The McManual

Blogging my little heart out in poetry and prose.

Month: February, 2012

Great Title, Now What?

I am concurrently reading several books about self publishing.  Most of the information is geared toward non-fiction writers, and I find it interesting that there is probably a lot more money to be made in non-fiction than fiction, but almost all I read is fiction.  Well, with the exception of books on how to publish books…

The funny thing to me is that almost everything I read about publishing says that writing is easy, and that the real difficulty is marketing.  They make it sound like if you come up with a great title that most of your work is done.  I suppose this might be true, since I haven’t really tried marketing yet, but I don’t think that writing is easy  for most people.  Maybe it’s because the books are marketed to writers, the authors assume that writing is easy for their readers.  But as an English teacher, I tell you I see a lot more examples of how writing is difficult for people than how it’s supposedly so easy.

My point is if you are a writer and you see this sort of comment, keep in mind that it’s not really true.  Yes, writing is easy if you are a good writer.  But it’s not easy for everyone.  And the idea that “everyone has a book in them” is ludicrous.  Yes, there are a lot of books written every year, but not everyone is writing one or wants to write a book.  Sheesh.  And even if writing is easy for you, you still have to come up with a good idea that’s not a cliche and you still have to write it effectively.

I guess I’m getting defensive because I already have a career that many people routinely denigrate – I teach high school English, and I often hear that teachers are “a dime a dozen” and of course we get blamed for many of society’s problems, and now I am looking to (while still teaching) start my own small publishing company dealing with the dime a dozen world of fiction novels.  Well hell.  But I’m doing it anyway, because I’m stubborn like that, and I happen to think my book is terrific and that maybe a few people will be willing to read it.

I want to address one more thing.  I was reading a guide to finding an agent this morning, just in case I should find any information to change my mind about self publishing, and I ran across a line that said to avoid the desperation of self publication.  But everywhere you turn, you find information about how there are only 6 major publishing houses left, and 300 midsized ones, while there are 81,000 small presses or self publishers.  These 6 major publishers are receiving 3000-5000 query letters a week(!) or so one of my books claims.   That’s a hell of a lot of query letters.  Seems like you’d have to be more desperate to send out a letter based on those odds than just going ahead and doing the work yourself.

I don’t think that self publishing is desperate.  I think it makes sense.  Yes, there is a lot to learn, and yes, it’s a lot of work for one book and things would be more efficient if you had a stable of books you were promoting, but you have to work with what you’ve got.  I don’t expect to make a lot of money off of this deal, but I do hope to at least break even.  Waiting around for an agent or publisher to notice my little sweet book would be another form of breaking even – it wouldn’t cost me anything, but I wouldn’t get any readers out of the deal either, and that’s all I really want, readers.

If you are reading this because you are thinking of self publishing I wish you luck.  I wish I was experienced enough to be able to say that it will work out for you, but of course I can’t know that.  But I do know your chances of success are much greater if you keep trying and don’t quit – so… keep trying and don’t quit!!  🙂  Sheila


Looking for Inspiration

I am surprised to say that there have been more readers for my blog in the past couple of days than there have been all year.  I had eleven readers today.  I know that’s small potatoes, but it’s big potatoes to me.  I think the people reading might have been attracted to the titles, “overcoming insecurity” and “facing fears.”  Maybe people are looking to see if I’m going to say something inspirational.  And I am, so if that’s what you are looking for, you’re in an okay place.

My inspiration for the day is about the same topic I have been talking about – getting my book ready and done and out in the world.  If you have been reading, you know that I am a little freaked out that I have such a huge and seemingly unmanageable project to carry out on my own.  To help myself out, I went to the library today and picked up several books on self-publishing. 

I am glad that people write non-fiction, I really am.  There is so much knowledge out there to have just at the price of late fees at the library, and I think it’s a little easier to process than reading articles on the internet.  I find that as I read on the web, I don’t retain much.  Please ignore the irony of reading that in a blog that you can only get on the web.  Thanks. 

A lot of the advice that is written about publishing is geared to writing non-fiction.  Two books so far have told me that selling fiction is too difficult and not to bother, but I don’t believe it.  Both of the books talk about finding gaps in what is offered and then writing, and once a book is popular finding ways to repackage the information into different books.  I don’t want to sound snobby, but I’m glad that I have had the free time to write fiction instead of non-fiction.  The only non-fiction I have been tempted to write is a book about sober schools, but I haven’t even decided whether to write it yet.  (Although I have  great possible title:  Soberholic, a Year in the Life of a Sober School)

Anyway, on to the inspiration.  I am realizing that many people have published their own books, that it was probably pretty difficult (or pretty expensive) (or both) for most of them, and there is no real reason that I wouldn’t be able to do it, too.  My biggest drawback is probably lack of money for investing, but I have a lot of elbow grease to make up for it.  I have already saved lots of money by being my own editor and having some select english-major type friends help with reading and giving me notes. 

The only expenses I have incurred so far is that I hired a lovely person from to read and give me feedback last summer, to the tune of $300 (a great investment because she helped me to see a major weakness of earlier drafts) and 50 or 60 bucks I’ve spent so far to print off “galleys” ( in quotes because I’m not sure that’s the right term)  other than that, I owned the computer I wrote on already, and I didn’t have to pay myself to sit and write, obviously I love doing that.

I’m starting to think that sticking with something, starting to have some consistency, and then continuing to work so that you establish that the consistency is real is probably a great way to get toward a goal, even if it’s a really really big goal, so here’s your inspiration:  you can do it – your goals are worth working toward, and you can plug away and get there eventually, maybe even faster than you think.  But if it’s slower than you think, that’s okay too.  🙂  k bye. Sheila

Overcoming Insecurity

I woke up this morning and my first thought was about my post yesterday.  My thought was that I didn’t really like yesterday’s post, and that perhaps I don’t want people to know what my fears are around publishing.  I am torn between acting like I know what I am doing and giving up.  I suppose, though, that there is a third option, which is to Not act as though I know what I am doing, but keep going anyway.

I think for me insecurity comes from feeling like I should know things that I don’t know.  I feel like I should know how to go about publishing my book, but how would I know that?  I haven’t done it before, so of course I don’t know how.  It doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try!  I don’t think it could be too much harder than actually writing the book, could it?  Writing this book (Someotherville) was a huge project, but maybe I shouldn’t characterize it as having been hard to write.  There were some parts where I felt a little like, “how am I going to get from here to there?” but I just kept writing and it all came out fine.  It was a long project and a lot of work, but it wasn’t really difficult in the sense that doing math or playing the piano are difficult.

Maybe that’s how this new phase will be.  Maybe it will just be a series of steps that I take, none of them really all that difficult.  At least I hope that’s how this works out.  I was looking at a book on starting your own publishing business yesterday, and it said that lots of books are printed, but not every book is published.  I am still trying to decipher what the differences are, and how I can make sure that I am publishing.  I think what the author meant is that there is a lot of promotion that needs to be done.  And promotion, self-promotion, is something that I have a hard time with.   In fact, when it comes down to it the fear that I was writing about yesterday was really the fear of having to self promote.

Maybe I need to look at it like I’m not really self-promoting, I’m just promoting a book.  So what if I happened to write it?  🙂  I guess the best way for me to overcome insecurity is to jump ahead without thinking about it too much.  Actually that’s probably terrible advice, but it’s the best I’ve got.  Go ahead, give things a try, and see how it goes.  Learn from your mistakes and then try again.  I could look at all of this as a trial run for the next time I will need to publish a novel.  I do have another one started, but there’s a lot of work left to do.

Well, thanks for reading.  If you are a writer, too, and struggling with the questions of how to get published, I’d love to hear from you.



Facing Fears

So as I dink around on the internet, I notice that there are a lot of inspirational sites.  I love to go to those sites and read articles with catchy and hopeful titles like ‘100 ways to be fearless.’  I have spent hours (over years, of course) reading these types of motivational writings on the web.  It’s the interweb version of going out for a paperback self-help book, and now that I think about it that explains why I haven’t bought a self-help book in a while.  It’s not that I’m not still trying to help myself. 😉

My most recent reason for a good self help book is this:  I have noticed myself becoming fearful over tasks that are not very difficult, but that would help me in my writing career.  See, what I’m trying to do (other than keep my day job) is start a small publishing company and publish my novel.  The novel is done.  There are a couple of finishing touches that need to be completed, but it’s done.  And I have an artist working on the cover.  And I have a publication date – June 12, 2012.

I feel like the big stuff is in place.  But now for the small stuff… and there’s lots of it.  Most of it is stuff that I just have to do and it doesn’t involve fear at all.  What I am fearful of is really asking for anything from anyone.  I am fearful of asking for help.  I don’t know why I feel this way, the people are welcome to say no and I don’t mind too much if they do, it’s just the asking.  I don’t like asking for help.  I guess that’s where the fear comes from – I don’t want to seem like I am helpless, so I don’t like asking for help.

The help that I need is that I need to find someone literary and well known to read the book and give me a comment that I can put on the back.  Actually, now that I write that, I don’t know whether I even really care about that all that much.  I see at the bookstores that there is a trend right now to have quotes from other authors right on the cover of a novel.  I don’t like that at all.  I think it looks more like a magazine or a sort of throw away book if you have a quote on the cover.  But I wonder how much people are influenced by those kinds of quotes when they are at the bookstore.  There’s no sense being prideful about how the book looks commercial if you want it to be a commercial success, is there?  I don’t know.  As a reader/book buyer, I would prefer just a regular cover.

Well, I seem to have gotten off track in this post.  It’s definitely not what I sat down to write.  I got distracted a couple of paragraphs ago by the needs of dogs and husband, so now the title doesn’t fit what I have written…  but I really don’t feel like coming up with a new title, so I’m going to try to swing this bus around back to facing fears.  Asking people – old profs, famous people that I’m vaguely connected to through friends, and famous people that I have no connection to – for help, that’s my fear.

I did write to three famous people.  Woody Allen, Steve Martin, and Garrison Keillor.  I wrote maybe 6 months ago.  I got a nice letter from Keillor’s people saying they read my letter but that he didn’t have time to read my novel, one from Allen’s people that said he doesn’t have time to work on anything but his own projects, and the other day I got an 8×12 envelope with an autographed copy of a Steve Martin headshot – no note.  I guess the answer was no. And you know what?  It didn’t kill me that none of them said yes – I didn’t think that they would.  But I remember being very scared to even write the letters.  But I did it.  Maybe when I’m writing these notes to other people, I can just remember that the three that I really really wanted all said no, so now other no’s won’t be so bad.  Hmm.

Or maybe I put my book out without a celebrity quote on the back.  That’s probably what will happen.  And I’m fine with that.  I probably have a lot more important things to worry about, like how to get an ISBN number, whether I want a QRcode, getting an author website going, how to get the right fonts… etc.  Oh and right now I’m afraid that I will be late for work if I don’t get going.  Thanks for reading.  Sheila

Writing Roots

In my search for the three notebooks that have notes for “Art is for Other People” this morning, I ran across a pile of writing from my youth.  I have held on to assignments from the 9th grade with Mr. Peterson, as well as several assignments that are probably from Mrs. Felth’s class.  I also have a bunch of essays from college.  Reading them is interesting t0 me – I find that I make some of the same mistakes as I always did, such as the overuse of the dash.  That seems to have driven Mrs. Felth crazy.  But I also find that I can really see where my roots are in writing.

Often it feels like what I’m working on now has no grounding in the past – that it’s just there and it’s new, but looking back through those old pieces of writing gives me evidence to the contrary.  My memories of high school are not accurate, or more accurately I don’t have memories of much of high school so it seems like I didn’t do anything.  But the truth is I was writing a lot, working on understanding the world of philosophy in my own limited way, and trying to understand the world around me.

I think my favorite piece of writing is something that I did for a class project in either first or second grade.  It’s a book of Mother’s Day poems that are mimeographed and put together with a messy crayon drawing by yours truly as the cover.  Mine goes:

My mother is a very nice girl.  Here are some of the things she does for me:  she makes my bed, she cooks my food, she sends me to school, she washes my clothes and she does lots of stuff and that’s why I love her!

Sheila M. Path

Already the queen of the run on sentence.  I wish I knew what year this was – but there’s no reference to the teacher’s name or the year.  The other students are listed, but I have no idea when people came and left from elementary school.  Some of the other kids in the book are my facebook friends, though, so maybe I will ask them.

Another piece of writing that I am glad I found was a description of the apothecary’s shop from Romeo and Juliet, so that was 9th grade with Mr. Peterson.  I said that there were seeds hanging from the ceiling to make the place look nice.  🙂  Mr Peterson noted that they were probably actually for medicine.

I am glad that I spent time looking for those notebooks today and that I ran across old writing.  I think I will spend some time reading some more of the things again.  It inspires me, too, to continue to make notes on my student’s work at my high school.  Who knows when a student might pull one of their old pieces of writing out and remember me as their teacher and see me as a part of their journey to better writing.


Cover Girl

So…If you read my posts much, you know that I’m currently working on learning everything I can about publishing and that I am applying that knowledge by starting my own small press and publishing my own first novel.

Part of the process is deciding what the cover of the book should look like. When I have read about cover design, most sources say that an author should not touch it with a ten foot pole. They say to leave it up to the marketing people, because that’s what marketers do. I remember reading that advice and thinking that I would probably be one of those authors who would want to be part of the process, and who would be sorely disappointed if the cover was not pleasing.

Since I don’t have any marketing people, or rather, since I am the marketing person (yikes!) I did toy around with creating my own cover, but I wasn’t getting anywhere – I’m not really a visual designer. So I asked my good friend, who is an actual artist, to please help me out. She is going to create an original piece of art for the project, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. First of all, she knows the book well, since she was one of my first readers long ago on the very first draft (there have been many since then!) and she actually came up with the title of Someotherville. We had been chit-chatting about places we had lived, and I couldn’t remember the name of the neighborhood we had lived in – I said “it wasn’t Wrigleyville, it was some other -ville” and then she said “that could be the name of your novel!” At first I didn’t even know what she meant, but then she said, “someotherville!” and it stuck.

I think since there is such a connection, it just makes sense that she is the one to do the cover. And her work is beautiful, you can check it out at .

I was going to talk about our process so far. First of all, I asked her whether she would be interested. for some reason, even though we are good friends, I was still nervous. But she said yes, so that’s awesome. Then we just got together and chatted a bit. She had an idea about a bridge, so we walked down to a bridge near her house and looked at it and talked about ideas, and then we went to a bookstore and walked around pointing out designs we liked and talking about what we didn’t like.

We also took some pictures of book covers we would use as inspiration. We came up with seven covers that all had a distinct style and now we have emailed back and forth a bit about specifics. It has been fun, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with.

Ok, I was only going to write for 5 minutes and now it’s been 20 — gotta go get ready for work! 🙂 Take care. Sheila

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