Archive for the ‘Publicity’ Category

When I began to explore the topic of my writer’s block, I published chapters as I wrote them in Life As A Human magazine. I did that to help me stay focused on the real story in what was a complex and intricate topic, and keep me moving forward with the writing project.  I published 29 chapters that way, and then I was able to see the best way to finish the book.

My friend Karen told me several years ago that she thought Healing The Writer might be the most powerful book I would ever write. Back in April, I read the polished first draft, then set it aside. I think it has taken me six months to fully appreciate the magnitude of the healing journey I chronicled.

Late last night I watched the end of Mr. Holland’s Opus, where he gets to conduct the symphony he spent years writing, played by former students. The final shot in the movie is a closeup of him with a powerful look of serenity on his face – like he accepted what he had created. I think I saw it that way because I had felt myself coming to that same point.

I picked up the Healing The Writer manuscript today and began reading it once more, with an eye to editing needed. I’m ready, and it’s time.


Below is the Table of Contents, along with links to the first 29 chapters. (The chapters are in reverse order by publication date in the magazine, and this will give a better idea of how to follow the flow of the book).

Healing The Writer

The desire to express, I was taught to repress,

 Has caused me a block, I wish to unlock.

I pick up the pen, I start writing again.

 I feel the flow –

        And then I stop.

   – Dan Hays October 1986

Part One – Search For Peace

One: Why Is This Fantastic News So Scary?

Two: What To Put On Paper?

Three: I Find My Writing Voice

Four: I Hide Out To Write A Book

Five: Scared To Put It In The Mail

Six: I Walk Away From Publication

Part Two – Nothing Left to Lose

Seven: Ghosts Of The Wheat Harvest

Eight: The Query Letter and The Question

Nine: I Abandon A Book – Again!

Part Three – What Mamaw Said

Ten: They’ll Call You Crazy – And Lock You Up!

Eleven: I Capture The Writing Vision

Twelve: The Creative River Flows Once More

Thirteen: The Writer’s Conference and the Fear

Fourteen: What Is It About That Particular Park?

Fifteen: I Can Have You Committed

Sixteen: The Fear And The Light!

Seventeen: Breaking Through – Moving Beyond Writer’s Block

Part Four – Down To The Roots

Eighteen: Red Rocks and Remembering: A Writer’s Road Trip

Nineteen: A Writer’s Journey of Inspiration

Twenty: The Landscape of a Writer

Twenty One: Publishing a Book: Getting One Step Closer

Twenty Two: A Disappointed Writer and a Backup Plan

Twenty Three: The Fearful Writer – Monsters in the Closet

Twenty Four: How My Writing Got Locked Up

Part Five – Freedom’s Just Another Word

Twenty Five: Insomnia – A Writer’s Night Journey

Twenty Six: Confronting the Fear – A Writer Prepares to Publish

Twenty Seven: “I’d Like To Read Your Manuscript.”

Twenty Eight A: A Writer Revisits High School – Part One

Twenty Eight B: A Writer Revisits High School – Part Two

Twenty Nine: I Am A Published Author

Thirty: A Hopeful Omen

Thirty One: Publicity Can Be Rewarding – Or Maybe Not!

Thirty Two: The Origin of Minute To Freedom

Part Six – Moving To The Light

Thirty Three: I Combine Publicity And Therapy

Thirty Four: Healing The Wounded Child

Thirty Five: Preparing To Leave The Dark Closet

Thirty Six: Independence Day

Thirty Seven: Little Danny Set Free

Thirty Eight: The “Don’t” Messages – Deep Damage Healed

Thirty Nine: Deep Healing and Destiny Arising

Forty: The Terror of the Dark Death

Part Seven – Free To Write

Forty One: Writing For Publication as a Healing Tool

Forty Two: Killing The Octopus

Forty Three: A Sign of Healing – The Poetry Returns

Forty Four: Am I Able To Work – As A Writer?

Forty Five: A Sign of Healing – I Become a Freelance Writer

Forty Six: Epilogue

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Someone wrote recently and said they were trying to finish a book they were writing, but had gone into a fearful place when thinking about having it published. “It’s got me so twisted up that I am afraid to even write at the moment because I don’t know what I’ll do with the manuscript when it’s done.”

They knew from a friend that I had studied the publishing industry extensively before publishing my first book, and wondered my thoughts on writing and publishing.  The following is my reply.


What a great set of questions you raise! Thanks for asking me for my input! Yes, I studied the publishing industry extensively before I put my book out. I’m thinking it might be handy to break your question into its two natural components – writing and publishing. Because they are distinctly different parts of the process.

I was surprised when I went to a writer’s conference in 2008 that most of the writers I talked to hadn’t finished their book. One woman was even going to use her 10 minute meet with a New York agent to ask which direction she should go with her plot. What the speakers said several times in the conference was before you present your book to agents or publishers, you would be well served to have it already written, and as edited and polished as you could get it.

So what I’m suggesting from that is that before you look into the publishing part, it might be best to get your book written and cleaned up as spiffy as you can make it. It’s like they talk about in the 12 step programs, when you’re going to take a personal inventory – really study your life with an eye to improvement. The next step in the process is to share it with someone (like confession) – actually read it out loud. They suggest you not look ahead to who you’re going to do that with, because it will flavor how you write your inventory.

And if you look ahead to publishing, you might overwhelm or discourage yourself into not finishing the book. Once you get the book finished, then you’ll be a lot more comfortable investigating how to release it to the world.

Now, about publishing. I have an MBA and a Marketing degree, and I threw those into the project of investigating publishing. I did a lot of research on the industry, went to several writer’s conferences, and looked at the options very seriously. Here’s what seems to have changed in recent years – many of the traditional publishers have been bought out by large conglomerates, and the publishing arm is no longer considered a very vital profit center, so those houses don’t get as much financial support. Which translates to “let’s be very cautious and look for the next big book like the last one which did well.” They’re not very risk taking.

The other part of that is that they have essentially outsourced their culling process to the literary agents. You can’t even get looked at by a major house any more unless you go through an agent. The agents are by necessity as cautious as the publishers, since they have to try to pitch books that they actually think the publishers might use. And honestly, I have met with 5 different agents at the writer’s conferences, and as a businessman I haven’t been terribly impressed. In 2008 I had one of the agents from a very prestigious New York agency take home and read my book, and he later declined it. It was the closest I got, but even if he’d taken it, there was no guarantee that he could get a publisher to pick it up.  (I heard one agent say at that same conference that she’d shopped one book for seven years before getting a publisher to agree to accept it.)

On top of that, with traditional publishing, you would have to do most of your own publicity any more. They seldom do much publicity these days, unless it is for proven authors where they risk very little.

So my Plan B became to self-publish. I studied this segment of the industry a lot, and advances in technology have changed it dramatically in the last several years. Mainly, because of what is called Print On Demand publishing. It used to be that if you self published (AKA vanity publishing) you would pay a publisher, who would run off a number of your books, which you were then left with trying to sell out of your garage.

With POD, they store electronic copies of your book, and copies are only printed as they are sold (thru Amazon or Barnes and Noble online). For the writer, this means your up front investment is much, much less. If you don’t add on the publicity packages and additional services you can get, you could publish a book for $500 to 600 base price.

POD has become a very attractive alternative to traditional publishing, since you have control of the process, instead of waiting for the publisher to put you in their printing queue. The other side of that coin is that anyone can publish a book very inexpensively now, so a lot of people are doing it, and the market is being flooded – I’ve heard numbers like 200,000 new books a year. So the competition gets incredible, and you still have to fight the old school bias against self publishing – I heard the editor of Publishers Weekly say at a writer’s conference that they wouldn’t even consider reviewing a book that had been self published.

So really, any publishing route you go – traditional or POD, you’re essentially stuck with providing all of your own publicity. Which is where most writers are at a disadvantage. If you don’t have any desire to speak in front of groups, that’s a limitation, because no one will find out about your book unless you speak and tell them about it. An author friend and I have both done an extensive number of radio interviews to promote our books, and there are a number of ways to line up interviews, but you will need to have talking points about your book, and have practiced it, so you will interest people enough to buy the book. The advantage here is, that if you’re willing to do that, you’ve separated yourself from most writers, who just don’t want to talk.

I look at it like I have three hats to wear. Writer, Publisher, Publicist. They are all so distinctly different, that it serves me well to only wear one at once – don’t put on the publicist hat until I’m through with the publisher hat, that sort of thing. And the whole process is like running a marathon. I used to train with a group in Austin. We’d start Labor Day with 1,200 runners. By February, about 300 would finish the marathon. So you really have to commit to the process!

Maybe the way to start is to address the fear – I had two books that I didn’t publish (and now will) because of underlying fears! That’s a big resistance point and can get in your way.

Let’s keep this dialogue open, and if my response brings up further questions, please feel free to ask me and we’ll talk it all through! 🙂


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