Doing the work

The EndAfter I had finished writing my book, I didn’t think it would be too hard to find an agent or a publisher.  I mean, everyone was telling me how good it was and how important it was.  Ok, at least that one person in my writing group said so.  And she was really smart.

I worked really hard on my query letter and sent it out to about a dozen agents.  I picked the ones who weren’t asking for a full-blown proposal.  Because who has the time for that?  Besides, I am an artist.  I just couldn’t be bothered.

I waited and continued to send out queries one by one to agents and small, independent publishing houses.

When nothing happened, I wrote a new query letter.

Months passed and still nothing.

I started thinking about self-publishing.

So, this weekend is dedicated to making that big push.  Writing the proposal, sending it out.  Contacting anyone who might be able to help with my publishing goal.

If I come up empty, I’ll be able to say I gave it my best shot.

I’ll self-publish because there is a dearth of butch stories out there.  I believe in the power of stories.  I believe in the power of telling your story.  I believe in the power of seeing yourself in someone else’s story.

It’s like that C.S. Lewis quote: “We read to know we are not alone.”

As I try to summarize my writing, I come up with this:

These are my stories.  The ones that keep me up at night.  The ones that appear on re-play in my head no matter how hard I try to shake them off.  They are stories about what it’s like to grow up different.  They are stories about what it’s like to live as a butch decades before you actually become one.  They are stories about hurt, shame, loneliness and wanting something that you can’t quite put your finger on.  In the end, they are stories about love and acceptance, because if you never learn to love yourself, who will?  These are my stories.  But I have a feeling they are many other people’s stories, too.

I think of Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle.  The first time I read it, I wished I had read it 20 years earlier.  I think it would have prompted me to come out much earlier in life.

I think of Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon’s Gender Failure.  The first time I read it, I cry (shhh … don’t tell anyone), because I still didn’t believe people wrote books for people like me.

Books mean something beyond the mere words printed on their pages.  Don’t ever doubt that.

* * *

What about you?  Which book has been most influential in your life?  

27 responses to “Doing the work

  1. Reblogged this on 雨夜 and commented:

  2. Rubyfruit Jungle, definitely pivotal for me in college, Gender Failure pivotal this year. Also Fun Home, Alison Bechdel’s first graphic novel memoir!

  3. I have so many books read, er, rather started, and then never finished I’m so ashamed to say. But, recently I have read “The Lovely Bones”, which kind of changed my life. (READ: Was influential).

    The Book of Mormon, and Eat, Pray, Love are 2 others that have been influential to me. I used to work at many bookstores when I was younger, and would come home with tons and tons of books. But, alas. Again, never finished them. I’m really sad to say I cannot remember any other books that I’ve finished. UGH.

    I’m a bad human.


    • The Lovely Bones was a good read. I’d be interested in hearing why it was so influential for you. I liked Eat, Pray, Love, too. It made me want to live my life “harder.”

      Keep reading. You are not a bad human being. Just busy.

  4. Daughters of a Coral Dawn by Katherine Forrest, because it was the first ‘Lesbians in Spaaace’ I’d ever come across. I still have it and every few years I re-read it, and marvel at how far we’ve come, and to remind myself how far there is to go, and to get on with writing the stories I want to read! 🙂

    Go Indie. The infrastructure is out there now to support those who wish to self-publish. It’s a HUGE learning curve, but worth it.

    • I just might do that. Is there a self-publishing company you would recommend. Of course, there is Amazon’s Create Space. I have been looking into Lulu and Engram, too.

      • Smashwords is the place to go, in me (not-so) ‘umble opinion. They have options for every platform except Amazon, and are pretty much connected to the entire globe. You can use Kindle Direct for Amazon, and Create Space for hard copies. I’ve heard good things about Direct2Digital too. (for eBooks) I think D2D has a few other distributors that Smashwords doesn’t. All these options are free. The company takes a percentage of a sale and the rest comes to you, no middlepersons like trad publishers/agents!
        The whole trick is to get your work onto as many platforms (ie what people read on) as possible.
        If you can afford to, get a professional cover artist, familiar with your genre, to do the cover …
        … the rest is just a matter of hard work!!!

        To give you an idea of royalties, I get 35% of whatever my publisher’s got my book currently at, after they’ve taken out their not inconsiderable chunk. Which means on average, I get way less than $1 per sale. Compare that to 70%, I think it is, of whatever price YOU set with Smashwords.

      • Thanks for the info. I sat in on a seminar on self-publishing a few months ago, so I know some of the basics. It just seems so … daunting.

        Since my last post, I have heard from two publishers requesting manuscripts, so we’ll see.

        In the end, the universe will let me know know which way to go. Isn’t that always the way.

  5. Congrats on both steps! I despise writing query letters. I agree, self publishing is a good thing! It’s no longer considered a stigma to be self-published. Also, some publishers, contests and book festivals, etc. will accept self published entries. Please share the link for purchasing when you’re ready. It’ll feel good to get your words out into the world! 🙂
    P.S. Full disclisure, I may be biased because I self-published. But I’m happy I did and yes, I’ve begun submitting my poems and short stories again. Good luck!!

  6. Way congratulations on getting the book to this point. I read a study recently that said that self-publishers are out earning traditionally published writers. I read the article months ago, so I am probably getting it way wrong, but here is the link:
    My way nosy question is have you had the book professionally edited? One of the many problems of self publishing is that you do not have the publishing house to edit your book. For the last year, I have been helping a friend edit an academic book. He thought that his book was just awesome and ready to be published a year ago when it was 600 pages long. Now, with the help of friends, colleagues, and a real editor, it is under 300 pages long and is a way better book.

    • Hey … thanks for the info. I did know that there is more money for the author with self-publishing. It seems like a trade-off — more money and control with self-publishing versus professional expertise and perhaps wider distribution with traditional publishing.

      Actually, in the last few days, I have had three publishers reach out to me with regard to my manuscript. Fingers crossed. In the end, the universe will tell me whether to self-publish or not.

      I have not hired a professional editor. I have worked professionally as an editor myself, and my work is always very clean. I know, a fresh, objective set of eyes is important. Most chapters have been critiqued by members of my writing group, so I have that feedback.

      Thanks for your good thoughts!

      • Now, you may be stuck with the conundrum of choosing between publishers!

        Sorry about the nosy editing comments! It is just that I have recently been through this whole process with my friend, and after 5 years of working with the manuscript, he was just too close to it, and couldn’t see the flaws (I have the final page proofs on my desk right now, and I really need to spend my whole day reading!).

        More good wishes for your manuscript! I can’t wait to read the book!

      • Not nosy. And you are on the money with editing. I’ve been lucky to have a writing group to provide good feedback. I swear, my one fellow writer believes more in my book than I do. It’s true about being too close to a project.

        Thanks for your support and well wishes! It keeps me going.

  7. I wish you luck with finding a publisher! The most important book for me was Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg. Everything fell into place while reading that book…

  8. you know, things happen for a reason. If nothing is happening, it just means it is not the right time, not the right publisher, and maybe the book is still not ready.

    When the right time comes, everything will just flow and happen easily.
    What am I trying to say? Just live, my friend, live and enjoy and let the universe take care of the rest.

    • Thanks for this. You’re absolutely right.

      Since sending out a few proposals a few days ago, I’ve had three publishing houses and one agent contact me with requests for the manuscript. Maybe it’s the right time. I just have to have faith.

  9. Don’t give up your dream of finding an agent or publisher if that is important to you. I tell my friends at work you haven’t event STARTED until you have 50 rejection letters. If I counted all the rejection letters I’ve got, I’d have at least 150+.

    • Thanks for this. It’s good to hear from someone who’s been through the ropes. I don’t have 50 rejection letters yet. More like a dozen and a whole bunch of no replies. So, I’ll keep grinding it out. I have had four requests for my manuscript since my last post, so fingers crossed.

      And congrats to you for all of your recent literary successes. Looks like you are on a roll.

  10. Congratulations on finishing your book!!! I am so happy for you, and also happy that you at this point have found a publisher!!! Also happy because more butch stories are a wonderful thing!
    I found Stone Butch Blues online this year (though with pages missing) and read it in a few days and cried, definitely a book that will stay with me, and I just received in the mail and started reading Leslie Feinberg’s Drag King Dreams. I just read Gender Failure too, as well as a few other butch/trans books. (I just discovered amazon bookstore and the existence of butch/trans stories, and the feeling of finally seeing yourself in a story and not feeling alone is incredibly powerful). So I just read Butch is a Noun by S. Bear Bergman (I highly recommend if you haven’t read it!). Transfictions-Boys Like Her by Taste This, Anna Camilleri, Ivan E. Coyote, Lyndell Montgomery, Zoë Eakle, Kate Bornstein. Currently slogging my way through Female Masculinity by Judith Halberstam which is more of a textbook but interesting. I also just bought a collection of Ivan’s stories that I will get back to once I have finished Drag King Dreams. All this to say, thank you, for this blog which I have been following for a while (I have your post go ahead and label me saved. though I haven’t been reading recently sorry!) and for your comments and for being brave and writing your story and doing the work to find a publisher. I can’t wait to have another Butch story in my hands.
    – love – another butch

    • Thanks so much, Em. I’ve read many of the books you’ve listed. Ivan Coyote is a favorite.

      That’s the goal with this book — not so much to educate or encourage people to come out but to let people know they are not alone. Like you said, there is something very powerful in seeing yourself reflected in the pages of a book. I remember reading Gender Failure and tearing up because I didn’t know there were books written for someone like me.

      If one person reads my book and sees herself and part of her story and feels a little less alone in the world, all of my hard work will have paid off.

      Butches need to tell their stories — for themselves and for other butches. We are underrepresented in the literature out there.

      Thanks again for your very kind words. I can’t wait to share my book with you!

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