Category Archives: Career

Our Book Is on Shelves, Just Not in My Neighborhood

My first traditionally published book came out a couple of weeks ago. This is a moment many writers dream about over a lifetime, and a large percentage of them will never see this particular dream come true. I’m counting my blessings, believe me.

We received a decent advance. Some of my friends back in California have picked up their copies. The author, Chef Antonia Lofaso, for whom I’m co-writer, has a television show called Beat the Chefs that launched on GSN last week.So I’ve been more than a little dismayed that I haven’t been able to find The Busy Mom’s Cookbook on the shelves of either of my local Barnes & Noble bookstores. (My local indie bookstores specialize in used books.)

The publisher sent me several copies of the book, and I could order more via Amazon at any time. But I have to confess. I was looking forward to walking into a bookstore and seeing a book with my name on the title page. 

While I know it’s quite possible to have your indie published books on sale in brick and mortar bookstores if you’re willing to do the marketing work, I’m quite satisfied to get make my indie work available online for now. However I thought a major publisher like ours would make this book widely available in a fairly large, food obsessed city like the one I currently call home.

Clearly I still have a lot to learn about this business.

Go write something!

P.S. If you’re surprised to learn you can get indie published books onto bookstores shelves, run, don’t walk, to the blogs of Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith.  Read. Study. Learn.

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Posted by on August 27, 2012 in Career



My First Traditionally Published Book | The Busy Mom’s Cookbook

Here’s a look at the cover.

Sadly, the beautiful woman on the cover isn’t me. It’s Top Chef contestant and Executive Chef Antonia Lofaso. She’s the creator of the recipes, tips, and information. I’m the writer who pulled it all together in the form of a book.

Look for it in stores in Fall of 2012. I promise my name will be on the inside.

Go write something!

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Posted by on June 12, 2012 in Career


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Working with a Traditional Publisher – My Experience (so far)

I count myself lucky to be on a project for which a traditional publisher was willing to pay a decent advance. But I’m not the author. I’m the co-author or writer (depending on who you ask). The ideas belong to the author, Top Chef finalist, Antonia Lofaso, and it’s my job to communicate those ideas in a fashion that will appeal to readers.

I wrote the 85-page proposal for the cookbook, and did the marketing research. I rewrote the proposal, as needed on several occasions. And that was all done before I received any payment. I was willing to put in all that work, because I had faith that Antonia, who already had a literary agent when we started, would get the book sold. It took years for that to happen, but last spring, she reached an agreement with Penguin.

Then the serious work started. By this time, I’d relocated to the East Coast, while Antonia was still back in Los Angeles. We did all of our work by conference call–writing the introductory material, her three-page biography, her short biography, over 100 recipes, tips, and suggestions for home cooks.She’s incredibly knowledgeable about her field and we tried to share as much of that knowledge as was reasonable. If you think writing a cookbook is as simple as slapping some ingredients on the page, you’re misguided, dear writer.

The editor and copy editor were both incredibly professional and offered helpful suggestions.There were some points on which Antonia wasn’t willing to make changes, and that was her battle to fight. Though I shared ideas and offered suggestions, as the project facilitator, I pretty much followed her orders.

The first pass of the manuscript pages was due back to the publisher on Tuesday. Antonia and I conferenced on her changes, which I did by hand on the pages. There were a lot of them, but they were fairly minor. The layout has already been created, and significant changes would throw that off. We sent the pages back today. Honestly, I don’t think we hit one deadline in this process. Hey, the woman’s working 3 jobs and raising a daughter.

As this writing project comes to a close, I’m counting my blessings. I got to work with some incredible people and had some amazing food in the process. The Busy Mom’s Cookbook will be published in the fall of 2012, and I’m looking forward to writing the next one.

Go write something!

P.S. Questions about my experience? Ask me in the comments, and I’ll respond as soon as possible.

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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Career


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Should Indie Writers Give Away Their Work?

The debate rages all over the internet. Should indie writers give away their work in order to gain more readers?

I tried it last week. I did a 5-day promotion, setting my literary short story This Thing with Henry to give away for free as a Kindle download. (It’s now back to 99-cents, but still free to borrow for Prime members.) I thought about doing an all-out marketing push, but I only have one other story published digitally under my name. (I have others under a pen name). Before I start marketing, I’d like to have something for readers to look for once they’ve finished the free story.

Some indie publishers argue that you should never give anything away for free. They think it’s bad business. But for those of us who don’t yet have a following, it may be a good way to to begin to build a readership.

My story reached the top 20’s for free kindle books in two sub-categories. That’s not so impressive, but there are now over 400 people who have the story on their kindle. Those 400 people had never heard of me before the promotion. If Henry is to their liking, perhaps some of them will click on the link to purchase The Morning Man. Perhaps they’ll look for more of my work in the future.

I can’t pretend to have the marketing side of indie publishing figured out. I know how to write and craft a solid story. I’m fortunate enough to have access to a great cover designer. Formatting for digital publishing is fairly easy now that I’ve done it a few times. Given the choice, I’d focus exclusively on writing, and let marketing take care of itself. But I’m afraid that would mean writing for an audience of one.

I’ve published several stories under my pen name (more on that later), so for my next experiment in late April, I’ll set one of those to the $0.00 and spread the word a little more. Here’s hoping it finds the right readers and they come back for more.

Go write something!

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Posted by on April 4, 2012 in Career, Indie Publishing


How to Remove the Stigma from Self-Publishing

I sometimes buy books out of compassion for the author.

I see an author sitting at a table in a bookstore, or in a kiosk at a book fair, waiting patiently next to a stack of books. She or he is there to sign and sell books, but for whatever reason, no one has shown up or expressed an interest. I feel compelled to strike up conversation with these writers, to make them feel less awkward and alone.The response is almost always positive. They’re eager to discuss their work and sign it with a personal note penned just for me.

Almost every time I do this, over the course of twenty years or so, I get the book home and find it not worth reading. This assessment is subjective of course, and it’s never based on the subject matter, but always on the way the author treated the subject, used language, or crafted the story. I can never bring myself to dispose of the books, so I donate them in the hopes that they’ll find the right readers.

Many of these books were self-published, and some were published by big name publishing companies. There have always been self-publishing success stories, just as there have always been conventionally published books that were pure dreck. (Don’t tell me you’ve never picked up a book in a bookstore and wondered how that writer ever got a publishing deal.)

Self-publishing earned the reputation of not being able to pass muster with the publishers. Anything good to come out of that was considered an exception. Fortunately, that’s changing. Seasoned authors are taking advantage of the indie publishing and self-publishing opportunities that didn’t exist a few years ago, and holding onto more of the income their books generate. New authors are using self-publishing as a means to garner recognition, and perhaps a contract, from traditional publishers.

There will always be poorly written books for sale, and now that self-publishing is easier than ever and can be done for free, we can expect thousands more unworthy books to hit the virtual shelves. The best way for serious writers to continue to diminish the stigma that taints self-publishing is to self-publish the best work possible. Many readers sitting at home downloading books on their kindles and other electronic reading devices don’t care who published the book. They just want it to be good.

Here are my latest indie published offerings.

Go write something!


Posted by on January 12, 2012 in Career, Indie Publishing


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The Manuscript Is off to the Publisher – Now What?

Three years ago, a friend partnered with me to write a book proposal.

She had an agent that believed in her idea and her platform, but we had no guarantee that the book would sell. She’s the author, and I’m the writer, which means it’s my job to take her ideas and make of them a book people will want to read. Before I could get to that, I had to bang out a proposal a publisher would want to buy.

For most of my writing career, I’ve crafted fiction or written blog posts about food and health. A book proposal was far out of my realm of experience, and that 50-page document was one of the most difficult professional challenges I’ve faced. It’s not that proposal writing is complicated, but it was a new experience and I wanted to do it right. I think I did. The proposal was solid, and two years later the book sold. (Yes, it took that long.)

With the writing of the book, I was back in my comfort zone. There were some hiccups along the way. The author leads an extremely busy life, and we missed our first deadline, which for me is like failing to show up for work. You just don’t do it.

Two months and a dozen conference calls later, and we’ve completed the manuscript. Yesterday, I hit send, and the attached document landed in her agent’s inbox. He’ll forward it to the publisher, and I expect they’ll have notes that will require me to come back to the project in a few weeks.

I’d like to pop open some of the widow Clicquot’s finest, sit back, and wait for my check. But I have stories to tell and books to publish. When that email comes from the editor or that phone call from the agent, my life will belong to that project again. In the meantime, I’ll settle for a glass of vinho verde and a gluten-free cupcake I can savor while I create new worlds. I’m off to work.

Go write something!


Posted by on December 17, 2011 in Career


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4 Reasons to Publish Your Short Stories for E-readers

Are you writing strictly for your own pleasure, to impress some anonymous editor, or to share your work with readers?

If you’re like most fiction writers I know, you’ve got a few short stories, or abandoned novel chapters that could be shaped into short stories, lingering on your hard drive.

Let me suggest you take a leap into the digital world and publish those stories yourself on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and the like. (I’ll address submissions to literary journals in a separate post.)

For most of my writing career, anything that smelled like self-publishing was considered the “kiss of death.” After all, if you needed to pay exorbitant prices to a vanity press, you probably didn’t have the talent or mastery of craft to make it in the traditional publishing world. The times they are a-changin.

These days, many successful writers are jumping into indie publishing, either as an addition to or as a replacement for traditional publishing. New writers are launching their short stories via indie publishing in an effort to expose their work to the reading public.

4 Reasons to Digitally Publish Your Short Stories:

  1. Publish in a day.You can submit a story to journals for months or even years before you get an acceptance and publication date. Once you create a cover, format the text, and write a descriptive blurb, you can have your story available for sale via digital outlets within a few hours.
  2. Make money now. If you write in genres like sci fi or horror, there are several magazines that will pay for your stories. Literary magazines, on the other hand, rarely pay anything more than a copy or two of the journal itself. For those of us who aren’t independently wealthy, the extra money we can make from publishing and marketing our stories independently, may be worth the effort.
  3. Build a readership. If you’re working on a novel or story collection, you can start to find readers for your work well before your longer piece is ready. If your work is good, and you give people the opportunity to find it, those same readers will look for your next work. Just don’t make them wait too long.
  4. Credibility. Sure, publishing in a highly reputable journal builds your credibility as a writer, but sales can do that for you in a much more direct way. Some writers may be in the industry as a hobby or part-time job, but few agents or publishers are. They need to make a living, and if you can demonstrate a successful sales record with your short stories, they’ll give you a serious look when you’re ready to sell your novel or story collection (assuming you don’t decide to indie publish that as well.)

For all those reasons and more, I’ve published my first short story via digital avenues. The Morning Man is published for Kindle, Nook, pdf download and all the other ereader formats. There are more stories to come, including several which I’ll publish under a pen name, since they’re a complete departure from my normal “literary” genre.

Have you self-published? Leave me a comment, and let me know where I can find your work.

Go write something!


Posted by on December 14, 2011 in Career, Indie Publishing


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