My Writing Life: 10

The 2010s were a new and very different time for me as a writer, in three important ways.

First, I dipped my toes into the world of self-publishing . . . and then I jumped into the enterprise head-first. Because I’ve blogged about most of my self-published books before, I won’t dwell on them. But I will quickly recap the ones I published in the period 2010-2015.

The first of these was She’s on First, which I reprinted in February 2010. And then, in the fall of 2010 I published an experimental book, Research Notes for Women at Play, Volume 1. I say experimental because, really, who publishes research notes? 

Originally I was going to publish only one book of my public-domain research notes, in an 8’x10″ format. As I started to put the book together I saw that it would come to almost 500 pages. Not wanting to produce such an unwieldy book, I decided that I would divide the research notes into three volumes, so that each book would be under 200 pages, thus allowing it to lie flatter. This would allow anybody who wanted to make notes, to make them in the ample margins. (For which many readers of Research Notes have thanked me.)

In 2011 I did something backwards. In April I published Sound Proof, a mystery I had been writing. And then, in June I reprinted Dirty Proof. (Sound Proof was the sequel to Dirty Proof.) I was eager to get Sound Proof before the public and wasn’t even thinking of Dirty Proof, which had been out of print for approximately twenty years. But a few months after publication  of Sound Proof, I realized that people love reading books in a series  . . . and so I decided to have both books available.

Early in 2012 I published Jack and Larry. I had tried, unsuccessfully, to have this book traditionally published, and I wanted it to come out in 2012, the 100th anniversary of Larry joining the Cleveland major league team. I tried hard to sell it to a traditional publisher from about 2007 to 2010, and then I decided that if the book was to come out in 2012, I would have to do it myself. So I spent much of 2011 rewriting and getting the book ready for publication. Jack and Larry came out in January of 2012, in time for the 100th anniversary of Larry joining the team. (He “joined” in February 1912.)

I spent much of 2012 promoting and marketing Jack and Larry, which required travel. It is one of my two most successful self-published books. Jack and Larry has enjoyed a great resurgence in sales because in 2022 Jack Graney posthumously received the Ford Frick Award for Excellence in Baseball Broadcasting. It has been heartwarming to see more people now interested in Jack’s contributions to baseball.

Come 2013 I was ready for my first book of poetry, and so I published Crossing the Skyway. I do have another collection of poems in the works, but need to write about twenty more poems before I’ll have enough to constitute a book.

Also in 2013 I published Volume 2 of Research Notes for Women at Play. This volume has turned out to be the most successful of the three, selling almost twice as many as either of the other two. I wish I knew why this was so! It could be because Volume 2 contains sections on both Jackie Mitchell and Babe Didrikson, and they are better-known names than the women in the other volumes. But that’s a guess: I really don’t know.

In the case of all three Research Notes volumes, I see the importance of self-publishing to writers. If I had not self-published them, I doubt these books would have ever seen the light of day. I can’t imagine a traditional publisher being interested in them. Not even an academic publisher. And yet, they sell: indicating that there is a small but steady market for them.

I spent much of the first half of 2014 writing and rewriting a how-to book: Guide to Writing the Mystery Novel: Lots of Examples, Plus Dead Bodies. This has turned out to be the second of my two top-selling self-published books. While this how-to-write book is aimed mainly at mystery writers, it does offer advice for anybody wanting to write fiction: advice on character development and plotting, for example, as well as on foreshadowing and sentence structure (among others).

In 2015 I published the third and final volume of Research Notes for Women at Play.

As you can see, the period of 2010-2015 was a very productive time for me. I learned a lot about self-publishing, and I published a total of nine books: two of them reprints, the other seven originals.

The second important thing that I did in the 2010-2015 period was to create Keynote (Apple version of Powerpoint, only much flashier) presentations for the various programs I give at libraries. As a result of having and advertising the programs, I spent a lot of time giving library presentations on topics such as When Women Played Baseball; How to Self-Publish with Amazon; Mountain Passes in American History; Jack and Larry; Charlie Chan’s Poppa, and others. 

During one of these years, I think I had something like 28 different library gigs. That’s a lot of public presentations for somebody who wishes to spend most of her time writing. And in 2013 I was chosen as a Road Scholar by the Illinois Humanities Council for one of my presentations, When Women Played Baseball. As a result I presented this program in many Illinois small-town libraries, which, were it not for the grant from the IHC, could not have afforded a speaker.

The third important thing I did in the 2010-2015 period was start writing a blog. That was back in 2014. I have more to say about the blog, but I’ll save that for another time.


Jack and Larry is available in both ebook and paperback form, as is Guide to Writing the Mystery Novel: Lots of Examples, Plus Dead Bodies.

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