To Publish or Not to Publish – That Is the Question

IMG_0528This week I finally managed to finish the photos and the edit for The Pacas Are Coming! ZuZu and the Crias. It’s actually the January chapter of A Berkshire Tale.  I initially wrote the stories separately but on advice from an editor at Penguin Books,  I revised and compiled the ten stories into one book centered around the first year  of a kitten’s (ZuZu’s) life on a farm in Tanglewood, Massachusetts – one of my very favorite places.

Since I’d always had envisioned them as ten separate books in a series with lots of illustrations, I decided to begin with the Alpaca story. This book will have a larger format and more pictures of the animals on each page, making it easier to read to children when I visit classrooms.

IMG_1335I don’t know how many of the stories I’ll publish separately. I’ll tackle the shorter ones first. And I’m still looking for an illustrator to do the later ZuZu Books in the series that are not yet published. I have the new stories written, but no illustrations.

Needless to say, editing Last Train to Kingston (my local murder mystery) has been placed on hold and keeps nagging me, in the late night hours, for the  attention it needs to get it ready to print.IMG_7946

And then there’s always Roxie prodding me to write a book about her. So, that’s what I’ve been up to for the past month or so.

Also,  I’ve been reading other bloggers’ posts, which is something I love to do. It’s been drab and dreary and damp here in Rhode Island.  I’ve been spending time with Andy Smart in South East Asia, Mary Smith in Afghanistan, and with Russ Towne’s whimsical characters adding much brightness to this spring drizzle.   I did reviews of their books on Amazon and encourage other bloggers to do the same for books they’ve enjoyed. I’ve come to realize that this is an important part of supporting other writers and spreading  the news about their works. There are many more bloggers who’ve published books which I eagerly anticipate reading in between my own writing. And of course, I’ve been visiting blogs because I’ve come to really like hearing what’s going on in your lives and I find lots of inspiration  in those posts.

After reading blogs of novice writers who’ve expressed a desire to get a book into print, I thought I’d spend some time discussing some of my experiences with publishing a first book to encourage them to try it. My attitude is: If  I can do it, I know you can do it.

Reasons why I feel publishing is not so daunting:

#1. I started out on this “journey” when I was 64.

Most of you out there are much younger than that.

IMG_7673#2. I did not have a blog before I  published and therefore no idea how supportive a community like this would be. (Of course there was my husband Charley, my biggest cheerleader, right there urging me on and helping in any way he could.)

Many of you have both the personal support in your lives and the  added support and advice of  other bloggers which is evident in all the caring comments which follow your posts. This is truly a valuable  resource and right there at your fingertips.

#3. Not having blogged, I really didn’t know very much about what my writing style and my strengths would be. After over a year of posts and comments, I have a new-found confidence in what works for me. And I feel more comfortable with my own writing style. It’s a lot easier to get the words on paper, to say nothing of the self-discipline developed by posting regularly.

You’ve been honing your craft with your posts and getting an idea of what people like to read all along. This  practice and discipline will be invaluable when you choose to write your book.

#4. Have I mentioned that I was 64 when I finally got my butt in gear? (Enough said!)

Some things I learned along the way about publishing:

Traditional Publishing:

#1. Most publishing companies require you to submit your work through an agent and getting one is a learning experience in itself. A good agent will help guide you through the publishing process and will take a cut of your profits once a book is in print.

#2. If your book is to have illustrations, the company will assign you an artist they feel will fit well with how they envision your book to look.

#3. It can take two or more years to get your book in print and on the shelves, depending on the number of titles a company publishes each year. The smaller presses have a much longer time frame.

#4. You will sign off the rights to your work for a certain number of years. (A good lawyer should be handling this for you because contracts differ and a first-time author could be unaware of the terms they’ve actually agreed to.)

#5.  Although a company will place your book into  bookstores for you, you will still be expected to help promote your book and the powers that be  may decide where you need to go in order  to do this.

Self-publishing:

#1. This is a viable alternative to traditional publishing. But you really should have some basic skills to take this on.

#2.You need to be able to write well, to edit your own work and then find a reputable place to get it formatted and printed.

#3. You can hire an editor if this isn’t your strength. (Some people, like egotistical movie stars and entitled athletes, actually hire other people to write their books for them – but we won’t go there.)

#4. You should be aware there are companies advertising for your business  which are not reputable. (The Writer Beware website is a major resource in this area.)

#5. You’ll be responsible to market your own book. That means visiting independent book stores to ask if they’ll take it on consignment; reading or speaking to groups; sitting at country fairs or other venues and promoting it. This will make a difference in how many books you manage to sell. Depending on your personality and your expectations, this can be fun or it can be hell.

Self-publishing works well for me.

I’ve found a reputable local press I trust to format and print my work.

I like touting my book and meeting people and I’m not looking to make a huge profit.

I’m a control freak and don’t relish the idea of giving away control of my book rights to a large company.

I enjoy writing and love seeing my books in print and getting them out to the public, but prefer choosing how and when I’m going to do this.

Further Musings:

In order to self-publish, you’ll need money to back your initial costs. Books printed with colored illustrations are more expensive than a book composed of just black and white text. There will be initial set up costs for formatting your book properly and then the printing cost which is usually figured by the page.

There are other ways to self-publish and these involve online resources. I haven’t tried these as yet, because I like the people I’m entrusting with my work. I may use them in the future when I have a book with only text and no illustrations.

These are some of the things I learned as a novice who knew nothing about getting a book into print. When I finally realized that traditional publishing was a difficult process, particularly without an agent, the thought of doing it myself wasn’t so intimidating. Now, there are bloggers with much more insight into the publishing world and they have valuable experience behind their advice. Seek them out.

I didn’t think I’d post this weekend because my head is a bit fuzzy with all the reading and editing and taking more photos and then there’s always the laundry and the food shopping and the cooking and the dishes and the sweeping up. Not to mention spending time with friends and family. But I’m preaching to the choir –  that would be the choir of bloggers who post in between the comings and goings of their every day lives. To them I say, “Keep the music playing. It makes a lovely sound here in the woods of South Kingstown while I wait for the sun to come out.”  Maybe tomorrow?

(Please note:I have no intention of inserting a You Tube video from the musical Annie in this space – which could result in many of you having this tune bouncing around in your heads all weekend.)

You’re quite welcome!

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82 thoughts on “To Publish or Not to Publish – That Is the Question

  1. Thank you for the shout-out and information for newer authors, Clare. I enjoyed reading your first book and look forward to reading your next one. I’m especially interested in reading your murder mystery when you have a chance to finish it.

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    1. The poor mystery has been sitting on a desk for almost two months. Hopefully, this time off will prove beneficial when I finally get back to it.Thanks, Russ.( I’ve just been dancing around your other blogs. You are amazing with everything you’ve already accomplished.)

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I know! I fell in love with them, too, and just had to put them in A Berkshire Tale. They live ten minutes from my house and I visit them whenever I can. They love to pose for me. The Ginger-colored one’s name is Charlie, just like my husband Charley and I would love to bring him home with us.Glad you liked this. Clare

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t realize how important comments are when I first got into this. But they add so much to the topic at hand and truly are the basis for building friendships. (I’m a talker, too.)

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  2. Thank you for stating the pros and cons so clearly. I’ve been playing around with writing a book, it keeps changing course as I write it (honestly, these characters won’t behave and do what I tell them!), so I’ve no idea where the heck this thing is going. The writing of it is a blast though, so maybe that’s all that matters.
    Of course we always dream of being published, right? So this information is much appreciated. 🙂
    Also, love the idea of a book about Roxie!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, characters can take on a life of their own and become quite unruly. It’s a major problem I’m having with the mystery. there are so many facets to publishing, but these were the ones that stood out for me. And yes, Roxie is chomping at the bit to have her day in the sun.I would like to find an illustrator who loves cats to work with on this project. I’m glad you’re enjoying the journey. Clare

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  3. I love the photos you’ve taken, Clare, and if the rest of your output is anything to go by, I’m sure your stories are brilliant, also. Given all the options, I chose self-publishing, too. It seems there are many exciting developments in your neck of the woods at the moment. Keep going! 🙂

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    1. Yvette, I’ve been enjoying your newsletter.
      Yes, I felt that self-publishing was the best way for me to go, being someone who enjoys immediate gratification and does not embrace the idea of waiting a few years to see my stories in print. How is your children’s book doing? I wish I had your ability to illustrate. I have to rely on my photos right now. I’ve been told that you usually don’t become a success with just one book and so I’m continuing on. Good I’m not doing it for the pay. I really do enjoy the process. I think you do , too. Have a lovely weekend….Clare

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  4. What a fantastic insight into writing and publishing world, I smiled several times while reading and still feel that my lips are curved in a smile! You do have a great entertaining and very light writing style, such a pleasure to read and look at your marvelous photos. I may tell that you a person with a very positive mind and it attracts people! I am happy to hear that your self-publishing works for you, sounds great! I also like writing, but I suppose never dare to do something serious like that, I am so lack of experience and knowledge as well! Pure enthusiasm won’t be enough, I suppose! However, thank you so much for your advices, I found out a lot! Have a wonderful weekend, hope not as busy as you described! I live very far from you, but weather is not the best, raining!

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      1. Oh, Clare, you show such a great encouragement, thank you a lot! Although I am not so sure in myself yet, I should learn a lot! Thank you for your readiness to help me, I appreciate it so much!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m counting on it, Terry. I need to stop by your blog to find out what’s been happening with your moving plans. I’ve been away for two weeks, so hopefully I’ll find out that you’re coming to the east coast – Maybe even New England!!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks – But you can’t lose when photographing baby lambs and fuzzy alpacas! The nearby university has a farm where I take some of these pics. Last week, the baby goats were born. They are so frisky that all of the photos I took of them are blurry. They never stopped moving.

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  5. Hi Claremary~
    Great writing entry! You delineated well the process of publishing vs. non-publishing.I am toying with the idea of CREATE SPACE on Amazon…but I am not sold on it yet. I have the same fear you have—losing control of what I have written. I think I would prefer to go with a smaller, local printing press company–that is also because I would like to support local companies vs. corporate giants. But–who know! I may cave! On another note, I think your animal photos are terrific! I love the rooster on the garbage can! and those close up faces of the llamas are priceless! Best to you in your endeavors! You have so much LIFE ENERGY and you inspire me to keep going forward! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jo, thanks for the visit.I always love it when I go to stats and your lovely face is smiling at me in the comments section.
      I never got into Create Space because I’ve yet to use it. But I do know some who really like it better than most of the on-line choices. One thing I’ve noticed is you really have to edit the work carefully. I see lots of errors with the online books. I don’t think this will be a problem for you if you choose this method. Yes, I feel exactly the same about local presses and there is always a live person to discuss ideas.
      You were one of the inspirations for this post, although there are many other bloggers who write wonderful posts but are hesitant to publish their work.
      I take my animal photos from the farm at the university and the alpaca photos are from a another farm nearby. The little Ginger-colored one has the most serious face and he follows me around trying to get my attention and kiss me. And his name is Charlie just like my husband, Charley. So you know who’s my favorite. I’ll be going by the alpaca farm today to pick up some poo for my gardens.It’s great fertilizer!
      I’ll stop by in a minute. Clare

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for your kind words, Clare. Wonderful you have so many kind creatures living near you! Yes, Charlie and Charley–your favorites! ;.)
        I am struggling with many things at the moment—so I do not know IF I will get to the publishing avenue ot nor…but you are encouraging! If ever you notice something that I should correct, do not hesitate to tell me! I would appreciate it immensely!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Jo, I find that when I blog, I’m in too much of a hurry to post and I find errors I should have caught, after the fact. It’s the nature of blogging and expected, because it happens to all of us. Your writing is really polished and well-thought out. i’m sure your future book will be the same. Because of my impatience, I stand more of a chance to make errors than you do.
        I’m really sorry to hear that you’re having difficulties and hope the weeks ahead will be better. I think when the time comes to get your book on its way, it will happen. Two and a half years ago, I had to break a bone my ankle and have serious eye problems forcing me to sit in one place and write my first book. And now, things are much easier. I’ll visit later today. Take care, Clare

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  6. Oh, Clare, thank you for the lovely review of No More Mulberries. I didn’t know you had posted it until I read your blog post. I’m so pleased you enjoyed it.
    I love the photos in this post and your summing up of the traditional publishing versus indie publishing is spot on. I think new writers should be aware that promoting their books is down to them even if they are traditionally published. Publishers only spend money on marketing for a tiny percentage of their writers – the ones they know will be best-sellers. I didn’t know any of this side of the publishing business when I started out and it’s been a steep learning curve!
    Mary Smith

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    1. Thank you and yes, animals are great subjects. I’m lucky enough to live in an area that has farms filled with photogenic subjects. Doing the alpaca book has been lots of fun and I can’t wait to see the first galley. I’m going to visit the alpacas this weekend and bringing them carrots. That will make me really popular in the barnyard!

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    1. You’re welcome, Gail. Yes, we’ve all had very different experiences in getting our books into print. I knew nothing two years ago, but learned very fast. I wish I’d started when I was younger, but I was so busy making a living, it wasn’t a priority. I’m just glad I did get around to it and I’d like to encourage others who want to see their own work in print but feel it’s too daunting. So much is written on the topic of publishing now and I think authors need to choose the path they’re most comfortable with. Visit with you soon. Clare

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  7. After working in the media world for years, where we were very close, there was still the air of competition around. But with the Indies, no such response, I’ve never met a bunch of more caring, friendly and helpful people – and I love the cat blogs 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lucinda, I learned very quickly that cats are blog magnets. Always include “cats and kittens” in your tags. I understand what you are saying about the media world and publishing seems a bit ruthless to me. I see so many best selling authors being touted and they don’t even put the time in any more – Ghost writers, formulaic plots, redundancies – And there really are so many excellent writers who never get a foot in the door. It really is nice to have choices.

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  8. This is so helpful Clare.Thanks for your valuable advice. I will definitely explore the option of self publishing. Can I just say that, (as her new best friend) I think you must write a book about Roxie. The world needs to know more about this cat! I also love your photos. How come your alpacas look about 100 times cuter and cuddlier than any alpacas I’ve ever seen here???

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marie, you were one of the people I thought about when writing that post. Take your time and know when you are ready to undertake the publishing process, you have choices.
      Other bloggers have wondered why I have 2 cats and only one of them has a book. That’s how the Roxie aka “The Other Cat” posts began and now her fan club is expecting a book from her. I will definitely put it on my to do list.
      I totally agree with you, the two alpacas (Buzz and Charlie) I chose for A Berkshire Tale are absolutely beautiful creatures. I think it’s because the people who own the farm where they live are beautiful themselves and really care for their animals. They are the greatest people and I love that the alpaca story caused us to meet. The two alpacas in the book are girls named Twyla and Ginger. I originally planned them to be Ginger and Fred but learned that boy alpacas are separated from the girls because they are more aggressive. So the real alpacas, Charlie and Buzz, became Twyla and Ginger so I could keep them together through all of the succeeding stories in the series. You have to be flexible to be a writer. I’m going to the farm this weekend to pick up some alpaca poo to fertilize my gardens. Pretty and useful, too!

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  9. What an excellent overview of the process. I have a little saying (which was stolen from my step-son’s school motto here in Massachusetts) ‘you can if you will’ but being informed made all the difference to me first time out and this piece is something I would have book-marked and referred to often as I went through the birthing of my first book a few years ago 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Osyth, Thank you and although it’s a quite simplified version of how to negotiate the initial stage in the publishing journey, I wish I’d known about these hurdles when I first began. It would have saved me so much time. With age and experience sometimes comes wisdom!
      Although it’s been rather bleak here in New England of late, I can promise better weather for you and the Bean to enjoy next week. Clare (Roxie sends her best to her L’Haricot Fantastique!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. By the way, I think that there is much to be said for coming to writing later in life …. Mary Wesley (in my opinion one of the finest writers of the 20th Century) wrote all of her published works in the last 20 years of her 90 year life! l’Haricot sends her good wishes from her basket where she is preferring to bask than risk the still rather chill weather outside!

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      2. Better late than never. Although, I sometimes look at old note books filled with writing ideas from my younger days and don’t have a clue what they’re referring to or what they may have become??? Basking is a wonderful way to spend a day. (Wise little pup.)

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  10. My dearest Ethel, I do believe you have an error there, you CANNOT have meant your age was 64. As we are only 35, surely you meant 24 or 34, right??
    YAY!! Finally Roxie will be getting her due!! (I can hear her saying, “About time, too!”)
    Thanks for all the tips. when I finally get off MY duff, and write my book, I’ll know who to talk to! (To whom to talk??)
    And please, quit talking about dishes! You’re giving me hives!
    Much Love, Lucy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, of course, an error. I’m so bad at math! OOOh, hives. How attractive! You’re welcome! If I win the lottery, I’m buying you a dishwasher. And I will be the very first to buy your book. What shade of purple have you chosen for the cover? I’m here for you. Love, Ethel

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      1. I KNEW it had to be an error! You couldn’t have written the book before we were born!!
        Oh, I can’t wait! I’ll be shopping for a purple dishwasher, right away!
        Hmmm, choosing between hues of purple is SO hard!! Maybe a patchwork of every one I can possibly squeeze on there??
        I’m here for you too. And of course, Roxie!
        Love, Lucy

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I knew it! You couldn’t possibly have written the book before we were born!
        Alright! I’m going shopping for a purple dw immediately, then!!
        It’s so hard to choose!! Maybe a patchwork of every shade I can possibly squeeze on there???
        I’m here for you too. And of course Roxie!
        Love, Lucy

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for covering the self-publishing side of putting a book out there. Very insightful. I feel like more and more writers are taking that route lately, especially if they have a good social media base and a blog in their arsenal. We’re in the works of putting together a workbook and are thinking of going down the route of self publishing when we get there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stacey, Definitely a good idea. I know authors who crowd-sourced funds for their own projects. Books with text are much easier to get into print. And black and white is always less expensive than color illustrations. Best of luck and have a good time working on your project.Clare

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  12. Nice overview of publishing, Clare! I also loved all the animal pictures especially the face of the alpaca! Looks ready to step right into your book…sort of a Dr. Seuss look to me!

    Most of all, I am glad to hear you are working on a Roxie tale! Does she know, or is it a secret? …worries me a little, though. Next thing I know Nessa will be nagging at me to do the same!

    Have to get the gardening dirt cleaned off to get ready for a wedding, but I had to stop by since I have been a little distracted and out of touch lately.

    May the rain stop, the editing start, and all your ducks stay in a row!

    Jo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jo, I was really happy to see your comment. I’m heading out to the garden right now. I just posted for this weekend, so that’s a good thing. I know you’ve been a bit distracted and hope things are improving on that front. Have a lovely time at the wedding and take care. (It’s a secret for now because she has enough things to drive me crazy with.) Clare

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  13. We have been doing trips to Duke. Doug has been to lots of doctors, but we are finally closing in on an answer, a better one than some of the first few suggestions. He may need some surgery.)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. He is now in complete remission with no serious side-effects and has been for 2 years. He was only given a few years after the first operation was unsuccessful. But the studies he’s been in and the drugs and treatments have been very successful. My goal has always been a cure and that could happen. For the first five years I went from numb to furious, but the last three have given me hope and I’ve been able to breathe normally. Being the caretaker/advocate is tough on many levels and I hope you’re taking care of yourself. I encouraged Charley to write an article about our journey during the last 8 years. I edited it for him. I think it could help other prostate cancer patients in their choice of treatments. At some point I’d like to post it. I hope that you and Doug find the right treatment for him. Take good care of yourself, Jo. And thank you for your concern. Clare

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m so glad Charley is doing well. It sounds like you’ve both gotten to a good place. I felt some real peace in your New Years post, a sense of letting go of something clenched inside. Having been on both sides, I have come to believe being the caretaker takes a very tough toll. I think especially so for someone who has been a manager, in charge, a problem solver. Also, tough on the advocate to be sort of a monkey in the middle between doctor and loved one, loved one and family, job, friends, world. You have had that even more with Charley’s kids given how they have been to him. I think you should post his letter or maybe publish it to give to patients and their family. Maybe you could write a piece in it as way from the caretaker point of view.

        For us, Doug has an MRI on the 23rd. This should be the last test…and then, a plan at last, at least that finally seems to be where we are. I’m better with a plan!

        Anyway, I hope it’s not creepy or presumptuous, but I do care, and have come to see you as a friend, Clare. You seem like a real fit in that role for me. Thank you for your concern as well. Jo

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      3. Jo, I have really enjoyed our “conversations” and feel a friendship bond, too. So- not presumptuous at all. We do have much in common and it would be nice to live closer and actually enjoy a real face-to-face chat. I’ll bet your gardens are looking gorgeous. I am going out to my peony garden now and give it some care. Hopefully, it will reward me with blooms in June? I’m sure Doug will be fine once the cause of the problem is defined and you can center on doing something about it. That’s the worst part of it all – the unknown. We’ve learned to hold on to the minute at hand and take one step at a time. But it’s best to be able to formulate a plan. Take care and keep in touch. Clare

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  14. A belated response from me. I’ve been away on a short holiday and when I’m on holiday I keep off the Internet. Yes! But a very interesting post. My first novel (not the first I wrote, but the first I was determined to see in print) was picked up by a mainstream publisher straightaway, but only released in NZ and Australia. I was keen to do another asap, but a new day job got in the way. Novels set in New Zealand don’t usually sell well on the international markets, so I thought I’d set my next one in the UK. However, once I had the time I decided I needed to get to be more tech savvy, and then got distracted by blogging! Which is fun. A lot more fun than typing away in isolation and thinking, ‘Will this make sense to anybody other than me?’ And, ‘Does it make sense to me?’

    Meanwhile, it seems to be getting more and more difficult for new writers to have novels accepted by publishing companies. I understand that the companies expect to make a loss on ‘first’ novels, so want to be assured that there are more novels in the pipeline before they publish the first one.

    There’s also the strong trend to genre writing – e.g. if the first they publish is crime fiction, they want more of the same, even if the writer wants to do something completely different.

    I suspect that for many writers, self-publishing is the way of the future, but without the professional backing and street-cred that a publisher’s name can bring, that can be a tough call too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely. You have to be all things at all times and it is draining. I’ve been side-tracked by blogging, too, but have found it very rewarding. Writing a post every week has helped me not only with the discipline needed but also in honing a style and voice of my own. And the feedback from comments is invaluable. Reading other blogs, however has been the biggest boon in the process. I can definitely see your blog posts becoming a book, so, perhaps it isn’t as much of a sidetrack as you would think? Which reminds me – I must go see what’s happening on your site. The adventure continues! Clare

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  15. This post is sure to be useful to many readers and your irresistible photos are a bonus with a long read. One day I will write about my own publishing journey but in short, mainstream publishers from 1975 to about 1995. Then self publishing became attractive as publishing houses shrank and shrivelled. Each path has its own delights. Now many face the publish/don’t publish dilemma and you have given readers (writers) a good steer. Best of luck.

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    1. Thank you, Rachel. I would love to read about your publishing journey and hope you will write a post on it some day soon. From comments on this post, I’m finding everyone’s journey very different and I think the best advice is to leave all avenues open and in the end, rely on your own self to make a choice that fits your personality (at the time).

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  16. Hey Clare, your blog is inspiring and I can’t wait to read your murder mystery. I hope to be published one day even though I am not on the verge of doing that just yet. I am sure you are a great writer and getting your books published will be worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. It needs a lot more work before it’s ready to print. Now, since you’re a blogger, you actually are already publishing. So, I promise you, getting your book into print and out there will be a breeze. Any help I can offer when the time comes, I’d be more than willing.

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    1. Right now I’m dealing with getting two very different types of books published and I’m actually wondering if just leaving the manuscripts in my word file on the computer and not publishing them is a sane option. I’m sure I’ll feel differently when I see them in print. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

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