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An Ultra-Newbie With No Backlist Sell-Publishes Her Debut Novel

I love Joes’s blog. I’ve learned a lot by reading his posts, and I’ve often heeded his advice. While I’ve no desire to jump into the fray regarding the self-publishing/traditional publishing debate, I will state that self-publishing was the best choice for *my* book.

Occasionally I see comments from readers that say Joe’s transition to self-publishing was a no-brainer. He was already traditionally published, professionally vetted if you will, and he had a backlist he could upload to KDP. Self-publishing was easy, some said, if you had those things. lready

What if those of us that wanted to self-publish had neither? Confession: Before I wrote On the Island, I’d never written a novel before. I didn’t have thousands of words languishing on my hard drive, nor did I have any trunk novels shoved in a drawer. What I had was a bucket list, and one of the items on it was WRITE A NOVEL, right above SEE THE EAGLES IN CONCERT (done!).

I wasn’t a complete writing neophyte. I used to write when I was in college at the University of Iowa. I took a creative writing class taught by one of the members of the Writer’s Workshop and got an A. After I transferred to Grandview College, a small Liberal Arts college in Des Moines, I took another creative writing class and got an A in that one, too. I still have the hand-written note from the instructor that said, “I think if you work hard you will be published someday. No kidding.”

After I graduated, I spent my time doing what most twenty-somethings were doing: working and socializing. I didn’t write much of anything and I really put my writing on the backburner when I got married and started a family.

Fast forward to 2008. My kids were in school all day and suddenly I had the urge to write again (the house was also dead-quiet which probably had more to do with it than anything). I started a blog, the content of which was read by tens of people per day. I enjoyed it. I had fun with it. I wasn’t interested in search engine optimization, or increasing my followers, or monetizing the blog by junking it up with ads. Honestly, I was mostly concerned about my dad finding it and discovering that the f-word was sprinkled judiciously throughout my posts.

The main reason I started the blog was because I wanted to start writing again and thought it would be a great way to flex my creative muscles after years of non-use. And it was.

But then I wanted more. I was spending time writing posts when what I really wanted to do was write a full-length novel.

“Have you ever written a novel before?” people asked.

“No,” I said. “But I figure the best way to teach myself how to write a book is by writing a book.”

So I did. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, either, but I figured it out as I went along. If I didn’t know the answer, I googled it. I used every single online resource I could find. I spent hours on writing message boards, soaking up information, and I wrote. Six months later I had a rough draft. I celebrated. I had an almost-book sitting on my hard drive.

In the meantime, I was approached by a writer on Absolute She had seen my query letter

Don’t rely on social media to sell your book for you. Take a look at your Twitter followers right now, and the people you’re following. How many of their books have you bought? Maybe one or two.

Nike advertises. Coke advertises. So should you.

1)Myth: All self-published books are crap.

Truth: A lot of self-published books are crap, but not all of them. Myth #8: People who read can tell when a book is self-published because the standards of production are

2) Myth: Self publishing won’t cost you anything at all.

FALSE. Okay, maybe you *can* self-publish your work for free, but you shouldn’t.

The Half Diet

Now that the holiday season is in full swing, women everywhere are trying to figure out how to mitigate the effects of endless cocktail parties, department potlucks, and an unlimited supply of alcohol and sugar.

Last month we started brainstorming solutions at work and I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t on board with any of the options that were suggested. Jen is a fan of the 17-Day diet, but when I looked it up none of my favorite holiday things like chocolate martinis, fancy, frosted sugar cookies, and crack dip were on it, so clearly that wasn’t even going to make the short list.

Kendra wanted to know if I was interested in doing The Dukan Diet with her.

Me: What the hell is The Toucan Diet?
Kendra: Oh my God, that’s what we thought it was called, too. But when we googled it we found out that toucans eat berries and rats so we double-checked and it’s Dukan, not Toucan.

I googled this diet and you basically eat nothing but meat in the first phase, aptly named “attack” which I would have to change to “Oh, hell no.” It sounds horrible.

Kendra: So, do you want to try The Dukan Diet with me?
Me: Not even a little bit. I’m going to do the half diet instead.
Kendra and Jess: We’ve never even heard of that.
Me: That’s because I just made it up this very second. I’m just going to eat half of everything on my plate from now on. Easy-peasy, George and Weezy.

So I started doing that. I gave Jess half my sandwich and chips the other day because she didn’t have time to run down for lunch. Then Karen and I split a sandwich and chips. Then Jess and I shared a grilled cheese and fries and she was kind of bitching about the small portion, but she still split with me.

Then I came back from the cafeteria a few days later and Jess and Kendra were eating beef burgers (oh God, why? I can’t stand beef, and especially not in loose-meat form. Gah).

Kendra noticed the lunch I was carrying. “Neither of us can split with you today, but don’t you dare throw half of that sandwich away. Just eat it.”

“I paid for it,” I said. “I can do whatever I want with it and I am not a garbage can.”

“Save it for us. We might want it later even though we just ate one-and-a-half beefburgers. We’re doing the one-and-a-half diet. You know, to bulk up for winter.”

“Hibernation preparation?” I asked.


“Are you mocking me? I feel like you’re making fun of my made-up diet.”

Jess: I almost gnawed on my own arm I was so hungry after splitting lunch with you the other day.

Me: Yeah, but you didn’t get hungry until the end of the day. I told you all you had to do was go home, make dinner, and eat half. I can’t make this any simpler.

And ha, ha, they wanted that half sandwich later but they were SOL because I gave it to Karen.

“This morning when I got dressed I fit into pants that are a size smaller than I usually wear,” I announced when I got to work on Friday. “They were conveniently still hanging in my closet from when I exploded out of them last year due to all the ass-sitting that comes with writing a book. They slid right on today, though. Might even be loose.”

Suddenly, everyone was all interested.

They had questions on the mechanics of the half diet. We had a round-table discussion at work to fine-tune it and come up with some additional parameters (like how to handle alcohol). We told my boss Jean all about it so I’ll probably get an award or something for lowering everyone’s BMI. I promised I would design a handy flowchart to illustrate exactly how the diet is supposed to work.

Here it is:


What foods are weird to divide in half?

Any fruit or vegetable because no one ever got fat eating that shiz. Don’t do something lame like eat half a banana, or half a carrot. That’s stupid.

What about a bowl of cereal? Can I only eat half of it?

You can eat the whole thing, but don’t use a giant mixing bowl and don’t choose cereal that comes with a toy. I am quite fond of Kashi cereal but only the kind with honey and almond flax because the other kind is like eating petrified twigs and little puffs of styrofoam.

Eat this

Not that

It even says twigs and puffs in the description which they should be trying to downplay so obviously everyone in the marketing department at Kashi is high.

Potato chips and french fries don’t sound very healthy. Have any real nutritionists weighed in on this diet?

Well aren’t you Judgy McJudgypants. I agree, chips and fries are not healthy but the salad bar in my company cafeteria scares the living crap out of me and I make much healthier choices for breakfast and dinner. And no, I did not solicit the opinion of any nutrition experts for my made-up diet. It is simply the concept of moderation with the addition of wine in a whole-bottle serving size which means it’s freaking awesome.

What about soup. How do you eat soup?

Please stop asking silly questions. Eat it with a spoon, and serve yourself about half as much as you really want. It will still be plenty.

What if I go to Cheesecake Factory or Outback Steakhouse?

Take three other people with you and share one entree.

Will you pose in a bikini like Kirsti Alley when you’re done with the half diet?

Don’t be ridiculous. Kirsti wore pantyhose under that bikini and I don’t even own pantyhose.

How many pounds will I lose on the half diet?

I have no idea. Try it and find out, and then report back to me. Please take before and after photos. I promise not to put them on my blog.


So, who’s on board?

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