Posted by: jeannineatkins | January 2, 2013

Theme for the New Year: Louder

Some of my friends have a lovely tradition of reporting not resolutions but a theme that might shape their year, and without much thought I know what mine must be. I feel a need to speak more loudly. Perhaps not in my poetry or prose, which I prefer not to blare. But in my writing career, I want to come into 2013 wearing bigger, louder boots. My lack of patience may be as imperceptible as a sigh, but I mean to move a few tables, if not let the dinnerware crash.

As many of you know, it’s a tricky time for writers, with the number of publishers and bookstores shrinking. I’ve spent much of the past two years hunkered over a novel avoiding the fact that other manuscripts have been sitting in mailboxes. I’ve been quiet because I know editors, like writers, are having a hard time, and I can tell myself it’s considerate to wait. But handing over work to people who practice “if you don’t hear, we don’t want it” means long silences, which too easily shapes into a sense that my work isn’t good enough. This year, I don’t mean to harass, but I intend to steel myself to enquire perhaps after six to eight weeks instead of as many months. I don’t want to look greedy, wanting my work to be published, or unpopular, making it known that editors aren’t rushing to snag my work. I don’t want to be Anna Karenina in her theater box, with people raising their eyebrows behind their opera glasses. But I’ve got to take some things into my own hands.

A few months ago, Michael Dooling, who beautfully illustrated two picture books I wrote, Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon and Anne Hutchinson’s Way, joined forces to reprint these books which Farrar, Straus and Giroux let go out of print. We won’t make much money, but we both want the books available to children who want to know about these important women. I feel energized by my first small venture into independent publishing, partly because it is small. Mike and I aren’t overwhelming ourselves with big plans, and we don’t have to, since print-on-demand means we don’t have stock to store and sell. Next, I want to reprint a novel, Becoming Little Women, whose rights were granted back from Putnam.

I’ve also decided to publish a collection of some of my blog posts about writing. I’ve been treating my work like an engaged editor, free with knife and pen, and one of the pleasures is that I don’t have to wonder about who will publish Views from the Window Seat. I will, using some of what I’ve learned by writing and selling eleven books. And if a dozen people are willing to pay for it, I’ll be happy.

Peter has encouraged me re self-publishing for years, but I still hope to work with an editor who isn’t me and to publish books that may find smoother paths to libraries and stores. I’m also more open to changing the plan, feeling perhaps like an athlete who swapped teams, and found herself sitting on the bench. That player might start her own team, though she’s not thrilled to hunt down teammates, locate equipment, and keep all the balls and fences in shape. But she’d rather play on a field whose borders aren’t well-marked than not play at all.

I want to use a louder voice for what seems worthwhile for me to say and simply see what happens. And you, who took the time to read this: thank you. You matter more than you may know.

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Responses

  1. I am so excited for you, Jeannine! What a happyloud plan, and one you can completely control. Welcome back to your new-old books, and I will be the first in line for that writing collection. Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong have liked working with CreateSpace… As for your word, “louder,” I smiled. ‘Know what mine is? Silence. I’m too loud already and need to think more, talk less. xo, a. (eyebrows not raised behind opera glasses)

    • Amy, you have been such a key person in encouraging me to put together some of my thoughts on writing. I so appreciate that. And yes, Mike and I worked with CreateSpace, too: it’s pretty easy, that’s the key, and the books do look good. You make me smile with your silence! I guess we’re all after balance. And thanks for the level eyebrows — and again, always, for the cheers. Good luck with your poems!

  2. I publish with Lightning Source, which is Ingram’s POD department and gets you in the Ingram catalog so bookstores can order. I set my own prices.
    A friend of mine used iUniverse and they charged him for everything, determined the price of the book which is so high no one will buy it, and were going to charge him for publicity.
    I also used BookBaby for the ebook versions of my book, Bob’s novels, Weapon and Solo, and the Korean War memoir we published (Missing Dog Tags). They put it on all the platforms, kindle, iPad, etc.
    Good luck with it. I make about a hundred a month for doing nothing, which is nice. I had to do PR for Missing Dog Tags and will not do that again. I want to be a writer and work on my own PR.
    I love your stuff and hope you do well!

    • Thanks for the thoughts, Patty, as I stumble my way into this!

  3. Good for you for getting those o/p books back in print! I admire your efforts. I have so many books o/p and think I should do something but can’t seem to muster the energy to figure out how to do it. Like your husband, my husband is all for it, but it’s not all that simple.

    I’m looking forward to a foot-stompin’ Jeannine this year! You go, girl!

    • Yay for Frank for standing behind you, and I’m glad for Peter’s nudges, but it is a friend who doesn’t have a lot of spare time, energy, or money who did this who pushed me over the ledge so to speak, and knowing that these books will have a small but particular audience where I can direct my lacksadasiacal efforts. I appreciate your cheers, though I’ll never be mistaken for your Iva Honeysuckle or Rebel McKenzie, for instance. But next time I stomp my foot I’ll breathe some thanks to you.

  4. I LOVE this! When I was a working musician, I self-published for 10 years, long before it became easy to do. It’s how I stayed in business. My last project included a 44 page color booklet which I self-published through Create Space (which is run by Amazon). When I read the line about contacting your agent after 6-8 weeks my first thought was “that’s because your work is worth the inquiry.” And would I pay for your blog posts? Absolutely! As a writer struggling to learn and get into the deeper process, your posts about yours are really helpful. Promotion of your work is tricky when you self-publish, you have to wear several hats. Having an active blog already puts you ahead of the game (as well as a good understanding of how they work). There are great blogs that I follow (Jeff Goins, Michael Hyatt, Derek Halprin) who offer encouragement and practical strategies for writing and promotion, and they make it fun!

    I won’t lie to you, I didn’t sell thousands of units when I was selling my music and I could never have lived off of it. But because of it, I traveled places I never thought I’d go, met people I could only dream of meeting (and this is especially true with my Louisa blog) and played in front of audiences larger than I could have imagined, if only a few times. 🙂 The work empowered me, gave me confidence and sent me off in directions unimagined (guess I need a bigger imagination! :-)). I WILL say that 95% of the time, I paid in full for recording sessions (except for the first one which I paid over time, a LONG time), and, keeping a separate bank account for my music, have been able to sustain the music through its own earnings (and support my Louisa habit as well). Monthly sales off of iTunes keeps the coffer just full enough.

    I have 3 words for you: GO FOR IT! And enjoy the ride. 🙂

    • Thank you for the positive as well as practical thoughts. There’s a lot to think about, but I’m going to try not to think TOO much, or get bogged down in research, so that I don’t act. A friend (thanks, Carol!) just mentioned the slim slippery line between being excited and overwhelmed. So I’ll focus on your last words. Yes, why not enjoy?

  5. That’s the way to do it, Jeannine! Keep those books in print and let us own Views from the Window Seat, a bible of sorts.

    • Thank you, dear Sarah. I truly cherish the way you help me believe I have something to say.

  6. Now you are talking. I think you are at the edge of the next major revolution in literature. Good for you girl. I wish you success and I firmly believe you will not only be successful for you & Michael but you will also help pave the way for others who are not yet willing or able to pull on those boots and do the work or take the risk. Brava!

    • Mary, have you been watching Les Mis? Anyway, thanks for seeing revolutionary potential in my small steps. I knew if I wrote here it would be a commitment, but I hope you won’t expect me to be loud every day! But I will try!

  7. What a great theme for you! YAY! I’m cheering you on and here’s to a wonderful year! xoxoxo

    • Thanks, Debbi, for this and your thousands of cheers over the years!

  8. Yah for you!!! I know someone who had several NF books go out of print, who got her rights back and self-published.

    • Thanks for the cheer. It’s good to do a small something rather than nothing at all.

  9. Happy New Year, Jeannine! What a wonderful theme for the year. You have such a deep well of wisdom on the process of writing that you’ve shared with us. I’ve long considered you as one of my inspirations, and I know the world will benefit from you speaking loudly!

    I’m so interested to see how your journey with self publication will unfold. It’s a path that I’ve been mulling over for my collection of zen stories.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, and many wishes from my heart for a fulfilling year ahead.
    xoxo . .

    • Lorraine, your encouragement means so much to me, from the summers of virtual scones and tea till now. Thank you! And I’ll be happy to share what I learn, once I learn it.

      • I’ll definitely buy your book! You’ve been my mentor forever, it seems–or at least as long as I’ve been working on WITNESS. And you know already that I’m a big fan of your writing.

        By the way, seems to me that you and Lorraine have very similar goals this year. Leastwise, if your New Year’s-related posts are any indication.

        🙂

        • You’re right, Melodye!

          Jeannine, I think I should join forces with you and then we can really make some noise! Melodye, are you in too?!

          • Heck yeah! I’m always up for making a joyful noise! 🙂

          • I could not have better company! Thanks, Lorraine and Melodye, and onward!

  10. Jeannine, I am so happy to see this! Your steadfast voice has been such an inspiration to me over the years, and Sweetpea and I spent an afternoon with your Mary Anning just last month. It’s wonderful to think that those books, as well as Views from the Window Seat, will have a new life. You write about the mess and the mire and the glories of the writing process – and about history – in ways that make me want to sit down and write myself. An enviable gift!

    • Amy, thank you so much for these words. It is good to feel that I can help inspire someone to want to pick up a pen, especially someone who wields one as brilliantly as you do.

  11. It rolled off my teachers’ tongues. I spotted it in books and articles on the craft of writing. A couple of times, it appeared in red on my papers with an arrow pointing to a specific sentence or paragraph. Then, I took a poetry class and had a big aha moment where show, don’t tell became abundantly clear.

    • Yay for poetry classes and aha moments!


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