Thursday, December 31, 2009

Trapped in the Christmas Time Warp

Whew! What the hell happened? One minute I was driving home from my last class, having completed my finals and feeling good, and now it's New Year's Eve. 2009 is just about over and I know there was a Christmas in there somewhere. I see remnants around the house: wrapping paper under the couch, half-burned Christmas candles, new stuff lying in piles around the Christmas tree waiting to be put somewhere, six more pounds of body weight on my frame. Six pounds! Yikes.

My muse decided what we needed was to get good and drunk for a few days and goof-off. "You've been working too hard, juggling school, the press, and being a mom. I want you to let loose, drink a lot of Saki, and dance around your living room in your underwear. Howl at the moon. Be silly. Eat a lot of popcorn at the movies. Forget work for a while."

So I did. My daughter went to visit her dad, leaving my hubby and I plenty of time to drink and make merry. We usually just run from task to task, playing tag-team child care while dashing to the next job. The greatest gift I got this year was reconnecting with my funny, sweet, slightly scroogish hubby. By the time our daughter returned, we were feeling hungover and cheerful.

Then my in-laws came for several days. Thankfully I really like them so the visit was great, but in the middle of all the presents and conversations I started to feel that familiar, writing itch. How long had it been since I updated my blogs? Wrote in my journal? Thought about the Punk anthology? Worked on my novel? I longed for two hours of solitude to create.

The family has left but my daughter has several more days of vacation, so I still don't have much time to write. Right now she's watching a movie, so I'm grabbing a few minutes to warm up my typing fingers and writing mind by updating this blog. My head is foggy from too much sugar and alcohol and my pants feel tight around my middle. Two weeks of creative inactivity has made me slow and insecure. Can I still formulate sentences?

You have to start somewhere. Pick up a pen, or open your laptop. Shake off the holiday pixie dust and stretch out those writing muscles. It's a new year, a brand new year to create.

I hear my muse yawn in my bed. She pushes the blankets from over her head, sits up and looks around. "What happened?"

"Christmas," I say.

"Oh right. Wow. That was a lot of fun. Lets do it again next year." She swings her legs around and stands, stretches, then shakes her mane of sleepy snakes until they start to hiss with irritation. Slowly she walks toward me and asks, "What are you working on?"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Jane Austen!!!!!!

Today is Jane Austen's birthday and I'm celebrating by re-reading Sense and Sensibility, one of my favorite books written by one of my all time favorite writers. Jane Austen was highly successful in her time, despite the fact she was a woman and a spinster, and her work has resonated with people for 200 years. How did she create such timeless characters who still speak to us today? Their circumstances may be different, but the deeper drives and longings are not so different from our own.

Here is an interview with Andrew Davies about adapting Jane Austen's books for the screen.

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen. Thanks for the wonderful stories and the lessons you taught me about writing.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Who is the reader of "Punk Rock Saved my Ass?"

Toss out all the drafts I wrote for the back-cover copy in my last post. They were all tripe, mostly because I wasn't thinking about WHO the book is for. Thank you Tony and Annie for reminding me of that. Before I can write an engaging, compelling, back-cover copy for the anthology, I need to remember who I started the project for. Visualize the person I'm trying to reach: what does he look like? How old is he? What does he believe in and fight for?

The anthology idea first came to me as I was listening to my husband talk about how punk music saved his life. He was a depressed, overweight kid growing up in the South, feeling cut-off and alienated from everyone around him. Then he met some kids at school who listened to punk and taught him how to make his own t-shirts, and suddenly he realized he wasn't such a freak after all. Yeah, he was different, but so were a lot of people. No longer feeling alone, he overcame his depression, graduated high school, and moved to California where he could be as freaky as he wanted to be.

I realized there must be other people who were as empowered by punk rock as he, so I cruised the net looking for books on the subject. Most of the books were about dead musicians and addicts; none shared honest stories from ordinary people who's lives were positively transformed by punk rock. So I decided to create one. I put out a call for submissions and over a span of two years people sent me their stories. The process has been exhilarating and aggravating because the project became far more complicated than I had imagined. The stories and writers were also more complicated. The project grew as each author helped shape the overall book. But throughout the entire process I tried to keep a single reader clear in my mind: an overweight teen-aged boy who doesn't fit in anywhere and thinks he's too much of a freak to ever be happy. That imaginary reader helped me decide which stories would be included and in what order.

At the beginning of any writing project, every writer needs to ask herself, "Who am I writing this book for?" Keep that person in mind as you create the manuscript, revise it, edit it, and hone it into the finished, polished book. Your imaginary reader will guide you as you write and can help you as you try to reach your audience.

So now as I try to write the copy for the back cover I will keep that boy in mind. What does he need to hear to find this book?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Back of Book info

How do you write a captivating, informative, and concise back cover copy for a book?

I'm asking. Really, I need to know. Any ideas?

Punk Rock Saved My Ass is the third book I've published, so you'd think by now I'd have this figured out. But deciding what to write on the back of a book's cover to entice a reader to buy the book is tricky. The information must tell the reader what the book is about in only a couple of sentences and show the reader WHY they need this book (as opposed to any other similar book) all while capturing the tone of the book overall. The process takes a lot of trial and error.

So here's what I have so far:

Punk Rock Saved My Ass is an anthology of true life essays, interviews, poems, and photos about the ways Punk/DIY positively transformed a person's life. The stories are funny, tragic, political, and lyric, from a diverse group of individuals who all love punk rock. The anthology shows the reader that not all punks are self-destructive and that the chaos of the movement can be life affirming and empowering.

Pretty boring. It's just a collection of facts, lacking impact and completely ignoring the tone of the book.

So let's bump up the energy of the words.

Think all Punks are junkies and criminals? Think again. This collection of diverse, unforgettable stories written by Punks from all over the world will challenge your assumptions about what being Punk stands for. Libertarian, Queer, men, women, Gen X and Gen Y, all share their vision of Punk and show how those ideals have evolved since the first wave of the 1970's

Hmmmm... maybe. Still rough.

Maybe I should use quotes directly from the book.

"I realized at an early age that just because someone was older than me, or had more money than me, it didn't make them better than me." - Squallie Greenthumb

"...believe that what I do is right, even if it looks wrong, because at the very least I would be acting according to my own truths..." Silvia Escario

"That was one of my lessons; you don't have to fly your colors to be a punk or have a punk attitude." - Dick Wizmore

"The whole idea that punks are nonconformist is bullshit." - James Stewart

"My big sister had a convict fiancee... but she also had a subscription to Creem magazine. That was the first place I read about the Ramones, Lou Reed, the Sex Pistols." - Jennifer Blowdryer

"We're the 1% that don't fit and don't care." - Elie Falcon

"Everything that makes my life better is an offshoot or direct result of my having gotten into punk music." - Chestnut

"Punk is the only music genre I know that consistently opens its mouth about taboo social and economic subjects in our society. Nothing is more honest or relevant to me than that." - Mic Schenk

Yeah... I like it. Feels like I'm on the right track, but should I use them all? If not, which ones should I use?

So this is what developing the back copy looks like. It will take me several more tries before I find the right balance between informative and inspiring. Then I'll write two or three versions and get feedback from the designer and the copy-editor, and from you all, if you wouldn't mind, before I decide on the one we'll use.

Hopefully I'll decide by Monday.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Really cutting it close on launch date

We only now have the punk anthology cover mostly done? Are you kidding me? We launch in four weeks! How am I going to make our deadline with only a mock up of a cover, no back copy, and an uncorrected galley? Shyte!

This is what's going through my head right now as the Medusa's Muse deadlines crash into the end of the semester finals time and the holidays. No matter how organized I appear to be at the beginning (believe me, it's an appearance), everything becomes chaotic and disorganized by the end. This is my third publishing project and I still can't seem to get the final weeks before launch sorted out.

Luckily with Lightning Source I can cut it this close. It takes about two weeks to upload the files, get a galley copy, make any adjustments and then send in the corrections before three boxes of books will appear on my front porch. This gives us some flexibility when life gets too hectic, but it's still a lot closer than I would like.

I was hoping THIS project would be different. I imagined the book being finished and printed and those boxes arriving four weeks before launch date. I wanted to enjoy the actual launch, maybe do a little marketing before launch (what an odd idea!) and get copies of the book in the author's hands so they could brag BEFORE launch.

What do they say about best laid plans?

Oh well... the good thing about being a micro press is that you get to make up your own rules as you navigate the demands of a press and your personal life. We don't have to sell 1000 copies in the first three months to pay the print bill. We print what we need and build momentum. The marketing plan is word of mouth, which is how this particular reading culture functions anyway, so I don't have to worry about anyone else's deadline. I'll keep pushing to meet our New Year's launch, and if it's off by a day or so, no problem.

But no longer than that! The danger of not having the pressure of meeting other people's requirements for sales is you can get too flexible with your deadlines until nothing gets done. Pick a date and hold to it, doing your best to meet that date, then adjust if you have to, but only if you HAVE to.

I'm sticking to Jan 3rd.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The secret inside Christmas Jars

My muse is examining the book we got in the mail last week: Christmas Jars, by Jason F Wright. She turns each page slowly, studying the words, the font, weighing the book in her two hands, stroking the paper, turning it upside down to hunt for hidden message or more money.

"What are you doing?" I ask.

"What is the secret of this book?"


"Why did it inspire a total stranger to send you money?"

On the day before Thanksgiving, a mysterious package arrived in the mail addressed to my husband and me, with no return address or name. Inside was a slim book called Christmas Jars, and inside the book was an envelope with a check. We couldn't figure out what it was and thought maybe my husband had sold something on ebay, but why the book? After reading the introduction, I realized that the check was a symbolic Christmas jar, a collection of spare change in a jar that you save to buy Christmas presents. The book was about a family who anonymously gives money at Christmas to people who are in need, and that story has encouraged thousands of people to do the same.

It was hard to believe someone was kind enough to send us money. On the one hand, I felt happy knowing people really care about others and they wanted to help, but on the other, I felt ashamed that someone thought we were "needy." Yeah, I admit, things are tough. I was laid off from my day job two years ago and since then I've been in grad school trying to learn a new, employable trade. My husband was laid off in May. Every day is a struggle to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads and we were contemplating skipping Christmas this year, except for our daughter of course. We don't know if we'll be able to keep our house and we pray every day that our car will start (200,000 + miles is a lot of miles), but we don't really think about it. We just do what needs to be done. I suppose though, we really are needy.

Eventually I let go of the shock and shame and felt truly grateful for the gift from a total stranger, and grateful to the author of the book for inspiring someone to give it. And when we're back on our feet, my husband and I plan to do the same.

My muse is still staring at the book as if it contains the mystery of the Universe. "It's so small. Only 115 pages. Not even a full book."

"It's a novella."

"I know that. But how can a book with so few pages inspire so many people?" She sets the book gently on my desk. "It's like that book Eat, Pray, Love."

"How so?"

"Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a book that inspired thousands of people to think about their own lives and make changes. And Paolo Coelho wrote The Alchemist, which has a cult following, although it really isn't that great of a book." She twirls a hair-snake between her fingers rapidly, ignoring its hissing squeals.

I think for a moment, then say, "They all speak to the readers on an emotional, personal level, on what Jung would call the collective unconscious."

"I understand that," my muse snaps. "That's obvious. These books appeal to a large number of people on a deeply intuitive level. But mechanically, how do they do it?" She picks up the book again and wags it before my face like a frustrated teacher. "What secret does the author have while writing the story? Do they have a plan? Do they even know what they're doing when they write it? What is their process?"

Taking the book from her hand, I say, "I don't know."

She shakes her head. "I know you don't know, that's the problem. I need to talk to his muse."

"This really bothers you."

"Of course it bothers me. There is something in these books that I am not grasping, and that is unpardonable for a muse!"

She looks at herself in my mirror and straightens her snakes into an acceptable tangle on the top of her head, then she applies blood red lipstick. "I need to talk to his muse."

And she's gone.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Being a writer, thirty minutes at a time

Thanksgiving break, a time for family, feasting, celebrating, and fighting for every writing second you can grab.

You bring your journal with you into the bathroom and lock the door, ignoring the knocks from your kids who ask, "What are you doing in there, Mommy?" You stay up past midnight revising your novel, even though you're so tired you keep erasing and rewriting the same sentence over and over. You prop your lap top on the edge of the steering wheel while you sit in the parking lot of the grocery store before you head inside to buy turkey and eggs.

Or is that just me?

During the holidays, I long for quiet time to write. The frenzy of food and family makes me crazy. Don't get me wrong, I love my family and have fun hanging out with my daughter reading books and going for walks. But day after day of activity, interruption, and conversation wears me down. I need time to recharge, be creative, write... things that are almost impossible to find time for during the holidays.

Time is extremely precious. Although I live for those rare days when I can luxuriate in two or three hours of writing time, I've had to learn to be productive in thirty minute spurts. It may not feel like much, but I've learned that it is possible to write a full length novel, or a play in two acts, in only thirty minutes at a time. And I no longer feel cheated. Just writing a few pages is progress.

Blogging has taught me a great deal about staying focused and managing my time. I've now written 300 posts just by sitting down for thirty minutes and typing it out. Then I go back and revise the post a few minutes at a time throughout the day until it's done. I do this three times a week on average, sometimes less when my time is needed elsewhere, but I don't let a week pass without at least writing a blog post for each of my blogs.

We dream of being writers, of spending all day, every day, working on our novels in our peaceful writing retreat with a view of the sea, only taking tea breaks or a short walk around the neighborhood to revive our tired minds. All the bills are paid, the children are happy, the house is clean, and we no longer have day jobs. Our entire life is focused on writing. What joy!

I know several successful, published writers and none of them live that life. They still have day jobs and they still cram all their writing into a few hours, mostly on weekends.

Don't let the dream of being a writer stop you from writing. You could spend your whole life waiting for "the time to write." If all you have is 30 minutes a day at your kitchen table before you have to get the kids ready for school, that's still enough time for writing. Thirty minutes, day after day, for month after month, can equal a novel, or several short stories, or 300 blog posts.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

New CD from anthology contributing band, Right Arm of Wyoming

All kinds of people contributed to the anthology: gay, straight, conservative and liberal.

Writer Michael W Dean's band, Right Arm of Wyoming, has just released a new CD, which they call

"libertarian, gun-nut punk rock"

The CD is called "Cling to our guns." Out now, and available to order from Libertarian

And check out Michael's essay in the punk anthology, "Punk Rock Saved my Ass," launching Jan 2010, from Medusa's Muse.

Friday, November 27, 2009

On Vacation. Back to the blog soon

My muse and I are enjoying a break from running the press and editing manuscripts. Am currently eating leftover Thanksgiving pie and playing with my daughter. Will return next week.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Is there anybody out there? Yes, as a matter of fact, there is.

Thinking about what I should write for my 300th blog post gave me a case of bad writer's block. I've been staring at this blog since Thursday, fingers hovering above my keyboard, thinking, "300th post. Better write something good to celebrate." Something good... uh oh...

Then Heidi, a friend of mine on the Medusa's Muse Facebook fan page (see side bar) suggested I write about the way time relates to writing. "How much time it took you to write all those posts that you weren't using for something else and to realize that all that time adds up even if it feels like you are always struggling to find time to write"

This is one of the reasons blogging and social networking appeals to me. Here I am, sitting at my desk all alone, trying hard to think of something to write that will entertain and inform, my muse a.w.o.l. (Johnny Depp won the People magazine "sexiest man alive" contest, so I think she went to France to verify that he is indeed THE sexiest man alive), when suddenly a woman who joined the Medusa's Muse fan club responds to my question "What should I write?" Just like that, I am no longer alone in my creative pursuits. My audience is immediate, the feedback instantaneous. There's a connection between me and my ramblings and there's a real woman from Oregon who reads those ramblings. It doesn't matter if 4 people or 40 read my work, just the knowledge that SOMEONE is reading encourages me to keep on writing.

That's what keeping this blog and putting time into social networking has given me: the proof that I no longer write in a vacuum. Writing is so lonely, no wonder writers put rocks in their pockets and take a walk into a river. We write thousands of pages, much of which will never be read (and probably shouldn't), all in the hope that someone, somewhere might want to read them some day. I am not famous or well read by internet standards (I typically have 22 "readers," far below the thousands that other writers get), but that doesn't really matter. What does matter is that I write, and if having a small audience encourages me to keep writing, then social networking and blogging have done their jobs.

Of course, spending too much time networking can take away from my writing, so there has to be a balance. I could spend all day reading Twitter updates, but what is the point of that? Does any of it encourage me to write? I do enjoy the comments and the links people post and I try to respond and share good information as well, but the goal is that I am encouraged to keep writing (and perhaps sell a few Medusa's Muse books along the way).

Blogging has trained me to be a focused writer. I write two or three posts each week on numerous topics, sometimes imaginative and other times purely informative, and while I write these posts I ask, "So what?" Why would anyone want to read this? What am I giving my readers? This is a tough question every writer has to ask about their work. No matter how much you love the prose, is the work giving something to the reader? Or is the writing just about you? I can self indulge just like any writer and sometimes I write a self-absorbed post just because I can. But ultimately, I try to give something of value to my readers.

Thank you everyone for encouraging me to continue writing, blogging, and ruminating. I will continue to do my best to provide interesting and helpful pieces in the next 100 posts.

And next time, I'll write what Heidi suggested.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Blog Post 299

My Muse is grinning. "Do you know that you've almost reached 300 posts on your blog?"

"Really?" I look at my list of posts on Blogger and see the total is up to 298. "Wow. How did that happen?"

"Well done. You should be proud."

I shrug. "It's only a blog. It's not like I sold 298 books, or wrote 298 stories."

"Just a blog?" My muse crosses her arms. "It's more than just a blog. And what is wrong with writing a blog? It's still writing, you know."

"Yes, I know, but..."

"No buts. Are you writing?"


"Do people read your writing?"

"Yes. Although not as many as I had hoped."

"But do you have readers?"


"And how often do you update your blog?"

"I try for every two or three days."

"Then not only are you writing work that people are reading, but you write on a regular basis. I'm proud of you."

I look at my blog which is open on my screen. "I hadn't thought of it that way. I mean, I started this blog to promote my writing and then my press. It's a marketing tool. I didn't think how it's a form of writing all on it's own."

"You should add blogger to your moniker, right between publisher and playwright."

I smile. "I have two blogs, you know."

"Of course I know. I helped you start them both." My muse leans against my desk and studies my blog page. "What are you going to do to celebrate 300 posts?"

"I don't know. I didn't even realize I'd almost reached 300."

"You should have a virtual party. Invite everyone to stop by and write me a note."


My muse smiles. "Of course me. Who do you think got you to 300 posts?"

What do you think, everyone? How should I celebrate 300 posts?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ultra Marathon Library guest post challenge

Here's an interesting idea.

Josh Hanagarne of The World's Strongest Librarian wrote about his experience as a guest blogger. Feeling that he had fallen into a writing slump, he challenged himself to find 60 blogs where he could be a guest. The blog host chose the topic.

The response was overwhelming, and crazy making. Read this post to see how he dealt with the onslaught of requests and how the experiment helped his writing.

Could you write 80 different blog posts?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Marketing my Book more Effectively Challenge: Ezine Articles

The best way to market a how-to book like What You Need to Know to be a Pro is to build your credibility as an expert. The best way to do that is to attend conferences and give workshops on your chosen subject, using your book as your "calling card." Seeing as traveling and attending conferences is impossible right now, and teaching workshops is almost as difficult, I am using the internet to build my expert cred. That's why I've begun posting work on Ezine Articles.

I chose Ezine Articles because the site has popped up several times when I've done a Google search on a topic: any topic. Most recently an Ezine Articles essay showed up when I was hunting for a definition of a word related to book design. The articles have been well written and there's a strict vetting process that chooses articles for the site. Not just anyone can write a how-to and get it on Ezine Articles, at least not that I've seen so far.

So I signed up as a member and submitted my article, 20 things to do before you self publish. Happily it was accepted and is now available to read at the previous link. I plan to post more articles on Ezine Articles to try and build a strong, expert presence on the web.

I am also a guest blogger on Authors Promoting Authors, where I posted my essay on rejection. Follow the link to read my post, and please leave a comment to let me know you stopped by.

None of these are paid writing gigs, but for my needs, that's okay. I'm not looking to sell articles; I want to spread the word about What You Need to Know to be a Pro and Medusa's Muse, and hopefully help a few people who want to start their own press.

Where else can I submit articles, and perhaps guest blog?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ode to my Mac Air

A poem to my Mac Book Air, returned from the shop. Oh how I missed you!

Oh lovely machine that you are,
returned to me from afar,
humming strong and gleaming bright,
too long kept beyond my sight.

Who can resist your metallic gleam,
you light as air, fast, thin machine?
I write my worst (as you can see)
but your long battery life sets me free.

Am I insane to love you so?
You are such a joy to know,
but you are just my writing tool
and adoring you makes me a fool.

I don't care! I love you, Mac Air.
No other lap top can compare.
I let the words come pouring out.
Although my Muse has begun to shout


(And now you know exactly why I will never call myself a poet.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Being forced to be creative outside of your comfort zone is difficult. Without my laptop, I feel that I am trying to juggle five balls with one hand tied behind my back. My creative productivity has plummeted.

I am obviously too dependent on creating words on my laptop.

And that is why, two nights ago, my Muse handed me a stack of magazines and said, "Remember that dream you had two weeks ago? The one with the little girl and the stream and the large rock you waded out to."

"There were dragonflies flying all over."

"Yes. That's the one. I want you to create that with these." She tapped the stack of fashion magazines in my arms.

The magazines had been collecting in my living room over the last year until they were a large stack of dusty, glossy pages needing to be tossed in recycling. I don't typically buy them, but on occasion a particular article or cover will attract me and I'll spend an hour salivating over beautiful clothes and images, imagining what it must be like to wear Channel while sipping champagne at Cannes.

I dropped the stack on my desk. "I'm not a visual artist."

My muse rolled her eyes. "Don't limit yourself. That's the death of art." She opened the top right drawer of my desk and pulled out a pair of scissors and masking tape. "Go get that sketch pad out of the pantry."

I did as I was told, not wanting to piss off my muse any more than absolutely necessary. When she's made up her mind I'm supposed to do something, she won't let me sleep until it's done.

She was already going through one of the Vogues, pulling out photos of water and rocks. Nodding at the stack she said, "Pick a magazine."

I sighed, sat in my chair, and opened Vanity Fair. This is such a waste of time, I thought. I should be working on my novel, or finishing the synopsis of my play, or sending queries for my article, not pulling pictures out of magazines to make a collage no one will ever see.

A strange thing happened as the hour passed; the images absorbed me. I didn't look at the words, although a few phrases did catch my attention, such as "you are the dream." Pictures became the language. After I had several different images of water ( deep blue, fast moving, ocean waves, green algaed lake, tranquil stream, clear flowing from a faucet, reflecting moonlight), I began arranging them on a large, blank paper.

My muse found a black and white picture of a little girl wearing a tutu with a plastic sword strapped to her waist. "This is you!"

I laughed. "I love it."

Carefully trimming the little girl out of the background, I felt the dream become tangible on the paper. It isn't exactly how it looked, but all of the images recreated the feel of the moment in my dream when I stood on a rock and looked across the river at me as a little girl watching the dragon flies dance in the sky. The images told the story far better than any words I could come up with.

In our constant rush to produce literature, we writers tend to forget how to play. There is so little time to write it seems, every second is precious and must not be wasted. I can still write in my journal and on scratch paper, but my productive writing is all on my laptop. What if you were forced to stop writing for a while? What if your muse demanded you take a break and be non-verbal instead? Could you do it? What would you create without words?

Monday, November 09, 2009

My Author Page

Here is my author page on A basic, no frills page, with my picture, bio, and link to my book. There's also a section for discussions, and I'm currently setting up a feed from my blog to show posts on the Amazon site. I'll let you know if I run into any problems.

Right now I am steadily selling 2-3 copies a month of What You Need to Know to Be a Pro. Laura's book, Traveling Blind, continues to sell very well after two years in print and is ranked at 232,058, up from the 700,000's this summer. I have no idea what that number means exactly (no one really does), but the smaller the number the better the sales. In small press circles, Laura's memoir is a best seller with almost 1000 copies sold (4 copies sold in the UK).

I hope to increase Amazon sales of What You Need to Know to Be a Pro to at least 10 copies per month within 6 months. I know, not a lot of copies per month, but the book is for a specific niche audience (people wanting to start their own press), so I don't expect hundreds of copies sold each month. If this was a work of fiction, I would double my efforts to get those numbers up to 50 copies per month and slowly increase from there. Fiction has a potential audience of hundreds of thousands of people, but that also means the competition for those readers is intense.

Please stop by my amazon author page and tell me what you think.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Feeling inept without my Macbook

My Macbook Air was making an odd, straining, whirring noise, like the hard drive was protesting being worked so much. You'll have to force my clawed hands to scrape against these brick walls if you want another file written. My hubby took it to the Apple Store in Santa Rosa for repair and they're holding it hostage... I mean, storing it... until probably Tuesday when the part "should" come in.

There is a large blank spot on my desk now. My major writing tool is missing and I am forced to use the PC in the living room, which is where I do most of the business work for Medusa's Muse anyway, so it shouldn't be that big of a deal. But it is. I cannot work on my novel here. I can barely work on my blog. This is the desk where I do the bookkeeping and inventory for my press, not where I feel creative.

The tools we choose to help us create become a part of us. I am attached to the feel and sound of my keyboard as I type, the angle of the screen, the particular glare of the desk top as I work. I love how light my computer is, how portable and sturdy, how its shiny metallic surface gleams when the sun pours onto my desk in the late morning.

My Macbook air was a Christmas gift from my hubby last year and I'm saddened it already needs work; granted, it was a refurb (no way could we afford a new one). I'm also surprised at how attached I am to it, like it's a new car or my favorite pair of comfortable shoes. I don't usually get this attached to things, but I am in love with my Macbook, loving the furtive glances of laptop users as I whip out my ultralight in the cafe and don't even bother plugging it in. I can type for over three hours just on the battery. Yep, Dell laptop users, go ahead and sulk in jealousy.

To add insult to injury I've caught the flu. I can't lie in bed with my Macbook and surf the net or work on a short story. Nope, I'm forced to sit up at the PC Tower to work on my blog.

Perhaps this is revenge of the Dell laptop genie. I shouldn't have gloated so much.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Marketing My Book More Effectively Challenge -

The majority of the books sold by Medusa's Muse are sold via, so on day one of my marketing my book more effectively challenge, I focused there. I quickly discovered that Amazon is still the mysterious, controlling behemoth it appeared to be when I first started publishing books two years ago. I couldn't find a how-to or any kind of guide, so I updated my profile by trial and error.

After signing in, I clicked on "Terena's," then selected my profile. I uploaded a photo of me from the the What You Need to Know to be a Pro photo shoot, one of the top three we debated to be on the cover of the book, but wasn't the one we chose. I updated my bio and interests, added a list of favorites, and wrote a couple of reviews. but then I realized that although updating my profile was good to do, none of the information was appearing on my book page. Why am I spending all this time updating a profile that is basically there just to show off my reviews?

I noticed on Pete Masterson's page (I reviewed his book, Book Production and Design, which is fabulous, btw) there was a link to an Author Page. His was blank, so I went to my friend Jody Gerhman's Amazon page for her novel, Tart (also a fabulous book) and clicked on her Author Page. Scrolling down her page I found the link to make my own author page.

The process was quick and easy, but it takes up to 7 days for the profile to be "verified," so I can't post the link to my author profile yet. When it's finished, I'll let you know. This is a beta feature, which means it's new and may still have some kinks, so I'll also let you know how the feature is working and what problems I run into. One problem I found was that Amazon wouldn't let me use the word "ass" in my bio. Instead, I had to write the title of the punk book as "Punk Rock Saved my A**." I wonder how much of an issue it will be when the book launches.

Lastly, I contacted Amazon to upload text for the "search inside" feature, and requested more information about allowing my books to become Kindle books. We'll see how that process goes.

The next phase of the marketing on Amazon challenge is to post reviews of every single book I listed in the resource guide of What You Need to Know to be a Pro as well as the publishers/writers who provided advice in the book. This could take a while, and I already sacrificed writing time for navigating Amazon. But as my muse said, why did I publish my book if I didn't plan on selling any copies?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A middle-aged Emily the Strange

This Halloween I had class, so my husband Rick decided to join me in San Fran while my daughter's bio dad stayed with her at home. They went trick-or-treating and had a nice, long visit, which was good because she doesn't get to see him often. Rick rode the motorcycle down to The City which meant we could tool around on Halloween on the bike, rather than fighting for parking with the mini-van.

After class on Halloween, Rick and I went out to dinner then returned to our friend's apartment so I could put on my costume. I decided to be Emily the Strange, one of my favorite characters. When I was 12 I was just as dark and sullen, so I have a soft spot for that nihilistic child. With a long black wig, darkened eyebrows I shaped downwards to give me that angry-child look, and black lipstick, I embraced my inner goth-girl. Unfortunately all that black made me look as haggard and sleep-deprived as I feel. Whatever. I pulled on my Doc Martins and my "seeing is disbelieving" t-shirt and declared "I'm Emily the Strange at middle age."

We sped across town on the motorcycle under a moon that was just on the edge of full. Mist poured in from the ocean and I shivered a little in my black leather jacket. The sidewalks were filled with people dressed up in silly and seductive costumes, and the closer we got to Market street, the drunker the people seemed. I felt a rush of euphoria, a tingle of freedom. I was on the back of a motorcycle holding on to the man I loved in the city I loved and for one night I was free. No child to tend, no phone calls to make, no dishes to wash. I am Emily the Strange and the night is my friend.

A friend of ours is in a Sisters of Mercy tribute band called The Reptile House and that night they were playing at a bar called Annie's on Folsom street. We parked the bike and went to the door to pay the cover. $7.00, or $5.00 in costume. Cool. I handed him my $5.00 just as he said, "Seven."

"I thought it was five in costume."


"I'm in costume."

He looked me over closely, then recognized I was wearing a wig. "Okay, five."

When I walked into the bar I realized dressing up like an iconic goth chick wasn't exactly a great costume to wear to a punk bar on goth night. As I looked around I saw many people dressed in black with long black hair and black lipstick, only they weren't in costume. This was what they wear out, what I used to wear out before I was old enough to get into bars legally (but I managed to). I laughed. Rick said, "I told you."

Whatever. He bought me a saki (I LOVE Annie's because they serve saki) and we found our friend who was about to play drums in the first band, a tribute to Souxie and the Banshees. The lead singer had a bad cold so sounded terrible but had good energy, and the musicians were great. Dancing in the front row, I sipped my little bottle of saki and fell into the music. I have never outgrown my love for goth music and I felt that euphoric rush of freedom again.

That feeling was quickly followed by the stupefying realization that I'm getting old. This was the first time I'd been to a tribute show for a band I listened to when I was young and the understanding that I was that goth girl 20 years ago was stunning. It's all going too fast; I'm not ready to be middle aged. I just figured out who I am and what is important to me and it's too late to go back and start again. Can I please have a little more time?

More friends arrived, both parents who'd also managed to take the night off from kid duty. We drank and chatted and listened to the music and slowly my blues faded (I'd been channeling Emily the Strange a bit too much, I think). When The Reptile House started, I stood in the front row and danced every vestige of sadness away. The euphoria returned as I sang along to the songs I knew and felt my inner goth girl stir in remembrance. I may be older now, but that girl I used to be is still a part of me. She just needs to come out and play now and then.

My husband and I managed to stay almost to last call, then we hopped back on the bike and sped away through the nighttime streets of San Francisco. I held on tight and let him drive, not worrying about where we were or what we should be doing. Rarely do I have a moment where I'm not in control of something, so those moments on the back of his motorcycle were liberating. He's a good driver and I trusted him to get us home. I relaxed and watched the city zip by.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Oidhche Shamhna

Halloween is my muse's favorite holiday because she like to see what people reveal about themselves on that one night, when they put on a costume and give themselves permission to be ridiculous. All the hidden fears, desires and childhood fantasies are on display. Children become powerful superheroes with the ability to control the universe. Housewives become dangerous vixens. Business men show off their garter-belts. Creatures from horror movies wander the streets, hunting for candy instead of blood. Grown women dress up like cowboys, complete with cigar and six-shooter. Suddenly, everyone is an outlaw.

Halloween is also called Oidhche Shamhna, or the eve of samhain, which is the Celtic new year (Nov. 1). The Celts built bonfires to celebrate the death of the old year, in which bones were burned (bone-fires). It was said that the veil between the world became thin as the year turned, so spirits and the ghosts of loved ones could come for a visit with a living. Not all of those spirits were friendly though, so the Celts decorated gourds with symbols and scary faces to keep the bad ghosts away. People also wore masks to confuse the evil spirits.

"The Celts really knew how to throw a party," my muse said while trying on one of my vintage hats.

"You were there?" I asked, startled to think of my muse at a party 2000 years ago.

She shrugged. "Of course. Why are you so surprised? I've been to all the hot spots." She adjusted the hat's veil and turned her head side to side while studying her reflection. "As soon as the sun set, the bonfires were lit and the feasting began. We dressed in our finest, danced in the light of the fire and sang songs to the gods. The music was incredible. I'll never hear better." She scowled and took off the hat, but almost ripped the veil when a snake got its fangs tangled in the netting.

"Sounds beautiful."

"It was. But I think I like today's celebrations better. Back then, people conformed to the traditions of the ceremony. Now, you can dress up any way you want and if you get arrested, so what? It's much more egalitarian now days."

"What are you going to dress up as?" I asked.

With a slow, almost wicked grin, she said, "A goddess of course."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A galley! A galley! We have a galley!

Sitting on my laptop's desktop is one beautiful, professional looking, although not yet polished, galley of the punk anthology, Punk Rock Saved My Ass. After many arduous months in which the designer was so slammed with work he couldn't see any glimmer of hope that he'd actually be able to make the galley, he put in several long nights and walla, a galley proof was finished.

Well, mostly finished. He still needs to insert the photographs and he's still unhappy with the cover (so much so I'm not allowed to show any of his ideas). Once the photos are added, he'll go back through and polish each page, looking for "orphans" and "widows." In book lingo, an orphan is when the first line of a paragraph sits all alone on one page, separated from the rest of the paragraph. A widow is when the last line of a paragraph sits all alone at the top of a page. Or as Wendy Woudstra wrote in her book design article for Ezine Articles, "an orphan has no past, a widow has no future."

Now I will send the galley to each author so they can examine their submission and make sure I didn't make any mistakes with their name, bio, or other facts. This is NOT the time to change the essay; this is strictly for checking accuracy. Once I have any notes back (within two weeks), the designer will add the photos and fix any design flaws. I will add the page numbers to the table of contents. Then the galley gets one more comb-through from the copy editor before going to the printer.

We should have an actual book in our hands by New Years.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Do you really want to be a niche market clone?

I've been thinking a lot about social networking and company branding, and I've decided that adhering too strictly to the dominant culture of your niche market is a very bad idea. Do you really want to be a niche market clone?

Most micro publishers embrace their niche market. How else can you compete with the big publishers? A niche market is specialized around a certain topic or population, like hang-gliding enthusiasts and the hearing impaired. It makes good financial sense to find your niche and market to those readers because you'll spend less money trying to compete with hundreds of thousands of books. I know one press who made a fortune publishing books to dentists and another press that specializes in law books for real estate agents. Medusa's Muse publishes "transformative memoir," which is a pretty broad term for my niche market, which gives me the flexibility I want while letting readers know we are THE place for good quality, true stories written by people who have changed their lives by embracing what scared them.

The trouble with focusing on a niche market is how that market can start to define you, the person. When your publishing niche requires you to behave, dress, and speak a certain way, then you may have a problem. If your comfortable dressing and behaving the way your niche likes, then go for it. Problem solved. But just because you're really excited about your books on Chinese antiques, that doesn't mean you have to wear white gloves and listen to classical music.

Don't let your market define who you are. Embrace your creative, eccentric self and use it to your advantage.

I would be curious about a person who stomped around a high dollar auction in her combat boots while looking at fine china. Or a person who was terrified of flying but loved airplanes. Those people would stick out in a niche market dominated by ladies in pearls or former airline pilots. And if you stick out, your books get noticed.

Of course it can back fire if you go too far (breaking a Ming vase because you stomped too hard in your boots could create some issues), and trying to rebel from your niche mold is just as insincere as forcing yourself to fit in. Find the happy balance between what your market needs and what you need.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

And now a word from the Tech Guy

After I posted answers to the questions from a reader (see previous post), my tech guy sent me an email. "We need to talk."

It appears I was wrong about Ava Host having good tech support. They do, if you already know how to design and update a website. If you're a newby, it may not be the best choice for you. They have a great FAQ section on their website and a chat/forum to get help, but it can be difficult to find the info you need when you don't even know what question to ask.

As I said in my book, What You Need to Know to Be a Pro, go with the web hosting service your web master likes to use. If you're a newby and plan to do it yourself, then Go Daddy, or one of the other sites that has more personal tech support will probably work best for you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Questions from a reader

I received an email from a person who bought What You Need to Know to Be a Pro: The Start-Up Business Guide for Publishers and after reading it had a few questions. I'm posting his questions here because I think they may be helpful to others.

I'm curious as to how, for state tax reporting requirements, you note sales to non-profits such as libraries. Do you simply put $0 in your spread sheet for the tax part of the sale or do you also need additional backup materials from the library (or non-profit) confirming their non-profit status to attach to the invoice as proof?

Also, when you chose your domain for your website did you register it separately and then choose a web host or did you register it through your web host? Also, what was your process for choosing the web host you are with?

Finally, after you purchased your initial block of ISBNs from Bowker have you had to pay additional fees to keep your company information with them current?

This was my response:

Congratulations on starting your press. These are great questions. Thanks for asking. I will add these to the list for the next edition.

What State do you live in? When I sold to libraries here in California, they paid sales tax. The same was true when I sold to non-profits. If a non-profit says they don't have to pay sales tax, ask to see their resale license. But again, this applies to California. You should call your own State's Tax board for help. When I sell to bookstores, I do not collect sales tax because the bookstore has their own retail license and will collect sales tax directly from the book reader. Whenever I don't collect sales tax, I put a zero in the tax column. Sometimes I decide not to collect tax if I'm at a fair or conference as a type of promotion, but I still owe that tax to the State. So for my bookkeeping I put a zero in the tax column, but include a tax due amount at the end of that column so I know how much to pay the State.

I registered my domain name through my web host. Avahost was recommended to me by a web designer who had used them often and said their customer service was excellent. There are cheaper places, but I wanted the security of knowing if something went wrong with the site, I could contact a real human to help me solve it.

As for Bowker, yes, you do have to pay a fee every year for your catalog listing. I paid $25.00

I hope this helps. Please feel free to contact me again if you have more questions.


These questions are very helpful to me and I appreciate so much when people take the time to ask. I file them all for the second edition of What You Need to Know to Be a Pro.

Plus, it's a thrill to know that my book is being used by people who are tackling their dreams and starting their own small press. I'm so glad I can help.

If you have a question, leave them as a comment on this blog, or send me an email.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I can't open the file of the first book I wrote back in 1998! Now what?

Remember all those lovely stories you wrote ten years ago and then saved on a disc because the stories showed promise and you didn't want to lose them? Always back up your files, you've been told, and you did. Good girl. Now it's ten years later and you'd like to drag out that old novel, dust it off, and see if there was indeed anything promising in there. Only one problem. You wrote that novel using Apple Works in 1999 and now your computer can't understand that language. Apple Works? What es dis Apple Verks you speek ov? I haf never heard ov Apple Verks.

No matter how much you try, or beg, or plead, or threaten you computer with imminent death, the computer can not recognize the file, and therefore is incapable of showing anything other than "xvnuoairtykhfklavjio hbr349p" when you open the file.

Ten years ago I finished my first novel, a memoir about my best friend Paul who died of AIDS in 1992. It began as a way to heal my own scars from his death and evolved into a story about the power of friendship over death. It is a very personal story to me, and whether or not anyone else ever reads it, I need to turn it into a bound book as a memorial to my friend.

I couldn't open the F*&$KING file.

Luckily I live with a tech guy. I do his laundry, so you'd think he'd have the time to fix my novel. Alas, he was swamped with multiple projects as well as finals at school, so had zero time to help (plus, any free time he has needs to be spent on the Punk book, not on a novel I wrote so long ago it's barely readable).

And then I was rescued by another techy friend, a Mac guy none the less. He took my files and after some maneuvering transfered my old files into something my computer could read: rich text file (rtf). Hooray for people who collect Macintosh products and know how to use them!

I have learned a very valuable lesson from this experience. Making a back-up of your files is good, but making at least one of those back-ups an rtf is better. Just because I'm using "Word for Mac" on my Macbook today doesn't mean that program will be able to read the words I'm writing in 10 years. Computer companies like to update word processing programs every couple of years (sometimes more) and with every update, your old files become less and less compatible.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get to work on a novel that needs A LOT of editing. Let's just say I've learned a lot about writing in the last ten years (I hope). Maybe recovering old text files isn't such a good idea after all.

Thanks again, Scott.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why am I not promoting my own book?

I know I'm in trouble when my Muse puts on a suit. Dark blue with a red tie and black, shiny shoes. Her hair-snakes are pulled back into a severe pony-tale that wiggles down her back. She does not look amused.

"What did I do now?" I ask.

"Why haven't you been marketing your own book?"

I shrug. "In case you haven't noticed, I've been a little busy."

"Bullshit." She taps her foot and glares at me.


"Yes, bullshit. You're not that busy."

"Excuse me, Miss I-wear-a-power-suit-so-I-know-everything. I am in grad-school! I'm up to my eyeballs in homework and exams, plus I'm still a mom, in case you forgot, and I have a press to run. So yeah, I've been a little busy."

She sits down in my chair and puts her feet up on my desk. "Those are just excuses."

Now I'm getting mad. "Easy for you to say."

"You have enough time to do something every week to promote your own book, but you don't. You've tossed your book to the side and have focused solely on the punk anthology and school. If all you did was one small thing every week to promote your book, more people would be reading it. But instead you've shoved the box holding your books under the couch and act as if you never published it. Like your work doesn't matter." She looks directly into my eyes. "Your work matters."

"I know my work matters..."

"Prove it."

I sigh and sit across from her on the desk. "I really am busy right now..."

"How many places have you sent your play?"

"My play?"

"How many places have you submitted it?"


"Just one?"


"And how about your other play, the ten minute one? Where have you sent that?"

"A festival in New York."

"Have you heard from them?"


"What did they say?"

"They said no."

"Where did you send it after that?"

"Nowhere... it might need work."

She rolls her eyes. "Hah. Again, you act as if your work doesn't matter. You write volumes of pages, some of it good, and then stick it in a drawer and forget it. Just like you did you book, a book you dedicated an entire year of your life to. Why did you spend money printing it if you weren't planning to sell it?" A snake strains over her shoulder to see what is going on. My muse shoves it back impatiently. "All you have to do is one simple thing to market your book every week. That's it. Nothing expensive or too time consuming. Just one small thing. I'll bet you have time to do that."

"But what?"

Swinging her legs off my desk, my muse stands and walks to my book case where she pulls out a large, heavy book. "Pick a page and do what it says." She tosses the book on the desk where it lands with a startling bang.

I pick it up. "1001 ways to market your book."

"Do you even remember buying it."

"Yes. A long time ago. I hear there's a new volume."

"Why did you buy it if you weren't going to use it?"

I shrug.

"Just pick a page and do it. One thing every week." She stands beside me and leans against my shoulder. "Do it for me," she whispers.

One thing a week.

I open a page.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rain all the way from Japan

My muse is running down the street in her underwear, shouting, "Rain!" She is giddy with the smell of it, the feel of wind and rain all the way from Japan flowing on her skin. Her snakes are shivering in a frenzy, lapping up the rain drops with golden tongues, eyes wide in wonder because they forgot what rain smelled like. It's been too long since Northern California has felt rain, and now it seems that four years of drought is trying to break free in one glorious torrent in one stormy day.

The sound of rain on my roof soothes my nerves. I light a candle and watch rain drops run down the window pains, leaving long fingers of gleaming water. My muse is still outside, refusing to come in, even though snakes are cold blooded and if they had teeth they would be chattering. She squats beside the garden and watches the ground soak up the moisture so fast she can hear it hiss. The snakes answer. Rain... rain... rain... rain...

As you can see, rain stokes my creativity. I'll probably be up most of the night writing terrible poetry.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Freshly Printed Manuscript Pages, and One Lost Essay

After printing out the punk anthology on my laser printer, I held all 180 pages and inhaled their warm, inky, clean goodness. I love the smell of freshly printed work. The weight of the pages in my arms was comforting, my reward after three years of struggle to create this book. A validation of my vision. I was at last... done.

I showed the pages to Rick and he smiled, then said, "Now if I can just get the design part done!"

Yeah, that would be nice
. I nodded. "It will come. You're slammed with school right now. I know as soon as you have a chance, you'll finish it."

"Did you find a spot for N's story?" Rick asked.


"N. He wrote the story about the road trip."

"Road trip?"

"Don't you remember. He sent it kind of late and you said you should be able to fit it in."

"Um...?" I had no idea what story Rick was referring to. I went to my laptop and searched through my mail (this is why I love Google. That email program has saved my butt so many times after I've lost an email or essay!). After a few minutes, I found N's missing story. "Oh right. I remember this one."

"Can you use it?"

I read the essay quickly, remembering that it was good, but rough and needed work, work I forgot to do. Sigh... "Yeah. No problem."

Then I searched through my emails again, looking for any other essays I may have forgotten about. After three years of work on this anthology, I've read hundreds of essays, culled them down to about 25, and then worked on those remaining essays with each author for another 2 years. It is a tedious, confusing process at times. I'd send notes to each author, then forget which notes went to who. Did I tell Matt or Mike to add more sensory, emotional detail to the pivotal scene in his essay? Was it Jennifer or Jessica who needed to fill in more details about the moment she heard her favorite punk band? Happily it appeared that through that process, I'd only forgotten one, late submitted essay. What a relief!

Glancing once more at the lovely stack of freshly printed manuscript pages, I got to work on N's essay. Not done yet.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Identify the resources you'll bring to your business.

From Chapter 3 of the book, What You Need to Know to Be a Pro: The Business Start-Up Guide for Publishers, by Terena Scott.


Your resources are your money, personal talents, equipment, knowledge, and expertise that will help you and your business thrive. It's important to understand what resources you need for your business. All the talent in the world won't support your business without cash. Cash won't make up for talent. It takes a balance of resources for your business to thrive.

Before I became a publisher, I worked as a grant writer and program director for non-profits. Much of my time was spent managing and evaluating programs to make sure they were viable and financially sound. So many wonderful programs and projects were rejected from the beginning because they didn't start out with a clear understanding of what they needed to support the project. Or the programs slowly died because they didn't set up a strong enough structure to support the needs of the staff and clients.

Examining the gaps in available resources is a step organizations often skip, which is one of the reasons so many excellent programs shut down before they can really help anyone. Once the weak parts of a program are identified, the organization must determine the best way to address those weaknesses. Do they need additional funding for more training, to hire extra staff, or to contract with a translator? Can the administration keep up with the extra paperwork of a new program, or will they need extra support?

Once an organization identifies its needs, it must continue to regularly analyze its resources because things can change quickly: staff leave, grants end, overhead costs increase. And occasionally circumstances occur beyond an organization's ability to adapt. I once had to lay myself off and shut down the program I was managing when both of the program's primary funders changed their grant focus at the same time, cutting us from their future funding plans.

To create a thriving publishing business, you need more than just a desire to publish a manuscript. And you need more than money. You must start with a thorough understanding of what you HAVE and what you NEED to create your business, and a recognition of the gaps between those two.

It takes a lot of money to start a business, let alone launch a book, which is why the majority of start-up businesses, and many established companies, lack enough financial resources. Acquiring financing can be tricky, so you need to determine how you will finance your business before you begin. Do you have enough cash set aside for such an endeavor, or are you planning to use credit cards or get a loan? How much available credit do you have and how much can you reasonably use? Remember, credit is a loan. That means the money isn't really yours; you have to pay it back. How much can you borrow and still make the payments? Or maybe you have a rich uncle, or several friends, who'd like to invest?

Before you figure out a budget for your business, look at the resources you already have. Don't worry right now about how much publishing a book costs, we'll get into those details in Chapter 11. For now, look at your finances and understand how much you can realistically invest in your company. That will help you figure out how much you'll need to borrow.

I started with $3,000 cash (my prior year’s tax refund) and another $2,000 in credit. However, I was lucky, because I have talented friends who were willing to donate their time to the press, saving me thousands of dollars.
Talent can make up for weak finances, but not completely. Some things, like printing, cost money, period. But your personal talents and those of your friends can make up for some of the costs connected with publishing.

In Chapter 2, we looked at the various jobs connected with book publishing, like design and editing. If you can do some of those jobs yourself, you'll save money.
Here's one caveat to that idea, though. Just because you can do it, doesn't mean you should. It is very important to be bluntly honest with yourself while figuring out your resources. Don't assume since you're a good watercolor artist that you can design a book cover. Do you know what elements make a good book cover? If not, then cover design is not a resource you possess. However, if you've done some graphic art with a computer and know how to use Adobe Photoshop well, you probably can design your own cover, but only after you do some research into book cover design.

Go back to the previous chapter and take a look at all those required jobs in a publishing company. Which jobs can you do already? Which ones do you know a little about and could learn to do well with practice and research? Which ones do you know nothing about? And could a friend or acquaintance help with any of those jobs that you don’t know how to do?

Anything you already know is a resource. Everything else can become a resource once you identify where to get the help you need to fill those gaps.
Managing a business takes another set of skills separate from publishing, but they are just as important. Again, you need to figure out what you already know, what you can do yourself, what you need help with, and how other people can help you.

To start and manage a business you need

• A bookkeeper
• A marketing manager
• An accountant
• Someone to do customer service and fulfill orders
• Legal assistance
• A human resources manager if you have staff
• Computer support
• A production manager to oversee the creation of your product.

How many of those tasks can you do yourself and who will help you with the rest?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Lull

The Punk book deadline has been pushed to after the New Year and I can't proceed with any of my plans until the designer does his part. So now I wait... and sit... and spend too much time cruising Facebook and surfing from link to link within interesting articles on the net. Hours pass and I accomplish nothing, other than read about the idea that the semi-colon is "girly."

There isn't a "next book" to edit for the press, so for the first time since starting Medusa's Muse I have a break. It feels the same way as when you send your novel off to the agent or editor and are forced to wait for feedback before working on it. What do you do while you wait? Start work on another project? Read a book? Pick your nose?

My muse keeps nagging me about my novel and my play and the three short stories begging to be finished. "You have all this time right now. You should be WRITING."

I know,I know. I also have bookkeeping to do for Medusa's Muse and my own book I could be marketing better than I am. But I've lost my momentum, and even though I have the desire and creative spark fueling scenes for my stories, I can't seem to pick up a pen, or laptop, and get them down into actual words. Instead, I daydream dialogue.

Without a deadline driven whip at my back DEMANDING I get work done NOW, I can't be productive.

"I've lost my edge," I say.

My muse laughs. "I can't believe you sometimes."

"Why are you laughing at me?"

"Because you're so dramatic."

"I'm a writer. And I have a BA in drama. What do you expect?"

She pushes papers aside on my desk and sits. "You're recharging, that's all. You've spent the last two years being absolutely productive and focused, publishing two books, one of which you wrote, preparing for a third, all while going to graduate school, raising your child and writing a full length play. For goodness sake, girl, you need to relax a little." She picks up the Ballerina Barbie beside my laptop. "Plus, your grandmother died last month and you had surgery three weeks ago. Your heart and your body are still healing."

I watch her as she positions the doll into a perfect pirouette and balances it on the tip of her middle finger. The doll slowly begins to spin on point.

My Muse smiles as she watches the doll dance. "You worry too much about the outcome. Just write. Don't worry about finishing a story or getting it published. Now is the time to rest, create, recharge, and heal." With a delicate flip of her finger, the doll leaps into the air and lands on the desk where it holds its position for a moment, then falls across my laptop's keyboard.

I pick up the doll and smooth out her hair. "You may be right."

"I'm always right," my Muse says.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Banned Books Week

Celebrate Banned Books Week this week by reading a great book like:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger

His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

Any of the Harry Potter Books, by JK Rowling

In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak,

...or any other book on the banned book list.

Every year, during the last week of September, the American Library Association hosts events across the country celebrating free speech. Follow the above link for more information, including a map showing where books have been banned in the US. It's not just happening in the backwoods of some Southern State, people!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

More Delays in Google Books Settlement

The latest from the battle over Google Books.

From an article written by Tom Krazit, at CNET news:

When the Department of Justice made it clear last Friday that it could not support the settlement as written--which would give Google unique rights to scan out-of-print books still protected by copyright law--it said the parties were in talks to amend the settlement. In a joint brief (click for PDF), lawyers the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers, and others asked Judge Denny Chin to delay a hearing on whether to approve the settlement while the parties work out the new terms of the settlement with the DOJ.

"Because the parties, after consultation with the DOJ, have determined that the Settlement Agreement that was approved preliminarily in November 2008 will be amended, plaintiffs respectfully submit that the Fairness Hearing should not be held, as scheduled, on October 7," the plaintiffs in the case said in a briefing. They said Google had given them permission to indicate that the company was not opposed to the motion.

The Open Book Alliance, a group of companies and organizations opposed to the settlement, declared victory.

Follow the above link for the full article.

For some background info on the Google Books Settlement, see my 11/2008 blog post, Agreement Reached in Google Copyright Infringement Lawsuit.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Equinox turns me on

Summertime is not my creative friend. I feel stifled and listless the longer the sun shines each day and the hotter the temperature gets. By July, when the thermometer hovers at no less than 95 and the sun stays up until 9 pm, my ability to write prose vanishes. Even my dreams are vapid (I actually dreamed about doing dishes two nights in a row last week).

Now that equinox has come, I feel like my muse plugged my mind into a nuclear power plant. Suddenly I am flush with brilliant ideas, vivid dreams, and an eagerness to sit at my computer all day, writing. Plots are revealed in epic detail. Characters who were once wandering along the page aimlessly suddenly know exactly where they should be going. Words rush through my mind faster than I can write them down, and some of them are good. I am eager to create and resent everything that inhibits me from spending hours doing so.

This is purely psychological, because despite it now being Autumn, the temperature is 100. Summer obviously doesn't care what the calendar says because she refuses to go away without a fight. Or maybe I feel this way because there is less daylight. Instead of crawling into bed at 9:00, worn out and discouraged, I write for an hour. The darkness is soothing. It chases the heat away and tells the world to slow down. Be still. It's dreaming time.

Last night I started rewriting a short story I haven't touched in five years. It's a story concept I love which isn't working, but right now I feel like I've found a way to express what the character is trying to say. The story revolves around a wounded woman, Johnny Depp, and a rock garden. This time, she knows what to do.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Reacting to Criticism

I read this great post on copyblogger about dealing with criticism, written by Johnny B. Truant. Here's an excerpt:

One of the most interesting lessons I learned about blogging happened in the basement of a Swiss pub on Christmas Eve.

Back in 1999, my brother and I went to visit our sister in Switzerland. Somehow, we all ended up in this basement room at a pub in Interlaken with some locals. For some reason, the lights started going on and off, and I caught this look on my sister’s face. There had been some groping during one of the dark intervals.

I went up to the offender and said, “Hey. You’re going to need to keep your hands to yourself.”

And he, quite drunk, puffed up and stared into my eyes. He said, “What are you going to do about it, friend? You’re a long way from home.”

Find out what he did by following the above link, and see how this incident taught him skills to handle online critics.

Criticism can be hard to deal with, especially when people get personal and attack me, the writer. No longer are we discussing the pros and cons of my writing, suddenly I'm being forced into defending my honor. It makes me furious when people imply that I'm a moron or an airhead, or even worse. Come on people, can't you be a little creative, or intelligent, and criticize my opinions or writing skill, rather than whether I'm "too stupid to know what she's trying to say"?

What can I do? Fight back, or not respond at all? How do I handle rude or outright nasty critics on-line without getting into a tit-for-tat, "no you're the dummy," "no you're the dummy," argument?

Read Johnny B. Truant's post and get some great advice.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ode to Opium

My muse lounges on my bed, dressed in a tight, black Victorian corset, black silk bloomers, and stiletto heels. Her snake hair is piled high on her head like a Gibson girl, but she looks more like a porn star vampire than an Edwardian icon. "You know," she says, drawing on a cigarette held in a long ivory holder, "Your surgery would have been a lot more fun with Opium."

I shake my head and glare at her. "Sorry. Can't take the stuff."

"Why? What happens?"

"Makes my psychotic. I see things and hear voices."

"What's wrong with that?" She props herself up on her elbow to look at me. "Lewis Carrol heard lots of voices and he wrote a masterpiece."

"I don't write stories for children."

She grins. "Neither did he." Rolling over on her back she stares at the ceiling. After a moment, she recites, "The blissful cloud of summer-indolence benumb'd my eyes; my pulse grew less and less; Pain had no string, and pleasure's wreath no flower:O, why did ye not melt, and leave my sense unhaunted quite of all but-nothingness?"

"Ode on Indolence, by Keats," I say.

"Very good."

"I love the Romantics, but I don't understand their need, or any other artists need, for narcotics. Opium and alcohol, the writer's crutch. It's bullshit. They're too scared to create something on their own, instead relying on drugs to fuel their imaginations."

She laughs. "I'm kidding! I'm not suggesting you become a drug addict. I can't stand drug addicts, especially the artistic kind. Their own muses have abandoned them so they try to fill the artistic loss with hallucinations."

"They don't have muses?"

My muse sits up slowly, takes a long drag on her cigarette, and then looks at me with such sadness in her eyes I am stunned. "They used to have muses, but the drugs drove them away. The drugs become their muse. And perhaps they are able to create beautiful poetry and images, but they lose their soul with every word they write. If they stop taking the drugs, their muse will come back. But if they can't stop, they will never feel the touch of their muse again, and no other will take her place. They are forever alone." Looking at the cigarette in her hand, she shakes her head. "That's something the Romantics didn't learn until it was too late."

She rises and walks across the room to stand in front of me. We look at each other for a quiet moment until she smiles gently, sadness still showing in her green eyes. "Forget I ever mentioned opium. I'm glad you can't take codeine or morphine, and I'm glad you don't drink or fool with drugs. I like that you're so clean cut."

Then she grins and walks out of the room, her hips swinging as she sings "Goody two, goody two, goody, goody two shoes. Goody two, goody two, goody goody two shoes... Don't drink, don't smoke, what do you do...?"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dirty Dancing

I just finished watching Dirty Dancing for the thousandth time and cried through most of it. I can't believe Patrick Swayze is gone. He was only 57. It was too soon for him to go, too soon for him to stop dancing.

Another icon from my childhood has vanished: Micheal Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, John Hughes, and now Patrick Swayze. All of these people had a big influence on my life, but none more than Patrick Swayze. I saw Dirty Dancing five times in a week and a half when it was at the theater, all just to watch him leap off that stage. I wanted to dance, too.

That was the era of the dance movies: Flashdance, Fame, Dirty Dancing, Staying Alive... and I was an aspiring dancer. I once got in a argument with my step-father when I was 17 about what I wanted to be when I grew up.

"I'm going to be a dancer," I said.

"What the hell are you going to do dancing?"

The Solid Gold Dancers were on TV and I pointed at the television and said, "That."

My step-father burst out laughing, which only made me more determined.
"I can dance on TV, and in the movies."

He shook his head and walked away, mumbling about how I was out of my mind.

"You'll see!" I yelled.

I didn't factor in to my future plans that I'd never taken a dance class in my life (there weren't any classes in Kelseyville, where I grew up). But I was determined. Armed with how-to-do-ballet books and a subscription to Dance magazine, I practiced every move I saw, from the ending scene in Flashdance to the merengue in Dirty Dancing. Luckily I was a natural dancer and when I moved away to college my dream came true when I made it into the Humboldt State Dance troupe. I performed in several shows and even choreographed one. But I could never leap high enough or get my untrained legs to turn out enough. I was competing with students who'd been dancing since they were five years old, while I took my first class at age 19. I wasn't stupid. No amount of determination could make up for lack of training.

So I hung up my dancing shoes and focused on acting.

20 years later, I'm a mom and a writer. Funny how life turns out. But the thrill of dancing never went away. I studied belly dancing for a while and fell in love with ballroom dance. When I'm finished with grad school I have plans to take up Flamenco. And every time I hear the theme song from Fame or Flashdance I get a tingly, move my hips feeling. "What a feeling...Take your passion... And make it happen..."

Patrick Swayze did. He wasn't the greatest actor in town, but boy could that man move.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Well, that does it. There's no way we'll make the deadline now. I had surgery this week which put me on the couch for the past four days, unable to do much more than watch old movies and feel sorry for myself. The surgery was minor and is nothing to worry about, but the recovery is taking longer than I anticipated.

Do I hear laughing?

Okay, okay... I know I'm an unrealistic over-achiever. Yes I had surgery on Tuesday. Yes, that was only four days ago. And yes, I suppose it will take more than four days to heal. But lying on the couch wishing I could take stronger pain pills (I'm allergic to opiates so can't have anything good) is putting a dent in my Wonder Woman image.

My muse just laughs harder.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Sometimes DIY is no fun

We are so close to finishing the punk rock anthology. I keep saying that, but it's true. So very, very close. There's just one last minute essay being revised right now and three bios coming until the entire manuscript will be complete. We've been working on cover designs and choosing photographs and debating which font to use for the title. The date of the launch is looming and now I'm starting to worry we won't make it in time. Not from lack of effort, believe me. I've been pushing this book forward with every ounce of will power and fortitude for two years.

Unfortunately, I am powerless against the forces of time and money.

So is my muse.

"You worry too much," she says while cleaning something blue from one of her snake-strand's teeth.

"The scanner won't work so we can't finish the photos. I have no money to print books, and no time to finish this project. Our deadline is Halloween, but with no time or money, there is no way in hell we'll make it."

"So what?"

"What do you mean so what?"

My muse wipes her fingers delicately on a tissue. "So what if you don't make the deadline?"

"Then I let a lot of people down, especially the writers, many of who have been waiting for two years."

She tucks her snakes back into her hair wrap. "So? Do you really think they'll be so crushed they'll never write again?"

"I've been putting off book launch for a year. I'm tired of writing to them with excuses."

"Ah... so it's your pride that is stressing you out."

"Well yeah. A little. I want to be professional and constantly putting off a book's launch is not professional."

She laughs. "Terena, you're not a professional. You publish books out of your living room and will never make a profit. You are a mother and a graduate student, which means you are sleep deprived and broke. Face reality, sister. It's a wonder you get any books published."

I hate it when she's so blunt, especially when she's right.

"This is supposed to be fun, remember?" She smiles and winks.

Right. Fun. Publishing books is supposed to be fun.

This is supposed to be fun, god-damnit!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Another Great Site to Help with Writing Stress

Here's another great site sent to me from Jane Mackay.

Mindfull Time Management: Relief from overwhelm for entrepreneurs and creative professionals. The latest blog post is called Writing Doesn't Have to Hurt, about how writing for shorter amounts of time regularly makes you more productive than binging on writing for long periods of time, less frequently.

I tend to fall into that last category, looking for a block of time to fully immerse myself in the world of my characters. Those free blocks of time are rare, so my writing time is also rare. Do I really need to block out four hours to write, or can I grab an hour, or even thirty minutes, for my novel and still create quality work?

If shorter bouts of time will help me write more, then I'll give it a try.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Three Sites to Keep us Writing.

I am writing this post from the student center at San Francisco State University, eating potato chips while waiting for class to start in an hour. Back to school for me, which means any personal writing time will be hard to come by.

I know I'm not alone. Finding time to be creative is hard for everyone. Between jobs, children, friends, daily life and housework, family obligations and sleep, it can feel impossible to let your muse out to play. Don't forget to spend time with her, though, or she'll be very, very unhappy. In fact, she might forget to show up the next time you beg for her help, deciding instead she needs to spend time with OTHER, more productive, writers.

To help us get motivated and find the time to write, here are a few handy sites.

The Productive Muse is a blog that helps freelancers stay focused and working. She offers tips and ideas for keeping the pen (or keyboard) moving as well as practical suggestions for managing the workload. Perfect for anyone who'd like to forge a freelance, creative career, or just earn a little money with their writing. Who wouldn't?

Sonia Simone is one of my favorite on-line writers and I am proud that she provided advice to new publishers in my book, What You Need to Know to Be a Pro. Her blog is a great place to find inspiration, and I especially love this post: The Complete Flakes Guide to Getting Things Done.

And when you really need help keeping your butt in the chair to write, check out this handy writing tool my friend and editor Jane Mackay showed me. Dr Wicked's Write or Die. Talk about writing prompts! I KNOW my Muse was involved in creating this thing. I dare any of you to try Kamikazi!

Those are just three of the thousands of tools and resources on the web that will keep our creative energy flowing within the limited time limits we cope with. I'm not giving you any more, though, because you should be WRITING, not reading blogs.

Except mine, of course.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Music of a Book

For three days, my Muse and I have been obsessing on the individual essays and poetry in the Punk Anthology, listening to the quality of the words to find its unique note, its tone, its melody... Every piece is different, but they must all flow together harmoniously within one larger work: the book.

As the publisher and Medusa's Muse "big-picture" editor, this is my job.

"There are too many short pieces clumped together at the end," I said, growling and rubbing my fingers through my hair furiously.

My Muse slapped my hands. "Stop that. You'll go bald."

"They all share a similar tone and flow together well, but it feels boring. We can't have everything clumped together like that."

"So pull them out one at a time and try inserting them in different places." Muse lifted a short, moment-in-time essay from the stack of contributions and studied it. "Like this one. It's lovely. It's a snapshot of a time and place rather than a manifesto. Could we move it up in the order of the book? I think something like this, which is well written and moody, would create a nice break next to a longer piece more focused on the person's history."

I took the story and studied it. "I see what you mean. What if we put it after Chestnut's story. He talks about community and this story shows that community." On my lap top, I find the story, then cut and paste it to its new position. I study how the one story ends and flows into the next. "Yeah. I like it. This could work."

We read and re-read the anthology, moving stories, reading the manuscript again, swapping position of one with another, then changing our minds and putting them back. One day passes, then another. I begin to see the stories clearly when I close my eyes at night and rearrange them in my dreams. I'm not even sure what I'm looking for. I don't know how the book should flow yet. When it happens, I'll feel it.

One day I discover that I'd put all the "jail stories" together. I moved those, then realized the first poem didn't ring true with the first essay. Not that the stories have to agree, but the tone needs to be complimentary. It's like trying to use snippets of Mozart with Motorhead. They may both work together in a piece (just ask a Mashup artist), but probably not directly next to each other. You need to find the common note, the thread of the story, to tie it all together one at a time. The first story may have nothing in common with the fourth story, but they are tied together by what they share with story number two and three. I need to find the threads to tie everything up.

Muse asked, "If this is a punk book, does it have to flow harmoniously? Aren't you working with a music that enjoys jarring people out of any sense of calm?"

"Musically, yes. But this is a book of personal stories and there is a pattern to them. They don't have to tie together as neatly as a different type of book, but they should still work together to tell the larger tale."

Late into the night, while Muse listened to Exene on her Ipod, I switched two storie's positions and suddenly felt it. The threads were tied and the story flowed easily from one piece to the next. It was done.

I leaned back in my chair and motioned for Muse to join me. We read the book again from beginning to end and when we finished we looked at each other and smiled. Even her snakes grinned and I thought I heard one whisper, "Yes!"

Muse stood tall before me and announced, "You are a genius."


"Yes. You discovered the music of this book. Not everyone can do that."

I shrugged. "I'm the big picture girl. I can't find spelling errors but I can find a plot."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Who Owns an Electronic Book? electronically deleted copies of Nineteen Eighty Four and Animal Farm from Kindles, even though those copies had been legitimately purchased by readers. There's irony for you: George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four was deleted by Amazon without the knowledge or permission of the Kindle owners. Did you know Amazon could sneak onto your Kindle and erase what you have stored there? Me either.

Who owns an electronic book? When we purchase and download an ebook, are we buying the actual file, like we would a paper book, or are we leasing that file? Is it ours, or does it still belong to the publisher? Amazon's actions seem to say that we are merely borrowing the book for an extended amount of time but they can take the book back any time they want. And if we loan that ebook to someone else, or give it to a friend, we're violating our lease agreement.

These are the same questions the music industry has been struggling with for ten years. Music companies have responded by trying to lock down music files so they cannot be shared or passed from one computer to another. But they haven't been able to stop the proliferation of pirated music. Music companies aren't just fighting internet piracy, they are battling ideology. Millennium kids believe that music should be shared, period. They don't believe uploading songs to Pirate Bay is stealing. The harder the music industry tries to crack down on piracy, the more people resent the control placed on how and when their music is played.

The book industry is starting to deal with these same issues. Ebooks are popping up on pirate sites alongside bootlegged songs. As a publisher, I am forced to evaluate my own ideas of fair use and ownership. How much do I want to control the way the books I publish are read? How much am I willing to give away? Can I give away books and stay in business? Is there any way to stop people from uploading copies of my books for thousands of people to download for free? Should I care?

Amazon went too far and is now being sued for deleting those Kindle books. CEO Jeff Bezos apologized for the company's actions, saying "Our "solution" to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles."

But the reason decided to erase those files from Kindles in the first place is because those copies of Nineteen Eighty Four and Animal Farm were illegal. The "publisher" uploaded those files via Amazon's third party distribution system and did not have the right to sell them. When Amazon found out, it deleted the files, then took the extra step of deleting them from Kindles.

Which is why I'm asking the question, "Who owns an ebook?" I understand the need for Amazon to shut down the illegal ebooks on their site, but do they also have the right to sneak onto your Kindle and delete what they want, without your knowledge or permission?

Friday, August 14, 2009


Rejection. There's nothing that stings so sharply. From the time you were a kid and none of the other kids would play with you, to the Jr Prom when your date ditched you for someone more popular, rejection has been bruising our egos. If you decide to become an artist, you will be dancing with the barbed-wire of rejection on a daily basis.

What do you do when you produce your best work and the only thing you get for your efforts is a big fat NO scrawled on a form letter? What do you do when you keep getting that big fat NO 100 times?

Before you decide you're a terrible artist who should never write again and start drinking Jack Daniels in your underwear at 2 pm, wait. I'm going to tell you a secret about rejection. And then I'm going to give you some steps to help defy those rejections

Those rejections are written by people and because they are people they are only giving you their opinion. A person's opinion is not gospel. It is their gospel, not everyone's. Not only that, a person's opinion can change, sometimes hourly. They may have read your proposal at 9 am after a big fight with their boyfriend, so they hate everything on their desk at that moment. But if they'd read your proposal at noon, after the boyfriend called to apologize, they instantly loved everything on their desk, including your proposal.

It's an unfair, subjective, process combing through query letters, and to make it all worse, you are one of a thousand who have sent in a query that week. There's no way you won't get 100 rejections.

But what about those 100 rejections? Should you just ignore them and declare all editors and agents are morons?

Absolutely not. Those rejection letters are trying to tell you something, so pay attention. Your query letter may be boring, or has a spelling error. Because of the overwhelming mass of writers all vying for an agents time, the agents are looking for any reason to ignore a query letter, so make sure it is 100% perfection.

Or maybe your book isn't as great as you think it is. No, I'm not saying your a bad artist! I am encouraging you to take a step back and evaluate it with the keen eye of a master artist. A work of art can always be made better, just ask Michelangelo as he was finishing the Sistine Chapel. Your writing may be wonderful, but how is the plot? Are there places where the writing is dull or bogged down with too much description, or not enough? Does it start with a strong scene, or lovely prose that doesn't really grab the reader's attention? Use those rejection letters as an opportunity to rethink your project.

I wrote a novel and sent it to an agent I met at a writer's conference. When I pitched the idea and showed her a sample of my writing she loved it. So I was pretty confident that when I sent her the entire book she'd send me a contract. Wrong. She sent me a lovely rejection letter, praising my writing skill, but "I'm not in love with it." I burst into tears and swore I'd never write again. After the despair (and the Jack Daniels) wore off I took another look at my novel and discovered I had written a boring book. Great characters. Compelling idea. Lovely writing. Boring plot.

I set the book aside and after five years I only now feel that I have the skills to fix this book and make it great.

Never give up. Believe in the work, but be honest with yourself. Delusion can be worse than rejection.

And the good news is, you don't have to rely on an agent or a publisher anymore. You can do it yourself, or work with a micro press who may be more willing to work with a new author. Like me.