From Indie publishing

One year later: Reflections on self-publishing

On August 16 of last year, a somewhat harassed man with a station wagon pulled up on the busy street in front of my house and unloaded eighteen cartons. They contained 1,000 copies of The One-Way Rain, the novel I had written and published. I was forty-two and had been writing books for roughly twenty-six years. I had a Master’s in creative writing from U.T. Austin and several files, both paper and electronic, filled with rejection letters from agents, journals and publishers. I knew my work was solid, and when a poet friend offered to help me publish under her imprint, I leapt at the chance.

In many ways, I was a little kid when I published this book. I’m an awesome writer, but a year ago I didn’t know shit about being an author. Now I’m a grown-up and, as grown-ups are, sadder, wiser, and slightly battered—but also more capable than a kid could ever be. Here are some of the lessons I learned this year. Read more

Alison and the Number One bus

At a Fenway literary evening in April, I read with my publisher Letta and another writer-neighbor, Alison Barnet. I had never met Alison in person before, though I knew her name. She seems quiet at first but has fiery opinions. I took home a copy of her book, South End Character: Speaking Out On Neighborhood Change, and was delighted with its deft mix of the graceful and acerbic. Here she is reflecting on public transit: Read more

She hated publicity

I should get that tattooed on me instead of the David Foster Wallace quote (start, end) I’m actually going for. It’s from one of my unpublished novels, Melly Mockingbird:

Clyde Fortenay had lived within earshot of Fenway Park since he was four years old. The Boston papers made much of this when he was drafted, and also of his age at the time (seventeen). If she’d known the fuss it would cause, Bronwyn said, she never would have let him skip a grade. She hated publicity, although she had been involved with people who needed it, in one way or another, for as long as Clyde could remember.

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To my twenty-years-ago self; or, Unworldly

I’m about to turn 43. Inspired by Claire Andersen’s poem, I decided to write a letter to myself at 23. Twenty-three-year-old Cathy has just graduated from the creative writing program at U.T. Austin and is looking for a job that will allow her to write four hours a day (eventually, in order: hostess at Bubba’s Lone Star Cafe, operator at Harkness Answering Service, clerk at the University Co-op Bookstore). It is 1994. Here is what I would like to say to you, Cathy of twenty years ago. Read more

On telling the truth

I’m working on a press release for local papers about my Frugal Bookstore reading (using tips from the Duolit ladies, an incredible source of smart, free advice). A lot has changed for me since I published The One-Way Rain—and not in the way I expected. I knew, of course, that an indie author has to promote herself relentlessly, but I didn’t know for sure how hard this would be for me. Yeah, I had an inkling. But I figured I’d cross that bridge when I came to it. And now I’m standing on it. Read more

Becoming external

So I haven’t really started to market my book yet. It won’t be published for another month or two. But my fairy godparent suggested doing open mikes to get the word out, or just to get myself out, so I’ve done four: two poetry nights at the Cantab and two Art is Life Itself Thursdays at Haley House.

Do you want to know what this feels like? It sucks. It feels like I’m turning myself inside out and is just about as comfortable. Half an hour before an open mike I usually get this sick sensation as if I’ve just moved into an empty, unfurnished apartment in a strange city where I don’t know anybody and my front door doesn’t lock properly and the sun is going down. It’s not safe. It’s not normal. I really shouldn’t be here and I’ve never known this kind of dread.

Sometimes the next day, I feel like I can do anything.

The heartbreak of indie publishing

I mentioned that I pop onto Twitter now and again. Two people I follow there are the similarly named Jane Friedman and Joel Friedlander, a pair of hard-nosed commentators on self-publishing. Ms. Friedman has a great roundup of business advice for writers which appears monthly, and which I worked my way back through this afternoon. While I was doing that, I couldn’t resist clicking on a question that informed my daily life for many years: “How Long Should You Keep Trying to Get Published?” Read more