SO SHELLY, On Suicide

In the wake of Robin William’s suicide, I’ve resisted to weigh in with my thoughts because, really, who cares what I think. I often feel that the need to express such thoughts are little more than creeping on the grief of others anyway. No offense. The tragedy did, however, call to my mind a passage near the end of my first novel, SO SHELLY, which I thought I might share here.

I ask you to remember that this is a work of fiction. The conversation that takes place fit the characters and the context. It does not necessarily reflect my personal thoughts on the subject, but it does present a more unorthodox and controversial perspective on the issue of suicide. At the time of the novel’s publication, I thought I’d receive some blow back for this scene, but I never really did.

The scene occurs near the end of the novel when Keats and Gordon are near to fulfilling their promise to their shared best friend, Shelly, to spread her ashes at a place beloved by her.

“You know, I didn’t think she had the balls to go through with it,” Gordon said as he commenced blazing the trail.
“Go through with what?” I asked, sincerely clueless.
“This!” He stopped and nodded toward the urn upraised in his hands, then spun slowly around, indicating the entire island.
“What do you mean?” I asked, as a really bad feeling began to gurgle up from the well of my ignored gut feelings.
“Killing herself.”
“You mean . . . I thought you said . . .?”
“Yeah, I knew about it. She told me her plan.”
“Wait . . . What? ‘Killing herself?’ You knew about it? And, you didn’t do anything to stop her!” I was incredulous. I was an accomplice. I was the one who passed on Shelly’s message of needing to speak with him. This was the result.
“What’d you want me to do, Keats? Sit with her 24/7?”
“Gee, I don’t know, talk her out of it, maybe?! Christ, at least tell somebody!”
“She made me promise not to. Her father would have put her in a nuthouse, which would have killed her anyway. Besides, I didn’t think she was serious. You know how she was.”
“Oh, that explains it. She made you promise not to. What? Did you pinkie swear?”
“Look. It’s what she wanted. Who was I to tell her what to do with her life anyway? If she was so unhappy that dying seemed a relief, then why should I deny her that? We have no choice in when or to what asshole parents we come into this world. At least, shouldn’t we be able to decide for ourselves when to leave it?”
“You were supposed to be her friend, you selfish prick!” I shouted as I gave him the most ineffectual shove in the history of chivalry.
“I’m selfish?” He’d grabbed my arm at the wrist and twisted until I was bent over again and, this time, in excruciating pain. “You think I should have convinced her to go on living miserably so that your feelings wouldn’t be hurt? Don’t give me that bullshit about the selfishness of suicide. What’s selfish is insisting that she continue in her misery so you won’t have to feel sad or guilty.”
“Guilty? Why should I feel guilty?”
“She told me about the poetry books, dude. What’d you think she was doing? Organizing for a garage sale?”
He released me from the submission hold and sent me reeling, as if on drunken legs, until I stumbled off the path and onto the razor sharp leaves of the now pissed-off plant growing in the sandy soil. The boom box catapulted from my hand.
“I . . . I didn’t think . . .” I said, still planted on from my ass.
“Yeah, that’s right. You didn’t think. Because, just maybe, deep down you knew what she was doing too, and you didn’t want to interfere either because in that deep down place you understood that it was what she wanted. So keep your self-righteous bullshit to yourself. I don’t need it.”

I Want My MTV!

The video-centric MTV that debuted in 1981 when I was still a teenager was a far cry from today’s MTV, which is dominated by reality shows and original sitcoms, dramas, documentaries, and movies. As a result, the majority of my generation has long ago turned its back on MTV programming, a choice which, I believe, is a huge mistake, especially for parents, grandparents, educators, and anyone who works closely with young people.

Teenagers are notoriously leery of adults, including their own parents. It is extraordinarily difficult for adults to gain the trust of teens and to convince them to share their thoughts, feelings, attitudes, interests, and dreams. We may not like it, for we forever want to see ourselves as young and hip, but there is a natural generation gap that exists between teenagers and adults. Once we cross that chasm from the former to the latter, there is no going back, but that does not mean that we must lose touch completely with those still on the other side. There are ways available to glimpse into the teenage mind and world of today without acting like a fool experiencing a mid-life crisis, without alienating the teens in your life through badgering, and without creeping on their social networking sites or searching their rooms. For me, one of the most effective means of gaining this valuable insight has been through watching MTV. Albeit, sometimes the viewing is painful (“The Jersey Shore” and “My Super Sweet 16” to name a couple of the most insipid); oftentimes, the programs are quite entertaining, intelligently-done, and insightful. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed and have learned much about the teenage mindset from watching such programs as “Teen Wolf,” “Wait Til Next Year,” “Skins,” and “True Life.”

It is so easy, as adults, to forget the experience of being so young yet also being expected to assume adult responsibilities and behaviors. It truly is a tough age. We forget that we were once as hypersensitive, intense, overly-dramatic, love-struck, frightened, rebellious, stubborn, “dazed and confused” as them. In fact, many of us still are. We often become unfairly judgmental of and insensitive to the ways of today’s teenagers, forgetting that we weren’t that much different.

As a writer, MTV is an invaluable source for me in terms of viewing teenagers’ fashions, language, behaviors, interests, problems etc. As a teacher, by watching MTV and occasionally alluding to shows I’ve seen there, I’m able to build a footbridge between my middle-aged world and theirs. As a parent, it provides valuable insight into the stresses and pressures faced by my kids. As a human being, it keeps me in some kind of touch with a huge segment of the population and reminds me that life is meant to be lived passionately and energetically and with a sense of wonder and of the better days that lie ahead.

Prescription Drug Abuse in GOODNESS FALLS

Prescription Drug Abuse Image

Telling a compelling story is always my first responsibility as an author; however, I’m from the school of artists who believe that art, at its best, can be a tool for social awareness and change. Raising awareness of the dangers inherent in the participation in collision sports – especially head trauma as it occurs in football – is the major goal of GOODNESS FALLS, but another issue I hope to illuminate is that of prescription drug abuse. In the novel, as for many in real life, the use of prescription drugs begins innocently enough, often as a means to mask physical pain and to allow normal functioning. These legitimate uses, however, often give way to masking emotional pain and mere recreational use, both of which often evolve into abuse and dependency.

Just as I’m not an expert on traumatic brain injuries, I’m not an expert in drug abuse. I’m just a novelist, a guy literally making shit up. Nonetheless, as a high school teacher, I have daily interaction with and insight into the lives of young adults that places me in a unique position. Although I find it dangerous and ill-advised to lump people of any demographic too neatly into a package, in my avocation as a writer, I try to use my position and these opportunities to educate the world at-large of the pressing issues in the lives of today’s teenagers. I’ve said many times that I write about young adults for adults as much as I write for young adults themselves. Outside of their own children and for only a brief period, most adults have little or limited contact with teenagers. As a result, they rely upon outdated notions and stereotypes with which they make mistaken judgments of young people. My goal is to provide these adult readers a window into the world of teens, a world that has changed drastically since these adults were teenagers themselves.

One of the recent and more pernicious changes in teenage behavior is in their use and abuse of prescription drugs. It is, however, far from merely a problem with young adults. The abuse of such drugs has grown increasingly-pervasive in American society, and for too many kids, because these drugs are doctor-prescribed, they lack the stigma of more illicit drugs. A mistaken notion of their being more safe persists, and their easy accessibility inside their parents’ medicine cabinets only adds to the dangerous perception of their being less dangerous. Not only are prescription drugs easily obtained, they can be consumed surreptitiously. They do not need to be lit, snorted, huffed, or injected – just swallowed. They are tiny and do not come packaged in some highly visible or difficult-to-hide container. They leave behind no smoke or odor, so they are very difficult to spot. Sadly, prescription drugs, seem almost tailor-made for the convenient abuse by teenagers.

In GOODNESS FALLS, the protagonist begins to consume prescription drugs in order to mask a head injury, the discovery of which would jeopardize his current position and potential for future success. He quickly finds himself in the downward spiral described above and in danger of losing far more than he fears.

My hope is that in reading the novel, young people and their parents will learn vicariously of the dangers of both repeated head traumas and prescription drug abuse. Armed with a fictional example of the ramifications of both, they can make informed decisions without having to actually be subjected to either.

The Fake Problems video below, “Songs for Teenagers,” was a major inspiration as I wrote GOODNESS FALLS. Listen to its lyrics, and I think you’ll see why.

Little Help?

A Little Help
If I had been given a quarter every time I asked for a “Little Help?” from a neighbor or a passerby in returning a stray football, baseball, basketball, brother, etc., when I was a kid . . . well, let’s just say I’d have had to do a lot less digging underneath the couch cushions to find enough change for an ice cream cone at the Dairy Frost. Here I am, however, many years later, asking for a “little help.”

I’ve written several blog posts about the differences – both the advantages and disadvantages – of publishing GOODNESS FALLS independently. Perhaps the biggest downside is not being assigned a publicist to help in the promotion of my book. Although the majority of debut and mid-list authors receive only the minimal of push from their assigned publicist, it’s better than nothing. As an independent author, however, the entire burden of marketing and publicizing a book falls on the author’s shoulders.

Therefore, I’m asking anyone who is willing and able for a “Little help?” If you have read GOODNESS FALLS and especially if you have enjoyed the story or have found the issues it addresses to be worthwhile of dissemination, I’d greatly appreciate any help you may provide in encouraging others to read it. In fact, no publicist can do for a book what positive word-of-mouth can do. Neighbors and friends making a book recommendation to another neighbor or friend is a million times more powerful than paid for advertising or product placement.

Initial sales have been solid, and words cannot express my appreciation for all of you who have purchased GOODNESS FALLS. It amazes me that anyone would take any time out of their busy lives to read anything I’ve written. It is vital, however, that with my second novel I expand my readership beyond friends, family, and return readers from SO SHELLY. Therefore, if you’d like to give me a little help in reaching that goal, recommend GOODNESS FALLS to a friend or family member, give it as a graduation gift, write an Amazon review, or recommend it on Facebook or Twitter.



My decision to break away from the traditional model and publish GOODNESS FALLS independently was further validated this past week, when I received a very complimentary letter from an agent who, clearly unaware that I had already moved on and despite praising the novel and my writing talents, had determined not to offer her representation. Her decision reflects the reality that quality is often not the prime determinant of whether a book makes it to market; rather, it is regularly trumped by novelty and trendiness. This is no revelation, but it is an argument for a writer who believes in the quality of his/her work to pursue an alternative course to publication. But what reinforced my choice was the length of time it took this agent to make the determination to reject the novel. It illustrates one of the reasons that many authors are moving away from the old model: it just takes too damn long. In a world that is constantly accelerating, the traditional publishing process continues to churn at its long-established glacial pace so that in addition to the months/years an author has already spent writing must be added what is typically an eighteen-month process of cover design, editing, copy editing, promotion, sales, etc. before, if it is lucky, it lands on a shelf in a bookstore.

The aforementioned agent is one for whom I have high regard and with whom I would love to work. She is, however, part of a monolithic structure that in its reluctance to evolve is inching slowly – ever so slowly – towards extinction. As a case in point, let’s trace my history with this agent. I originally contacted her early in 2013 with a standard query. Upon her request, I immediately provided a partial manuscript based upon which she requested a full manuscript. In September, she responded enthusiastically to the manuscript and offered some very insightful critiques and asked for a revised version. By Thanksgiving, I had rewritten the entire novel and returned it for her perusal. Then . . . nothing. I didn’t hear from her until last week. By which time (after only beginning the process in January of 2014), I had author’s copies of GOODNESS FALLS already in hand. Remember, even if her recent rejection had been an offer of representation, it would be some time in 2016 before the novel would be released. For some books, that may not be a problem. SO SHELLY, for example, did not require a rush to market because it is based on past events. Although GOODNESS FALLS addresses a number of timeless and universal themes, its plot is driven by the issue of sport-induced concussions, which is currently a hot topic in the zeitgeist. Right now, it has resonance. By 2016, however, the issue may be played out or, better yet, resolved. If I didn’t want to simply toss aside what has been years of work on this project and chalk it up as a near miss, I had little choice but to take the route of independent publishing. Other than a small percentage of superstar authors, legacy publishing fails to meet the needs/wants of its authors and, ultimately, readers.

Although, I have not ruled out a return to the traditional model for the right projects, it would be difficult to surrender the control and freedom I have discovered in the process of bringing GOODNESS FALLS to market. If I’m able to continue to carve out a niche and please my already-established readership, that will be more-than-enough to have made the experiment worth it.

Magic Realism in GOODNESS FALLS

Magic Realism
Gabriel Garcia Marquez died last week. Despite having won a Nobel Prize for Literature, his name usually fails to resonate with American readers due to a woeful disregard in our English classrooms for Latin and South American writers. He was, however, one of the most influential novelists of the past fifty years. Marquez is often noted for his role in advancing the narrative technique known as magic realism. Although he did not coin the term, and other South American writers, such as Juan Louis Borges, had already been dabbling with the device, it was Marquez’s stories that popularized magic realism.

Magic realism has been described as a storytelling device that blurs the distinction between fantasy and reality. According to Naomi Lindstrom in her text “Twentieth-Century Spanish American Literature,” “Magic realism fuses (1) lyrical and, at times, fantastic writing with (2) an examination of the character of human existence and (3) an implicit criticism of society . . . they accept events contrary to the usual operating laws of the universe as natural, even unremarkable.” For movie buffs, consider such films as “Donnie Darko,” “Synecdoche, New York,” “Big Fish,” “Like Water for Chocolate,” and “The Green Mile;” they each fit the definition. Marquez described his relationship with magic realism in this way: “My most important problem was destroying the lines of demarcation that separates what seems real from what seems fantastic.”

In GOODNESS FALLS, I leave my comfort zone of realistic fiction and narrowly employ magic realism through the character of Angel Mortis, a death metal guitarist/substitute English teacher whose arrival in the village suspiciously aligns with a series of tragic events that he may or may not be responsible for. The technique fits my story’s attempt to draw attention to the blurry line that separates sanity from insanity, reality from illusion, good from evil, and ultimately, life from death.

In “The Wife of Bath’s Tale,” Chaucer chides the Catholic Church for chasing all of the fairies and elves and much of folkloric fantasy from the world. Six centuries later, Marquez fought back, and the world of fiction, at least, is much richer and more real because of it.

Book Review: The Opposite of Loneliness


Do you wanna leave soon?
No, I want enough time to be in love with everything . . .
And I cry because everything is so beautiful and so short.
– Marina Keegan, from the poem “Bygones”

I rarely post book reviews; however, after reading THE OPPOSITE OF LONELINESS: ESSAYS AND STORIES by Marina Keegan, I felt compelled to do so. Sadly, the sublimity of Keegan’s writing is nearly overshadowed by the tragic automobile accident that took her life at the age of 23. I say “nearly” because it would be a disservice to what was her emerging literary genius to focus on anything but her precocious talent. And I know that “genius” is a strong word to use for such a young writer who was only on the cusp of what promised to be not only an accomplished writing career but, based on her stories and essays, an extraordinary life well-examined, well-chronicled, and well-lived. I’m saddened to think of the keen observations of and insights into life Keegan would have provided us and posterity as she moved through her youth and into middle age and beyond, and I mourn for that loss as well.

Her bio identifies Keegan as “an award-winning author, journalist, playwright, poet, actress, and activist.” She had already interned at the Paris Review, been published in the New York Times, and was poised to begin a prestigious job at the New Yorker. For most, these would be crowning achievements, not resume builders. In my years as a high school literature and composition teacher, I’ve had fewer than a handful of students like Keegan, students whom, both I and they knew, were already better readers, thinkers, and writers than me and for whom the best I could do was not to get in their way, and the best they could do was to humor me. Keegan reminds me of those few students.

Although the quality of her stories and essays is uneven, not atypical of such a young writer, Keegan’s insights into human motivations and behaviors are poignantly spot on, whether the protagonist is college-aged, like the narrator of “Cold Pastoral” or an elderly widow as in “Reading Aloud.” In the former story, a college senior is considering breaking up with her boyfriend, Brian, who had only recently ended another long term relationship, when she receives news that he has died in a car accident. She is contacted by
Brian’s ex, who asks her to retrieve his diary from his room on-campus, fearful of what intimate and potentially-embarrassing details might fall into his parents’ hands should they recover it first. In this and her other stories, Keegan makes no attempt to gloss over the high frequency of sexual activity and substance abuse on college campuses. Awkwardly for the narrator, Brian’s parents, although they barely know her, request that she deliver one of the eulogies at his funeral. After she successfully smuggles the diary from Brian’s room, she reads from it only to learn that he had regrets over breaking up with his previous girlfriend and doubts as to the narrator’s worthiness, which only further complicates her feelings towards him, her self-image, and her role as eulogist. My favorite story of the collection is titled “Reading Aloud.” It’s the story of a widower who volunteers to read to the blind. She is assigned to young man who lives alone in an apartment and who mostly asks her to read utilitarian text which he would transpose onto his computer and into braille on his specialized printer for his later usage. The hook is that as she reads, she performs a deliberate striptease – one item of clothing at a time – until she is reading to him while entirely naked. In the presence of this young man, who is unable to see the effects that aging has wrought on her body, she feels sexy and alive again, just as she had felt when young and naked in the presence of her now deceased husband. It is a powerful story of longing and loss for both the blind man and the widow.

The essays reveal Keegan’s insatiable curiosity with seemingly all things and her remarkable breadth of interests and knowledge. The topics range from a hilarious and heartfelt recounting of her relationship with her first car in “Stability in Motion,” to a touching plea for compassion for all creatures, human and animal, in “Why We Care About Whales,” to a hilarious yet profoundly sad character sketch of a Chicago-based exterminator in “I Kill for Money.” In both her fiction and her essays, Keegan’s keen skills of observation and her ability to capture in words the nuances of being human in an all-too-often inhumane world is on full display. Her mastery of language, both literal and figurative, is apparent throughout, and her themes strike upon universal chords.

I highly recommend THE OPPOSITE OF LONELINESS for all ages of readers. The title betrays Keegan’s most wished for condition, which despite her clearly-privileged upbringing and any number of available opportunities to pursue careers that promised wealth and status, she had little-to-no interest in, for she knew that the opposite of loneliness was not to be found in either. She intuitively understood that both money and status were empty goals and false gods that, in the end, would have cost her soul, not nourished it. Unquestionably for the attainment of her own hopes and dreams, Marina Keegan died too young but not so young that she was unable to leave an indelible mark on the hearts, minds, and souls of those fortunate enough to discover this one collection of priceless insight into the precious gift that is life. Though not enough, it will have to do.

Growing Up

Authors of stories featuring young adults are sometimes criticized for using parents as all-too-convenient antagonists and for too often painting unflattering portraits of them. Likewise, teachers and coaches are regularly utilized as the “bad guys” in YA novels. Although I understand the criticism, I think it is unfounded and typically the overly-sensitive observation of an adult critic. As grown ups, people in these roles no longer loom so ominously over us, and we quickly forget the power they once possessed to totally ruin our lives. Our conflicts now are waged against a whole new array of foes. Additionally, we’ve become those parents and teachers and coaches, and we do not appreciate the unflattering light in which YA novels draw us. For young people, however, these are the authority figures under whose oppression they suffer and against whose unreasonable demands and expectations (unreasonable, at least, through the perceptions of the teenagers from whose perspective these stories are told) they rebel as part of their own growing up.

This same sense of victimization by and spirit of rebellion against parents and authority figures in general has similarly fueled a large number of rock-and-roll songs over the years because it speaks to its primary audience: the young. My favorite rock-and-roll expression of teenage angst and rebellion is Springsteen’s “Growin Up,” which I’ve included below.

A motif in my fiction is the manner in which some adults manipulate young people for their own egos, advancement and gratification, a theme I’ve seen played out with great regularity during my years in education and coaching. In GOODNESS FALLS, T.J. Farrell must balance living in a house with parents of polar opposite dispositions: a chronically unemployed, self-pitying, and entirely disengaged dad and a stay-at-home mom who pins far too many of her own hopes for a better future on him. They serve as a constant source of embarrassment for T.J., especially as they compare to his girlfriend’s, Caly, successful and refined parents. The role of T.J.’s primary antagonist is filled by Coach Harris, who willfully ignores T.J.’s issue with head trauma and uses him to advance his own career,

A world in which all adults assumed loving and beneficent attitudes towards the young people in their charge and in which these youth remunerated those right-thinking adults with respect and dutiful obedience might be ideal; although, I’m inclined to think not. It sounds rather “Stepford” to me. But I KNOW with complete certainty that such a world of saccharine relationships between young people and adults would make for horrible storytelling.

So Shelly Honored by “Booklist”

The September 15, 2011, issue of Booklist, a prestigious 100-year old magazine published by the American LIbrary Association, includes SO SHELLY in its list of “Top Ten Romance Fiction for Youth: 2011”:  In the words of Shakespeare’s Juliet, it is “an honor I dreamt not of” but one by which I am humbled and for which I am grateful.

If I show even the slightest hesitancy to be floored by this honor, it is due to the designation of SO SHELLY as a “romance.” The word is a tricky one that inspires a number of understandings and responses. Sadly, in its modern interpretation, the use of the term is often limited to the “Harlequin”-type romance. These novels, though widely-popular and perfectly legitimate, tend to be formulaic and dismissed by many as “plot-boilers.” I do not believe SO SHELLY conforms to either of these descriptions.

The Romance, however, as a story form, has a long, vaunted, and perpetual place in literary history. Modern day manifestations of this form are all derivatives of the Medieval Romance and the Romantic Movement of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The medieval form featured larger-than-life heroes and villains, dangerous quests, ingenues, supernatural beings and events, and a lightheartedness of tone and purpose. The more recent Romantic Movement borrows from its medieval predecessor and adds such elements as its nearly-pantheistic love of nature, an emphasis on freedom and nonconformity, high emotion, the spirit of rebellion and revolution, a tendency towards excess and spontaneity, and an appreciation of the exotic. It is this second spell of Romantic literature that inspired the trinity of characters at the center of SO SHELLY: Lord Byron, Percy Byshhe Shelley, and John Keats. Our modern day fascination with horror, supernatural beings (vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, witches, etc.), and the paranormal can be traced to the gothic novels of this second manifestation of Romanticism. Therefore, as a literary descendant of these two forms of Romance, I am thrilled to see SHELLY included among Booklist’s honored works of Romance fiction.

Perhaps the greatest outcome of earning Booklist’s distinction would be to expand the readership of SO SHELLY across genres. In my experience as a student, teacher, and lover of art and literature, the greatest pieces have always been those that defy easy categorization. I can only hope that SO SHELLY is one such definition-resistant novel.

What NOT to Expect as a Debut Author

Now that my novel, SO SHELLY, has been on shelves for over six months, it’s time to look back at the past half year and share what I’ve learned about being a debut novelist with a major publisher. I doubt that my actual experiences will match the high expectations that most have. For example, I’m constantly referred to by others as the “famous author” (I wish, then maybe I wouldn’t still be doing my own laundry, cleaning my own bathrooms, mowing my own lawn, etc.), and people often ask how my life has changed? (Answer: Not much.) The reality is that very little of the past six months has matched my idealistic hopes, dreams, and expectations of life after publication. I do believe, however, that my experience is the norm; although, I’m sure there are those lucky few whose first novels skyrocket them to fortune and fame. All I know for sure is that from the high of being chosen by the American Booksellers Association as one of 2011’s top “New Voices” to the low of having not a single person show up for a library reading, I wouldn’t trade a step of the journey.

Below, in bold, are ten experiences regarding which many debut novelists often have mistaken notions. After each is the reality as I have experienced it and my advice for future novices in the world of publishing.

Reviews in national magazines or USA Today: Be thrilled if you are reviewed in trade magazines such as Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Scrivener and to be featured in any blog, hometown newspaper, alumni magazine etc. that is willing to give you the space. If they don’t come to you, seek them out. Sell your publishing success story to them. Those types of publications are proud to report the “local boy does good” story.

A large windfall of income: Don’t quit your day job, especially if your health benefits and retirement savings are tied to that job. After expenditures, I will have spent more money on my writing career this year than I will have earned.

A free editorial pass on your second book or for the writing of it to come easier: It is much more difficult with your second effort to earn an editor’s approval. She knows that for the good of your career, your sophomore effort must be much better than your first, for an underselling second book can be the kiss-of-death for an author’s career. Remember: very few writers are ever given a single opportunity at the publishing plate, and ach swing-and-miss greatly reduces the probability of getting an additional turn at-bat.

To be recognized everywhere you go. If you’re writing for the correct reasons, relative anonymity is what you should hope for. Remember: it’s about the book, not the author. The title of “author-celebrity” should be an oxymoron. I know of very few authors who are comfortable in the celebrity role, and those who are typically pump out trite, formulaic work of transitory value.

Copies of your book in the majority of bookstores nationwide. Bookstores can be very fickle and independent regarding the books they choose to stock. It’s actually very hit-and-miss as to whether or not a bookstore will stock your book, and oftentimes, a single copy is all they have. Be grateful for any and all of the valuable shelf real estate your book may occupy.

Book tours. My in-house publicist all-but-discouraged a book tour – even one of my own arranging and at my own expense. In fact, you must be your own publicist regarding the vast majority of personal promotion. I’ve arranged all of my own book signings, readings, lectures, and book fair appearances, and I’ve purchased the bookmarks and post cards to advertise my novel.

To grace bestseller lists. Anymore, I’m thrilled when my book climbs into Amazon’s top 100,000, even for an hour or two.

Your agent to be at your beckoning call: The fact is that you are, most likely, one among her diverse array of clients, many of whom are at more critical junctures in the publishing process than you, now that your book is out and on shelves. Expect to be in communication with her on an “as needed” basis.

Constant kudos from your editor/publisher: Similar to your agent, your editor has a stable of authors she represents. They are the most overworked and underappreciated cogs in the publishing machine. Don’t expect frequent updates on sales of your book or a steady stream of congratulatory notes. My advice is always to let your editor make first contact. Like your agent again, she will share any news to which you need to be privy. Trust me, she is not keeping secrets.

That’s one writer’s experience. I suggest you file it under “For What It’s Worth.”