Tag Archive | Morgan Mandel

I’m self-published, I’m out and I’m proud

Here’s another post that’s new to this blog. I wrote it for Morgan Mandel’s site as part of my blog book tour last November. I’ve talked about self-publishing here, but not for ages, so some of my newer readers may be unaware of what I’m about to confess.

IN PRAISE OF SELF-PUBLISHING

True confession time: I’m a self-published author, I’m out and I’m proud! There’s still a certain stigma associated with self-publishing, but the publishing industry is undergoing seismic changes, and I believe those of us who’ve bypassed the traditional system are taking back our power and gaining greater credibility with every passing day.

When I began blogging seriously back in May, I posted about my bipolar diagnosis, saying I’m out and I’m proud. At that time I wrote that self-publishing with a print-on-demand publisher rather a traditional publisher had even more stigma attached than revealing that I’m bipolar. But in the six months since then, I’ve changed my mind. Here are some reasons why.

I was recently honored as 2009 Author of the Year by the Friends of the Albany Public Library for my suspense novel Eldercide. They had a wonderful luncheon in my honor, and when their President Gene Damm introduced me, he pointed out that although they’ve been giving the award for decades, this is the first time they’ve ever chosen a self-published author. The fact that I was self-published didn’t weigh into their decision either positively or negatively; they simply thought my book was the best of the many they considered, and they liked the way I dealt with important social issues regarding aging and death.

In October, I moderated two panels for the Poisoned Pen Web Con, sponsored by Poisoned Pen Press and billed as the first-ever virtual worldwide mystery conference. When I volunteered to serve as moderator, the organizers didn’t ask who had published my books. Rather, they gave me free rein in organizing my panels on social issues and point-of-view. Most of the authors on the panels, which I put together by e-mailing back and forth, had far more impressive publishing track records than mine, but it didn’t matter. (By the way, you can visit the Web Con at the link above to read my panels and access the rest of the conference proceedings free of charge.)

Putting together those two panels made me even more grateful that I took the self-publishing route. Especially in the social issues panel, authors related stories of agents and editors who dictated what they should and shouldn’t write. Child abuse was taboo, for example. Appealing to the broadest possible audience without offending anyone seemed to be the dominant concern, and for the most part, the authors acceded to the restrictions. Those of us who self-publish have no such limitations – we’re free to write about whatever we want, however we want, and to build our own readership without having to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

I tried the traditional route to publication for both my mystery novels. While attempting unsuccessfully to find an agent for Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders, which deals with mysterious deaths at a social club for the mentally ill on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, 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 experience running a home health care agency. No such luck: the rejections continued. Approximately 15 rejections for each book – not many at all, but enough to throw me into a profound clinical depression. 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 June 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 online as well.

Do I recommend POD self-publishing to other aspiring authors? Absolutely, and even more so since I’ve met Morgan Mandel and so many other successfully self-published writers on line. I firmly believe we’re just beginning to come into our power.  

Are you a self-published author? If so, what sort of stigma have you experienced? If you had it all to do over, would you take a different route? Or are you out and proud like me?

Want to order one or both of my books direct from the source and personally inscribed to you? E-mail me at jlomoe@nycap.rr.com and I’ll tell you how it can be arranged. One of these days I’ll have PayPal up and running on this site, but why wait? I’d love to hear from you.

Talking politics on your blog or in your books – is it taboo?

Morgan Mandel posed an interesting question in her post on Acme Authors Link today:

Because of the primary election, my thoughts turned to politics and the role they play with authors and bloggers. I purposely avoid speaking of politics on my blogs. I don’t like to force my opinion on others or alienate people of opposite tastes. I only include politics in a very general sense in my novels. 
What about you? I’m not asking you to tell us your political opinions here. I just want to know your ideas about sharing political views.

Great question, Morgan! As I began to comment, I realized I had so much to say that I’d better post it here rather than cluttering up Morgan’s blog with an endless essay. So here goes . . .

I’ve never consciously considered whether or not to address politics on my blogs or in my fiction. Yes, I try to avoid offending people, but only in certain respects:

  • I never, ever knowingly insult or criticize people in my blogs or my novels, with the occasional exception of celebrities who are famous enough to be fair game. Online, I try to follow the old adage my mother taught me: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!” In person, it’s another matter. I love dishing the dirt and badmouthing people – only when they deserve it, of course. 
  • With rare exceptions, I avoid using the standard four-letter words, because I know some people are truly offended by them. In my novels, people swear when it’s in character, but not to excess. Orally, again, it’s another matter. In fact, I was once almost banned from the YMCA for use of the F word. If you want to read a poem about it, it’s on the continuation page.
  • There are areas I find too offensive to write about. Excessive sex or violence, torture, child or animal abuse, defamation of minorities or the disabled . . .

I could go on, but when it comes to politics, I have no compunctions about sharing my opinions, whether people agree with me or not. So why don’t I write about politics? Simple – it practically never occurs to me. Politics is a frequent topic in my home, because my husband is executive director of a progressive advocacy organization who deals with political issues constantly. We live in New York State’s Capital Region, and politics here is about as dysfunctional and disgusting as it gets. When Stephen Colbert interviewed Elliott Spitzer last night, it made me long for the good old days before Elliott quit – that’s how bad it is! And I’m really sad that Obama isn’t turning out to be the inspiring leader we’d longed for, although I believe he has the smarts and the good judgment to redeem himself. He’d better hurry up, though, or it’ll be too late. That newly elected Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is entirely too charismatic and presidential-looking. Be afraid, Barack – be very, very afraid.

In short, politics is a downer, and it’s the last thing I want to think about when I’m at my computer. I won’t refuse to read other writers because of their political views, but I do admit to being turned off by people who use Facebook as a forum for ranting about their beliefs. If they do it too much, there’s a simple remedy – I hide them.

What about you? Do you share your political views in your blog or your books? As a reader, if someone’s political views offend you, do you boycott their writing as a result? I’d love to hear from you. And thanks again, Morgan, for the inspiration for this post.

As promised above, here’s “Anger Management,” my poem about using the F word at the Y – continue reading if you dare!

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