Early in this blog’s brief history, I posted about my bipolar diagnosis, saying I’m out and I’m proud. Today’s post is about an aspect of my identity with perhaps even more stigma attached – I’ve published my two mysteries POD, or print-on-demand, rather than with a traditional publisher. A discussion on Murder Must Advertise got me riled up this morning, and I realized I hadn’t come clean how my books made it into print. It’s high time to change that.
My history in a nutshell: I began writing fiction in the 1980’s, inspired by my work as an art therapist at Hudson River Psychiatric Center in Poughkeepsie. After years as a free-spirited painter in New York’s SoHo, I found the institutional atmosphere overwhelming, but I was fascinated by the patients I worked with. The experience inspired my first mystery novel, and I produced a second as well. I managed to land a New York City agent, Kay Kidde of Kidde, Hoyt & Picard, but she didn’t sell my books. I stashed them in a drawer and forgot about fiction.
In the 1990’s I left the mental hospital and founded ElderSource, Inc., a Licensed Home Care Services Agency. The business did well, but it pushed me over the edge – it was while running ElderSource that I was first diagnosed bipolar. My husband and I sold the agency and moved further upstate to the Capital Region, where I did a year’s stint as Assistant Director at a psychiatric social club. They fired me the morning after I disclosed to one of the club’s consumers that like her, I had a bipolar diagnosis. Once again I turned to fiction as therapy: the experience inspired Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders.
While attempting unsuccessfully to find an agent for Mood Swing, I wrote Eldercide. Perhaps mental illness was too specialized a topic, I thought, and I hoped for more success with the novel that drew on my home care experience. No such luck: the rejections continued. Approximately 18 rejections for each book – not many at all, but enough to throw me into a profound clinical depression. Once again I nearly gave up, until some writer friends convinced me to try print-on-demand publishing. I did due-diligence online research on POD companies and settled on Virtual Bookworm, a company in Texas that received consistently good reviews. Within two months of my decision, I had a published book in my hands. I had a major say in the design and layout, and I did my own cover illustration. Lo and behold, my depression lifted, and it hasn’t come back since.
Do I still want a big-time agent and publisher? Yes, that would be great, but my life no longer depends on it. And I plan to acquire them on my terms, when and if I choose. In the meantime, the people buying my books don’t care who the publisher is. Bookstores and libraries carry them when I do the necessary outreach, and they’re available worldwide through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. At my high school reunion last month in Milwaukee, I learned the school had purchased both books for their collection of alumni writers. And a fellow alumna from Norway, an exchange student back in the day, had bought them both as well.
Do I recommend POD publishing to other aspiring authors? Absolutely. I’ve got a lot more to say about it, so check back on Monday, when I’ll post a Q&A dialogue with myself about print-on-demand. If you have questions you’d like answered, leave them as comments, and perhaps I’ll answer them in my post. In the meantime, have a great weekend!
You can read the first chapters of both my mysteries by clicking on the tabs above or the pages on the right. If you like what you read, I encourage you to buy them! This fall I’ll be reissuing Eldercide with a new cover and a new title, Evening Falls Early. When I do, I plan to add a couple of pages with brief blurbs from other authors. These will include the authors’ own titles and/or websites, so it’s an ideal place to draw attention to your own work. Space is limited, though. I’ve already got some good quotes, and I can’t promise to include everybody, so act fast if you’re interested!