The "How to Publish a Book" Panel

Saturday evening, I participated on a panel sponsored by the Raleigh Right-to-Publish group at Quail Ridge Books. The topic was “How to Publish a Book,” and we had a packed house. Since the four of us have been published in very different ways, the discussion covered a lot of interesting territory. 
Stacey Cochran (on the left) was the moderator and is a LuLu published author of a novel. Next is Luleen Anderson , the author of four non-fiction books published by a small press. I’m the one hogging the mike (and the water bottle) and I’m published in the “usual” way–by a large commercial publisher. Finally, on the right, is Adam Shepard, entirely self-published but well on his way to fame with his controversial non-fiction book, Scratch Beginnings.
three panel.jpgThere was so much to cover, and I’m sure many in the audience were left frustrated by how little we could give them in a mere ninety minutes. Any one of us could have filled that time with only a fraction of what we’ve learned along the way. Having four diverse paths to publication made sharing our knowledge especially tricky. I hope it also gave the audience insight into the different ways you can get a book on the shelves.
Stacey was a good example of how rejection by a string of agents ( a looong string, by his own charming, self-effacing admission) led him to success with the print-on-demand technology at LuLu. LuLu, unlike many of the Self-Publishing companies, charges nothing upfront to publish your book. However, the pitfall of being self-pubbed, as both Stacey and Adam acknowledged, is not having the distribution and promotional capabilities of a publisher.
Luleen had the lovely experience of a publisher approaching her after reading some of her essays. That’s a rarity!
I addressed the challenge of getting an agent and was quick to point out that, even if you publish with a large house, that doesn’t mean you get the publisher’s promotional dollars behind your book. You do however have a good chance at getting reviews and can be distributed widely to both chain and independent bookstores.
Adam had, in my opinion, the most intriguing story. He’s only 25, but he decided to plunk himself down in a randomlme and adam.jpgy selected city, with $25 dollars in his pocket and the clothes on his back to see if he could go from “homeless” to finding “the American Dream.”  He’s entirely self-published, taking control of every aspect of the creation of his book and most critically–putting his all into promoting it. He admits that’s a full-time job in itself, but he had a brilliant–and as I mentioned, controversial–idea, and that is sure to start people talking. Watch for him to appear on the Today show (every author’s dream, next to Oprah) on February 26th. 
So this was a nice break from my mad dash to the finish line on AFTER THE STORM. I’m in my writing ’round the clock mode now. I love this part (except for the deadline pressure), where the story really comes together and grows deeper with each layer I add. It’s a challenge, writing three adolescents in first person, making sure each of their voices is distinct. Even more of a challenge is changing the one adult’s point of view from first person to third. I resisted, but the story demanded it, and it the story always has the final say!


  1. Julie on February 18, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    I’m passing the information about Adam’s book on to my son. He’s a 19-year-old college freshman with a huge heart for the homeless. He’s made it his personal crusade right now to keep a small shelter in his college town open because the city keeps trying to shut it down for code violations–apparently, they want the property to be part of a new arts and culture district. Ryan’s been asking people to write letters to the city council, etc. He’s also 19 and struggling with the value of staying in school. 🙂 It’s so hard to see it when you’re 19.
    Anyway, thanks for posting that, and your panel sounds like it was very interesting. Glad you got a break!

  2. brenda on February 18, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    margo et al,
    I plan to make a point of going to see Diane when it is convenient-at a book signing of course. I don’t do that, But I want to do it this time.
    July 3-will have my daughter and family here.
    June l0th-I don’t think school is out yet…and will be getting ready to fly to Florida-prob. to my son’s–but I am not saying that I won’t get to that one.
    Margo-if I get there, I’ll take pictures…
    Hope all of you are well-I’m on second batch of antiobiotics to no avail–took today off to get blood tests, exams, etc…some good news…some not so good…and so it is with aging…

  3. Diane Chamberlain on February 18, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Julie, it sounds like you raised that boy right!
    Brenda, it would be great to meet you in person! If it makes any difference to you, I’ll be speaking at the June 10th event, but only signing books on July 3.
    I hope you start feeling better very soon. Take care.

  4. Margo on February 19, 2008 at 8:34 am

    Brenda, I look forward to the day I can meet Diane at a book signing! If you meet her before me, plz take lots of pics!
    Diane, at 1 time you mentioned that BEFORE THE STORM would be available this summer and the sequal, AFTER THE STORM would be released in Dec. If the sequal is out in Dec will you have a booksigning that month?
    These are great pictures Diane.

  5. Margo on February 19, 2008 at 8:39 am

    Brenda, hope your feeling better today…lots of flu & colds going around right now. Take care of yourself.

  6. Diane Chamberlain on February 19, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Margo, I honestly don’t know right now what events we’ll plan for AFTER THE STORM. But I’ll certainly let everyone know as soon as I do.
    As for the pictures. . .thanks, but they’re blurry. They’re actually quite sharp (John took them, so that’s a given), but when I put them in my blog, they got a little funky. Sometimes my blog’s mechanic’s and I don’t get along very well. 🙂

  7. Liz on February 19, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Real life has intruded for the last couple of weeks, so I haven’t been making time to thoughtfully read or respond to this blog that I’ve become so addicted to. I started reading Barbara Delinsky’s new book – so far, so good. Diane – I read your blogs from their availability and found good information, wish I’d found them sooner – in one you asked if readers liked books with continuing characters or new characters. I’m hooked on the Kiss River books because I get to find out what happens to them later in life. I hope there will be more. I did not love CeeCee Wilkes as much until I read it again because I didn’t know her. Is that weird or normal? Books are so personal that I hardly ever discuss what I’m reading because as I think I’ve said, most of my peers read much more intense literature. I looked at each of the links of the authors at the Saturday panel and am intrigued with Adam Shepard. I don’t care for science fiction and I’ve read so much about psychotherapy and the struggles of people to deal with their demons, that I doubt I’ll pursue the other two authors. My son is an environmentalist (if there is such a word) and has lived a “green” life forever. He recently returned from 3 years in South Africa – learning about poverty, homelessnes, AIDS, unemployment and lack of opportunities – to that end he built a restaurant and spent time trying to tach folks some degree of self-sufficiency. For a middle class kid raised with all the advantages of a safe home, long-married parents who paid for his education and gave him every opportunity, he has a passion few have for making the world a better place. Hope the “bleeding heart” in him serves him well. Anyway, he is interested in learning more about Adam Shepard and how he did what he did. So, thanks for sharing that, Diane. My passion for serving others is long burned out, so I will stick with you, and Emilie Richards and Barbara Delinsky and those authours who allow me to escape and enjoy the stiry. Is is a fluke that so many of you live in the Southeast part of the U.S. or does that part of the country breed creativity? We are planning our summer trip to see how we like the Carolina coast, as well as Georgia. We have been snowed in for way too long. Margo – how are you doing with the snow?

  8. Kathy Holmes on February 19, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    How fascinating, Diane! Thanks for sharing. I appreciate everybody’s story about the route they took. Sometimes you mix the two – self-pub a book or two on the way to the traditional large publishing house route. Hopefully, that’ll be how my story turns out. I haven’t given up. 🙂

  9. Diane Chamberlain on February 19, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Kathy, it does seem more and more that self-pubbing is a stepping stone to traditional publishing. Blows my mind, because it never used to be that way, but technology is changing everything. How we read, how we publish, how books are distributed–everything! Just amazing.
    Liz, sounds like you and Julie both raised fabulous young men! I love hearing about young people who are so involved and caring. The presidential primary process is very exciting to me for that reason, among others. The other day, I was driving down the street and all these young folks were on the sidewalk, waving signs for their candidate and hopping up and down and smiling their heads off. They weren’t campaigning for MY candidate, but I didn’t care. I was just so happy to see their passion.
    And Liz, I have to say that the southeast does seem to either breed creativity or attract people who are creative. Of course many other areas of the country have their authors, but when I moved to North Carolina, I could nearly FEEL the creative vibes in the air. I think the southeast celebrates writing, and I’m overjoyed to be here. If we run out of drinking water, though, I’ll have to rethink that. Time to do a rain dance!

  10. Margo on February 20, 2008 at 8:36 am

    Liz, I’m 1 of these people who love winter…the more snow we have, the better which is probably the artist in me talking. I’m amazed at the beauty mother nature shows us and when I’m outside and see the snow and ice glistening on all the fir trees and ground, I literally feel the subdued colors they radiate. Something I really enjoy about Iowa is the fact we get to enjoy 4 unique seasons.
    My friend Laura has found herself depressed lately with all the snow and bitter cold so I’m trying to help her find something positive with it…she’s a marathon runner and finally decided to ignore the cold and ran early this a.m. in our -10 below degree weather (windchill this a.m. is -30 below). She feels good today just because it was invigorating!…I told her, ‘see, something good came from the wintry weather’! (-:
    My sister called and wants me to go on a trip with her to the Pacific coast within the next 4 weeks or so…I’ll miss this wonderful winter weather but of course I told her I’d go…as much as I love winter, a trip like that sounds like a great getaway.

  11. brenda on February 22, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Margo-YOu amaze me. I can’t imagine loving this snow…getting to both my jobs on the ice-but it is pretty. I LOVED living in the south and would have stayed had my daughter not been expecting that first baby. She lives in INdy…and leaving South Carolina and returning to my home made it closer-6 hours…
    I am still not up to par…lots going on-have been on antibiotics for l7 days…not helping but prob. because I go out in the weather to work.
    Had lots of tests done on Monday-other things-we’ll see what happens.
    Would love to see some of your work painting the snowy scenes…

  12. Diane Chamberlain on February 22, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    hope you get whatever’s ailing you under control soon, brenda. it sounds miserable.

  13. Brenda on February 24, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    I think 3/4 of America is sufering from whatever this stuff is…
    Thanks for the good words.

  14. Diane Chamberlain on February 24, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Yup. I’ve got it now too.

  15. Margo on February 25, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Oh no! Diane and Brenda, get well soon! I have friends who have it and 1 is on her 4th week of antibiotics…sounds like it’s miserable stuff to get rid of.
    Take care, both of you!

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