Archive for the ‘self-publishing’ Category

Cathy Jacobowitz and The One-Way Rain

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Cathy Jacobowitz‘s novel The One-Way Rain has just been published by Wildheart Press.

Here, the author discusses the book, its title, its journey, and why bookkeeping matches up well with book writing.

Why The One-Way Rain (the title)? Why The One-Way Rain (the book)?
In my novel, a rain that only goes one way is a metaphor for nonviolence, among other things. While not as beautiful, it’s related in my mind to the image used by Martin Luther King, Jr., which I first heard quoted by State Rep. Byron Rushing, during the 2004 gay-marriage debate: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Of course, all rain goes only one way, i.e., down. So this metaphor may not bear close examination, but I liked the idea of the inevitability of peace, regarded in the extreme long view.

One of my inspirations in writing the book was my love of Hollywood action movies. I get a huge kick out of sitting in a dark theater watching a summer blockbuster, but I’m always frustrated and often enraged by the lack of strong roles for women, and in particular the absence of women action heroes. So I wanted to write something with a female protagonist who could scale walls and fight and pull off heists. In the end I didn’t give Sterling any actual fights to wage – she works by stealth, not confrontation – but she does do a lot more physically than anyone I’ve written about before, I think. Except for the pro baseball player in that one book.

Around the same time I got involved in a neighborhood organization and started meeting a lot of what I call in the book nonprofit types. Partly by way of contrast, I became interested in the idea of the true revolutionary, somebody who’s willing to dedicate her life to a cause in a way that I am not and never will be. After 9/11 I was already conscious that many elements of authoritarianism and corporate control existed in my own government, and then Hurricane Katrina happened and threw those issues into relief against the landscape of racial inequality in the United States. I could pick up the New York Times and see a picture of a corpse floating in floodwater in the middle of a city, but at the same time I was totally protected from that experience. With all that, and given the history and ongoing reality of institutional racism in our country, it made sense to me that my revolutionary character, Lore, would be a Black woman fighting for justice for people of color.

What’s the best day job you’ve ever had?
I really enjoy what I do for a living, which is bookkeeping. Accounting is a tremendously satisfying process for me. I’m self-taught and always learning, and there are parts of accounting which are kind of esoteric and hard to grasp, and that makes me feel like I’m qualifying for a secret society. Also, I find accounting very droll. Before I was on Twitter I had a secret Tumblr, and last year I posted there, “When equity doesn’t roll, I snack.” Which I still think is hilarious, though nobody else does.

Share a surprise twist in the Cathy Jacobowitz story.
Publishing The One-Way Rain is my surprise twist. It astonishes me that I did it. I never, ever thought I would indie-publish; I was very invested in the traditional model. And I do have a publisher, Wildheart Press, so it’s not a fully self-published book, but I did most of the footwork and it was a long haul. It took over a year from making the decision to driving with the owner of the press to Lowell to pick up the books (which weren’t ready so we had to turn around and come home). I feel incredibly blessed to have had the technical help I did, all of which I found around me in people I already knew and loved. But the whole thing has been a huge surprise.

Do you secretly dream of being a) a pop icon, b) an algebra teacher, and/or c) a crime-solver/writer a la Jessica Fletcher?
I’ve always been quite worried about becoming a pop icon. I would be bad at it and I hope it never happens.

Computer, longhand, or typewriter?
Computer, which over the decades has led to a tortured love-hate relationship with Apple.

What are you currently reading?
A great book by Patrick Flanery called Absolution, which sounds like it should be about Ireland but is really about South Africa, political struggle, motherhood and writing. I found it at Boomerang’s in Central Square. The one problem with it is that once in Austin I heard a slam poet recite a poem with the refrain “Who will grant me AB-so-LU-tion?”. It was about getting an abortion, and whenever I look at the book I hear that line.

What’s next?
The next book.

The One-Way Rain is available at A book release party will take place at Haley House Bakery Cafe in Roxbury 9/20, 6-8 PM. RSVP. Read more from the author in the ArtSake article Artists as Presenters.

Cathy Jacobowitz is a longtime novelist, a former bookseller, and a bookkeeper. She lives in Boston with her partner, three cats, and a dog.

Artists as Presenters

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

The platforms and technology make it feasible, and even, in the right circumstances, advantageous: artists bypassing traditional gatekeepers and presenting work themselves.

In some cases, an artist may decide that self-publishing/presenting is the most appropriate method for a particular work. In others, an artist or group becomes a presenter to benefit their discipline’s community, as a whole.

We asked artists who’ve crossed to the other side of the gate: Why did you decide to become an artist/presenter?

Cathy Jacobowitz, who is self-publishing her novel The One-Way Rain
I realized that I had been perfecting my craft for 25 years, and that I had allowed myself to be held back by my desire for authorization from the literary establishment. Since I decided to self-publish, a large weight of bitterness has been lifted from my shoulders. I can go into a bookstore without hating every literary novelist who got a book deal. The prospect of marketing my work, which used to paralyze me with dread, now seems natural and doable. I’m a happier person.

Jason Slavick, Artistic Director of Liars and Believers and director of Le Cabaret Grimm (for which he wrote book and lyrics)
I began my career directing whatever shows were sent my way. Along the way I created my own original small projects. Soon I realized that devising my own work was what I really wanted to do, and no producer was going to pony up to present it. Why should they? Take a risk on an unknown writer/director? Especially on works they’re never seen. How are they supposed to sell tickets? So I decided to produce my own work and take out the middle man. I now have total control – but also all the headaches and all the work. Funding is the hardest part and it steals time and energy from creating art. I’m looking for partnerships to help ease the burden. It’s important to find mutually beneficial relationships that feed everyone’s artistic needs while spreading the producing weight.

John A. Walsh, illustrator and creator of the graphic novel Go Home Paddy, published as an online serial
The BIGGEST reason to present Go Home Paddy myself is mainly the poor state of the economy. In an economy where everyone is scared to spend money or to take a chance on something new? Just DO IT YOURSELF. Perhaps when the economy improves, artists will go back to seeking/using gatekeepers, but I’m not sure about that. The internet allows us to cut out the middle man in many respects and to connect with people/patrons on our own. And what better way to expose people to your work than by exposing them to yourself as well?

Also, crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter are changing the way many artists can make money from their work. So once again: Just DO IT YOURSELF. If a traditional publisher doesn’t want to publish Go Home Paddy, then I have the option of turning to Kickstarter to fund the printing of the book and getting it into people’s hands that way!

Kelley Donovan, choreographer and curator of Third Life Studio Choreographer Series, a monthly showcase of Boston-area choreographers
I decided to host the Third Life Choreographer series for several reasons. There are not many opportunities for choreographers in Boston to be presented. Additionally, there are almost no opportunities to workshop a new dance work in the area in front of a small audience on a regular basis. After spending time in NYC and showing a lot of works in progress with Movement Research, I felt this opportunity was really valuable and greatly improved the quality of my work. I wanted to continue this process in Boston, and I want to provide an opportunity for other dance artists to do this as well.

I’ve also been spending several months a year in NYC for the last several years and have felt increasingly disconnected from my dance colleagues here in Boston. I often miss the one presentation they do each year when I am away, and this was a chance to see others work and also for them to see what I have been working on. It can be a bit isolating when you are just at work in a studio with your own company only, and I need those connections for my own artistic growth, I hope other choreographers have benefited as well. It also gives me a chance to network with others, meet dancers and musicians I would not otherwise see and form future collaborations with.

We are starting a Kickstarter campaign in July and hope the arts community will support this endeavor by donating whatever they can. All the proceeds will go to pay the choreographers who present the work each month. We have presented the work of over 20 artists in 6 short months and would like to provide an opportunity for working artists to make a living doing what they love.

Jason Slavick’s Liars and Believers will present Le Cabaret Grimm at New York Musical Theatre Festival (July 23-July 28)

Kelley Donovan’s Third Life Studio Choreographer Series in Somerville will present its next showcase on Friday, July 13, 8 PM

Jonathan Papernick on the Secrets to DIY Book Promotion

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Jonathan Papernick‘s short story collection There Is No Other has just been published, and Jonathan recently wrote an essay about that crucial step after you publish your book: promoting it with all available resources (mainly you).

Jonathan has generously allowed us to re-post the essay, which originally appeared in Beyond the Margins, a superb blog by writers connected to the writers’ service organization Grub Street.

Within weeks of publication of my first collection of short stories eight years ago, I received a starred review in Publishers Weekly and a full-page rave review in the New York Times. My name was mentioned in the same breath as other successful young, Jewish authors – bestsellers and award winners, names you would immediately recognize. I felt that I was on my way. Only I wasn’t – not really.

Nobody ever told me that the real work begins once a book is finished and that you need to spend a good six months to a year getting out there and promoting your own work, otherwise it risks dying on the vine. By the time my book started disappearing from bookshelves a few months after publication it was too late for me to traction those early positive reviews into sales. In the end, my collection sold fairly well for a first-time author, but the sales numbers were not high enough for the publishing industry to take notice. After many rounds of submissions, I finally gave up on U.S. publishers and instead opted to publish with a small Canadian publisher who expressed great interest in the book.

Now that my second collection of stories is out, I am taking the hard lessons I learned from relying on a disinterested publisher who did next to nothing after the book was orphaned by the acquiring editor, and have set up a war plan, a campaign to follow through to the bitter end.

Not a day has gone by since December when I have not done something to promote the book, whether I was contacting bookstores about carrying my book, or setting up readings in support of the collection.

Six months ago I started gathering names of potential reviewers, people who had shown favor to my writing in the past, as well as names I was able to gather from supportive writer friends, and sources on the internet. I sent personalized e-mails with a description of my collection and blurbs to each potential reviewer and let them know that the book would be coming in May. By making the personal connection with potential reviewers and creating a sense of anticipation, I raised the likelihood that the book would actually be reviewed.

I convinced my publisher to give me fifty review copies and I told him that I would send out review copies on my own, rather than relying on him to do it on my behalf. Sure it cost me for envelopes and postage, but I know that I am my own top priority, whereas any publisher has numerous authors it needs to consider at any given time. In fact, I did try hiring two former students to work under my guidance as publicity associates, but neither of them ultimately felt they were up to the task – I guess they just didn’t think they had enough skin in the game. I grew up listening to independent punk rock bands and I understand the power of a DIY ethos – there is no shame in doing it myself. In the end, I labeled and stamped envelopes myself, made sure to put in a press release and clippings with each review copy and I fired off another e-mail letting reviewers know that my book was on its way.

No matter how uncomfortable or not-in-your-nature it may be, it’s critical to get out there and talk to people about your work, as you are your own best resource and promoter. I attended several conferences (AWP, Muse and the Marketplace, Jewish Book Network, Book Expo America) in the months prior to publication meeting other writers, reviewers, agents and editors, putting my name (hopefully) into the zeitgeist so that my name would be familiar next time they encounter it. One influential book blogger did not receive my review copy in the mail the first two times I sent it. I could easily have given up at that point, and I was tempted to out of sheer frustration, but I knew that she was going to be at the Book Expo in New York. I sought her out at the table where she was signing books, introduced myself, and personally placed my book into her bag. She was very appreciative of my persistence, and wrote to me yesterday: “Brilliant collection. Truly amazing.” She plans on pushing my book on her blog in the coming days. (Ed. note: read the interview between Jonathan and said blogger, writer Caroline Leavitt.)

It is important to make sure that you have an attractive, updated website, a blog, a Goodreads profile, a Facebook fan page, a personal Facebook page that you use selectively to promote your work, (I’m not yet sold on Twitter, but I’m not ruling it out either) update your Amazon author page and make sure that your book page on has updated reviews as well as the Search Inside the Book feature and availability on Kindle. Unfortunately, I’ve been asking my publisher since December to make sure that the Search Inside the Book feature and Kindle is ready ASAP, and nearly six months later neither are up on the Amazon site. I’ve actually called Amazon myself and the book’s distributor, but it seems in this case that will and persistence are not enough and I can only hope that it will be taken care of soon.

Many of you might think that is the evil empire, and perhaps it is in some ways, but Amazon is also a writer’s best friend as it is a simple way for readers to buy your books, especially backlist titles that are likely not available in bookstores. I am encouraging my readers to post reviews on and have promised to send out a free copy of my novel to anyone who does so. I think people are more likely to buy (and review) a book that has been reviewed positively by a whole pile of people rather than by one or two of the author’s close relatives.

Your writing – and bank account – might take a hit during the months that you’re a promoting your work, but you need to honor your book and give it a fighting chance. It will certainly be time well spent, as little by little your writing emerges from the shadows. There are ways to continue writing in service of your promotional campaign as well. I strongly suggest writing for blogs, websites, newspapers etc. on any subject that you feel you have the remotest level of competence, and whenever possible, ask that your article/review/essay is linked directly to your website or an online source where your book can be purchased. I have some other promotional ideas in mind for the fall, but I’ll keep them to myself for now as they’re still in the planning stages.

Jonathan will read from There Is No Other on Thursday, July 22 2010, at 6 PM, as part of the Stories Uncorked program at the Marriott Rooftop Garden, near MIT in Cambridge, MA.

Jonathan Papernick is the author of the short story collection The Ascent of Eli Israel, and Who by Fire, Who by Blood. Please encourage your local independent bookstore to order his new collection of short stories There Is No Other. He teaches fiction writing at Emerson College and lives outside Boston with his wife and two sons.

Images: Jonathan Papernick, photo by Gary Alpert; cover art for THERE IS NO OTHER by Jonathan Papernick (Exile Editions, 2010).

Writer, publish thyself?

Friday, October 30th, 2009

When writers decide to self-publish, a number of issues just come with the territory. Like, say, cost. The creative control of self-publishing may be liberating, but absorbing the costs of book production… less so.

Except that it affords the opportunity to be creative about it. Some artists finance self-publishing projects before the books are published – artist/entrepreneur and opera singer Ja-Nae Duane raised funds to publish her book How to Start Your Business with $100 on a site called Another crowd-funding site,, in which creative types seek pledges to fund their potential projects, lists about 30 literary projects currently seeking support.

Print-on-demand technology has the potential to simplify some of the complexities and costs of self-publishing for writers. So the news that Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, MA now operates a books-on-demand machine might have some interesting ramifications for Massachusetts writers.

The machine, dubbed Paige M. Gutenborg (and pictured, left), was featured in and other national media due to its affiliation with Google Books, who have digitized and made available books from Harvard University’s libraries (that’s right, sagacious plant fans, The Sagacity and Morality of Plants is FINALLY available to non-Harvard students!!!)

But it’s the self-publishing possibilities that may prove most interesting to authors. According to the store’s self-publishing guidelines, authors pay a set-up fee and submit the book as PDFs, which you can develop using the extensive do-it-yourself instructions. When books are printed, there’s a cost-per-page for authors.

How do writers get paid? Bronwen Blaney, print-on-demand manager at Harvard Bookstore, says there are two primary methods. The most common would involve an interested reader requesting the book, which has already been scanned for the machine. “So even if we don’t have a copy on the shelf,” she says, “if a customer calls, comes in, or orders through, then we would print and sell the book.” The writer then receives the difference between their selected retail price and the cost-per-page to print.

Alternately, an author could print and pay for a number of books, and sell or distribute them on his/her own. An author could also choose to have a copy kept on the store’s “Printed on Paige” shelf.

Though the machine has been operational for just a few weeks, Bronwen says that she’s already working with a number of authors interested in printing their own books. The first author to use the machine? Steve Almond (Fiction/Creative Nonfiction Fellow ’08), who printed a short run of chapbooks.

That detail drives home one of the technology’s most intriguing facets: flexibility. On-demand machines make it relatively easy for authors to print a book of trade paperback-quality (or close to it), be it a chapbook, tome, novella, or eclectic mixture only your mind can conceive. Assuming you don’t have an exclusive contract with a publisher, you could continue to publish traditionally but opt to self-publish for works that don’t quite fit with a traditional press.

Of course, other questions about self-publishing still loom, such as: what do you lose by way of marketing, distributing, editing, publicizing, and/or presentation resources when you’re doing it all yourself? I can think of at least two self-publishing success stories – Massachusetts authors Lisa Genova (Still Alice) and Brunonia Barry (The Lace Reader) – in which eventual deals with a mainstream publishers were a big part of that success.

Have any intrepid ArtSake readers experimented with self-publishing? We would love to hear about how you made it – or are making it – work.