This Blog is for writers and print-on-demand authors to vent or praise their publishing efforts, and as a place to offer support, advice and friendship.

Location: Fort Wayne, Indiana, United States

Before my twilight years, I was an activist for social and political change, working for civil rights, women's rights, worker's rights, peace and justice. My involvement in women's liberation of the 70s has been documented in two books: "Feminism in the Heartland" by Judith Exekiel, (The Ohio University Press, 2002); and "Feminists Who Changed America, 1963-1975" (University of Illinois Press, 2006). Today, I stay close to my computer, writing books for young adults (9 to 90), and currently working on a six-book series set in Southern Ohio, which depicts six generations of the fictional Douglas family from 1803 to 1937 and using the major social and political movements of those times as a backdrop for the stories.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Art of Book Collecting

Book collecting can easily become an obsession. It's the chase, not the conquest, that provides the greatest thrill. Possessing a coveted first edition is almost anticlimatic. It's a game. Your hands tremble as you count out three dollars for a book you know is worth a hundred. You're certain the seller will realize his mistake and pull it back at the last minute. You hold your breath and make small talk. You owe 18 cents sales tax. You pull out another dollar. You don't want any change. You just want to grab your "find" and bolt out the door. But you act nonchalant, instead. You wait for your 82 cents, then walk out the door, clutching the book against your chest.

You get home and wipe the dust off your latest collectible. You open it to the copyright page with shaking hands. You verify the date. You can relax, it's definitely a first edition. But is it a first printing, too? You can't tell. It'll take some research to find out. The jacket is a little frayed along the spine edges, otherwise in good condition. You place it on a bookshelf with your other first editions. It won't be alone. It has lots of company.

You sit at your computer and enter pertinent information about your book into a database--typing in the title, the author, the cost, and a brief description of its condition. You hit the "save" key, shut off your computer, and go to bed. You sigh, turn on your side, and dream of your latest treasure.

Tomorrow you'll go back. You may have missed something. Maybe a signed copy. It's worth a second look. Like mining for gold, it takes patience and perserverance. Who knows what's hidden away in some dusty corner of your favorite bookstore?

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Once upon a time…I was really naïve. Worse, I was hopelessly ingenuous. One day, way back in 1959, while reading a book to my kids from my favorite childhood author, Nancy Drew, it suddenly occurred to me that I could write a mystery myself. It was a no-brainer. I could use my five children as characters in the story and the setting would be our three-story row house.

Besides, I was half-way through a writing course I was taking by mail-order, and had learned two important lessons: “show, don’t tell” and “write what you know.” I scraped up money out of my grocery allowance and bought a small package of typing paper, then sat at my roll-top desk and hammered out the first chapter on an Underwood upright with a worn-out ribbon and several keys that constantly stuck.

Each day I would read the new parts to my kids that I wrote while they were in school. Their eagerness to find out what was going to happen next, kept me writing until the story was finished. But typing the manuscript was a messy process. I used carbon paper to make copies, which made smudges and required much retyping. But I persevered and completed the book in six months.

I mailed the original copy to Grosset & Dunlap Publishers (after all, they published the Nancy Drew series), and waited anxiously for their response. In just a few weeks, I received my first rejection. Terribly disappointed, I stored the manuscript in my roll-up desk, where it remained for several years. Eventually the desk was sold or given away or just abandoned because it was too heavy to move, and the manuscript was taken out and tucked away in a dresser drawer, or placed on a closet shelf.

In 1967, eight years after my first rejection, I again submitted the manuscript to Grosset & Dunlap, and also Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. Only this time I received two rejections. It stung fairly deep, and I didn’t try again for thirty years. Then in 1997, I polished the original manuscript, retyped it on my computer using Microsoft Word, and sent it to half a dozen publishers. After it was rejected by all six publishers, I placed the revised copy on the shelf next to the original manuscript.

I began writing another book, in which I used my great-granddaughter Heather Jean as a model for the twelve-year-old protagonist. But what began as one book, soon evolved into a series of six books (only two are published so far). The first one ("The Foothill Spirits--Book One: Frontier Life & the Shawnees") was published on the internet in 2001. The process was so quick and easy, I decided to dust off the manuscript I’d been hanging on to for forty-two years, and polish it one more time. In 2002, "The Mystery of the Red-Brick House" found a permanent home on the World Wide Web.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I'm a book collector and got hooked into investing in first editions and antiquarian books instead of the stock market, having read that this would give me a much greater return. On paper, it looks good--my spreadsheet listing shows my costs are many times lower than the medium and high range prices of similar books currently listed on the internet. Unfortunately, there are book dealers in cyberspace who claim their titles are first editions when they aren't, who fail to describe the condition of their books, and don't have the faintest idea how to price a collectible, if they actually had one. This makes it difficult for collectors to know what to purchase. I assume they do like me, and don't buy from the amateur book dealer.

My book collection presents another problem, similar to the housing market. Even though a particular book may have a fair market value of $1,000 or more, it really has zero value unless I find a buyer willing to pay $1,000. A couple of years ago, I did try to auction off three first editions on Amazon.com and didn't even get a bite. Disappointed at first, now I'm glad, because all three have increased in value, at least on paper (and the internet). They gather dust along with all my other books, awaiting that big moment when an investor decides that books are the best hedge against inflation and will offer financial security for the golden years.

In the meantime, I sit and wait. And write books of my own.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Print-on-Demand, also known as POD, is the quickest way to get a manuscript in book form. It is the less expensive method of self-publishing and will not interfere with the path to traditional (mainstream) publishers, who are reluctant to accept new writers. Even if a POD book never gets accepted by mainstream publishers, writers have the satisfaction of seeing their book in print, and having it available for purchase on the worldwide internet.

When I searched for a POD publisher for my first book, The Foothill Spirits--Book One (Frontier Life & the Shawnees), written for young adults, I chose iUniverse.com. But first I purchased a book online from them: to see how long it took for printing and delivery; to see with my own eyes how the exterior and interior looked; and to evaluate the quality of the writing. It met my standards, so I published Book One in 2001, but later revised it and had it republished in 2005, when it received the coveted Editor's Choice designation. In 2002, I published a manuscript that had been rejected several times by mainstream publishers over forty years ago--The Mystery of the Red-Brick House. And more recently, in 2006, I published The Foothill Spirits--Book Two (Shawnees & Runaway Slaves).

Yes, I must promote my books myself, but most authors these days are expected to do promotional tours, give interviews, etc. I waited until I completed Book Two (of a six-book series) to begin my marketing plan, with quidelines provided by iUniverse. More on this later.