Me in ObfeldenIs today Saturday? No, it’s Sunday. This should have appeared yesterday. Right here. Except — I thought yesterday was still Friday, but woke up very early this morning with the distinct feeling of having missed a deadline. In more than 40 years of working as a professional writer and editor — this is my first missed deadline. I suppose it was bound to happen someday, but I’m very sorry anyhow.

And so … a day late, but not too late … is the third of three posts by Martha Kennedy on getting a novel into print.

This one hits close to home for me. It’s the same process I went through. Many of us have self-published, and even more, will do so eventually. With traditional publishers thin on the ground, we find ourselves facing a choice: self-publish or keep trying to get a publisher to pay attention. At what point do you decide to stop waiting and move ahead on your own?

Self-Publishing – The Other Way to Do It

By Martha Kennedy

Some people have broken into “the big time” of commercial publication through self-publishing.

Most don’t.

There are manifestos now stating that self-published work is every bit as good as conventionally published work. That is not necessarily false, but is it necessarily true?

Lots of bad writing is published commercially. Still, I believe more bad writing is published by individuals using free, self-publishing platforms such as Lulu, Createspace, or IngramSpark.

The wonderfulness of “Indie” publishing is that anyone can publish a book, but being able to publish a book doesn’t mean the author can write. Which is why a stigma still lingers around self- or Indie-publishing. It is frequently a valid issue.

72-The Bros Path Cover PromoIn response to the problem, organizations are emerging that seek to find and reward good writing in self-published books. Since I only write historical fiction, I’m not familiar with all of the organizations but I know one.

IndieBRAG is a group of volunteers who read books that have been submitted to the organization. The books are rated on a very fine, proprietary “score card” which includes the physical presentation. If the book earns a certain average score or above, it is awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion.

Fewer than 10% of the books submitted (all genres) win this award. IndieBRAG then posts reviews everywhere relevant (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads), stating, “We are proud to announce that TITLE by AUTHOR is a B.R.A.G.Medallion Honoree. This informs readers that the book is worth their investment of time and money!”

In my own area, the Historical Novel Society publishes a review several times a year. One of the reviews is Indie Novels. Such novels are submitted to them, then undergo a rigorous test before they can be awarded an Editors Choice or short-listed for the annual Indie Book Award.

The dark side of this trend is you will find companies online who will take your money in exchange for an award or a positive review.

None of these groups – good or bad — existed when I published my first “Indie” novel, Martin of Gfenn in 2011. I paid attention, though. As soon as I learned of new opportunities for my novel, I submitted it. Martin of Gfenn has won both an Editors Choice from the Historical Novel Society and an IndieBRAG Medallion. My second novel, Savior, is also an IndieBRAG Medallion honoree.

Nonetheless, self- or Indie Publishing — whatever you want to call it – has a long way to go before they will be as well-regarded and sought after as commercially (traditionally) published books. Beyond the “stigma,” lies another hard reality: people who publish their own books are (typically) writers, not marketers. Bookstores, especially chains like Barnes & Noble, don’t stock Indie books, though they will sell them by special order.

It does not mean you shouldn’t self-publish. It does mean you should be aware of the challenges involved.

It’s Easier Than You Think

For anyone whose ability to use common software is slightly above average, self-publishing is easy. For those who do not have the skills, every platform offers expert services plus many post-publishing services, among them, marketing. For me, the offers are great, but far out of my price range. Nor am I sure how effective they are … and I have no way to find out.

There are also many independent, free-lance, people who have made a business of editing, formatting, cover design — pretty much every service a self-published author needs to make a good-looking, readable book. These free-lancers are often more competitively priced than the same services offered via the publishing platforms.

I enjoy designing book and their covers. I’ve learned as I’ve gone along. I didn’t even attempt to publish Martin of Gfenn before I’d gone through the entire process with a small test book of essays. I do invest in a good editor with whom I work well.

When The Brothers Path experienced such maltreatment at the hands of agents and publishers, I decided to fight, to bust my ass marketing this novel and the other two, as well.

These days, I get up every morning, and “go to work” marketing my fiction. I have accepted advice from everyone who has offered it. I’ve also done a lot of online research. I’ve spent $300 on a virtual book tour and $100 for an advertisement on Goodreads.  I have set up giveaways (which not free for authors) and have made a book trailer for The Brothers Path. I have a webpage ( that tells everyone about all my novels and links back to each novel’s webpage.

I’ve sought reviews, issued a new edition of my second novel so it conforms more to the third because they are, loosely, prequel and sequel — both about the same family, though nine generations apart. I’m going at it as if I this was a paid job — because it is the only way I will get paid to do it.

Internally (hopefully not eternally), I’m contending with shyness and dislike of being with groups of strangers who expect something of me. I’m beginning to accept that I need to go out into the world to make connections rather than friends. I’m trying to manage a launch of my book that isn’t just me and my pals sharing a pizza.

But … I would rather write.

Why Write?

With all the obstacles to a book getting published, it’s not unreasonable to ask the question.

The experience of trying and failing to conventionally publish a novel turns many people away from writing. Maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t think anyone should write if they have another route to happiness.

Not being published does not have to mean not writing. Give that idea a little while to sink in. For anyone who genuinely loves writing and who has stories to tell, writing is a pleasure. All by itself. The reason I’m not (currently) satisfied with simply writing (although, in principle, I am completely satisfied with it), is because of the people who have read my books.

I write serious literature. It’s readable and friendly. The characters are likable, but you don’t write about leprosy, God, depression, death, religious war, bad parenting, adolescent confusion, torture and call it “light reading while you’re waiting for the airport shuttle.” I don’t write that stuff. I don’t know why I don’t write it. I just don’t.

Our writing reflects our lives, ourselves. I know things about my life that my readers probably will not guess at which I do not completely understand. But I’m willing to follow inspiration through the labyrinth toward a good story. I’m honored by the gift.

My novels have affected people. Many readers have left reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, or written directly to me, or spoken to me, telling me what a story meant to them.

A few weeks ago some friends and I were driving to Great Sand Dune National Park. This amazing place is in my neighborhood. Both neighbors have read — and loved — my books. They understand what I’m trying to do now. Their understanding means a lot to me. We got on the subject of why I write, in passing, light conversation, and I said, “This might sound arrogant, but my books are what I have to share with others.”

My friend said, “That’s not arrogant at all.”

To learn more about Martha’s historical fiction, go to Her daily blog can be found at

THE BROTHERS PATH, by Martha Kennedy

The world-shattering tumult of the Protestant Reformation enters the Schneebeli household when Rudolf Schneebeli is born two months early and dies a few minutes later — without being baptized.

Named for the well trodden track linking the Schneebeli farmhouse to the old Lunkhofen castle, The Brothers Path is set in a Swiss village near Zürich, between 1524 and 1531.

It chronicles the lives of the six Schneebeli brothers, Heinrich, Hannes, Peter, Conrad, Thomann and Andreas. Each brother navigates his own path through, around or directly into the deadly drama of the Protestant reformation.

Two hundred years after the events recounted in The Brothers’ Path, thousands of immigrants, mostly Mennonites and Amish, left Switzerland for America seeking the safety and freedom they could not find at home. If the novel teaches a “lesson” it would to remind us why immigrants to America have always been adamant about separating church and state.

Use this link for: The Brothers Path on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback.

If you haven’t read part I, you will find it here: SO YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER – PART I 

You can find part II here: SO YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER – PART II 

Categories: #Writing, Author, Book Review, Books, Guest Blogger, Humor, Publishing

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22 replies

  1. Great post Martha, full of good advice.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Marilyn! I hope this helps/encourages and clarifies things for people in the conundrum of what to do with their book! I appreciate very much your sharing your space with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Garry still switches back and forth between his public and private personas. I think it has become second nature after all these years. I’ve seen him switch in mid sentence. Interesting and rather metamorphic 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • My public persona is very funny, friendly and empathetic. She’s not someone else, but she takes a LOT of energy. It’s always easier for her when she knows what’s expected of her — like walking into a classroom on the first day. That’s part of why this is so uncomfortable; I’m not sure what’s expected of me and it would be nice to see someone else do it first. :\

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s almost automatic for me and I don’t need any stinkin’ phone booth.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Where's the Windmill? and commented:
    Part three of “So You Want To Be a Writer” 🙂 Thank you Marilyn for making space on your blog for my voice.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is my Martha Sunday!! I just read your Montana memoir. So very, very lovely!
    Martha, your latest “Writer” piece is wonderful primer info for newbies and others who’ve tried to pursue the self publishing route.
    One piece of advice: Don a second persona and go out into the world to promote your books. I separated my TV News reporter person from the real me. I’m still basically shy. Some might even say anti-social.

    Liked by 2 people

    • This is such great advice, Garry. I am shy, also, which is why I joined a local Toastmasters club. When I am speaking in front of people, it is not me up there speaking. It is someone else, and I quite get a kick out of watching this ‘other’ Lois up there, doing her thing. I know it is all mind over matter, but it really helps.

      Liked by 2 people

    • That’s good advice, Garry. That’s how I’ve dealt with public speaking, by acting like a person who wasn’t scared spitless… I guess the same stragedy would work 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • It WOULD work, Martha. It’s funny how we can separate ourselves. The only problem is when you start believing you really are that public figure.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Wow. If that happened it would be very, very strange. I could write something by Kafka. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

          • Martha, it’s quite common. I saw a lot of it in my working days. Some of my colleagues would take on their television celebrity in real life. One fellow even kept his makeup on after work. It was also evident when I did a little background acting (extra work) in a few major movies shot in our region. I found it amusing to watch when it involved prominent film stars.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. Good advice. Every once in awhile, I play with the idea of writing fiction – maybe even writing a book someday. Maybe I could do it, maybe not. Maybe people would love it, maybe they’d hate it. But I think what always stops me is the whole idea of trying to put the damn thing together and then market it. For now, I’ll probably stick with blogging – unless some publisher out there approaches and begs me (yes, the dream is still alive!).

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think you should do whatever you want because, honestly, there are no consequences worth mentioning. Let’s say you write the book and you find and agent who finds a publisher and the publisher is a good one and your book hits the streets, the greatest book EVER, that only lasts a little while and you’re back at square one but with the burden of success. “Some burden” you might think, but I believe past successes can inhibit a writer’s growth. As much as I would like to have commercial success, there’s a little voice inside that says, “Be happy with what you have. You are still free.” I don’t think that voice is sour grapes, either. THEN if you don’t get the agent, the publishing contract, the glory, the success you have had the pleasure of writing something you love. Ultimately that’s the payoff for every writer worth his/her salt, IMO. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person


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