SO YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER – PART III – MARTHA KENNEDY

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 (marthakennedy.co) 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 marthakennedy.co. Her daily blog can be found at http://marthakennedy.wordpress.com/


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 

MISTAKE … OR NOT

That first marriage was a mistake. It had to have been because it didn’t go the distance. Maybe it wasn’t a mistake. Maybe it was the right thing when it happened, at that time. Later, when we were older and had changed, the marriage no longer fit. Is moving on the same as failure? As error?

I know that the assumption these days is that relationships which don’t last forever are mistakes. I disagree. A lot of pairings were perfect — in their time and place. In the context in which they were born.

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Time moves and life flows along. The world changes as does what we need, want, love, like, enjoy. Sometimes dramatically, sometimes gradually. Change is life. It’s great if a couple can evolve while remaining compatible, but if that doesn’t happen and we move on, does that mean whatever happened before is nullified? That it was a mistake?

The end of something — or that something ended — does not define what went before. We are composed of millions of pieces. Unlike a jigsaw puzzle, our pieces can be put together many ways to form different pictures. Over a lifetime, we’ll rearrange our pieces many times. I would hope so, anyway. A life without change doesn’t sound like much of a life.

MISTAKE? | DAILY POST

FILM NOIR OVERLOAD – GARRY ARMSTRONG

This is too good to run just once. And it’s Saturday. Movie night.

SERENDIPITY

Dark, rain-glistened streets. Ominous shadows hover in trash littered alleyways. Cats screech in the distance. Gunshots ring out and a body slumps into the gutter.

The world of film noir.

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As a kid, these were the second show in an afternoon at the movies. The “B” movie. Always in black and white, less than 90 minutes. Featuring the nearly-stars such as Dana Andrews, Richard Conte, Linda Darnell, and Sterling Hayden.

The titles were straightforward. “Where The Sidewalk Ends”, “This Gun For Hire”, “Kiss of Death”, “The Street With No Name”, “The Narrow Margin,” and “The Killers” among other small films now considered film noir classics.

The people were familiar too. The P.I. (Private Eye). He usually had a five o’clock shadow, chain-smoked, drank cheap whiskey out of the bottle or a paper cup. He worked in a dingy second floor office. The client? Usually a husky voiced, chain-smoking, heavily made up siren out of the…

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IT’S OBVIOUS … ISN’T IT?

It ought to be obvious. If you deluge potential customers or contributors with email, whether imploring them for donations or reminding them of your products, eventually they will run away. Unsubscribe. Detach.

The first time this happened, I had made the near-fatal error of donating $3 to Obama’s 2008 campaign. From that moment on, each day I was buried in fundraising letters from what appeared to be every single member of the Democratic party and their affiliates.

I approved of the causes and at first, I just deleted the extra emails. It seemed the more I deleted, the more arrived. Wave after wave of causes, the DNC, pols in states I’ve never visited, much less lived.

One day I sat down at my computer and began unsubscribing. I continued through the day until finally, none were left. I will never donate again. Note to DNC: Don’t make contributors feel that giving you a bit of money was their worst-ever life decision.

Now, there’s “The New Yorker.” This is a great magazine, one of the very few I still read. The cartoons alone are worth it because  no publication has better cartoons than “The New Yorker.” I even went so far as to subscribe to it. Not only do I get their online stuff and access to their archive, I get the physical, paper magazine. The mailman delivers it.

Yet, every single day, my email is full of subscription offers from the New Yorker, and now, from affiliated news publications. They send me articles — which I mostly read or at least skim. But then, they send me the same articles three more times. I delete them. Followed by half a dozen reminders to subscribe — which I’ve already done. Why do they do this? I feel like I’m under siege by my own troops.

Amazon, from whom I buy a lot of stuff, doesn’t spam me. Nor does LL Bean. Or Audible or Zappos. To these companies, I remain loyal. They treat me as if they value my business and I spread the good word about them.

All of these companies also have great service when things go wrong. They don’t make it difficult to return items. They don’t charge “re-stocking” fees. They deliver quickly at no charge. They stand behind their products and suppliers and if something goes wrong, the customer does not wind up at the short end of the transaction.

This is basic marketing. It boils down to one golden rule for marketing:


Treat your customer the way you’d like to be treated if
you were the customer. 


I should think this would be obvious. As time goes on, I find myself eliminating companies and organizations from my world because they don’t get it.

Obvious, isn’t it?

OBVIOUS | THE DAILY POST

MUNDANE MONDAY CHALLENGE ON TUESDAY

Mundane Monday Challenge #73


Blame it on the servers. I never get this notice until Tuesday, or so late on Monday evening, it might as well be Tuesday.

As luck would have it, I’ve taken new pictures this week. All of our travel plans fell through and we wound up not going anywhere. Mundane is a perfect subject.

Late afternoon light in August along the Blackstone Canal.

Late afternoon light in August along the Blackstone Canal.

I have been accused of using the same pictures repeatedly. Actually mostly they are not the same picture and frequently, not the same camera or lens. They are, however, the same places. The same river. The same bridge. The same canal. And, of course, the same house.

Not quite enough to make the world go around ...

Not quite enough to make the world go around …

My challenge is not only to make the best pictures of these familiar subjects, but to find a slightly different approach to them. A difference in the light, perhaps, or a new angle. This gets increasingly difficult. I’ve got a great many pictures of the Blackstone Canal and river. But not nearly so many pictures of money🙂

DATELINE UXBRIDGE – SHARING MY WORLD

Share Your World – 2016 Week 34


What is your favorite comfort snack food?

Ginger. Crystallized ginger. No matter how many time you ask this question, you will get the same answer. Boring, perhaps, but no less true.

Is the paper money in your possession right now organized sequentially according to denomination and with the bills right side up and facing the same way?

This is a very funny question. It’s been years since I carried more than a couple of ten-dollar bills in the pouch I use as a wallet. The world has spun a few times on its axis. Cash? What’s cash? The only time I need cash is for machines in decrepit parking garages in Boston which (fortunately) have machines that give cash. Then, you can put the cash into the machine which opens the garage gate.

Except … it isn’t that simple. Uh uh.

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Cash machines give you horribly crumpled money clearly ready for the great money-burning furnace in which they destroy paper money too tired for further use. When you then try to put those bills into a machine, it gets rejected. Too crumpled, with bent corners. You try again. And again.

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This process will reduce any normal person to incoherent sputtering.  At which point a sleepy, stoned, slow-moving attendant strolls over.

“You need help?”

“This #$%^@$ machine won’t take my money.”

“Calm down.” No one should even tell an irate citizen to calm down. It merely makes them angrier. Just saying.

I snarl. He looks bored. Eventually, it gets sorted out and we drive away. I ponder how little plastic cards have made life easier — most of the time.

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Remember when you had to figure out in advance how much you were going to spend when you went shopping? Getting to the checkout at the grocery store, seeing the numbers roll up and realizing you are short? You know the people in line behind you are going to riot if you hold up the line, but what can you do? There’s a bank at the other end of the mini-mall, but that would take you … how long?

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The natives behind you are beginning to grumble. In your mind, you see the angry crowd, the torches. Is there a full moon? How many of your neighbors are about to change into fanged were-animals?

You shake yourself out of this nightmare and realize — it’s okay. It’s 2016 and you have — a debit card! As long as you can remember which way that strip goes into the machine …

If you were a mouse in your house in the evening, what would you see your family doing?

Firstly, if you are a mouse, I would appreciate your taking up residence elsewhere. We have more than enough vermin issues here in the country and I have absolutely no patience with mice. I know you guys just want a warm place to set up house, but you eat everything and make an awful mess. Then, I have to trap and dispose of you. None of those gentle trap. I used to be nice about this, but you abused my generosity and came right back. Now, if I catch you, death will follow. Live … but not here.

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If you actually did hang around and neither of the terriers thought you looked like a snack, you’d see us watching television. You’d see me writing posts for Serendipity, maybe processing pictures. You’d hear snippets of conversation and the occasional ring of the phone. Not very exciting, but I suspect that’s more or less the scene in homes around the world.

Would you rather not be able to read or not be able to speak?

I stand on my Fifth Amendment rights. I will not incriminate myself. Or discriminate against myself. Or whatever applies.

FIFTY? HUH?

What’s with 50?

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WordPress, you got me. Fifty means nothing to me. It’s not a year I remember (in 1950, I was three) and 2050 is probably not a year I’ll live to see. It’s not an address at which I’ve resided, nor an age during which anything special occurred.

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Most numbers don’t have any particular significance to me unless they are part of someone’s birthday, anniversary, phone number, or address.

Robbie is about 50, or at least his character is ... Okay, actually, he's 60 and a bit ...

Robbie is about 50, or at least his character is … Okay, actually, he’s 60 and a bit …

Fifty ways to leave your lover? I never needed more than one.

FIFTY | THE DAILY POST