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Grab Bag ~ Thursday 13 July

Did It My Way

And it's the hiway. I'm discovering some of the costs of self-publishing. Do they outweigh the benefits? Probably not. But they do disappoint me, and I think in time, things will have to change.

Twice this week, I've paid the price for not producing my book through a "reputable publisher". Partly, I understand the problem, and partly I protest. Since I'm an Alabama native, I've explored the possibility of having the book made available to my home-staters, and it looked at first as if I was making some progress. A lit mag editor said yes, they'd review the book for their print magazine for the Spring of '07. Now, very kindly and appreciated, he explains that his organization is having disagreements about doing full reviews of "author subsidized" books. Secondly, an April 07 book festival in Birmingham stipulates that, in addition to being a native of the state, your book must be from a "reputable publisher". Well, far as I know, the reputation of Goose Creek Press stands unblemished, but I don't think that's what they mean. It means "sorry, Charlie. We don't recognize your effort--no matter the endorsements, sales volume or other comparisons to "real" books. "

Everything is Broken

I confess I haven't used it very much lately. Summer is a down-time with photography, generally, and moreso this year with other things taking center stage. But finally, last night, a photo-op: Ann's dad's 92nd birthday party held down the valley in our "secret place" above Nameless Creek. I turn on the camera (Nikon D70) and nada. No power, no LCD, no nothing. Just a green light flashing at the bottom of the memory card door. Different card, different battery, same blink. So while we're in South Dakota in a few weeks, I guess my camera will be in RepairLand. I'm so bummed--not to mention it will cost me the equivalent of a couple dozen book sales to fix, most likely.

But wait! What's this? Oh I love the net. Digital Photography Forums / Nikon D70 Forum to the rescue. It seems I'm not alone. Early adopters of this camera who purchased in March and April of 2004 are experiencing BGLOD--the blinking green light of death. Nikon will repair it for free, and it may take as little as a week to have it back. So pardon my whining.

Warm (Hearth) Fuzzies

Today is my day to meet with the residents of Warm Hearth Retirement Village to talk about and read from the book. I'm having a hard time deciding which two or three selections might mean the most to this audience. I've stopped expecting in these events to be able to distill "what the book's about" into those few pieces that I read. That will have to be inferred from the little bit I say about how the book came to be, and from my "presence" and then, from purchasing the book. But I do want to find appropriate pieces for this audience who will be older than average, more well traveled and experienced, and maybe more patient as listeners. Many will have been teachers. Some will have had experiences like mine, searching for roots, for belonging and sense of place. I want to have plenty of time to let them tell their stories by the questions they ask and comments they make afterward.

So, Slow Road Home readers, here's your chance: What three selections would you chose for my audience today at 3:00? We have to decide soonish!

Long Way Home

I recorded the "lost dog" story some of you read here a while back. You can listen to it online at or listen live tomorrow on WVTF after the Civil War pieces at 6:50 and 8:50.


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As a recommendation I will relate a personal observation. I passed on my copy of the book to my 82-year-old mother to read. The very next time I stopped in to see her, she pulled out the book and read to me with great delight the chapter about Nathan and the Chinese restaurant fortune cookie.

Just about anything you read from A Slow Road Home should work. I'd suggest reading one of your earlier entries—maybe even the first—to give your listeners a sense of who you are and where you're coming from. Then, based on the audience's response to that selection, go with what you think they'd like.

While you're driving there, you'll think of something.

Fred, I don't know what a "reputable publisher" is either, but a lot of people have opined that I am one. Certainly a lot of important and beautiful books have been self published, but I have learned that most people in the book production and distribution pipeline don't look at the book -- they look at the statistics. Many poorly written, self serving self-published books are produced for every gem, and books as fine as yours are rare in this market. So the booksellers play the avrages. Which means you have to work even harder. Bob Cumming

Well at least you're in good company, as far as "in-house publishing" goes. e.e. cummings, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Ezra Pound, D.H. Lawerence all first self-published, to name just a few.

John Grisham sold "A Time to Kill" out of the trunk of his car.

To me, it's just another variation of the small press.

I see that James Robertson is hosting the Civil War piece on VPR. This guy is pretty big in his field. Wish I could hear it, but it is out of my range.

Had some time after a busy work day -- especially long since it's only the second day after having taken several days off. Listened to your reading about your "lost dog." Can't wait to get home in about 20 minutes to hug my dog! It's a wonderful story...one of so many you tell. Thanks.

I saw this today, and thought you might find it interesting..


I just heard your story of your lost dog on WVTF. Only a dog lover could convey the sense of warmth you conveyed with your message today.

Anyone who doesn't believe dogs aren't "part human" are crazy. We have a dog that found me at a McDonald's drive thru window almost three years ago. Her name is Boo. She has a boyfriend who travels four miles at least twice a week to vist her. Of course, he is a choc. Lab named Sampson. He travels a busy Route 40 East in Gretna to visit with Boo. Nothing his owners can do can keep Sampson away from Boo

This dog is so loved by our family (and not even our dog) that just hearing your essay this morning gave me chill bumps.

Thank you for your beautiful essay. It made my day!


There you go Fred, trying to play up to literary magazines whose readership barely matches yours.

Take a real good look at their dismal circulation figures before moaning about their shortsighted unfairness.

They are the last vestiges of a vanishing publishing game and they need to use every exclusionary trick in the book to salvage their once-important role in connecting readers to authors.

Get on with your personal promotion and skip blithely over the people who look with disdain at self-published books. Note that they still use the term "author subsidized books" as though you were published by Vantage Press. By the time they catch up to the current state of the publishing industry, you will be well on your way to becoming a modern self-publishing phenomenon.

Go forth and prosper. If you wait for approval from such as these, you will kick yourself later.

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