Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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July 20, 2011

Publishing Naked

When I read today’s guest blog, the first question I had for Denise was why she and Monica would team up to write a book. When she sent me their bios, it not only made it clear, but made me want to read the book. Read on, and you’ll see what I mean.

~ Laura

After writing 11 historical romances, one of which won Romantic Times Magazine's Best First Historical in 1994, the last thing Denise Domning thought she'd be doing was co-writing someone's memoir, especially someone she didn't know.  So how did she connect with Monica?  Through their shared Homeopathic doctor.  At every visit the doctor and his wife would insist that Denise had to write this Monica's story.  They eventually wore her down and she agreed to meet Monica, and the rest as they say is history.  Thank heavens it only took her five years to do the research on Monica's life as compared to the twelve she took before she completed her first Medieval novel.

Monica Sarli began to consider writing her memoirs in 2001 after her then ex-husband Steve died from Hepatitis C acquired during the nineteen years of their shared Heroin addiction.  That’s when she realized she’s a statistical anomaly: only one percent of Heroin addicts are able to leave behind their addiction and live sober, healthy and productive lives, and she’s now been clean for twenty-five years.  She credits her recovery to three principles she learned while at the Amity Therapeutic Community, principles that now guide her life: Never Lie, Honestly Share the Truth of Your Life, and Help Others.  She continues to use these same principles today in her recovery from her sex addiction.   She hopes all those living with addiction or living with an addict find inspiration in her story.  Today, she’s single, sober, happy and loving her life just as it is.

Publishing Naked

After almost a year of twiddling our thumbs, Monica and I have turned our back on New York and decided to strike out on our own.  This isn’t a decision I would have made a year ago, but a year ago I still believed in the idea of a New York publisher.  I’m not so sure any more. 

I’m just now realizing, Kindle and Amazon have changed everything.

I’ve been promising for years to bring out my novels on the Kindle. I finally got around to doing it—on my own.   You know, I just wasn’t willing to share that 70% royalty Kindle was offering. I was astounded at how easy it was . . . okay, for me.  I’ve spent a few years working at web design, so coding the books myself into html/xhtml format was pretty simple, although plenty tedious. 

Much to my amazement, my Kindle books started selling immediately.  A hundred dollars a month royalty isn’t much but it’s a heck of a lot more than those books were earning for me over the last few years.   Each month, that number climbs. 

At the same time I also used the “Back In Print” program through Authors’ Guild to bring the first five books out in print through iUniverse.  I will not be repeating that experience with the other books.  Not only did they get the covers wrong on two of the books, they actually blamed me for not getting them the covers and/or changes.  That wasn’t what happened, but I was overwhelmed with our move from Scottsdale up here to the farm, so I let it go.  Then I heard from another author that the same thing happened to them.  Now, maybe wrongly, I’m seeing a pattern.  I’m sure as heck not spending any money with iUniverse for promotion, not if this is the way they handle their projects.)

That’s when Monica and I got yet another rejection for our book.  It’s not the quality of the writing that keeps New York from buying—it’s that Monica isn’t famous. 

I looked at my Kindle statement, looked at Monica (who is the sort of person that walks into the room and everyone starts whispering, wondering which movie they’ve seen her in) and thought, “You know, we’re going about this all wrong.  If we need to prove to New York that Monica can hold up her end of the deal and promote the book, then why not do it for ourselves?  Why put our book into the hands of people who don’t believe in it?”

Then the news about Amanda Hocking broke, how she self-published her way into a 2 million dollar contract with St. Martin’s Press when her books went viral on Kindle.  

If that wasn’t enough to convince me, the other day I was speaking with a friend who is an author that consistently hits the Times.  She had heard from someone high up that the publishing world as I’ve known it is doomed -- with maybe six more years before they’re going to have to either change or die. 

That was it.  Monica and I sat down, looked at our project, divided the book up into smaller parts and created her new memoir series: The Men Wars.  The first book, which we intend—I’m writing as fast as I can—to have out before the end of July, is entitled Men-ipulation

We’re not going into this on a hope and a prayer, plugging it into Kindle and waiting.  We’re going to use the marketing and PR plan we had to develop for our non-fiction proposal. Did you know that all non-fiction books require a business plan to be submitted to New York?  I didn’t, but I sure do now.

So, instead of doing our PR in tandem with a publishing house’s marketing plan we’re going to be suiting ourselves.  Tomorrow, Monica is doing the photo shoot for the cover art.  A new website is in the planning stages. We’re not letting anyone else put their fingers in it.  If this one fails, it fails because we really don’t have the talent to make this fly.

I don’t believe that and neither does she.

Here’s my promise to the readers of this blog.  Each and every week as we go along, I’ll keep you updated on what happens and how it happens. 

Oh, and in case you think I’ve given up my historical roots, not so.  At least not yet.  Connie Flynn has allowed me to participate in her great Bootcamp for Authors on-line writing course. 

Starting July 15, I’ll be teaching a course called “Bringing Your Historical to Life”.  At the end of the course you should know how to weave your historical research into your novel so deftly that your readers will feel like they’ve used a time machine after reading your book.

Have you considered publishing naked? If so, how?  If you already have, how did it turn out? We'd love to hear about your experience.

You'll want to be sure to stop by Writers In The Storm on Friday. Our guest blogger will be Kitty Buckholtz, the founder of the amazing blog, Routines for Writers!

0 comments on “Publishing Naked”

  1. Denise, I'm glad you decided to join the ranks of kindle authors. With your backlist of books and your knowledge of publishing and marketing, you're bound to be a big winner. Thanks for sharing your experience with iUniverse. I will stay clear of them. You might want to check out Amazon's CreateSpace print on demand service. I'm considering using them for my books.

    1. Thanks so much for the hint on CreateSpace! I was just trying to remember the name of that service. And thanks for your vote of confidence...Now that I'm out here in the sticks trying to turn these 8 acres into a farm, I need all the extra cash I can get. 😀

    2. I have had a wonderful experience with Createspace so far. The books are a nice quality and doing the layout is not difficult.

  2. Thanks for sharing your journey. I've been working on a memoir for a while. I know everyone says it's the writing, but I've noted agents, etc. seem to be encouraging folks to self-publish their memoirs. I've always asked the question on Memoir how memoirists handle the legal implications when they self-publish. One assumes an agent, editor and publisher help vet some potential legal issues. What's the best route for one to do it when they self-publish?

    1. Hi Stacy,
      Katie Kotchman warned us very sternly to be careful about mentioning names and the ensuing potential legal issues that might come from that. Frankly, the issues exist and anyone can sue for anything. We've taken care to change the names of people who really could be hurt by Monica writing the truth. One of the things Monica did over her life that made my researching her story easier was to save every picture, card and letter--something I can't conceive of, having been on the move for most of my life. I've read it all, walked Kansas City with her, spoken to her friends and relatives, so I know she's telling the truth about what happened. Perhaps wrongly, I'm putting my faith in the fact the the truth will out eventually--but hopefully not expensively.

  3. This is all pretty interesting, how everyone is going this route. I've been told to I should write a book, because I do book reviews, and little personal stuff on a blog, http://www.carirusso.blogspot.com. I had no idea where to start, or if this was something for me. I started to do some research, and found myself and http://www.thewritersguidetoepublishing.com reading that blog, and thinking wow, that is incredible. It sounds easy,but yet I know it's not. Now reading this, makes think maybe again. I've been told I could write Jersey, since anything Jersey Italian is hot right now, and I've got one of those family's, I could probably pull it off. If there wasn't self-publishing out there, honestly I wouldn't even consider it. It's not about the money, but more about loving what you write. I love to write my blog, which includes my wacky family.

  4. What a great journey. It's too bad you need to be famous to get a memoir traditionally published. Just shows what traditional publishing thinks of our society. Not all of us want to read about the ups and downs of a celebrity.

    I'm still trying to decide whether to query or self-publish. I hear different things from different people. and a close friend who knows people in the academic publishing world still thinks I should query. I'm just not sure, but your experience is definitely something for us all to learn from.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Give NY a try. Who knows you might be like me with my first book and hit the right publisher at the right time with the right material. What's important is that YOU believe in you.

      1. Thanks, Denise. That's what I'm leaning toward right now. It's hard when you read articles on "mid-list" authors that are making good money, but if I don't at least try for NY, I'll regret it. I'll always ask 'what-if.'


  5. Howdy girls! I Indie published my 'tween adventure novel, The Cordovan Vault, this past spring. The sequel, The Peacock Tale, will be out in the fall. I've also published a picture book for kindergarteners, this summer, and I have another one of those coming out in a few weeks. It's been a slow start, but of course, no one has heard of me yet. I'm planning to build an audience over the next couple of years with a many-pronged marketing approach. Dean Wesley Smith has a nice blog with lots of information for Indie Pub'ers, too. It takes time, but time is on my side. My books won't be out of print unless I decide to pull them. And copyright lasts 75 years after I die. I'm young, so there's plenty of time for me to make money at this.

    Thanks for a fun post!

    1. you said "but time is on my side. My books won’t be out of print unless I decide to pull them. And copyright lasts 75 years after I die. I’m young, so there’s plenty of time for me to make money at this"
      That is so true! At least if I self-publish, I'm not at the mercy of a publishing house that, for example, "forgets" to put my book info in their sales package. If I fail, it's because I didn't do the work.

  6. This is perfect timing. Thank you so much for your insights. I'm in the editing stages of a "self-help" book. My counselor asked me to write a book with the advice I'd give myself. I've looked at the market, and there's too much Christianity in it to fit the New Age publishers, and not enough Christianity in it to fit the Christian publishers. I'm hoping that publishing under a pen name will be some protection, since I don't expect a NYT bestseller. Several people have read the book, and found it helpful. I'm an everyday type of person, who is an abuse survivor, and that's who I'm marketing to; I'm looking forward to learning from your experience. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks so much for your comments, Judy. I'm curious about your comment on getting protection from a pen name. What sort of protection do you need?

      On another note, have you considered turning your book into a blog? I'm hearing that NY publishers watch blogs, looking for the next big thing.

      1. As to protection, oddly enough, out of habit. One of my parents is an undiagnosed borderline personality with high narcissistic tendencies. In the book, I share a few specific examples of what happened growing up. This is the pickle: I don't want people confronting that parent, and I don't want that parent to know about what I've written, because they will be hurt, as far as they are able. It serves no purpose, except that I hope my survival experiences will help someone else in a similar experience, if nothing else, feel like they are not crazy and they are not alone. I was in my 40s before I learned that the insanity really wasn't me. If my name isn't blatantly out there, then they will never know, because they don't care to find out. My sister wrote a short book, with photographs she'd taken, about becoming a multiple (We Are One). My parents read it, but never commented, ever.

        I appreciate your suggestion about blogging, as I've thought about the blogging aspect, but I wanted to have a name to work with first. I have a pen name for my romance novels, and I'm working with a different name for my self-help book.

        Thanks for your reply, Denise

  7. *It’s not the quality of the writing that keeps New York from buying—it’s that Monica isn’t famous. *
    That just about sums up the majority of great manuscripts out there that can't get anyone in NY to look at. Thanks for your candid thoughts on this. I just jumped full throttle into indie publishing a few weeks ago and am running with it.

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