in Voices from the Snake River Plain.

MUSH

It was war, and I would wait until it grew mold. I didn’t care. I’d show her! When Mama said we couldn’t leave the breakfast table till we finished our mush, my sister Jose and I made vomiting sounds.

Mama had sugared and creamed our oatmeal to make it tempting, said it was “Goldilocks’ porridge,” but we weren’t convinced.

“You’ll eat. That’s final,” she warned.

Mama had read an article about the health value of oats and decided her children would eat some every morning. I wanted Cheerios like my cousin Alice ate in her daffodil-colored breakfast nook with the plaid on the wall. The more Mama pushed the gruel, the more determined I was that I wasn’t going to eat it. I would have Cheerios instead.

Daddy looked out the window, studying the rose bush on the far side of the yard, resolved to not hear us. We sat on our bench along the wall, gagging and giggling while our parents ate.

“You’ll stay there till you’ve eaten it, bowl and all,” Jose mimicked.

She whispered that she’d show Mama, but I could tell right off she didn’t have the guts. She gave up and ate her mush a few minutes after the family left the table. I guess she realized she was gonna be stuck there for a long time. Not me, I had my mind made up. Maybe Mama could make me sit, but she couldn’t make me eat.

The rest of the family went about their morning while I fidgeted. Nine thirty, ten o’clock, still I waited. Mama wasn’t going to give in and neither was I. It was a beautiful spring morning. I wanted to go outside, run through the grass, roll down the hill, climb around in the hayloft, and rub the fur on Calico’s back till she purred.

Although Mama didn’t intend to be, she was helpful. When she took a stack of dirty dishes to the kitchen, I grabbed my chance. I sneaked across the room and dumped the cereal out the window. It dribbled down the spiked leaves of the irises planted below and puddled on the ground around the lilies of the valley and violets. I hoped nobody would notice.

When she returned to the dining room my bowl was empty. I was beaming. “Such a good girl! See, it’s not so bad,” Mama said. I ran off to play.

The next day I dumped the mush on the irises once again and congratulated myself on my clever solution. By day three I couldn’t ignore the blobs of dried oatmeal clinging to the purple flowers and the puddled mud and sour milk underneath. Mama spent a lot of time in her flower garden, she was sure to see. I’d better not dump it there again.

So I called Pedro, my puppy. He came to me through the flowers, wagging his whole back end, he was so eager. I leaned out the window and held the cereal down for him to reach. He gobbled all the mush. Back inside, I set the empty bowl on the table. I could go on like that forever, no one suspected a thing. It was too easy.

I was cocky. The family had barely finished breakfast the next morning when I whistled for the dog, leaned out the window, and held the dish down to my little buddy stretching up on his hind legs when—whop! Right on my behind. I was jerked back inside, sitting at attention, the mush in front of me. Somehow Mama had grabbed it before any spilled.

I was miserable. I’d observed that when my sister dropped a crust of bread on the floor she didn’t have to eat it. When Daddy spilled the serving bowl of corn Mama scooped it up and wiped the tabletop with the dishrag. I tried it. Only one little spoonful dripped out of the bowl. I gagged down the rest for the sake of the experiment. It worked. I didn’t have to eat the dribbled stuff. The next day I got bolder. I carefully placed two large globs right beside my fork. Again I didn’t have to eat the slopped part. That was the answer.

I decorated the room. The entire bowl was drizzled and splattered one spoonful at a time across the mahogany tabletop, the wall, the bench, and onto the floor. There was so much of it that gray puddles ran into one another making small lakes. Once Mama saw the mess she scraped it back into the dish and slung it in front of me. Now it was cold and slimy, had a faint flavor of English wood oil, and smelled a bit like floor polish.

“You will eat this,” she said.

I sat there wretched and alone, sequestered with my punishment, till the rest of the family came in for lunch. And still I lingered with my gruel while they ate sandwiches and soup.

The day after my spilled mush episode I woke to an empty house. The family had gone to the berry patch to pick blackcaps. The cursed bowl waited malevolent and disgusting. I lolled on my seat playing with a strand of hair, studying the ceiling, my head hanging backwards over the edge of the bench.

How could I get rid of this stuff without eating it? I was tracing lines on the bottom of the dining room table with my finger, pretending that I could write, when suddenly there it was. I got on my knees to examine it. A little shelf designed to store extra leaves was built into the bottom of the table, and it was empty. I patted it to be sure. The bowl fit that shelf like the two were made for each other. I was out of the house in seconds.

The dog episode had taught me one thing—patience. I made sure I waited a while after the family left the breakfast table to hide my mush. When Mama asked what I’d done with my dish, I lied sweetly.

“I washed it and put it away.”

“What a big girl,” she said.

It never occurred to me that Mama would eventually run out of cereal bowls. In my child’s mind she had an endless supply, but one day she asked Jose if she had broken any while washing dishes. I didn’t care that my sister might get the blame for something I had done. She was four years older and liked to boss me around. Besides she caved in over eating the mush. It would serve her right. I didn’t volunteer any information and was too young for Mama to suspect I’d know anything.

My plan worked wonderfully until one morning Mama was cleaning house, trying to track down a sour odor in the dining room. There they sat, lined up like guilty children waiting to be spanked, on my little shelf. Ten rancid helpings of fuzzy, rotten mush.

I truly believe if it hadn’t been moldy, Mama would have made me eat every bite, she was that mad. But the next morning at breakfast a brand new box of Cheerios sat in the middle of the dining room table and mush was never mentioned again.