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Why Publish with a Mainstream Press? The Complete Writer

Why Publish with a Mainstream Press?

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishers and Self-Publishers

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays.  You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.


Why Publish with a Mainstream Press?

One reason: Creds

Several of my friends and acquaintances have immersed themselves so deeply in the indie publishing/self-publishing phenomenon that they can’t see why anyone would want to publish through an old-fashioned brick-and-mortar mainstream publisher. After all, they cry, look at how much more money you can make on sales of your book through Amazon!

To that I have this to say:

  1. Fat chance and good luck with that.
  2. Even if you make more per retail transaction, you’re still very unlikely to make as much publishing a good, truly promising book through Amazon as you would on an advance against sales from a major publishing house. And . . .
  3. Let’s look at the whole picture.

Here’s the thing: even if you publish regularly on Amazon, you’re unlikely to earn a living at it. Sure, some people do. But most people don’t. And dreaming about being a Writer with a Capital W does not put food on the table or a roof over your head.

Unless you have a working spouse or independent wealth, what you need to be a Writer is a job that will support you while leaving you enough hours in the day, every day, to do the work of writing. And those hours cannot occur after eight or ten hours in the salt mine: writing is every bit as much a job as slinging hamburgers or preparing tax returns or painting houses or pushing some company’s papers. The Writing Hours need to occur when you’re fresh enough and energetic enough to devote your full attention to your job of preference.

There is a type of work that fills the bill: full-time (not adjunct!) teaching in higher education, preferably at a university. Preferably in a graduate-level writing program. Whereas in the olden days artists and writers were supported by aristocratic patrons—dukes and earls and kings and such—today’s patron is the university. Universities (and, to a lesser degree, two- and four-year colleges) support artists and writers by employing them in jobs that are light on labor and heavy on prestige. And the “prestige” part is the part they expect you to deliver.

To provide that—to get a tenure-track job at all—you have to be published through a recognizable press. And that does not include CreateSpace. As with any tenurable position, jobs in writing programs require more than just publishing. It’s not that you’re published. It’s where you’re published. You have to be published with a first-line trade or scholarly press that has gatekeepers—editors and marketers and reviewers who assess the quality of your manuscript before it’s accepted for publication.

A book or two published through a recognizable house will open the doors to jobs that ask only that you teach two or three sections of creative writing or literature in exchange for freedom and time to build your career as a writer. It doesn’t have to be a Big Five publisher. An academic press or a small (but real: not CreateSpace, not Nook, not iBooks, not Kindle) publisher will do the job.

I landed a full-time university teaching job complete with excellent benefits, very nice office space, a decent salary, and a future on the strength of two books published through university presses and one through a major commercial publishing house. If I were to apply for such a job today, my CV would contain no mention of the books published through Amazon’s Kindle platform. Amazon wonders notwithstanding, any whiff of a self-published book could be fatal.

Could I earn more by aggressively marketing a self-published book with broad appeal than I would by publishing the same book through a mainstream publisher? Maybe. Let’s suppose we even say “sure.”

But that income would be short-term. It would peter out in a few years, maybe even in a single year. To stave off the evil day, I would have to devote an inordinate amount of time to marketing and to hustling sales.

A salary from an academic job, on the other hand, will remain a salary as long as I hold the job, whether I publish more books or not. The academic employer will match contributions to a 403(b). It will offer a health insurance plan. It will offer disability insurance. It will give me an annual travel budget to cover junkets to various professional conferences. It will, in a word, support me.

Now, I’m not saying no one ever cobbles together a living wage by cranking out self-published books. No doubt some people do—maybe a lot of people. But it’s an iffy proposition.

If your books are good enough to sell to enough readers for the proceeds to support you, then they’re good enough to sell to a mainstream publisher. And the kind of job you can land with a few mainstream publications on the CV will support you steadily and usually better than a catch-as-catch-can income stream from Amazon will.

Mainstream publication gives you credentials—the credentials you need to persuade an academic patron (a university or community college) to support you while you keep on writing.



Two steps backward…

…for every one step forward, eh? Doesn’t it sometimes feel that way? 😀 Lately it’s felt like that way all the time, here at the Funny Farm.

Like just this instant, f’r example: I actually did write a coherent first paragraph to this damn post. Then wanted to italicize a word or two, highlighted and hit command-I for the purpose, and AUUUGHHHHHH! Whatever keys I hit formed a magical mystery “delete” command…and disappeared the entire post!

Doing it all over again is getting to be the story of my life. The exceptionally tedious story of my life. One catastrophe after another has been holding forth in these parts, leaving me too tired to write anything on Ella’s Story, when I’m not too distracted.

Rejiggering the “publication” schedule so as to post one chapter of just ONE of the three books in hand per week was a lucky move that turned into a godsend. Because The Complete Writer and If You’d Asked…” are finished and sitting in Word subdirectories, it was relatively easy (though incredibly ditzy) to post all the chapters for both books and schedule WordPress to publish them on specific dates. This freed me from a weekly brain-banging computer hoop jump, two weeks out of three. And this, I imagined, would free up a couple of hours a week to write Ella.


So…why wasn’t I making any progress? Yesterday I realized that every time I sit down to work on that thing there’s another interruption. Yep. I started to type a sentence, got through ONE phrase, and had to jump up and tend to another crisis, phone call, barkfest, doorbell ringer or whatfreakingEVER. Even when I’ve got time carved out to do my thing, I can’t stay focused long enough to build up a head of steam.

It is amazing how much ditz the computer adds to chores that ought to be fairly straightforward.

Today, for example, I wanted to install live links in the Ella’s Story page, so that if a person wanted to read the thing, said person could simply run down the page and click on links to the chapters, in the order of the narrative. Et voilà! Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?

No. Installing links to 33 posts is an activity that consumes freaking HOURS.

To locate the post, get the URL, go back to “edit page” for the Ella’s Story page, insert the link, make it open in a new page, change the color of the link to match the theme’s color scheme, and on and on requires NINE point-and-click-and-copy-paste-or-type maneuvers for EACH LINK. Consider: for 33 posts that’s TWO HUNDRED AND NINETY-SEVEN DITZY MIND-NUMBING OPERATIONS!

By the time you’ve fixed the 87 gerjillion typos your flapping fingers insert, it’s well over 300 operations. Brain-banging tedious!

No wonder I don’t get around to doing it…one can always find a way to avoid doing that kind of workoid.

Ella’s Story, Chapter 33

Ella’s Story, Chapter 33

Ella’s Story follows people who live ordinary lives as citizens of a vast interstellar empire. Indeed, a galactic empire. Each chapter will be posted individually here at the Plain & Simple Press blog about one every three weeks, and then collected at a single page devoted to the book. Come on over to the Ella’s Story page to find all the chapters published so far, as well as the cast of characters and a list of place names.

Chapter 33

Vighdi called the kitchen, ordered a couple of meals delivered to her private quarters and then directed Ella toward the single women’s section of the employee apartments. The door to Vighdi’s rooms slid open as it sensed her walking up the hallway. Ella could see the walls’ glow panels fade up from dark to a soothing off-white. By the time the two women reached the doorway, they stepped into a fully lit living space.

“Nice,” Ella murmured, almost unwittingly. Despite all the early maid work at the resort, she’d never been inside any of the free company employees’ quarters. A windowless, oblong room spread out behind the entrance, a broad loosely covered bed tucked behind a couple of low pony walls in the far left corner. Images, some of them abstract and some figurative to the last detail, decorated the walls. A desk and chair stood against the left wall; to the right a pair of soft-looking lounge chairs filled a sitting area in front of a table that looked like it was designed either for eating or for games. On the far wall, another door opened into what looked like a private bathroom and maybe a storage closet.

“Pretty much standard issue,” Vighdi said, ushering her in.

One helluva lot more issue than our “standard,” Ella thought, given her own digs: a bunk inserted inside a cubbyhole in a wall with a curtain for privacy. Such as it was.

“Make yourself comfortable, dear.” Vighdi gestured to one of the large  stuffed chairs and started a built-in device near the broad table making hot drinks. Ella watched her brew and pour a couple mugsful of the dense rust-red tisane she favored – Ella was not asked what she would like, if anything. Eventually Vighdi set a steaming cup on the table beside her and alit in the other chair.

Vighdi drew her legs up under herself, took a tentative sip of the hot drink, and sighed. Ella sensed a ripple of tension flowing out of the woman’s body.

“So,” Vighdi said after a moment of quiet. “You do understand, right? How close you came?”

Did you bring me here to lecture me some more? Ella wondered. She saw Vighdi gazing levelly at her and figured she would have to put up with it. Surpressing her own weary sigh – for she was indeed very weary now that the immediate danger of peremptory execution seemed to be over – she nodded. “Yes, boss. I do.”

“He wasn’t kidding about sending you down to the surface with your boyfriend. Bho is not a man who blows smoke.”

“No, ma’am. No. I do know.”

“No,” Vighdi repeated. Was there an edge to her voice? Ella wasn’t sure then; wasn’t sure to this day, many years later.

“I…,” she couldn’t see what direction to take her thought, or what direction to come from. “Thank you, Boss Vighdi. For helping me.”

“I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think it was worth the effort.”

“I appreciate that.”

Vighdi gave her a sharp look, as though she didn’t appreciate the reply. “Are you going to let me down?”

“I hope not.”

“Yes or no?”

“No, ma’am.”

Vighdi fell silent, stared at her. After what felt to Ella like minutes, she said “I hope not, too.”

Before Ella could figure out whether a reply was expected, came a buzz from the door. “Dinner, ma’am,” a voice said through the intercom. An image appeared on a vidspot next to the entrance and Ella recognized Taz, one of the chow line workers.

“Come in, dear.” With a gesture, Vighdi persuaded the door to slide open. Taz carried a tray to the table and gave the overseer a deferential nod. “This looks fine,” Vighdi said.

“Do you need anything else, boss?

“This will be fine,” she said.

“It’s almost curfew, ma’am,” he remarked. “If you’ll put your dishes outside when you’ve finished, we’ll pick them up first thing in the morning.”

The graying Kanaian man dismissed, Vighdi motioned to Ella to sit down and eat.

“If it’s curfew time, I should go down to my bunk,” Ella said. “I didn’t realize it was so late.”

“You need to eat, Ellie. Sit down and fill yourself. I’ll take you down there after we have a meal. But as a matter of fact…better do this…”

She picked up a vidspot controller and turned on the communication service. Yiadwene, one of her assistants, appeared. “Do the bed check for me tonight, will you?” The woman nodded, looking a little surprised. “Ella is here with me. I’ll bring her along a little later.”

“So… All right.” A quizzical tone signaled some curiosity.

“Good,” Vighdi said, cutting off any discussion. “Go on to bed. No need to wait up, dear.”

“Thank you, ma’am”: as close, in tone, to a shrug as one could come without lifting one’s shoulders.

The chow, Ella thought vaguely, was also standard issue. She didn’t taste it especially, though: just ate. She was hungry and not hungry: a state of mind she had rarely experienced before.

Vighdi, across the table from her, also dined without much obvious enthusiasm. Few words were spoken. When they both had eaten as much as they were going to, Vighdi told Ella to pick up the dishes, which she did, obediently enough, and without being asked to do more, piled them on the tray and set the mess outside the door.

Expecting to be escorted down to the single slave women’s quarters, she paused by the open door.

“Would you like something to help you unwind a little, Ella?” Vighdi slid open a door in the cabinet behind the table, displaying a variety of relaxants.

“Uhm…” Surprised, Ella wasn’t sure what to say. But…yes, she surely would. “I wouldn’t mind something to drink,” she said tentatively. Her preference was for soft candies spiked with white powder, a specialty of Samdela’s southern mountainsides. But…while those in service were allowed some alcohol ration, in moderate amounts, most other entertainments were off limits.

“All right. Do you like…how about this brandy?” She lifted a bottle out of the cabinet and displayed it. Ella recognized a Varn variety much favored among a certain type of Syndicate boss back on Samdela: sweet, rich, and expensive.

Vighdi filled two small ceramic cups with the elixir in question, handed one to Ella, and slid back into one of the lounge chairs. Ella reclaimed her place in the one next to it.

“Mmmm,” she sighed after a first sip. “So nice. Thank you!”

“Enjoy, dear. You need a few minutes of peace.”

“I’m afraid I stole quite a few minutes of your peace today. I’m sorry.”

Vighdi glanced up at her, the ghost of a smile on her lips. “Well. There’s never a dull moment around this place. But…yeah, I will admit: this was pretty good drama.”

“Really, I…”

“Please don’t fret. Let’s just move our minds off it now.”

In silence they took in the golden liquor. Ella wondered how Vighdi afforded it, but then realized there wasn’t anything else to spend one’s pay on, unless you chose to frequent the expensive restaurants and bars at the rich people’s resort. Did paid staff get discounts there? Maybe they even got comped.

Probably not. In the months she worked there, she never saw Company employees hanging out like guests. Well. Almost never. Those she did see were decidedly higher-ups. Not the kind of people who lived in the colony full-time.

Eventually Vighdi spoke: “Do you like to play tabs? I have a short-game here.”

“Yeah…if it doesn’t take all night.” Tabs was a board game that involved moving silver or glass stones around according to an involved strategy. Some variants could occupy hours. Some could run through in a few minutes. A short-game used a six- by six-square playing board – a printed roll-up mat, actually. Vighdi pulled a mat and a box of stones from a drawer in the table between the two chairs, laid it out, and let Ella choose her color.

Just as they were spinning a die to decide who would get the first play, the intercom buzzed: an urgent call. Ordinary conversation was signaled by a quiet chime, just audible to the room’s occupants.

Now what?” Vighdi aimed a gesture at the device and it came on, bringing Yiadwene’s face into view. She was pale and wide-eyed.

“Miss Vighdi! Somebody just tried to kill Ella!”

Ella sat up stock-straight. An adrenaline rush set her blood to roaring in her ears. Vighdi, very still, gazed expressionlessly at Yiadwene.

“Oh, yes? Well, they seem to have failed. She’s sitting right here with me.”

“He came in the east door and went to her bunk and stabbed all around in there with a knife. The mattress is shredded and the bedding is all cut up and…”

Ella could hear the other women chattering in the background, some of them hysterically.

“He came in the door? Didn’t you lock it?”

“Yes, ma’am. Of course I did! He must have had a pass. Look, here’s a vid of him.” Yiadwene’s image blacked out and was instantly replaced by a blurry image of a figure moving quickly up the half-lit corridor. He – if he it was – went straight to Ella’s bunk, pushed a drape aside, and had at the contents of the bunk. Quick enough, he apparently realized no one was there, turned, and left the way he came in, but not before one of the women noticed him and screamed.

“Well. Isn’t that…just fine.”

“The Blacksuits are out there,” Yiadwene said.

“Then let them in.”

“They’re already coming in.”






Chapter 34


Ella’s Story, Chapter 11

Ella’s Story, Chapter 11

Ella’s Story follows people who live ordinary lives as citizens of a vast interstellar empire. Indeed, a galactic empire. Each chapter will be posted individually here at the Plain & Simple Press blog about one every three weeks, and then collected at a single page devoted to the book. Come on over to the Ella’s Story page to find all the chapters published so far, as well as the cast of characters and a list of place names.

Republished, December 1, 2018… By golly, I remember publishing this thing because I remember the images I posted with it. But somehow WordPress has managed to disappear it. And so, here it is again.

Chapter 11

After her shift one evening she wandered over to the lounge where the great arm of the galaxy sparkled through the clear domed roof. She’d missed the chow line’s last full meal of the “day,” but she could get a hearty snack at the lounge’s food bar. If she wanted an alcoholic drink, which she did, she’d have to pay for it from the pennies she was given for consistent good work, but that was fine. She had quite a few such pennies.

Plenty of other workers were sitting around, taking in the slack. Formless music and relaxed chatter filled the air. Stars like sand scattered across black velvet glittered overhead. She sat at one of the small bars intended for singles or small groups, nursing the remains of a bowl of stew and a mug of dark ale. Tired, she wasn’t ready to go to bed but neither did she feel like socializing. She just wanted to eat and sit quietly for awhile.

No such luck.

She felt him come up to her before he pulled out the chair next to her and sat down.

“Hello, babe,” he said.

She looked at him, surprised. “Hello there, butch,” she replied. “Do I know you?” She did, of course – everybody knew who he was. Everybody knew who everyone was: the colony was like a small town.

“Well, we haven’t had a formal introduction. Your name is Eliyeh’llya, right?” He spoke Samdi with a smooth NorthCity accent. “They call you Ella here.”

“Mm hmm,” she gave him a vague smile and an assenting nod.

“My name is Lo’hkeh jai-degh Inzed Mafesth. ‘Lohkeh’ to the overseers.”

“I’ve heard the name,” she allowed. “Good to meet you, brother.”

Handsome fellow, this one. Sandy hair spread a golden late-afternoon shadow across his sturdy jaws, his green-flecked brown eyes framed with black lashes under dark brows. He wore a red gem in his ear-stud. Whether it was real or not, she could not tell, though she assumed it was glass.

She wondered at this. The blacksuits took away every piece of jewelry or decoration on a newly convicted felon, especially the ear stud that marked a Samdi man’s coming of age. Once in service, he could buy another one – if he managed to earn enough…if his owner agreed to it.

So…sure, he bought himself a stud. But did they – the overseers, the management here – know what the red jewel signified?

Depended on the shade of red, o’course. His had some deep orange overtones: imitation garnet, she figured. That would make him…what? A midlevel boss in the Syndicate’s transport and communication business. Way over her head, that much was for sure.

But why would they let him make a statement like that, about his past life? They must not know, she thought. The blacksuits and the overseers where always dumber than you expect, Teryd used to say. Once again, he was right.

“Would you like another drink?” he offered.

She would. Careful, she thought…take it slow. “Thanks,” she said. “But I’m pretty beat and it’s getting late – don’t think I should.”

“Next time, then.” He smiled and leaned back in the chair, displaying a finely muscled torso.

“All right.” She returned the smile, trying not to look over-eager.

“So, Ella. You’re pretty well settled in by now, no? You’ve been in-colony for awhile.

“Yeah… I’ve kind of lost track of time, without real days or months.”

“Mm hmm. It’s been a year or so, give or take. Samdi time, that is. How are you getting on? Service suiting you all right?”

“It’s good enough,” she said. “I’m getting used to it. They treat me pretty well.”

“Yeah, they do. If they like you.”

She made no attempt to answer this odd remark.

“The work’s decent. The bed is warm. The food’s edible. What more could you want?”

He laughed. “What more?” He raised his mug to her.

He continued, after a swallow of beer. “I understand you were a lieutenant in the Tullsta Band. Back on Samdela.”

“Well, yes. I worked for the Zaïn. For B’jadaram.”

“Mm hmm.”

“How did you find that out?” she asked. One’s past life, as she had been firmly instructed, was to be left in the past: dead and buried. Never mentioned again.

“I know a guy who knows things.”

“Nobody has any secrets, hm?”

He smiled and allowed as to how that was so. After some small talk, he said, “I’m going up to Takrai in a couple of days. Would you like to come along?”

The mining colony was at Takrai, and Ella had also heard there were some exotic extra-planetary geological features near there. “Sure,” she said. “If we do some sight-seeing, too?”

“Absolutely. That’s the whole idea.”

“I’ll have to get time off from my boss. And I guess I’d need to clear it with my overseer, too.”

“Don’t worry about that—I’ll arrange it. Ask Vighdi for a pass tomorrow – wait till after mid-day. I’ll meet you here first thing, next day after tomorrow.”

He had noticed her.

Chapter 12


If You’d Asked…Why is that cat on the dog’s bed?

Just for you: a chapter from If You’d Asked Me…the ultimate collection of bathroom or waiting room reading, A new chapter appears here every three weeks, usually by Friday. You can get a complete copy, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

Section II: Going to the Dogs
(Or Cats)

7. Why do cats like to lie down on a dog’s bed?

This is Cat Language for “I am the boss here. You are a peon. Do not even think of crossing me, you twit.”

Most things that cats do actually are various ways of saying the same thing in Cat Language. Cat Language has many synonyms.

A tidy new “publishing” scheme

As you know if you follow “News & Chat,” the P&S Press blog, I’ve been amusing myself (and possibly you, with any luck!) by posting chapters here from three self-publishable books: The Complete Writer, Ella’s Story, and If You’d Asked Me… (the latter being the world’s finest collection of bathroom reading).

This self-imposed task got to be a little much, when I insensately decided that a chapter of each should go up each week. That is, each week would see publication of not one, not two, but three bookoid chapters here at P&S Press.

So I decided to put the brakes on that.

The inchoate result didn’t seem especially well organized, to my mind. And since Ella is a work in (very slow) progress, it still didn’t leave enough time to draft a full chapter between deadlines.

So I’ve come up with a new schedule: One chapter a week of just one book, which will go up whenever I get around to it, but no later than Friday of a given week. Bookoids will rotate: first Writer, then Asked, then Ella.

In theory, this shouldn’t be difficult…and wouldn’t be, if WordPress hadn’t kindly deleted all the formatting I installed in months’ worth of The Complete Writer. Thought I was getting away with something, but nooooo…. To prepare that thing (and, it develops, all of the things), I had to create separate posts for the remaining un”published” chapters and “schedule” them in WordPress.

And that, as you can imagine, was a royally time-consuming task.

Now I’d like to do the same for Asked, all of whose content is tucked away in a manuscript that I’ve had neither time nor inclination to upload to Kindle. This also will take many hours…just not this hour.

Ella is, of course, still under way. What you see is all I’ve got! 😀 And the next chapter may or may not get written by the next deadline. Pray for the best.

Part of the plan, too, is to publish links to the published chapters at this site’s pages for The Complete Writer, If You’d Asked Me, and Ella’s Story in table-of-contents type lists. I managed to get this done for Complete Writer, but the other two remain. Once the existing posts are linked to entries on those pages, all that will appear there will be a TofC with live entries, rather than the aggregated content of the book in question.

This will make life a lot simpler for me! And since I usually have my links open in a new tab, a reader could in theory toggle back and forth between a bookoid’s TofC and its contents, easily and smoothly.

So it all sounds great, eh? Alas, though, these time-sucking projects have been much complicated by Life, the Universe, and All That: one crisis after another, to say nothing of the distraction that is paying work. My little dog has hovered near death for the past six or eight weeks (amazingly, she finally seems to be recovering). Friends have died. I crashed my car. The veterinary and house-maintenance adventures are running me out of money…

All that and more (if you like to follow real-life soap opera, you can do it at Funny about Money by entering the category “dispatches from hell” in the search bar at the upper right)…yes, all that and more have tended to work against the project to write Ella’s Story. When I have time to think about it, I’m so exhausted I can barely move, much less dream up new copy. So…I may not be able to keep up even with the new, attenuated schedule.

We shall see.

Meanwhile, watch this space. Whenever I get the energy to write it, I’ll publish a rough schedule for future posts.

Speaking of exhaustion, I cannot type another word. And so, to bed…


When Self-Publishing Works: The Complete Writer

When Self-Publishing Works: The Complete Writer
*Free Reads*

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishing and Self-Publishing

 This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays.  You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.


When Self-Publishing Makes Sense

The mines of the Amazon are liberally salted with fool’s gold. Your chance of striking it rich with the next best-seller as you make an end run around traditional publishers is right up there with winning a Powerball jackpot.

But there are a few good reasons to self-publish. Some will help you turn a dollar or two; others let you create a product with special significance for specific, targeted audiences. Let’s consider the possibilities.

First: The costs

Publishing on Amazon is free. You can create a Kindle book by posting a Word document formatted cleanly with Word’s “Styles” function. You can make any content available to anyone with a Kindle reader—and since you can download a Kindle app on almost any device, this means your market is anyone who owns a computer. You can set your price or even give it away, gratis, if you’re willing to fork over exclusive sales rights to Amazon.

Print-on-demand technology is not free, but it’s very cheap. It allows you to produce a professional-looking book in extremely small print runs—even one copy. Most PoD printers will ship books to addresses that you provide. With this approach, you can create a print book for a specific audience, order only as many copies as you need, and never worry about warehousing or shipping. Unless you’re an experienced publishing professional, you’ll need the help of a copyeditor and a graphic designer, but prices here are within reason, too.

So, what can this swell self-publishing technology do for you? What kinds of projects are we looking at?

Educate your business or professional practice’s clients

This is useful for doctors, lawyers, and any business whose customers benefit from understanding facts and processes.

During the Great Recession of 2008, a lawyer I met displayed a self-published guide to walking away from an underwater mortgage. He had it sitting on the receptionist’s counter where everyone who came into the office could peruse it. Part of his practice entailed helping people to get out from under dead-weight loans.

The Mayo Clinic, among other medical groups, publishes a book-length guide for patients with breast cancer.

A chiropractor who has developed a specialty in treating fibromyalgia distributes his book to patients, complete with charts and diet logs to help them keep track of their treatment and its results. He also takes the book to conferences to share with other health workers.

Build credibility for your business

Most people still hold “authors” in awe, believing that anyone who writes a book must be an expert.

A friend and former university colleague started a corporate consulting business that thrived. Early on, she published a book that outlined the major principles of her specialty. Last I saw of her, she met me for lunch at an expensive restaurant,  wearing an outfit worth more than my net worth.

Market your business

Because of that “gee-whiz” factor, a book not only can build credibility but helps spread the word about what you do. My chiropractor client, for example, takes his books to regional and national conferences, where he sells or gives them away to potential clients and colleagues.

Another friend, writing before the Amazon era, created a book that complemented her consultancy, which did in-house employee training programs. Her book, which (admittedly) appeared through a mainline publishing house, added luster to her image and gave her something to distribute to prospective clients and their workers. She did exceptionally well in that line of work.

Raise funds for clubs and nonprofits

Who among us has not seen (or bought!) a Junior League or church cookbook? For groups with active memberships or effective communications, a book relevant to the group’s mission can bring in some nice charitable contributions. These may be inspirational books, how-to books, or books about the group’s history and accomplishments.

Record your family’s history and genealogy

A professionally produced and printed paperback is a much better way to collect and share a family’s history than a big pile of papers in someone’s closet. You can create such a book and print as many or as few as are needed to give them to every member of the family. If you don’t have a lot of graphs and images, you can (in theory) produce it in e-book format for family members around the world to download economically, or even for free.

For family genealogists, a big advantage to self-publishing technology is that you can easily change or add to the existing content. All you have to do is edit the formatted copy, add or delete what you like, and re-upload.

Write and share your memoirs.

One of my clients has led an interesting life as an international banker. Among several books he’s writing is a memoir that he wishes to hand down to his children and grandchildren. This is a brilliant use of self-publishing technology. The result was a professionally produced, bound book that can be shared with his adult children and friends and also saved for the coming generations. He printed about fifty copies for friends and family.

Commemorate large family reunions

Write up the events and experiences when a large family comes together for a reunion. One strategy might be to ask family members to write anecdotes or short memoirs. Another could be to have one person do the reporting and collect photographs.

On a vacation in Bermuda, I stayed in a hotel that had mostly been taken over by a very large African-American family who were gathering there for a family reunion. It was quite a posh and fun affair. Any event like that would lend itself to a book commemorating the reunion and celebrating the family’s history.

Write a community or town history

My city has several historic neighborhoods populated by active community advocates who love their districts’ history and charm. These areas are often besieged by developers and political interests who would sacrifice them for a profit. A book describing a neighborhood’s historical importance and unique aspects can help preserve it, interest others in living there or protecting it, and enhance property values.

Most small towns have town archives or a museum housing historical materials. These lend themselves to the writing of book-length histories. If you’re a history buff, gathering and interpreting these materials is a fun and rewarding project. Produced as a well-edited and professionally designed book, it’s a great contribution to the community.

Compile a business history

Some years ago, a friend of mine was commissioned by a large corporation to write the company’s history. It was a big job, for the company had been in business for many decades. The result was useful for the company’s upper management, a nice morale-builder for employees, and all-around good public relations in the community.

Monetize your blog

If you have a blog with a specific theme, collecting posts or—preferably—rewriting posts to create a book-length work and then adding extra content to enhance value can help drive readers to your site. Sales of the book can also increase the site’s profitability. Budgeting in the Fun Stuff blogger Crystal Stemberger, for example, sells books on budgeting and on monetizing websites.

Enhance your online or face-to-face course

Many people offer informal online courses to any and all comers. Journalist and personal-finance blogger Donna Freedman, for example, has an online course on writing successful copy for the Web. Providing a free-standing text or workbook—electronic or print—adds value to your course and gives participants a permanent reminder of their experience.

Community colleges often allow people with expertise or experience to present special community-service courses, usually for little or no college credit. This is also a good venue in which to sell books you’ve written and self-published, assuming they’re relevant to the subject. You may not be permitted to require students to buy them as textbooks, but nothing can prevent you from drawing them to students’ attention.

You get the idea. No doubt there are many other possibilities. The point is, an ambition to publish a best-seller is not the only reason to create a book. Nor is profit the only motive: contribution to community or family is as good as the almighty dollar when it comes to writing and publishing.

Ella’s B-a-a-c-k! For the nonce…

Ella’s Story, Chapter 32

Okay, so I finally stumble to the end of the current chapter. Never did recover the last scene that Word so kindly disappeared for me. However, what doesn’t make you crazy…makes you crazier, I guess.

So this is actually chapter 32, not chapter 30 as I remarked in yesterday’s grutch. You may want to catch up or refresh your memory by visiting chapter 31, or simply go to the site’s search bar (in the right-hand sidebar) and enter “Ella’s story,” which should bring up all the chapters. And then some, probably.

Ella’s Story follows people who live ordinary lives as citizens of a vast interstellar empire. Indeed, a galactic empire. Each chapter will be posted individually here at the Plain & Simple Press blog, and then collected at a single page devoted to the book. Come on over to the Ella’s Story page to find all the chapters published so far, as well as the cast of characters and a list of place names.

Chapter 32

Sigi, lithe but tall and substantially built, walked around the perimeter of the room. Here and there she put a hand on a countertop, tested a weak-looking spot in a wall, ran her fingers over the grain of an old window’s trim. Ella and Dorin, the new doctor Darl in tow, stood by and watched quietly while she explored.

“This room is a lot bigger than I thought,” she remarked, mostly in Dorin’s direction.

“It was chuckablock full of junk,” he replied. “You couldn’t see the back wall from the front door.”

She glanced up from pacing off the length of the far interior wall. “What did you do with it all?”

“It was a challenge.” Her quizzical look elicited a chuckle. “Threw most of it out.”

“Good riddance, then,” she replied, a little distracted as she thumped a fist along a suspect wall. Ella expected she must be pleased to find she didn’t have to clean house before she could start working. “So, Darl: how do you want to lay out this place? What do you need, and where do you want it to go?”

Seeming to study the space, he looked flummoxed. “Not sure. I’ve never tried to do any such thing before.”

Sigi paused in her inspection. She could, Ella reflected, be a little intense once she got focused on something. “Well,” Sigi said, “it’s not so hard, brother. Let’s think about what you’ll be doing here. You would have people coming to talk with you, no?”

“Yeah. I expect.”

“Where will you want them to be? And what else would you be doing in here, besides talking to people?”

He paced stiffly across the room and stood looking around. “We’d want a waiting area over there, near the door, I expect.”

“All right. We can move the doorway, if you’d like. Or you can have more than one door.”

“In one and out the other?”

“I guess. This wall,” she indicated the long stretch of dirt-gray paneling that held a bank of cabinets and shelves, “backs onto the men’s quarters. If we had an entrance somewhere along about here,” she waved vaguely toward one end, “some people could come in without having to go out into the weather. Or…hmmm…” She stepped over to the door and looked out. “We could build a covered breezeway along the front. It would shade the front wall—that would be good—and people could come out through the servant house’s east entrance and pass along here, under cover if it was raining.”

A master of ambition, Sigi was, Ella reflected. The more elaborate she could make this project, the longer it would take to build it and the longer she would be able to stay on the estate instead of having to go into the city to work. Before long they’d have a hospital with half a dozen wards, no mere in-and-out clinic. Ella waited for Dorin to have something to say. Not a word, though, was forthcoming.

“So we have a kind of entry, greeting, and waiting area. Near a door. You’d need a room to talk to a person in private, yes?”

“An examination room, yes. And a separate consultation room would be good. So we can talk and they don’t feel so…vulnerable, hm?”

“Makes sense.

“And if I could have a small office or study space?”

“We can work that. What kind of storage do you need? How much stuff will you need to keep in here?”

“We have other storage space for things you don’t need right at hand,” Dorin said.

“Right,” Sigi said. “So we’ll just need to build space for things you use day-to-day. Plus of course the electronic gear.”

“So…that would mean bandages and dressings, a fairly standard set of medications. Products for tests. Some things I can do myself, some of it would have to be sent to a laboratory.”

“That would be in the city. E’o Cinorra.”

“There’s no chemist in the village?”

“I dunno. Dorin?”

Dorin shrugged. “I don’t think so. But the midwife there would know.;”

“She probably does whatever she needs herself,” Sigi remarked.


“Well. Yeah. They’re trained for that kind of thing.”

Darl gave her a dubious glance, then after an instant’s thought said, “That could be useful.”

“Do we have a water line in here?” Sigi peered under the rickety, time-worn cabinet.

“Nope,” said Dorin. “You can run a line off the service to the men’s showers.”

These people from the upper classes of Samdela, the rich ones of the remote south, were almost as alien as…aliens. Did he think midwives had no training? Had he ever even met a midwife? Possibly not, Ella speculated. She herself had never seen a doctor, one who had specialized training from a special center, until she was sent to Zaitaf. And that one was no Samdi. She was a Varn. An employee of the Company. And there for good reason: the equipment in those mine shafts could create some pretty spectacular injuries.

That woman—the Company medic—had three assistants, all of them prepared to help in the event of the next little disaster. They also dispensed all the routine health care required for a population living in low gravity.

But why, Ella persisted in wondering, did the kaïna imagine such a person was needed here? True, occasionally one of the estates had some kind of agricultural accident, usually involving heavy machinery. But the victims would be carried into Cinorra by air-car. That took time…but she’d never heard of anyone dying because of it.

A figure passed in front of the door, blocking much of the outside light that shone in through the open frame. Speaking of aliens, she thought. Chadzar, the kaïna’s Michaian head of guard, struck her as about as exotic as they come, with his snow-colored hair and the emerald-green eyes traced by white lashes, the long fingers, and those wide feet seemingly made for balance on ice and snow.

Yet somehow he seemed less…what?…less foreign to her than this new creature from the other side of her own world. More like her own: worker, brother in service. Unmonied, unpolished, unsheltered. Not that Chadzar wasn’t highly polished. He was, indeed, having been brought up in Haddam’s service to be some aristocrat’s valet. But in Ella’s opinion that was surface buffing.

He smiled and nodded respectfully in her direction. She returned the silent greeting, unnoticed (she thought) as his face lit up at the sight of Sigi.

“Hello,” he said to the new man, who looked up uncertainly. “We met in the mess hall a couple of nights ago. I’m Chadzar, one of the guard. Mr. Darl, no?”

“Eyah,” a Southern Samdi term. Would he ever fit in? “Mr. Chadzar, I recall…but I’m having a hard time with the names.” It would be hard not to recall one that looks like this one, she thought.

“There are a few of us,” Chad agreed. “It comes to you eventually.

Eventually. This Michaian was a quick enough study, she reflected. True, Merren had been grooming Chad for awhile to stand in for him, in the months before the assassin’s bomb took his life and the Kai’s. But still…in a matter of seconds he’d found himself at the head of the remaining crew, and also pretty much constantly at the Kaïna’s side.

He’d taken things in hand, though, without a blink. Appropriately enough, since Michaian eyes seemed never to blink… An army of blacksuits had descended on the estate – they would have been there before he could have taken Rysha home even had she not insisted on going straight to the Central High Ministry. There she learned that her father was dead and his personal guard Merren mortally wounded.

Ella recalled her own astonishment at seeing her young mistress, barely more than a child, address the crowds of citizens who already had gathered below the ministry’s façade. That day…that day: it was hard for her to think about that day, though every minute remained vivid in her memory. Everyone on the staff had been called in off their jobs and confined to the servants’ house, though it had taken awhile for some who were working in the city to get back out to Skyhill. A few of those had been detained by blacksuits as they were trying to make their way home, but most got back inside the gates within an hour or two.

Varn kais and kaïnas did not speak to the people. They sang to them. And though Ella had heard her practicing voice and elocution, Rysha had never had a chance – or a reason – to stand on a balcony over the people, out in the open air with the vidsound equipment broadcasting her words and song. She was, after all, just short of eighteen years old. Chadzar, too, was very young. Tall and blue-suited, he stood behind her, his ice-white hair glowing in Varnis’s hot gold sunlight, seeming to co-opt the five menacing armed blacksuits who looked more interested in staring down the crowd than in heiress to a galaxy-wide realm.

To this day, Ella could remember most all of what the Kaīna Rysha had sung, the words she sang with perfection, sounding—impossibly—as though she were rehearsed. How did she do that? In the blood, so people said, as though one who was born to power were born with all it takes to wield it.

She sang to the people the same message, first in Varn and then in five other tongues. The Samdi came across to Ella as strong, clear, and plain. It was the language of the people. Surely not the [inflection] of this fancy doctor man, nor, for that matter, of her own lowly northern dialect.

Best, Ella imagined, to converse with this one in Varn, as much as possible. That would limit the annoyance factor.

Chapter 33

Where’s Ella?

Lost in space, of course… 😉

Seriously: it’s been one frustration after another in the Creative Department. I’ve been cranking my way through chapter 30 of Ella’s Story, verrryyy slowlyyy, as one interruption after another falls from the heavens, like meteors upon the dinosaurs. Some of those interruptions have been paying work, which you may be sure supersedes all other demands and cravings. Others have been various little personal crises — surgery for skin cancer that turned out (surprise!) not to be skin cancer (please, can we max out the stress and drama a little more?); the dog at death’s door but refusing to go through; one unholy doggy reaction to one unholy medication after another (three times, I thought that dog would die before day’s end); friends dying right and left; a week or ten days’ worth of pool renovation going on in the back yard; editorial jobs flying in over the transom; and of course the unceasing sideshow that is our national politics, a constant and constantly amazing distraction.

Last week as I was trying to wrap up the chapter, in came not one but two new assignments within a few hours of each other, both from Chinese authors. One was a doctoral dissertation in, of all things, accountancy.

Who knew accountants did Ph.D. dissertations?

This, while not especially lengthy, was difficult to read because of the annoyance factor: they were making the kid emit an elaborate covariance analysis to prove…the obvious. The thing went on and on and on, essentially saying the same damn thing 15 ways from Sunday and demonstrating…nothing, really. Other than the obvious. It was an exercise in pointlessness.

By the time you removed all the tables and the references section, you ended up with a magnificent 29 pages of narrative. I mean…say what?

This, from my point of view, added another layer of annoyance. My dissertation was a full-length book that contributed a whole lot of new information based on months of archival research and that was published by a major academic press in its field. And you may be sure that my first full-time academic job did not start in the five figures, as his will.

So I leave Ella up in Word as I plod through this thing.

Then as soon as I shovel that back into the ether, I have to turn to the other author’s project: Chinese math. Transmission of HIV through certain high-risk groups in Guangzhou…don’t ask. Turns out to have been quite short, adding another layer of annoyance: I should’ve done this writer’s project first, because I was able to move it off my desk in a day. Better to have returned it promptly than to have made this person wait while I plowed through 28 pages of pointless palaver.

Math papers sent to American editors from China are commonly written in a program called LaTex, then converted in a crude way to Word with the equations stripped out. This, as you can imagine, occasionally creates an unstable file. And yea, verily…

The minute I wrapped that damn thing up and hit “save” for one last goddamn time, it crashed Word! Everything went down, including the Ella’s Story file I’d left open.

And yes, even though I’d saved, saved, and re-saved that file as I was working on it, and yes, even though I’d hit Command-S before I turned to the paying work, Word lost the new stuff I’d written in it.

Infuriatingly, Wyrd is set to save every five minutes on this computer, because of its propensity to crash at the most impossible times. So even if I hadn’t manually saved to disk, it should have auto-saved…many times over, during the several days I was working on the customers’ papers.

Wyrd is supposed to back up to what is called an “autorecover” file. If you know how to get at it, you can find the most recent autorecover and that will contain most of what you’ve done. In my case, it would retrieve everything done up until the previous 5 minutes.

But n-o-o-o-o-o-o-ooooooo, No chance. I can NOT find an autorecover file with the passage I wrote and felt so smug about.

Shit, Hell, and Damn!

I brought the computer down to the church office, which normally is quiet as the tomb, figuring I could sit here in the silence and, if not reconstruct what I’d written, come up with something new.

At the risk of repeating myself: n-o-o-o-o-o-o-ooooooo! The phone has been jangling nonstop. People have been wandering in and out the door, most of them wanting nothing more than to chat. EVERYBODY on the clergy and the staff is here this afternoon, meaning they’re all here to receive calls and try to dodge time-sucking visitors.

An hour and ten minutes to go. Then I have to fly home, bolt down a few bites of food, feed and wring out the dogs, and then turn around and fly back down to the church for choir rehearsal.

I’ve done almost nothing on the Ella opus — certainly not try to reconstruct the lost passage, except to realize I can’t remember any of it — and obviously there will be no time for any of that this evening.

Just hope my dog is still alive. That’s about the best I’m up to…hoping the dog hasn’t croaked over yet.

What’s Your Favorite Dog Breed?

Just for you: a chapter from If You’d Asked Me…the ultimate collection of bathroom or waiting room reading, A new chapter appears here every three weeks, usually by Friday. You can get a complete copy, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

Section II: Going to the Dogs
(Or Cats)

6. What is your favorite breed of dog?

My favorite breed is extinct.

Back in the day, we had German shepherd dogs that were loyal, intelligent, healthy, and (mark this one) sane.

Today, you would be very challenged, indeed, to find a Gershep that fills all these bills. In fact, I would venture to say healthy, mentally sound German shepherds no longer exist.

The dog has been overbred to the point that any individual will develop one or more serious chronic ailments: hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, pannus, megaesophagus, DM (degenerative myelopathy), osteoarthritis, several types of cancer including bone cancer and lymphoma . . . it goes on and on. Additionally, many are dog-aversive—meaning they are unsafe around other people’s animals. And some suffer a kind of mental illness—this is how a vet described it to me—in which the dog will unpredictably go in for the attack. And no, we’re not talking about dogs that have been abused.

I’ve had a lot of German shepherds and loved them all, but after the last one passed on to her furry fathers, I gave up on the breed. Right now I have two corgis. For the nonce, the Pembroke Welsh corgi is pretty healthy. Don’t expect that to be a permanent state of affairs, though: unfortunately the breed is fast becoming popular, which means it also will be destroyed by irresponsible breeders.

Next dog will be a Heinz-57. Preferably more than 57.