How I Didn’t Set the Publishing World On Fire — The 12-Foot Teepee and Me

Every once in a while, much to my surprise, Amazon informs me someone bought my book. It happened a few times during 2012 and just happened again … wow! Any personal friends who were going to buy or read my book have long since done so. Therefore whoever bought it is not someone I guilted into buying it and is a genuine voluntary reader. This is cause for celebration. Woo hoo.

Don’t think I’m going to make any money from this. Hell no. The Kindle version of my book yields a whopping $1.87 per sale (or loan) and Amazon won’t send money until they owe at least $20. I guess that would require the sale of 11 electronic books? Something like that. Since my 2012 sales totaled 2 and there have been 2 more this year, I have now broken the $5 barrier and need only 6 or 7 more sales, downloads, or borrowers to earn enough for a trip to McDonald’s. If we order from the dollar menu, we could even afford a small beverage. I can barely control my excitement, but Garry has warned me not to count on it.


I still get buzzed when anyone buys or reads my book and delighted when they let me know they enjoyed it, but next time, I think I’ll write about dogs.

I wrote it in 2007, though it really didn’t “hit the market” — so to speak — until 2008. I did author things, television interviews on local cable, radio interviews. I got some nice local press. I arranged some book signings. None of them amounted to much, but they were fun and I met other local authors, some of whom have become friends. I sold a few hundred books which isn’t bad for a self-published book. For a while, I got regular royalty checks, sometimes large enough for a cheap dinner at a local fast food joint. I briefly thought Teepee would be a minor straight to DVD movie, but financing did not materialize. So much for Hollywood.

It’s difficult to successfully market a self-published book. When it first came out, I had dreams of glory. My husband had (still has) some good media connections, though as time passes, colleagues retire and there are fewer … but 5 years ago, many more of Garry’s colleagues were working.

English: Grave of Jean Paul Sartre and Simone ...

When you write a highly personal book largely based on your own life experiences, you know it’s not going to hit the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Books like this become popular only if written by celebrities  revealing scandalous details of things done with other celebrities, usually of a sexual nature, or if someone pumps it up on a national television, which did not happen to me and doesn’t happen to most authors.

Unless you have a recognizable name, there’s no market for this genre. The ones that get published because they are written by a celebrity don’t sell well either, usually going from a  display in the front of the store to the discount bargain bin faster than you can say “I didn’t know he/she wrote a book …” It’s not likely that me or you, unknowns that we are, would be able to convince a publisher we are worth the ink and paper to produce even a trade paperback. And don’t even think about an advance.

Books so bad they should have a warning label

Lately, I had the task of reading a lot of books that were deemed among “the best of 2012.” I have no idea on what basis these books were determined to be the best of the year’s offering, but I’d like to meet the judges and ask about least half the entries: “What were you thinking?” There are okay books amongst the dross, a couple of great ones and a few pretty good ones.

Unfortunately, there are many awful ones, books so bad it’s hard to imagine how this could be regarded by anybody as worth publishing at all. The worst book I had to slog through was J. K. RowlingsThe Casual Vacancy.” If you buy this book, you will want your money back. All I can think was she had a contract, got an advance, the due date came around and she threw this together to satisfy a contractual obligation. I certainly hope that’s the scenario because I cannot believe that even she believes this book is good.

After Rowlings dreadful novel, my next three top suggestions for your “don’t read this book” list, all of which should carry large warning labels saying Bad literature!! Keep away! — include:

Any of these books will cause you gastric distress and could lead to existential despair and a desire to read something involving wizards and vampires, or worse, Jean Paul Sartre. Don’t blame me. I warned you.

Then, there are a whole lot of books that are — at best — okay. Not so awful that maybe there might not be someone who likes it, but I find it hard to imagine who it might be. Some of these are may simply be an acquired taste I haven’t acquired. I didn’t like them, but I suppose you could. Some others had redeeming qualities, but not enough, making you wish the author had given the manuscript one more edit … or considered including a plot and a few interesting characters.

Which brings me back to my book. I will say, in advance, that it is not a piece of deathless literature, but it’s not bad — and a whole lot better than most of the books deemed the best of 2012. In fact, comparatively speaking, my book has features that used to be traditional in books: characters, humor, the semblance of a plot, and a good-faith attempt to make a point. At the very least, you will learn how to build a tepee (perhaps more of how not to build a teepee), should you care to have one of your own … something I highly recommend. Tepees are strangely wonderful. You might not love my book, but I’m pretty sure whoever you are, you’d really like having a teepee.

These days, books that sell are mostly cop and courtrooms, whodunits, thrillers, terrorists, vampires and other creatures out of myth and fable, many things magical and mystical. Novels about people who live in the real world and do real things … work at paying jobs, raise children who lack magical powers, don’t have access to time travel nor are likely to rocket into space to explore other universes are becoming rare.

Are we no longer able to find the real world sufficiently interesting to write books about it?

How boring are we?

So here’s my question: are we really that boring? All of us? Is the reason that there are so few good books set in the real world because we find our lives completely uninteresting? Are the day-to-day battles regular people go through every day so dreary that we can’t bear to write about them?

It is obviously more entertaining to read about things that don’t exist … things that may have happened long in the past … or about events that have or might happen in our real world, but are so far out of the ordinary experiences of regular folks that they might as well happen in an alternate universe.

Having someone buy a copy of my book today was a big deal. If thousands of people bought and presumably read “A Casual Vacancy” or “The Middlesteins,” maybe a half-dozen or so people will buy or borrow an electronic copy (or, be still my heart), a hard-copy trade paperback of my book. Although unlikely, it’s possible. And the book might even resonate with some of you.

It’s about the baggage we haul through life, the baggage loaded on our backs when we are too small to choose … plus the rest of the boulders we pick up along the way and keep hauling until one day — with a little luck — we realize it’s okay to dump  them.

So, in case you’re of a mind to buy a book … which maybe you’ll enjoy and then again, maybe you won’t … the book is about child abuse and getting over it as well as the strange ways it warps you as you plod through life . How building a tepee helped me dump the bullshit from childhood and other stuff added along the way. In advance, I ask your forbearance about typos. Without a proper proofreader and editor, I was left to my own devices. If you read me regularly, you know I’m  a terrible proofreader and the queen of typos.

Being a writer and a proofreader have nothing to do with each other. Different skill sets. It is also hard to proofread your own manuscript: you tend to see what you meant to write and not what is there. 75-BooksHP

If you have any interest in acquiring the book in whatever form:

You can buy the hardcopy paperback here and the Kindle edition here. If you belong to Amazon Prime, you can read it for free. I get the same $1.87 in royalties whether you buy it or borrow it.  Go figure.

I have serious concerns about the state of publishing. I am convinced there are more good writers who can’t find a publisher than good writers who get published. With the opportunities offered by the electronic publishing, I would think the potential profit has increased exponentially. Why not publish more? E-books cost nothing but a little electronic storage space … and books like mine that are published as “print to order” cost nothing until it has already been bought and paid for. It’s risk free. It would be good for everyone.

Perhaps publishers should consider taking a chance on more newcomers who don’t write in trendy genres. I love science fiction and fantasy more than most people, but I also enjoy books about the real world and people to whom I can relate in an earthly way.

I fear the best of America’s writers are being lost in the scramble to publish only best-sellers. It doesn’t work anyhow. Most books flop, just like they always have.  From what I’m seeing, most acquisitions editors wouldn’t know a great book if it bit them on the nose. It’s not that I’m such a fantastic author and couldn’t get a reading,  publisher or agent. It’s that the stuff that does get published is so bad. It’s not a healthy sign for literature or the publishing industry.

Categories: Arts, Books, Literature, Publishing, Reviews, Sci Fi - Fantasy - Time Travel, Words, Writing

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 replies

  1. the fates are strange … and it’s hard to know what guides the winds.
    when i go into and bookstore and look at the bestseller rack … i find it hard to suppress vomiting. i can’t believe what gets printed. and what people like. scary.
    and what gets refused … ?? a lot.
    several of the greatest works of literature were self-published. publishers wouldn’t print them.
    and take a look at movies. the list of Academy Award Best Pictures for the 30 years or more: some of them i can’t remember at all. others i saw once, but was never inclined to watch again. meanwhile some movies that never even got nominated, i watch over and over. many of the classics were not recognized out the door.
    in the arts it’s tough. and nobody wants to labour in anonimity. a nod and pat now and again mean a lot. but if you hope to survive off it … and get rich … well … not likely. few can. who do you think you are??? the great lady gaga to something??
    success(?) seems to have little to do with talent or quality – or merit of message. Tarantino keeps getting accolades and critical acclaim and i consider his stuff to be vacuous garbage.
    however i don’t believe anything that has true merit or integrity goes unnoticed or unrewarded in the spiritual sense. whatever life is about, we all get our just rewards.
    we just don’t see the big picture always …
    i think your stuff is great.


    • I’m all for spiritual rewards, but I wouldn’t mind a few tangible ones, preferably the kinds that pay bills.

      I agree with you as does Garry. “Profesesional critics” and award committees make baffling choices. Publishers ignore anything they don’t think will be an instant best-seller … and they don’t care whether or not the book is readable, or entertaining. Plot? Characters? How terribly old-fashioned. How many talented writers never get a chance because they didn’t know the right buzz-words to put in a proposal? These days, I’m surprised when a good new writers really get published.

      Garry feels about Tarentino as you do. Too violent, too graphic and gory. Maybe there’s a message in there, but I won’t ever know.

      Independent publishers and producers are getting swallowed by conglomerates. The entertainment industries have been heading that way for more than 30 years. Lucky are those who broke into the business during the period when living people still read manuscripts. Now, it’s all computerized.


  2. We’ve been down this road several times but I’ll say it again. You’ve done what so many of us talk about doing, sometimes try but rarely do — you’ve actually WRITTEN a book that is unflinchingly honest, bittersweet and CONTINUES to touch many lives. Oh, yes, it is WELL WRITTEN! It’s unfortunate that the financial return is minimal but you’ve done something very meaningful. ENJOY!!



  1. My name is Marilyn and I’m Not Dead. Who the Hell Are You? | Serendipity
  2. How I Didn't Set the Publishing World On Fire — The 12-Foot … | World Media Information

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