The McManual

Blogging my little heart out in poetry and prose.

Category: novel writing

Self Publishing Requires Self Confidence

Hellp.  Ha, I meant to write Hello, but maybe hellp is better.  It more accurately reflects how I feel right now.  I have been putting off blogging because I was asked some questions about self publishing, I told people to follow my blog, ( I have no idea whether they did or not) and now I feel obligated to sound like an expert and write things that will help people.

But here’s the thing, I’m not an expert – I’m going in fairly blind here, and I don’t know what I’m doing at all.  But I’m determined that this is going to happen.  This book – Someotherville, which I do love and which so many of my friends and family (and a few strangers) have financially backed through Kickstarter – is going to come out.  And that’s that.  So I guess it’s time to stop stewing and get on with what needs doing.

I should receive the funds from Kickstarter on Monday.  That means that I can go ahead  and purchase ISBNs and once I have an ISBN, I can officially get permission to reprint the John Ashbery poem that I need permission for, and then I can get my galleys printed and send out advance copies to reviewers.

I should also write a press release to say that my kickstarter campaign was successful and that I’m gearing up to publish the week before Valentine’s day.  And I should start writing to local bookstores explaining that this is coming out, and that I’d be more than happy to come out and do a reading.  Oh, and I should write a letter to Minnesota Atheists thanking them for their support in putting my information in their weekly newsletter, and I should also write to spinning and weaving guilds to let them know that they might be interested in the controlling metaphor of the book.

When I write it out like that, it seems simple enough.  Easy, really.  No problem.  No reason to be absolutely terrified, right?

That’s what I keep telling myself.  🙂  Ok.  Brave face.  Time to be bold.

Thanks for reading – if I write any more right now, it will just be a way to procrastinate.  🙂 S


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

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.



Pennywick Press – My New Adventure

I have been working my way up to publishing my first novel for a while now.  The writing has been nearly complete for over a year – I have one last sweep to do for any grammar or word choice changes I want to make, but the story is done.

When I completed the first draft, well, first off I was shocked at the intensity  of emotion that comes with writing the last line of a big project – I was beside myself with joy.  But secondly, I started to think that maybe someone else would want to read it.  Maybe a few someones.  So I started reading books about how to get an agent and how to get published.

I wasn’t completely ignorant of the process – I have always been attracted to books like  The Writer’s Guide and magazines about writing, but this was the first time that I had something to put in a query letter.

I spent a lot of time writing queries, researching appropriate editors and agents to send them to, and sending them out.  I believe I spent several months doing this on the side, off and on.  I never received any feedback other than a form letter.  It was a lot of work, and all for naught. But I’m glad that I spent that time.

Writing about my novel, writing out a synopsis and finding “hooks” to quickly introduce what it is about was useful – the process helped me to see what still needed to be done with character development and storyline.  But I don’t think that the process got me any closer to being published.

After I got tired of submitting queries to people I know receive 500 letters a week, I started thinking about publishing it myself.  Luckily for me and other authors, things have changed drastically since I started reading about publishing.  It used to be that books about publishing wouldn’t even really address self publishing – it was considered vanity publishing.  Now I’m seeing articles and books about it all the time.

And that’s what I’m going to do.  I’m starting my own small publishing company, I’m calling it Pennywick Press, and I will probably only publish books that either I or my husband write.  And I can’t wait to get started.

My first project, Someotherville, will be published on June 12th, and I plan to keep updating this blog on the whole process.  Hopefully I will figure everything out!  Like I said, it will be an adventure.  Wish me luck!

Someotherville, a Novel

To Whom it May Concern:

What if you married a gifted, young, unpublished writer?  You wait for your spouse to finish a novel, you hope, encourage and support.  Years pass and still, a piece isn’t finished.  It frustrates you that when you ask how it’s going, your spouse has moved on and has something new in the works.  You grow attached to characters, but you never know the conclusion of the books.  How patiently would you be able to wait? Joan Bridges’ husband is such a writer.

In my first 50,000 word completed literary novel, Someotherville, Joan, married for eight years to a man who suffers from literary wanderlust, awakes one day to find him dead.

At the funeral, she impulsively tells her friends and family that he had finished a novel, but hadn’t sent it for consideration.  She maintains the lie, and, although not a writer herself, she goes through his unfinished works hoping to find something that she can finish rather than allow his memory to be reduced to a legacy of failed plots, characters, and dreams.

Joan struggles with the process, but settles on a piece her husband had titled Arlen the Quitter, in which the characters are able to speak to their author and question him as another character.  Through the process of bringing her husband’s novel to completion, she explores her own discomfort with teaching, writing narrative fiction, being atheist, and life itself.


Well, that’s the query letter that I have used (I left off the last paragraph) for my novel, Someotherville.  I think I will end up publishing it independently, maybe next summer.  I am starting back to school next week, teaching high school English again, and I won’t have time to go crazy with publishing…

I do, however, plan to keep working on my next novel, tentatively titled Art is for Other People.  🙂

If you have comments about my query letter, or if you’re just dying to read the book, let me know.  I recently read an advance copy of Julian Gough’s next book on my computer, and it was rewarding.  Exciting, actually, to read it before it’s out in book form.  I think if he can send perfect strangers a copy, I might be persuaded to send my blog reader(s?) a copy if I get a request…

Let me know if you are interested and we’ll talk.


14/30 NaBloPoMo09 Back from Vacation

Hi. It seems like more than four days since I’ve written.  I am trying like hell to start a new novel.  I did start one in January, and I might continue it.  I’m not sure.  The fact that my father in law is in critical condition in the icu seems to be taking a front seat in my thoughts.

I don’t know how it’s possible that I am so sore, so tired, and so disoriented.  I always think that summer break is going to be relaxing.  Ha.  Ha ha.  This year is different than last year, in that we had an odd vacation – up north with my Mom rather than going somewhere touristy, and we cut the vacation short to come home.  We have been at the hospital every day, hoping that my fatherinlaw pulls through his illness.

All of this takes my focus from writing, and in fact, gives me a darn good excuse not to write.  I would use that excuse, too, if it weren’t for the fact that writing is calling to me.  It’s pulling me. Even as I know I am writing with half a heart, I must write.  It’s summer.  I have a month.  I need to get a good chunk of American Girl – Lyrics to Living Life as a Modern Mythical Creature under my belt.  I need to get these characters walking around, living, breathing, talking…mostly talking, considering my other writings…

So, guess I’ll go do that.  And if you have time, please send good thoughts and wishes to my father in law.  Thanks.  Sheila

Wondering where to go with my novel.

I just got some good feedback from a good friend of mine about Someotherville, and I now feel fairly confused. I was really surprised by her feedback – she loved the parts about Joan, didn’t like the story within a story at all.
At first I was slightly defensive because I was hoping that the two stories would meld together in the end, and it would be obvious or feel inevitable that it had to happen the way it happened. But this was not how my friend felt about it.
As we were talking it through, I remembered that the part where she really didn’t like it was the same part where I didn’t know what to do next, and so I pulled something extreme out of the hat. I think that at the time of writing it, I had it in the back of my mind that I could always change things and that it would be best if I just forged ahead.
But now I am second guessing whether I could go back in and change the story within a story to either have more details about the secondary characters *which I should do because I do go on about how secondary characters are pivotal, and we often end up caring about them more than the main characters* or whether it was a poor choice for the story within a story, since it’s so weak – I mean, who really cares about a spy story? Cold war stuff is completely played out – when it was the 39 steps or whatever, it was fresh because people didn’t know what was happening or why. Now it really is a stereotype, a stock story. Alias…dollhouse… and those are just recent examples.
There’s only a certain kind of friend that can tell you that something you wrote is gimmicky. But now that it’s said, I guess it is a little. It was a quick fix for a long term problem, and it shows.
So not to be too mean to myself – that’s not what I’m trying to do – but I’m trying to convince myself that i do need to dive back into this pool – it can be better. Arwin, Cece and Katrina need to have more substance before they will ever seem real to people. I am heartened by the fact that someone thought Arwin seemed real. That makes me happy.
Now I need to tend to the rest of them. Maybe it’s a matter of pride, I really had thought I finished a book in a month, with only needing minor rewrites. Now if I go back in and make major changes, that is no longer the case. Yeah. Pride is foolish. Do I want this to be something that is read and cast aside as being mostly really good, or do I want it to be better than that?
Obvious answer. So now I know the task ahead of me – I don’t know how I’m going to do it – or whether I should do it – funny…I just had a moment of feeling exactly how Joan felt – she didn’t know if she should write her project either, but she felt compelled. And I feel compelled. So there you have it. The adventure begins again.

Getting Back Into The Swing Of Things

Good morning, all.

This will be a short entry as I only have about five minutes to write. I don’t know how it’s possible, but I completely forgot that I have a blog and that I had committed to write at least a few times a week. I think I actually said I would write every day. Ha. So I managed to forget, but I have been writing.

I wrote a novel over the summer this year. I like it, but now I have been tinkering with it a bit too much. I really think some of the changes are good, and then there are some random paragraphs that I know I need to go back and take out. I really like the first 30 pages, though, so I think that’s progress.

I am slowly letting people read it and give me feedback. At first that was giving me panic attacks – Jay could read with no anxiety on my part, but anyone else and I was in a state. Two of my friends read it, and a few students started it, but I don’t think any of them finished. Or at least they haven’t said anything.

It’s a strange thing to have a book written and not know what to do with it. I have been sending out letters to literary agents, but honestly , and this isn’t the anxiety talking, they seem swamped and I read that they typically receive hundreds of query letters a week. It seems that knowing someone, an author, agent or editor, is the way to go.

Or I could take classes at the Loft in Minneapolis. Problem with that is time. I don’t seem to have any to spare. So maybe that will have to wait until summer, and who knows? By then I’ll have forgotten that I wrote a novel at all, but you can bet I’ll still be writing on my blog! (I hope!)

See ya, thanks for reading!


PS if you want to see the first little section of SOMEOTHERVILLE, my novel, you can check it out at

🙂 Sheila

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