Prism & Pen
Published in

Prism & Pen

How I Got My Book Published

Surviving the vagaries of the industry

I’m a writer not completely unfamiliar with the publishing process.

I published a book in 1988 with a new edition in 1993. Hard Hatted Women: Life on the Job is an anthology of stories by and about women working in the construction trades and blue-collar jobs.

I had a publisher then, Seal Press, a woman-owned press that focused on women’s stories. Started in a Seattle garage, Seal Press came out of the Women’s Press Movement at a time when women, and especially lesbians, could not find printers who would print our words. Seal Press assigned me an excellent editor (every writer needs a great editor) and also a press person who got me interviewed by Jane Pauley on the Today Show. She organized a bare-bones book tour in which I drove my CRX across the country and back, staying in the homes of women’s bookstore proprietors. I loved working with those brilliant women at Seal.

Oh, how the publishing business has changed since then!

Seal Press is now an imprint of Hachette, a big publishing house in New York, still with a feminist focus. But I didn’t even send them a proposal for my latest book, Wonder Woman Electric to the Rescue. My book is a collection of essays, fiction and memoir, and I know publishers prefer manuscripts that stick to one genre. Finding a niche publisher seemed like an overwhelming challenge, and I didn’t feel like writing proposals and waiting for rejection letters. Also, I know that even if I was lucky enough to find a publisher, they’d be unlikely to do much to promote my book.

Nowadays there are lots of “self” publishers to choose from, but I was lucky to employ a friend, Chris Carlsson, who has self-published a stack of books. Chris directs Shaping San Francisco (www.shapingsf.org), a project dedicated to the public sharing of lost, forgotten, overlooked, and suppressed histories of San Francisco and the Bay Area. The project hosts a digital archive (where many of my writings appear) at foundsf.org. The proceeds from my book will go to this project.

Once I had assembled the manuscript, I asked around and found a proofreader through a writer friend. I didn’t hire an editor, but most of the stories in my book have been published elsewhere and have been reviewed by my writers groups.

The motto of Redwood Writers, my local branch of the California Writers Club, is “writers helping writers,” and they take their mission seriously. I read a story in one of their salons and I learned about promotion in one of their workshops. I hired that workshop leader to set up a website for me and to design the book cover.

I’ve been calling Chris my publisher because he is the connection to Amazon. He uses Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon). He lays out the book with Indesign and uses Photoshop for photos. Then he just follows Amazon’s directions. He found it difficult to engage with Amazon when he needed them to correct a mistake in the title, which would have made it impossible to search for the book by title. It took him many days to get hold of a live person to talk to. It seems the publishing department is run by robots.

My book is published, but you can’t order it from your local bookstore. If you want the actual book, you must order it from Amazon, although you can access the digital version for free with Kindleunlimited (owned by Amazon). Here’s the link:

Now I’m promoting my own book, something my publisher would have seen as their job in the old days. But there’ll be no more driving across the country for me. My book launch parties will be Zooms that can gather readers across the country (and the world). Technology has revolutionized the publishing industry, and I’m still not sure what I think about that.

To sign up for the book launch parties:

Saturday, January 8, 2022

1 p.m. PDT / 4 p.m. EDT

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

5 p.m. PDT / 8 p.m. EDT

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Molly Martin

Molly Martin

I’m a long-time tradeswoman activist and retired electrician/electrical inspector in San Francisco.