• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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My Heart Should Be Wildly Rejoicing

It’s not every day a beloved commenter shows up with a brilliant idea for a sly marketing ploy disguised as a guest post with a fabulous offer all rolled into one. Without further adieu,  Spring Chicken, aka Andrea Dunlop.  And take her up on her offer to explain publicity.

You know what used to make me livid? When people would tell me to self-publish my novel. This usually came from well meaning strangers at cocktails parties or clueless boyfriends who wanted to provide the solution for my unpublished writerly angst. I was always aghast. I used to be a publicist at the biggest publishing house in the world! I had an agent once! I wasn’t going to self-publish. How dare you.

Up until recently, self-publishing conjured images of desperate authors with their garages full of molding paperbacks from a vanity press.  This was not the domain of real writers. Until suddenly it was.

I’ve been back on the west coast for almost two years now and it’s shifted my thinking. The New York book world is ruled by the old school and the big six whereas Seattle is ruled by the flashy, techie Amazon and the wild west culture of the mad geniuses who flock here to give their ideas room to grow.

In Seattle, it seems all anyone wants to talk about is ebooks and self-publishing and the digital revolution that’s sweeping the industry. But instead of the fear that hangs over these discussions in New York, here they’re met with excitement and a sense of free-for-all opportunity. Slowly I came around. I joined a freelancer’s collective.. I started taking on self-published clients. I got a Kindle.

In the meantime I branched out with my writing starting a blog and getting myself a weekly column on theGloss . I started to feel jealous of those who had the courage to go it on their own while my own novel sat there, dead as a doornail. So I got out the paddles and brought it back to life. I made it into an ebook and got my editors at the Gloss on board to run it as a weekly serial. And suddenly I feel something about my work that I haven’t felt in a long time: excitement.

The serial begins today on the Gloss  and if you want to check out the novel itself, you can do so here.

Thanks for letting me crash today; I’ll be taking questions about publicity in the comments if you’ve got ’em.

–Spring Chicken

48 Responses

  1. Do you have to blow Steven Colbert to get on his show, or will a hand job do?

    • holy crap. you’re my idol betsy. if i were ever to grow up i’d want to be you. blow steven colbert! tears of mirth are streaming down my face…

    • In my professional opinion, I think any job worth doing is worth doing with enthusiasm. So the real question is how enthusiastic are you about getting on Colbert? I should mention here that he is quite dashing in person and they have the best snacks ever in their greenroom.

      • I think I reduced the m&m jar by a half. And the toilet is heated and padded. Just sayin’.

      • A heated and padded toilet seat: maybe since I’m a dude and therefore my experience is different, but doesn’t the heated and padded toilet seat make you just a little uncomfortable? Uncomfortable to the point where you can’t go because you’re not sure what’s going on? I’ve studied this for minutes at a time and I’ve come to the conclusion that my body has trained itself not to poop and pee when it’s feeling that comfortable and warm. Ah, the down side of luxury. I don’t know Steven, but I would go with blow, if I were you. It seems logical.

  2. Show me the money.

  3. Any promoting I do makes me feel like a whore. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

    • Whore = good. Slut = bad.

      Whores offer professional services. Sluts are needy amateurs looking for approval and undercutting prices.

    • Depends. Do you feel like a high priced escort that senators would risk their careers for? Fine. It’s when your start feeling like a cheap whore that it becomes a problem.

    • Fuck all that shit. You’re a writer. Writing is entertainment. If you think you are going to change the world by scribbling on paper, sending secret messages out to the hip and woefully aware waiters who are just waiting for a chance to wake up the whole world to a loving peace that we can all have through the word, you are not only not paying attention but you have been misled. Doing the type of writing we are all writing about here is nothing but entertainment. It puts the hair on the back of my neck upright that finally all of these new geniuses have come up with the idea of serial stories. That’s how Dickens got his following. He was considered a hack, apparently, but more apparently, he is loved for what? His love of people. His love of good and bad and everything in between. my god. His love of people. Whore? Don’t shame yourself with that thought. That is a business term that is used to squash the competition. You should, from here on out, be ashamed for ever using it. Just fucking write and sell your shit. It’s that simple.

      • Ah, the internet, where you are often left replying to yourself yet not replying to yourself at all, it’s not like a phone call after all, and Spring-chicken, whom ever you are, I must interrupt this sometimes frenzied, I can only imagine, clattering of keyboards with a little old ditty from other also enfinged palpable tongue cocking crooners:http://youtu.be/81o_migAagY

      • I do just fucking write and sell my shit.

  4. Love your cover photo. Did you hire a graphic artist? Will you do your own publicity or hire someone? All in all, congratulations.

    • Just chiming in to second this: the cover is fabulously mood/atmospheric/inviting/nostalgic and lots of other things all rolled into a dreamy picture..

    • Thank you!

      The cover was done was the fabulous Jess Merrill. (www.jessikamerrill.com).

      I’m going to handle publicity matters myself but if I were doing broader media outreach for the book, I would probably hire someone.

  5. With my latest literary rejection gently tucked away, THIS is precisely what I needed to read. Many thanks for mapping out your approach to these exciting new opportunities, many good wishes for your continued success!

  6. Brilliant. Good for her!

  7. Cher Madame ou Monsieur Chicken,
    I am new to writing and have my first manuscript prepared albeit in its first draft. I am researching all forms of publishing including the DIY route. I’m particularly interested in the West coast excitement and positive views of self publishing. Do you think that there will next be an emerging wave of specialists in book publicity/marketing to assist authors? Also do you foresee a lot of blowing people in my future?

    • I do think so, yes and we are seeing the change already at my company. I think that self-publishing can be a viable option but those authors still need a lot of support, from an editorial standpoint as well as design, publicity, marketing etc. All of those functions are still necessary to produce a quality book and get it out into the world.

      And I recommend hanging onto your day job so that you don’t end up having to blow anyone unless the mood strikes you.

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  9. This sounds exciting! I’ve been reading both sides of the publishing divide for years, one side doom and gloom, the other side tech and dreck; halfway hoping to die before I finish my novel because it all seems so hard.

    But there is always that little imp at the back of my brain, the one called Hope …

    I’ll check this out. Thanks!!!

  10. Funny you should mention it. Did I ever tell you about my dragon novel, DRAKO


  11. Great post! I’ve felt the same reluctance in the past regarding self publishing. I went to a workshop recently and a couple of the speakers focused on self publishing and the importance of tweeting in today’s market. It’s an entirely different world and I have no idea where I fit in, where my work fits in. I think you nailed it about having the courage to take that leap. Resuscitating your novel and running it in serial form is a brave and positive action. Way to go and best of luck!

  12. Wishing you all the best with The Summer of Small Accidents. It looks great. I, too, have bristled at the suggestion that I self-publish a novel that has won two prestigious awards. I’m still on the fence…

    • It’s a pretty big change of heart and I think it has to happen naturally. I talked to an author the other day who has published two pretty successful non fiction books with a big six house and is self publishing her novel because her agent couldn’t find it a home. It’s stories like that that have made me realize how much things have changed.

  13. Congratulations on finding your path and getting past the listening to all the advice. When I talk about publishing by the rules, my kids look at me like I have 7 heads. “What are you waiting for!” they say. “It’s so easy. You’re living in 1950.” (where do they get 1950?) Yet I’m still infinitely more excited to see a short story I’ve labored over published on paper (that no one will ever see) than I am about a piece published on-line (that I can send to everyone I know with one click).

    Can you tell us more about your on-line serial novel? Does it feel like an on-going column where readers comment? How do you get paid? Etc…

    • It will run like any other post on the Gloss but it’s available as an ebook if people don’t want to read it in bits and pieces. Of course I’m hoping people will be so intrigued by the first section that they will buy it immediately but it will be interesting to see if people will read the whole thing in serial.

      I had plenty of trouble getting over the idea of not seeing it in print myself, but at the end of the day I want it to be read.

  14. I am old enough to remember reading similar angst and debates about sending work in on a floppy disc. At that point, I could never imagine writing on a computer. Then, as a Writer, Interrupted, I came back to a world of the lowercase e. At the risk of sounding like a dinosaur, how did you turn your novel into an ebook? Is there a special wand or kitchen tool for that?

    You sound like this helped you become the kind of writer that Ray Bradbury talks about in Zen in the Art of Writing (which, by the way, is now available on Kindle)—a writer with gusto, zest, and joy. I usually am complaining about how hard writing is whereas Bradbury says you should be having fun.

    If one were to take a field trip to Seattle, would there be somewhere to go to get bit by this bug? Can one have a foot in both worlds (or a mouth or hand as need be)? I blog, but I’m shy about it. Should I buy a Kindle? (There’s a little vomit in the back of my throat right now.)

    • I used Smashwords, which I would highly recommend. It is very user friendly.

      Seattle is a great place to live as a writer and a reader, the book community is very vibrant and there are lots of great authors living on the islands and whatnot. I feel like New York was the best place to learn the business and I wouldn’t trade my experience there for the world, but for starting something new you just can’t beat the west coast.

      Honestly? Buy a Kindle. I was skeptical as well but the instant gratification aspect of it won be over in about five minutes.

      • My Kindle will be here any minute! Like Christmas for me. And, I hear lots of negativity about Smashwords, but my experience with them went very smoothly including prompt answers to my emailed questions. . It sounds cool to say, “I’m in the Barnes and Noble catalog.”

  15. Only problem I have is with the word, Kindle. There are other e-readers that don’t support an evil empire that, as I see it, is out to dominate publishing. Amazon has undermined independent bookstores by negotiating way sweeter terms with publishers than any bookstore ever gets and then furthering the insult by selling the books at a loss. They now are publishing books themselves and may be aiming at killing off some of the publishers as well.

    Even if self-publishing is the wave of the future, with Amazon playing a major roll in promoting and selling books, I believe that independent bookstores must continue to play a vital role in keeping the love of books and reading alive. It scares me to think of any one corporation having too much control over what gets published and promoted.

    • At the risk of completely overloading you all with my positive thinking today, I feel like the rise of the ebook could make printed books much smaller potatoes and you know who does small potatoes well? Indies.

      Tower Records is long gone but there are like three indie record shops in my neighborhood, I’m just sayin’.

  16. Good for you! Wish I’d read your post years ago (9, to be exact), when I was peddling my own novel. I shudder to imagine what my fellow Breadloafers from that period would have said about self/e-publishing. Said novel remains in a box at the top of my guest bedroom closet, along with the floppy disc of its contents. Of course, I no longer have a computer that can read the floppy, which is probably just as well. I’d have to move a bunch of other crap from my closet to get to the manuscript and… um… well. Nah. Too much effort, and I’m afraid I’d wince my way through the it and wonder what the hell I was thinking.

    But best of luck to you. Your enthusiasm is contagious. 🙂

  17. Even the bigwigs are changing lanes. Barry Eisler talks about self publishing this morning on NPR. He ends by saying, “Publishing, for me, is a business, not an ideology.”

  18. Excellent post. Thanks for guest posting Andrea. Her website and blog are very inspiring. Just what I needed!

  19. Hooray Andrea. Good for you. And hilarious answers. You’re a little Betsy in training.

  20. A bit late to the party, but I just wanted to say how much I admire you, SpringChicken/Andrea, for taking the leap. And I love your answers re whoring yourself and “jobs.” My question isn’t so much about publicity, but I’d love another perspective. I’m assuming you tried to get published the old school way before taking the other road. Is it wrong to just not even bother breaking into the traditional publishing club? I guess I’m thinking that if I whore—I mean, promote myself and get a following (pretty sure I could sell a few thousand, just from my religious affiliations), the big boys will come knocking on my door, and I never have to risk rejection. Plus it would save a lot of time. Maybe that’s crazy. Or maybe I’m a control freak. What do you think?

  21. Yikes! Spring Chicken. I hit both those spots for your writing, The Gloss and another where I could find your whole novel, and I gotta tell ya they were much too much busy. I know I’m I’m not getting that old. Is there a simpler way to find your stuff? I’m interested for now, which might only last for about another hour as my binge time is cranking down. I don’t get high anymore, I get loose and then watch the mechanism tighten up. Where! Where can I find you! The tolling of the bell is foreshadowing my every move! Don’t you care?

  22. Good for you. I’ve self-published two novels after doing a thorough season of pitch-mailing and even flying into New York to meet two agents, Paul Cirone and Jane Dystel, on separate occassions. It’s been great (the self-publishing. The meetings were okay). Almost everybody outside publishing glasses over when you explain a book is self-published. They just see a book, which they read on its own terms. The money I make is money I earn. For “Vedette” a story about a flamenco girl, I adapted passages from the novel to the wonderful work of flamenco guitarist, Omar Torrez. We made a musical spoken-word demo and do shows at which the book sells well. For “The Sidewalk Smokers Club,” I printed up post cards that I hand out to people who are sidewalk smoking.

    It’s not big contract, book tour, wide distribution stuff, but one thing being a novelist over the years has taught me…you don’t always get what you want…but can still be happy.

  23. After reading all the comments here on Betsy’s fly-trap, I often wonder, gee-wiz maybe, just maybe, we are all very much boring. And god forgive for this, but perhaps, just perhaps, Betsy herself is just a little bit of a bore. I mean really, if we had gotten the gist of the writer life would we be lodging complaints on poor Betsy’s blog-sight? I think she wants to be a therapist, and god-speed for it. But really, y’all if your shit is worth sellin’ do you need a rat alley of he,he,he, and,ha,ha,ha as if you got away with something? People, Really, don’t like buying shit and worm shit is worst of all: There is nothing there except a regurgitation of the last television show some sad genius witnessed. I’m out of here for good, but be honest with yourself: You’re probably boring, and boring me to tears.

    • P.S Sorry, didn’t finish my thought: If the knuckleheads like it, than you are a very famous and obviously gifted artist, yet you don’t have what you want, which is a family of course. Oh, wait! You do have a family of cynical junkie peaces of shit that are waiting for the crumbs of people that build roads and buildings and such, much of the stuff you take for grated everyday, but you are better, you are spiritually inclined. I get it. You’re an artist and I owe you a million thanks for my life. Thanks! Artist. Sell it Betsy! Sell It!

  24. For what it’s worth, worm shit is one of the essential building blocks for sustaining life on earth. If it weren’t for worm shit, we couldn’t grow any food. Just sayin’. Keep crankin’ that shit out, peeps!

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