Publishing in Public #2:

by Mistina Picciano on June 30, 2014


In my quest to help others produce high-quality books, I’m exploring the various options available to whip a manuscript into publication-ready condition. Conveniently, I already have a couple of completed novel drafts – stories with a beginning, middle and end – that I can put through the publishing process. Note: While I am planning to self-publish this particular manuscript, many of the steps (especially in these early stages) also apply to prepping a novel for agents in pursuit of a traditional publishing contract.

During the recent Book Expo America in New York, I met representatives from many of the large self-publishing companies. BookBaby, in particular, impressed me with their guide The End. Now What?! 6 Steps to Take Your Manuscript to Marketplace in 6 Weeks. These folks are quite candid about the fact that a successful book depends on the quality of the story and the writing, which typically requires the assistance of objective readers and a top-notch editor. (In fact, five of the six weeks in the guide cover the rewriting and editing process.) To this end, the company has partnered with

I dusted off my first manuscript and went through the online quote process with This draft is just over 50,000 words, and I described the project as a “Fiction Book – First-time Author,” which, I assume, would be priced higher than editing services for a veteran. The website provided an instant price quote, and I received my editing sample less than three hours later.

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Author Interview: Joseph Dobrian – ‘Earn the Ending’

by Mistina Picciano on June 24, 2014

Joseph Dobrian
Photo by Dawn Frary

Joseph Dobrian is a freelance writer/editor with more than 25 years of experience. He self-published his first novel, Willie Wilden, in 2011, and his second novel, Ambitions, will be released this fall.

You’ve completed two novels at this point. What is your writing process, and how do you know when you’re done?

For Willie Wilden, the process began with a brief conversation with another author, Joyce Maynard, at a party. Joyce was enjoying considerable fame in those pre-Facebook days, and there was a lot of action on her website’s message board. Joyce and I are always polite, but there’s always been a lot of tension between us. I told her, “Joyce, I’ve got a challenge for you. You say you’re a fast writer; let’s you and I have a race to see which of us can be first to complete a roman à clef using some of the people who post to your board.” She said, “I’ll leave you to do that; that’s not what I write.”

So, Willie started out as a book about a based-on-Joseph character, in conflict with a based-on-Joyce character. Joyce had a friend whom I despised, and he became Martin Wandervogel. As I was brainstorming, I got ideas for other characters. I took a girl I’d had a crush on in high school, and imagined what she might be like in middle age. That became Dora Fox. Because I set the novel in upstate New York, I thought of a couple I knew from up there, who became Frank and Lois Leahy.

Once I had those characters, I forgot about basing the story on Joyce’s message board. Eventually, my brainstorming led to the idea of a “campus novel” about a conservative professor who’s trying to preserve the college’s Indian mascot. That was much more compelling to me. So that’s the story I wrote. [click to continue…]


Publishing in Public #1: The Beginning

June 20, 2014

Iqoncept/ Here’s an experiment in public humiliation: chronicling the publishing process, starting with two completed novel drafts – one for which I’m pursuing a traditional publisher and one that I’m planning to self-publish. Following is a quick overview of the two (very different) manuscripts in question: Traditional. A mainstream novel with experimental aspects, including alternating […]

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Death of a Distinction

June 17, 2014

arsen merc/ Back in the Dark Ages, only the bravest – or dumbest – of souls would confess to being a writer. Such an admission spurred the tiniest flicker of interest, followed by the dreaded question: “Have you published?” Most polite people know better than to ask, but manners seem to have fallen out of […]

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Who Needs Publishers, Anyway?

May 29, 2014

Bitterfly/ Has anyone been following the battle between Amazon and Hachette? I’ve been reading snippets in the PW Daily newsletter, but I haven’t paid close attention, having grown used to stories about Amazon versus the publishing industry. Yesterday’s article in The New York Times captured the situation for me in a way that PW Daily’s […]

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How Not to Starve as a Writer

May 22, 2014

Kikkerdirk/ We writers seem convinced that we’re supposed to suffer. In poverty. No lights. No heat. No food. Part of it comes from the notion of “paying our dues.” Part of it comes from well-meaning adults who counseled us to pursue practical careers – often parents, mostly so they wouldn’t feel guilty about booting us […]

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Do You Need an Editor?

May 14, 2014

stuartmiles99/iStock Probably. However, whether you need to hire one depends on 1) your writing ability and experience and 2) whether you’re self-publishing your book. If you’re self-publishing, then you absolutely need an editor. Who else is going to save you from yourself? In other words, you need an objective eye to spot such things as: […]

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This Year You Write Your Novel

May 12, 2014
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Yesterday I finished reading This Year Your Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley. It’s a short (less than 25,000 words), no-nonsense book that offers solid advice for writing your first novel. I originally picked up the book because I’m a fan of Walter Mosley, the writer. I say this to distinguish my reverence for him […]

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What do you mean by ‘finished’?

May 2, 2014
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Do you have a finished manuscript? It’s the first thing that an agent or editor will ask if he’s interested in your story concept. In fiction writing, partial manuscripts don’t sell. It’s also one of those milestones that separates “serious” novelists from dreamers. Sitting down and cranking out 70,000 – 120,000+ words takes dedication, period. […]

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Laying Track

February 4, 2013
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Six weeks have passed since I sent my fledgling novel off to one of the big publishing houses. Not a peep. However, I realize these things take time. Even if an editor loves your work, she still has to sell it to the rest of the decision-makers. This is part of the reason that the […]

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