Archive for the ‘Thoughts on Publishing’ Category

We all often forget in the glorious insanity of writing that if you wish to publish, your writing is a business. That means you have to treat it and your interactions with everyone as a business dealing. These are my “rules” that I’ve developed by watching and talking with other writers as well as feeling my way through my own career.

1) Writing “cache” is earned not bestowed.

It is like any other job. Really. You must pay your dues as the new kid on the block before you can start to break the rules. I’ve got seven novels and a slew of short stories out there now. The publishers I work with can bank on my name on a title to bring in a certain amount of sales. Because of that I’ve earned a certain amount of license in how I work.

My first novel, not so much. I got the dreaded: we like it, but can’t take it as is. Do some significant re-writes and we may consider publication. I also got the same on the second novel. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and accept that.

The first one, I queried the editor and politely asked what re-writes. “Chop 2000 words of the front. Expand this relationship. And by the way, your female love interest (a male/male/female triangle) is an absolute raving bitch…tone her down.” Did that bug the hell out of me to have someone critique my baby so bluntly? Hell yes. Did I do the re-writes? Hell yes. And the second set of re-writes they asked for as well. They never did accept that book. But, in the end, I ended up with a much better novel.

The second book, the editor said, “Its great, but to fit our formula, I need the main characters to hate each other by the end of chapter three.” I didn’t do that re-write. It would have changed the entire plot. I politely sent a letter stating that it would require the re-write of the entire plot, but now that I knew what they were looking for, I’d try and write a book geared toward that.

You must sometimes sacrifice your baby to the Gods of Publication. If the second publisher had come back with similar requests to the first, I would have done them. Because, at that time, my name meant nothing to anyone.

2) You’re only as good as your promotion on your last book.

Really and for true folks. Your publisher watches. Even if you have a big named bank roll behind you, they watch. People who are active about getting their own name out there are money makers for them. I have a friend who writes for Bantam. That is BIG. Her editor told her, this is what we expect you to do to promote your own book. It’s not just the small presses who want you out there stumping. The authors I know who’ve sat on their “my book is wonderful” notions and done nothing, they get dumped. Your publisher wants to know that you are invested in you book as well. They don’t expect you to arrange nation wide book signing tours, but passing out flyers, maybe getting on a speakers panel or arranging a chat date on some reader loop: they watch for that.

3) If I’m reading your blog, so is your potential publisher.

I don’t know why so many people have a problem with that concept. They air their dirty laundry in public. My basic philosophy is: Tout your successes to everyone who will listen. Mourn your defeats in private.

I have been watching a certain new writer tank herself. She has written a short story for a collection and two longer stand alone works. The short story was contracted and the longer works under consideration. This is someone who has “broken in.” She then spent the next two months publicly agonizing over the re-writes in her blog. Blasting all the people who offered to help her with them as “red-liners” and “hack artists.” She turns in a re-write, noting something to the effect that she doesn’t know at all why they wanted her to do them. Gets a second request for more clean up and does a public freak out. Pulls the story from the antho (which she’s allowed to do under that contract), announces that she is doing so because she “just can’t work with editors like that,” and other people have told similar “horror” stories.

The best part: She was surprised when two days later she gets a rejection on the two longer works. I will bet that she gets rejects from a lot of publishers as well. She has not earned the right to act like a prima donna.

It is really demoralizing to have someone be brutally honest about your work that you’ve slaved over, agonized about sometimes for years. But go have your bitch fit in private. I railed for nearly a month with the requests I got. Privately, bending my poor guy’s ear off at length and to a couple of private friends. Not on a public blog post.

4) Everyone you meet has the potential to help or hinder your career.

You never know where the next reviewer, news media persona or publisher is. I’ve gotten invited into anthologies because I met someone (who I don’t remember) at some conference. I’ve gotten major reviews outside my genre because I impressed someone while speaking on a panel at some po-dunk convention, or the nice clerk at the book store…who isn’t the clerk but the manager in charge of setting up signings.

I have a friend, both personal and professional, who is a major freelance writer for some major GLBT publications. I met him at someone else’s reading where we just got to chatting. We went and had a drink afterward. Turned out he had a press pass to an event a few weeks later and didn’t want to go stag so I tagged along. Now, anytime one of his publications needs emergency filler I’m one of five people on the rolodex for the “hey what’s new with you?” interview.

Years of managing law offices has taught me that your best business deals are made in riding up the elevator or in the airport bar after the conference is over.

5) You will take crappier deals when you start out.

You don’t have to once you’re established. Obviously, you don’t want to sign away your complete rights in perpetuity to your work for royalties only. Jumping at the first deal, if it’s incredibly one sided, is not a good idea. But, it may be worth your while to take a contract that doesn’t pay much to get your foot in the door.

Keep an eye on what rights you’ve kept. If you’ve sold electronic rights to a work, but kept the print…you still have something to sell. Your publisher will make decisions based on who sells how much. Sometimes it’s fair for you to wait and sometimes its not. If they wish to take a wait and see before offering to buy more rights, and someone else will do it now…well there’s a lot of weighing of risk and such you should make, but sometimes it’s better to take the other deal.

As you get farther up the food chain you have more leverage to negotiate deals you don’t like. Don’t be afraid of a “take it or leave it” card thrown on the table. If you already know what your value is, sometimes the best negotiation strategy for you is to say, “I’ll leave it.” I, at my level, in my market, have options. Deals I would have taken when I started out (and I don’t have any qualms about having made them) well, sometimes they’re just not good enough any more. I have to look at this as a profit making business.

Now, if I take a shot at the next “tier” up of publishers…I may end up taking a deal that’s not quite as good to get my foot in that door.

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Any writer worth their salt knows that social networking sites like MySpace are a great way to meet fellow writers and hopefully some readers as well.
I am currently featured on MySpace’s Word Weavers for the week of 1/13/2008.


D. H. Schleicher holds a background in Psychology and Criminal Justice from his undergraduate days at Elon University in North Carolina. Always a crafty storyteller as a child, Schleicher honed his skills in college where his studies fueled his ideas and helped him develop his characters. Schleicher took many chances early on by self-publishing three psychological thrillers over a course of two and half years after graduating college in 2002. His projects were unmitigated disasters, but provided him valuable lessons. Sometimes a writer must learn the hard way and must write a lot of garbage before finally writing something worthwhile that will connect with audiences.

That breakthrough came in late 2006 with the publication of The Thief Maker. Here Schleicher finally found his voice and delivered a dark, psychologically complex, intertwining tale of love, hate, and crime on the streets of Philadelphia and New York City. The Thief Maker has been earning rave reviews and accolades (including Honorable Mention in the Genre Fiction category in the upcoming Writer’s Digest 15th Annual International Self-Published Book Awards) over the course of the past year. Schleicher has employed a slow-burning grassroots marketing campaign built on the strong word of mouth from readers and critics and his always lively blog where he discusses films, books, current events, and shares his trials and tribulations with self-publishing and living the writer’s life.


The author finds endless inspiration from his love of films and books. He believes you learn to write well by reading as much of the classics as you can, but also by reading some of the bad writing (be it one’s own experiments from the past or current best-sellers that are less than stellar) to know what to avoid in one’s own writing. His favorite novelist is Graham Greene while his favorite film director is Stanley Kubrick. Schleicher is currently working on his next evolution as a novelist while residing in the suburbs of his favorite city and muse, Philadelphia.

The Thief Maker is on the shelves at Philadelphia and South Jersey area Barnes & Noble stores and available for purchase worldwide through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.

Purchase Now from Barnes and Noble

Purchase Now from Amazon.com

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Mare Cromwell is the author of the award-winning book If I Gave You God’s Phone Number . . . Searching for Spirituality in America. It was a finalist in the ForeWord Magazine 2003 Book of the Year Awards and received honorable mention in the 2003 DIY Book Competition. We met at a small coffee shop a little while ago to discuss her book, the interviews featured in the work, why she decided to write it and self-publish, and her upcoming projects.


If I Gave You God’s Phone Number . . . explores spirituality from many different perspectives—from an 8 year old child raised Episcopalian, to an atheist, a prison inmate, a Sufi spiritual master and others. The book was self-published through her company, Pamoon Press (http://www.pamoonpress.com). As many know, self-publishing in this way is far from easy and often very costly. It requires–among other things–purchasing one’s own block of ISBNs, finding a printer, hiring an editor, and finding a cover designer. For those that are interested in knowing more about it, this interview may also help to shed some light on the process.

About the Author (from the author website): Mare Cromwell is the Director of Sacred Dog Productions. She is a sustainability specialist and author. With a Masters in Natural Resources from the University of Michigan, she has worked in the environmental field for 26 years both internationally and locally in the Baltimore-Washington region. Most recently Mare was the Executive Director of the Prettyboy Watershed Alliance. She trained in The Natural Step framework under Karl-Henrik Robért and Paul Hawken and has led dozens of sustainability workshops in the Mid-Atlantic region. In addition to her sustainability consulting efforts, Mare occasionally speaks on Deep Ecology, simplicity and “Right Relationship”.

Interview with Mare Cromwell
NG: What inspired you to seek out different perspectives for this book?

MC: I was raised Catholic but since my early twenties I was sort of spirituality shopping, or whatever you want to call it, and I wrote the book in my thirties. The Catholic church didn’t fill me up; while there are many good points about the religion, it just wasn’t for me. It took me seven years from the start of the book to complete it.

NG: What does the question mean to you?

MC: Well, spirituality is really an ongoing thing. It’s not like you can just come to a point where you’ve stopped growing spiritually. It’s an ongoing dialog, so I guess that would really be it. The ongoing activity of asking questions and finding your personal spiritual answers that resonate and feel like spiritual truths.

NG: What interview did you find yourself connecting with the most when you edited the book?

MC: There are so many. As you know, there is the Sufi mystic, and that interview took place just after 9/11, so that was very powerful. But I didn’t connect with the religion itself, you know what I mean? Now I’m studying with a Native American spiritual healer, and that’s what works for me.

NG: You encountered some interesting people while you were doing your book tour for this book. Some people loved it, some thought it was sacrilegious. Can you tell us a little about that?

MC: It was an adventure. There were a lot of people that wanted to debate and get into arguments about what is spiritually right and what is not right, and that’s not what I’m about. I wanted to present this for people to make up their own minds, to ask their own questions about who they are and what a spiritual life means for them, and for people to see religion and spirituality from other points of view. And there were times when I got rather upset, when people said some pretty hateful things.

NG: Why did you decide to form your own publishing company for If I Gave You God’s Phone Number . . . ?

MC: There were a number of reasons for that. I had sent it out to a few agents but did not find one that understood what I was trying to do. They wanted to change the title or other things about it because they weren’t sure how to promote it to publishers. It had God in the title, but it didn’t fit strictly into the Christian category. Also, time was a factor. I just wanted to put it out there. The book took years to write, and I didn’t want to wait any longer to have it published the way I wanted it published.

NG: What was the process like?

MC: I hired a consultant and printed about 10,000 hardcover copies. The paper used for the book was 100% recycled so there were no trees cut, and that was an expensive process. The company had to be formed, ISBN purchased. And there was a book designer, a copy editor. There are a lot of people you need to hire to put out a book, you have to hire everyone yourself and make sure they understand your vision. This was before Print on Demand (POD) was really an alternative, when most of the POD companies you see now were in their infancy and didn’t provide many options, like editing or custom cover designs, or the option to ship books to stores on a ‘return’ policy–a big factor in getting your book accepted by book stores. Getting a book distributed successfully to a broad set of bookstores is another huge challenge for small mom and pop publishers. I liked the process of putting everything together, but it was difficult.

NG: What about promotion?

MC: That’s a huge amount of work also. I worked with several promotional companies which were not inexpensive. I spoke at churches, went on book tours all over the country, did radio shows, and arranged other speaking engagements. There’s so much to go through, and it really is amazing if you break even. I still have copies of the book at my house, if anyone would like to purchase one!

NG: What are you working on now?

MC: I’m working on a spiritual journey memoir. It incorporates much of what I’ve studied—yoga, Catholicism, and it covers my work with the Cherokee spiritual teacher.

NG: How has working on If I Gave You God’s Phone Number . . . prepared you for your next project?

MC: I’m just writing and not concentrating on anything but that. Obviously you want your book to be interesting. I think it’s a rare person that doesn’t care about the reader. And that is a part of the promotional aspect. But right now I’m just writing, just trying to get it all out; I’m not worrying about that aspect.

NG: What was the hardest thing about working on your last book?

MC: Promotion, definitely. Major reviewers aren’t often interested in self-published books. And I had a hard time, I think mostly because God was so prominent in the title. One promotional company stated, after the fact, that they believe that they were not able to get good publicity on the book because of that. Barnes and Noble initially shelved the book in the Christian Inspiration section, but the book is far more than that. However, there are no general spirituality sections in their stores. I eventually convinced them to put it in the New Age section. It seemed the only okay fit for the book. Libraries are a huge chunk of the market, but they base their selection primarily on certain types of reviews, like the Library Journal. And publications like that are wary of self-published books no matter what.

NG: What advice would you give to writers?

MC: Just get it written. Don’t criticize yourself while you’re writing, because there are going to be plenty of people/editors out there to do that when you’re finished with the book. Don’t give up, just allow the creative process. For anyone interested in publishing their writing, I highly recommend going to Elizabeth Gilbert’s website [http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/writing.htm. Author of Eat, Pray, Love]. She has posted a letter that she wrote for writers, and it gives the best advice to encourage us writers to not get held up by our internal critical voice.

If I Gave You God’s Phone Number . . . can be purchased at the book website at http://www.tocallgod.net/html/tcg_orde.html, or at any online book vendor site. You can also visit Mare Cromwell’s website at http://www.sacreddogllc.com.

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What a fascinating time I had with Taryn. Originally we were going to have her co-author join us from China yet, unfortunately he was on call on his regular job yet Taryn has a wealth of knowledge about whether to self-publish or not, what a ghost writer is, collaborating by email ~ which she and Alan did; not yet having EVER spoken with each other ~ and then, the story of their book ~ The Mango Tree Cafe; Loi Kroh Road.

What a fascinating story I had the pleasure of reading. Taking place in Thailand the story weaves around the main character Larry and how he went from living on a farm to being gently urged by his father to do more with his life. With that, the tale begins and centers around the characters on Loi Kroh Road; his love for Heather and Noo, having the “sight” and what he learned in that time. This is a definite “must read”. Please enjoy our interview.



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The debate still rages on the viability of self-publishing through POD (print-on-demand) outfits.  Some say authors who use these avenues instead of traditional publishing as a “stepping-stone” are in a state of denial.  Others feel it is a perfectly legitimate option for those wanting more personal control over what happens to their book, and a certain level of success is possible with self-publishing.

I recently weighed in on the topic. 

See Below:


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My partner and I have decided to self-publish and with good reason. The Beijing Book Fair is coming up in August and my partner would like to pander our wares to book sellers.

We also decided to self-publish because of a newsletter I received yesterday. It was from a well-known author that stated she published with Lulu.com because no one, including agents and publishers would pay attention to her because she was a “nobody”. She began self publishing her book and sent it to another author with better connections and she was blown away.

This blown away author sent it to her agent who in turn sent it to a large publishing house who decided to buy it. That’s the way it is these days…unless you have the collateral to appease a Simon and Schuster or Random House, authors have to fend for themselves and show that “the proof is in the pudding”.

This powerful book (if I do say so myself) will be offered shortly on Barnes and Noble and Amazon as well as the blog. When that happens, you can rest asuured that I will blab all about it right here.

Just think; 1 author in Beijing, China; the other in Nashville, TN, 1 internet connection = 1 helluva good read.

Taryn Simpson is a professional ghostwriter and has recently completed a novel with her writing partner, Alan Solomon, “The Mango Tree Cafe, Loi Kroh Road”. Keep up with the latest on the book and how it fares at the Beijing, China Book Fair. http://www.MangoTreeCafe-LoiKrohRoad.blogspot.com

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In a age when writers rarely fingerhug a pen or type on a typewriter, it seems that writers these days must wear multiple hats in order to be successful.

Not only do you need to know how to write a variety of communication pieces such as articles, web content, blogs, novels and more….there is also the marketing of the writing, keeping up with the latest promotions, blogging and guest blogging as well as working on clients’ materials.

Now we have what is called “Book Trailers”. I am a huge fan of this medium and yes, I did it. I made a trailer of “The Mango Tree Cafe, Loi Kroh Road” before it is even published. Why? First and foremost, I believe in the book THAT much. I feel it is easily one of the best books I ever had a hand in creating. Number Two: I am hoping to catch the publisher or agent’s eyes by creating a great marketing piece.

I would invite all of you to watch my blog and PLEASE, leave a comment. And, if you need someone to create YOUR trailer….I can do that too (sheepish grin).

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I was recently interviewed by author R.M. Hamilton on Authors of Myspace. For those that are interested in learning a little bit more about me and my first book, Portraits in the Dark: A Collection of Short Stories, you can read the interview here:



Portraits in the Dark on Barnes and Noble.com.

Portraits in the Dark on Amazon.

Portraits in the Dark through BookSense.

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Disclaimer. I am a lawyer under my real name, but I don’t practice bankruptcy (although I did practice creditor’s rights at one time and thus have a general understanding of the BK process and rights to assets) and I probably don’t practice in your state. By reading this, there is no attorney client relationship created and take anything you get for free with a grain of salt. I am tackling this subject in the interest of informing authors of something to be aware of… but this is not the definitive answer on the subject. If you find yourself in this situation, seek the advice of a competent Bankruptcy attorney.

Triskelion Publishing has gone Bankrupt… formally, having filed Chapter 7 in their home state of Arizona. Now, that’s not a big blip outside the romance industry. Triskelion was predominately a romance e-publisher. However, they did take books to print and had them shelved at various nationwide booksellers. They were Romance Writers of America Certified . While RWA’s standards merely indicate that the publisher pays royalties, is not a subsidy or vanity press, has been in business a minimum of 1 year and has sold at least 1500 hardcover or trade paperback or 5,000 in any other format of a single title, it is not a guarantee of the publisher. What it does tend to show is Triskelion was not a fly-by-night operation. They had a decent showing of authors. Their authors had decent sales numbers.

Why are we here? Because it brings to light something that authors rarely think about… what happens if your publisher goes bankrupt?

Most publishers have a clause in their contract that deals with what happens if a publisher becomes insolvent and files for bankruptcy. Usually, they state something along the line of if the publisher becomes insolvent and files for bankruptcy protection all rights revert to the author. Now neither of the publishers I deal with have this clause in their contracts. Know why?

Because it damn near meaningless.

That type of clause is known as an Ipso Facto clause and generally held to be invalid by 11 U.S.C. §541(c)(1)(B) and §351(e) . In limited situations these clauses can be upheld. However, as illustrated in In re Southern Pacific Funding Corp., 268 F.3d 712, 716 (9th Cir. 2001) these clauses are ineffectual at protecting authors’ rights.

In re Avalon Software, Inc., 209 B.R. 517 (Bankr. D. Ariz. 1997) is illustrative. The Author of the Software program lost all their rights to the program in the bankruptcy court because their copyright was not protected. The bankruptcy clause in the contract was considered null and void and the bankruptcy trustee was allowed to seize control of the asset in order to create the biggest “pool” of assets for the secured creditors. And while software is not books, it is instructive of how much control and deference the Trustee has.

The BK trustee can accept, reject or modify any agreement effectively causing one creditor – and an author owed royalties is a creditor – to bear a heavier burden. This is where I have dealt with the bankruptcy courts. I used to have to petition, routinely, for my clients to be allowed to retrieve the property they had leased (rented) to a bankrupt company. By extrapolation an author is, in effect, leasing the right to use their work for the publisher’s and author’s benefit. There were several hurdles that had to be jumped in order for property to be returned. One of them was: if the property was material to the continued operation of the debtor in possession (the bankrupt entity) the bankruptcy court with the advice of the trustee had the discretion to not allow the property to revert to the owner. Basically, the bankrupt entity could continue to use the property most times rent free (or at a reduced rent at the trustee’s calculation) until such time as the company either came out of BK or was dissolved by the bankruptcy court, not necessarily the term of the contract. Now, I dealt with tangibles (like simi-trucks) but the way the law reads, it applies both to tangible and intangible assets. The intangible right to sell your books (or the back-stock of printed material) are pretty much the only assets held by a publisher.

What advice can you take away from this? Maybe that you’re not as protected as you think. Even the best publishers can fail, locking your work up in court.

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I’ve long been fascinated by psychology and what it has to say about the possible variations in human behavior. I considered a double-major in psychology while I was in college but eventually decided to pursue other interests instead. Still, I explored many texts on the subject, and I would often consult those texts when writing short stories and coming up with character ideas. Unlike psychiatry, which seems to use medication to subdue not only seemingly irreversible mental conditions but some types of temporary problems as well, psychology appears to attempt to get at the root of issues through analysis of the human condition.

I used my own observations and personal beliefs regarding human nature when writing some of the stories included in Portraits in the Dark, and I also researched and read texts by various types of psychologists. At times while creating some of these characters, I needed to step outside of of what I thought was a normal course of action in order to figure out what the characters would or would not do. Some were easy–who hasn’t been annoyed at some perceived negative behavior or slight? Who hasn’t thought “what if…”?

But when it came to the decision-making process, I needed to be able to study how far certain decisions can go. Everyone has to make decisions and everyone makes mistakes, but some are more extreme than others.

For instance, in “Fine Print,” the character wavers between accepting an offer that he knows has dire consequences and living a life that he finds difficult to stomach. On the surface it is an easy enough decision but when other factors are included, the “correct” path isn’t the most desirable. Throughout the story there are clues to what type of man he is and why he would do the things he does–his decision is not just based upon a whim or upon what would be my own personal choice in such a situation.

Every day we are confronted with making decisions, how to approach this or that situation. And every day, in the news or in our personal lives, we find unanswered questions. Why did he or she do this, why did something turn out the way it did? How will this turn out, what should be done here? Without the aid of some fortune telling device, it is impossible to know how something will turn out with 100% accuracy. In “Darkened Sky,” the main character is confronted by the decisions that others have made, with deciding if those choices are options for her, or if she should take another route in life. She can’t forsee her future, but she gains some insight by the choices others have made and how she reacts to them. How she chooses is of particular importance being that she is a teenager and the situations in her life contain much danger for someone her age.

There are decisions that need to be made behind everything that goes on in life. Of course, in Portraits in the Dark, the characters and situations are taken to the extreme–bloody deaths, dealing with the supernatural, horrible creatures, surrealism. But there are also the real life quiet horrors of knowing that one decision can possibly have a huge and lasting impact on one’s life and the lives of others, of dealing with situations that one has little control over but must still learn how to navigate.

One reader commented to me that a story he read in Portraits in the Dark, “Fine Print,” changed his outlook on where his life was headed and made him question whether or not he was going in the right direction. I was glad that what I decided to include in the story had such an impact on him, even though he didn’t go into detail about his situation. That is one type of reaction that I think as writers some of us hope for–that our work will connect on some level.

How we view the world, our experiences, how we deal with things, even our genetic make-up can give us some clues as to what we, and others, will do when confronted with such questions. By exploring psychology, we as writers can use our natural abilities to make the characters real. Of course, there is a balance between enhancing the story with psychology and basically creating characters that are straight out of a text-book. Psychology, while helpful, doesn’t cover all of what a human being is capable of; nor does it cover writing style and storytelling ability.

But creating that written world can sometimes allow us to do what we can’t always do in real life–see why others truly act how they act, do what they do. And sometimes what our fictional characters do can leave a lasting, lingering impression on the mind of the reader.


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