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Category: publishing

Community Klepto is coming to a bookshelf near you, courtesy of She Writes Press

After COVID reared its ugly viral head and caused my prior publisher to shelve all its projects, I thought long and hard about what I wanted for my book. I’m biased of course, but I knew it was a polished, funny, marketable book (it wouldn’t have had two offers to publish it already if it wasn’t). Not wanting to sell myself short, and feeling like I had nothing to lose, I submitted COMMUNITY KLEPTO to She Writes Press, after reading that it took the prize of Independent Publisher of the Year in 2019. I also started aggressively querying other publishers and agents, not letting the sun set on a day where I submitted less than two queries.

A couple months later, I woke up to an email from She Writes Press saying they wanted to publish COMMUNITY KLEPTO. Today, I made it official and signed the contract, making me She Writes Press’s newest author! COMMUNITY KLEPTO will be released sometime in the Spring of 2022 (hopefully by then, things like in-person book signings and launch parties won’t be frowned upon by the CDC).

It goes without saying that applying my signature to a book deal is the easy part and now 18 months of hard work begins to bring my newest book into this world, and I guess it also means that I’m finally going to have to go back to my hair salon since my last cover photo is now a decade old. Mask up, stay safe, and follow along on my ride as a SWP author.

About She Writes Press:

She Writes Press is an independent publishing company founded to serve members of SheWrites.com, the largest global community of women writers online, and women writers everywhere. She Writes Press is both mission-driven and community-oriented, aiming to serve writers who wish to maintain greater ownership and control of their projects while still getting the highest quality editorial help possible for their work.

In 2014, SheWrites.com and She Writes Press became part of SparkPoint Studio, LLC, creating a powerful combination that no other hybrid publisher brings to the table, including a strong editorial vision; traditional distribution; two award-winning hybrid imprints (She Writes Press and SparkPress); and an in-house marketing and publicity team through its publicity division, BookSparks. The SparkPoint Studio family is a female-run company with a strong vision, passion, and work ethic. In 2019, She Writes Press was named Indie Publisher of the Year.

– She Writes Press 2020
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What is this “book” thing the hipsters keep tweeting about?

While I was procrastinating further on writing the pitch for Community Klepto tonight, I decided to go through my Twitter list of publishing people. It’s a list that I’ve been building ever since I joined Twitter, which Twitter tells me was 7 years ago, so most of the accounts I’ve followed on that list about about as old as I am, in Twitter years. As I opened profile after profile, URL after URL, I had waves of mixed emotions as I saw the following:

  • 404 Not Found
  • Domain for sale
  • We have ceased operations
  • We are no longer accepting new submissions

I admit that between switching careers and giving birth to two children on the same day, I haven’t kept up with all the happenings in the publishing industry like I maybe should have; but at the same time, I think I can outline the trajectory of the 7 year Kelly’s-Twitter-publisher-list timeline easily enough:

  1. E-books happen. Some publishers resist all changes. Others pop up looking to cash in early.
  2. E-books gain popularity. Some publishers still resist all changes. Others adapt and innovate. Shitty books get self-published.
  3. E-books soar. Some of the publishers who resisted all changes die. Some who adapted and innovated succeed, some don’t. More shitty books get self-published. Readers start to realize most of the free books they downloaded are shitty.
  4. E-books sales to fall off. The resistors shout that they were right, even as they continue to publish marketable turd sandwiches. Authors of shitty books stop making money on their shitty books. Some of the innovative co-op ventures find they are no longer viable.
  5. Hipsters make physical books cool again. Resistors decry TOLD YA SO. Everyone else is saying Now what?

Now what. Some publishers have died horrible deaths because they refused to innovate. Some died because they were counting on a fad to sustain its growth indefinitely. This is a sad but predictable reality. Some of weathered the storms, adapted where they needed to, and are doing really cool things now. This makes me happy and excited to see what’s next.

I’m not going to go so far as to say that e-books were a fad. I mean, I still read them so they must be cool, right? And I like the papercut and smell of an old book as much as the next hipster. But in a world where evolving technology is changing every industry, publishing is not immune. Their battles for market share aren’t over, even if the e-book is losing ground. The future may be uncertain, but I am certain that as more traditional publishers broaden their horizons (and re-open their wallets), it’s a good time for me to be diving back in.

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Portrait of Woman in Ink available in paperback

After some deliberation and figuring out what to do with Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook now that my contract with my publisher is up. Since I’m in the middle of a career change, uber-frequent visits to my doctor, and deep in the throes of editing my third novel, I opted to go the way of the Amazon and just put it out there as part of my growing “backlist.”

I was partially lucky because I had already done the long, time-sucking work of formatting a print copy of my manuscript: sections, section headers and footers, right-facing pages, page numbers, front matter, back matter – pretty much everything you don’t have to worry about for electronic format books. Even so, it still took a good couple weeks of back and forth with CreateSpace to get my cover positioning just right, which proved to be a frustrating couple of weeks. But at long last, the print paperback is complete and available everywhere (CreateSpace print paperbacks are sold).

So if you’d like your very own dead tree version to add to your Kelly I. Hitchcock collection of works, you can find it here!

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The last chapter in the CLR saga…

Seeing as the newest season of Doctor Who just premiered, it seems only fitting that we should jump in our time machines for this post…

This week, I finally received my contributor copies of the first publication that ever accepted a piece of my work, Clackamas Literary Review. It is a damn fine publication, but in case you’re new to the drama that is Kelly I. Hitchcock’s literary life, here’s a summary of the timeline around this little interaction…

Sometime in 2009: I submit 3 poems to CLR for consideration.
February 2010: Clackamas accepts 2 of my poems for publication in their 2010 issue.
November 2011: I receive word the issue is going to drop publication any day.
February 2012: I once again receive word the issue is going to be published soon, and that I will receive 7 contributor copies instead of 2, and that I can purchase copies for $5.
March 2013: 2010 issue is published, with promise of shipment for 7 contributor copies, which I do not receive.
September 2013: Tired of waiting, I order my own copy for about $10. Thanks, Amazon Prime!
August 2014: I mysteriously receive 3 contributor copies in the mail.

You may be looking at this and thinking “Wow, that’s a really long publication cycle,” and you’d be right. What made the whole thing even weirder was that 1: I received 3 copies, not 2 (which was the original number) or 7 (which was the later promised number). 2: These poems came to the name I use on Facebook – not my Facebook author page, but my personal Facebook timeline, same punctuation and everything. 3: The envelope they came in looked like it had been attacked by a rabid wolverine; I don’t even know how the mailman got the books to stay in the manila bubble mailer.

With practices like this, it should surprise no one that more and more authors are moving away from traditional publishing. This isn’t really an anomaly; actually, authors have been screwed over on much larger scales than this by even more prestigious traditional publishing houses. Looking at timelines like these, it’s no wonder Type A authors (like me) who like control (like me) are publishing works at the rate of 1 new book on Amazon every 5 minutes.

That said, I truly am grateful that Clackamas Literary Review published my work and I have that name to attach to my own. I know it’s hard for university presses to get their jobs done in the face of changing market demands, technology, and budget constraints. I just wish they’d learn to do more with less a little faster than 5 years, and adapt quickly like the rest of the world’s been forced to.

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I got my contributor copy… 3.5 years later

I’ve blogged several times about the issue of Clackamas Literary Review that I was recently published in – a publication timeline that looked a lot like this:

October 2009: I submit 3 poems via snail mail with a good ole SASE.

February 2010: Clackamas accepts 2 of my poems for publication in their 2010 issue.

November 2011: I receive word the issue is going to drop publication any day.

February 2012: I once again receive word the issue is going to be published soon, and that I will receive 7 contributor copies instead of 2, and that I can purchase copies for $5.

March 2013: 2010 issue is published, with promise of shipment for 7 contributor copies, which I do not receive.

September 2013: Tired of waiting, I order my own copy for about $10. Thanks, Amazon Prime!

As publication timelines go, this is a crappy one. Despite the long bouts of miscommunication and having to buy my own copy for full price, there truly is n substitute for the feeling you get when you see your work printed on the pages of what has historically been a very highly acclaimed publication, even if the publication management leaves a thing or two to be desired.

Was it worth it? To be honest, had I known it would take more than 3 years to publish, I might have pulled my poems from consideration after the first unanswered email from the Editor in Chief. Sometimes, though, you just have to stick it out and hope that things eventually pay off. And, even though I had to buy my own copy, I can look on the bright side knowing that my money is going to a graduate writing program that is probably suffering the same kind of fate graduate writing programs are facing all over the country.

And if I do eventually receive my 7 contributors copies, you can bet I’ll be sending a copy to the guy who told me one of the poems in it was “desperate and whiny”.

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Shakespeare Got To Get Paid, Son

BuyMyBookI’m going to go ahead and make a bold statement: If you want to become an author because it’ll make you lots of money, you’re in it for the wrong reason. Yes, there are authors who have publishers back up to their front yards and dump truckloads of bundled cash every day, but they are very, very few and far between and there isn’t one of them who didn’t toil away in obscurity for a long time before getting the elusive “big break.” There are also a decent handful of non-A-list authors who do make a decent living selling their books, and yes, some of them do so completely by self-publishing, but pretty much all of them have the following in common:

  • They had books published traditionally before they began self-publishing
  • They spend a LOT of time marketing
  • They have editors who make sure they don’t put a load of crap on the shelves

And even then, all of them will tell you that they didn’t start writing because of the financial promise of publishing. I say this bold statement as the author of 13 published works, only one of which has earned me any money, and as someone who often comes across people who feel lured into writing a book simply because they see dollar signs behind the 75% royalties services like Amazon direct publishing provide.

I’m not taking a stance on traditional vs. self-publishing. They each have their share of advantages and their equal share of drawbacks, and I think all good authors should have a healthy mix of both in their portfolio. Case in point, if you are an author with a healthy backlist of published novels that are now out of print, you’re a moron if you don’t have them on Amazon. At the same time though, if you think hastily writing one book and self-publishing it on Amazon will yield you infinite riches, you are also a moron.

I understand as well as the next guy that writers need to get paid, but the labor of writing should never be driven by money. This is of course my opinion, and it’s why I have a full-time gig that keeps me housed and clothed and whatnot so that my writing can always be a labor of love, and the two-average book sales I make per month are just icing on the cake that buys me a pizza every now and then. Granted, I could probably make more sales if I spent more time advertising, but as I already mentioned, I have a full time job that monopolizes much of my time (which I am fine with), and I also recognize that my efforts are better spent not trying to market my first book, but to write a better book. Your first book is never your best book. If you think it is, you’re a moron. Not my opinion there, either; you’re objectively a moron. I once thought my first book was the best and I could never equal it. I was wrong, and also a moron.

So in long-awaited conclusion: if you’re writing and selling a book for the sole purpose of making money, don’t. Even if it manages to not be an inferior piece of work, you’ve got a hell of an upstream swim to keep sales rolling in if you haven’t already made a name for yourself or don’t know how to effectively promote (less-than-semi-pro tip: tweeting “Buy my book!” 80 times a day is not effective promotion). If you love writing and want nothing more than to see your name in print, do what Kevin Carroll calls “the lonely work of a champion.”

  1. Take the time to write a really great book. I mean super soldier serum great. Write it until you think it’s good enough, then rewrite it until it’s actually good. Then write it again until it’s great. Don’t put something on the shelf that you wouldn’t be proud to call yours.
  2. For the love of GOD, don’t skip the editing process. There is a reason editors have jobs, and it’s impossible to objectively judge your own work. Assume your readers have half a brain and vomit in their mouths a little when they read a typo in a published work. Don’t make your readers vomit.
  3. Do some serious evaluation before self-publishing. Maybe it’s right for you; maybe it isn’t. Calculate how much time you have to devote to marketing. Put some queries out there to publishers to get a feel for how the book might be received. No one’s going to force you to take their book deal (I promise you), and yeah, some of them are crappy.
  4. Build a brand for your author persona, regardless of how you publish. Yes, it is easier said than done and I am still figuring it out myself. When I figure out the magic sauce recipe, you’ll be the first to know.
  5. Write more books. It’s a lot easier to earn a year’s salary when you have more things to sell, regardless of the royalty percentage you get. And spend some of your royalty earnings on pizza. It’s my version of living the high life.
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Help me pick my back cover text (and digital equivalent)

As the publication date (though still concretely undetermined) draws closer and closer for Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook, I am playing around with the back cover text, or product description in the digital world. Any writer will tell you that this is one of the hardest things to do, since it is so hard to persuasively and objectively write about your own work. So much so that it’s often outsourced on elance to the tune of $6.00 an hour. While I could certainly afford this (even though I find it insulting), I try to not to make a habit of paying people to do things I am – or at least should be – perfectly capable of doing myself.

That said, I’m certainly not above asking y’all if it’s total crap. Or more kindly, which description piques your interest the most. So have a gander, let me know what you think, and grow your impetus for getting Portrait of Woman in Ink at the first possible moment. I’m not sure that impetus is the right word for this situation, but I digress…

Product Description 1

Whether you’re an avid body art collector or a Luddite who believes tattooed women have thrust themselves into the clutches of Satan himself, there’s no denying tattoos have become a mainstay for Gen-Xers and the Millennials. Thirty years ago, women with tattoos were viewed through eyes that saw them as freaks, while today young women proudly sport ink, even if they sometimes have to wear long sleeves to maintain propriety in less-enlightened professional or family company.

Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook is a series of literary vignettes about real, everyday women and their tattoos that, while they may seem insignificant at the time, are a symbol of the larger struggles and triumphs that make them who they are (and aren’t freaks because of it). The collection also explores the idea of tattoos bringing together women from different worlds, and teaching them how their worlds might not be as far apart as they originally thought. Portrait of Woman in Ink will touch your heart, make you snicker under your breath, and make you rethink the next time you see a woman sporting a tattoo.

Product Description 2

Twelve women, twelve tattoos, and a narrative thread that weaves them all together, Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook is a collection of stories that answers the question in the back of your mind when you see an inked woman: what does your tattoo mean? (or sometimes – what were you thinking?) From a parent’s suicide to the birth of an unlikely child, the stories behind why women tattoo themselves are literally worn on their sleeves, and retold on these pages with a literary twist.

Complete with artwork from the original tattoo artists and a foreword by women’s studies professor Dr. Marta Vicente, Portrait of Woman in Ink is a literary celebration of a woman’s defiance of traditional norms, transforming their skin in a way that was once acceptable only for criminals and sailors. These stories will touch your heart, make you snicker under your breath, and make you rethink the next time you see a woman proudly sporting a tattoo.

Product Description 3

Who says tattoos are unladylike? (Besides your mother, your pastor, and your boss…) Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook is a collection of tales from women who so wanted the world to know their stories that they put the words into a picture and etched it permanently on their bodies. These stories are tragic, hilarious, absurd, and touching all at the same time, with a narrative thread that connects each story to the one before it.

Complete with artwork from the original tattoo artists and a foreword by one of academia’s foremost voices in women’s studies, Portrait of Woman in Ink is a series of literary vignettes about real, everyday women and their tattoos that, while they may seem insignificant at the time, are a symbol of the larger struggles and triumphs that make them who they are. The collection explores the idea of tattoos bringing together women from different worlds, and teaching them how their worlds might not be as far apart as they originally thought.

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Those poems I had accepted 3 years ago? Finally in print!

215311_10200854804393258_414926138_nIn the before time, the long long ago (circa Feb 2010), Kelly I. Hitchcock had her first two poems accepted for publication by Clackamas Literary Review. These poems were Crayola Caste System and Skipping Stones. Many moons passed and Kelly began to wonder when the journal would be published and whether she should start sending some of her work to other journals. After all, this was one of those ancient texts which operate on mailed in submissions and federal grant funding. She at one point even used a telephone device to contact the Clackamas English department after several electronic mail pony expresses went unanswered; she just wanted to know if and when the fruits of her labor would appear on the page of this mysterious volume.

Well, just three short years later, that day is finally here. As of May 2013, the 2010 edition (I know, right?) of Clackamas Literary Review is finally published, along with the two poems that were accepted all those years ago. You can even purchase it on this newfangled thing called Amazon.

Okay, I poke fun a little bit. It’s certainly a poorly kept secret that the publishing industry is slow-ass-slow. Even so, a three year publication timeline for work that was already submitted by contributors and accepted by the editing staff is embarrassingly slow. I mean, in over three years, the following things have happened:

The work computer on which I wrote Crayola Caste System was two work computers ago.

The guy I was seeing (?) at the time I wrote Skipping Stones is now engaged to someone else, and I am married to someone else.

Obama was elected to a second term.

I had ten other poems and short stories get accepted and published by other literary journals.

I published one novel and wrote another.

Still, I never take a publication for granted. Any time I can have my work be accepted by a journal, it is a distinct honor, and having these two poems appear in Clackamas Literary Review is no exception. We all know it’s tough for print journals these days, but I can’t help but look at this situation with an adapt-or-die viewpoint. If it takes a publisher three years to go to print, eventually its reputation for slow-ass-slow publication timelines will supersede its reputation for quality contributions. Also, if you’re going to charge people to buy the print journal using online retailers such as Amazon, wouldn’t it be easy enough to offer it for electronic reading and open a new revenue stream?

But hey, that’s why I’m the writer and not the business person. And if you have $10 to spare, feel free to grab yourself a copy of the 2010 edition of Clackamas Literary Review. And maybe the 2011 issue in  2015, or the 2012 issue in 2025…

 

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It’s a deal! Portrait of Woman in Ink newest member of Bird Brain Publishing family

Yep; it’s the longest blog title ever, but I’m so happy about getting this deal done I can’t think of a better abbreviation. After a needlessly long contract process, I’ve signed a book deal with Bird Brain Publishing for my second novel, Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook. We don’t have a release date defined yet, but it’ll be coming on quickly since we’ve already finished our editing process.

Now we have to do all the artwork, which is quite a bit more involved than a standard book with it being about tattoos and all. But I think it’ll go pretty quickly since they’ve got some talented graphics people on their small team.

I first queried them way back in July. Believe it or not, they were actually the first ones I queried, and one of the first small presses I had on my short list who expressed interest in the project. As a few more publishers expressed interest, our negotiations process stretched out a bit, but anything worth doing is worth doing right and taking your time with, and I am very excited about working with these crazy nice and talented peeps!

Plus, you know, it’s my first book deal, so I’ve got to be pretty stoked, right?

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The passive-aggressive breakup, part 2

Some time ago I mentioned that I had two publishers who were interested in my forthcoming novel, Portrait of Woman in Ink: A Tattoo Storybook. I also mentioned that both of them mysteriously stopped answering emails or returning phone calls for a little while. Frustrated out of my mind (hey – I don’t take kindly to being ignored), I contacted them both to have the DTR talk (defining the relationship, for those of you who’ve never had one… I mean, heard this term :D). Essentially, “Hey, are you still interested in me, or did that new girl from Valley steal you away from me?”

Okay, so I didn’t say it like that, and I don’t have anything against new girls (though we didn’t have many of them where I grew up), but I did ask if they were still interested in a very straightforward manner. To my surprise, both of them came back into the fold, saying they were still interested, and would be sending along contracts shortly. “Shortly” is a relative term in the publishing industry, I’ve found, as one of them sent their book deal contract along within a couple months. The other one however…

I kept talking with them, making sure they were still interested. They assured me that I was still very much on their radar and that my hair still looked good (metaphorically speaking). They strung me along for a bit, and even when I played the “I have another offer” card, they assured me that no other publisher could do for me what they could do for me, and that they’d have a deal over to me by the end of the month. That month, for your reference, was January.

In case you don’t own a calendar, it’s April, and they just told me TUH-DAY that they’ve decided to go in a new direction. I could be a little miffed at them, but how can I be, really? After all, I’m the one who let them string me along for 4 months, and didn’t just flat out say “Where’s my book deal, already?!” But I also can’t be angry with myself too much because I knew better than to let the door close on the first publisher who was interested, the ones who actually *did* have the consideration to send me the book deal they said they would, because I signed with them.

… But more on that in a post to come!

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