The Business of Independent Publishing
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The Business of Independent Publishing

Regarding the business of independent publishing: A few months ago, I received a polite email from Professor John Maxwell of Simon Fraser University. Some of his students had come to him. Between the covers of the text he had ordered for his graduate class on publishing, The Content Machine by Michael Bhaskar, was the novel Broken by Traci L. Slatton, in its entirety. He attached a picture to show me, see below.

Here was an opportunity to spread the word about Parvati Press in general and about my novels in particular, I thought. “Are your students interested in the novel? Would you like more copies?” I asked. I am always looking for opportunities to promote the Press.

He accepted with alacrity. Ten copies shipped out to him at SFU.

Sometime later, during an email exchange, he invited me to guest lecture to his class via Skype. I accepted. It was a good experience; his students were bright, polite, inquisitive, and thoughtful. I enjoyed talking to them but finished with a feeling of frustration: there was so much else to say about independent publishing.

Much of it I’ve learned the hard way, too.

It has been an intense journey since the day I decided to expand the Press and take on other authors. I’ve learned some tough lessons. My first time out of the box, I took on a writer who turned out to be certifiably insane. Not, like, a little kookie, but off-her-rockers lunatic demented. I’ve blogged about that elsewhere, including a Huffington Post article about How to Handle eMail Harassment.

The next three writers weren’t crazy, but I still made a big mistake in trusting one of them.

After the debacle with the first writer, I realized I needed a solid contract for dealing with potential Parvati Press authors. I hired an attorney who had helped me on other matters. She wasn’t a publishing attorney, and the contract put off the other writers.

That was my responsibility, I knew. So I went out and found a real publishing attorney, I mean, the guy in publishing law, to create a contract that was clear, simple, fair, and had precedents in publishing. He did a great job.

He also yelled at me about the deal I was giving the writers. He explained that I could not sustain the Press with that deal. He was right, but I felt that I had given my word to the writers, so those first few would still receive the deal I had originally offered them. He called me crazy. But I was going to keep my word.

One writer refused to do a revision that his manuscript urgently required. Line for line, his prose was polished and perfect. Unfortunately, it was a good story badly told. His novel was boring. He had to revise it to bring it to life. He didn’t want to do the work required because he’s had a storied career as an author. But production values matter to me, so I declined to send him a contract.

A second writer saw immediately that I was being scrupulously honorable. She signed the contract and sent it back immediately.

Ah, but the third guy. He had been hemming and hawing, wringing his hands, and dragging his feet about signing a contract from the day I sent him one. Days and weeks would go by. He was always about to talk to his attorney, who was so busy…. When I sent him the second contract, he said, “I’ll sign it right away, I’ll tell my lawyer that I want to get this done unless there’s something major wrong with it.”

As the months went by, with all the foot-dragging and hand-wringing and excuses, I was working on this writer’s manuscript. I stupidly invested a great deal of my own time, thought, and energy into his manuscript. Now, it had a germ of a good idea, and the writer showed flashes of serious, big talent throughout. But it was no where near publishable. It was going to require sustained heavy lifting to get it to the point where the manuscript was professional and polished.

Also, it was tricky to deal with the writer because of the arrogance involved. Taking editorial criticism is a skill that requires learning for most of us.

I paid for the Parvati Press editor to do a thorough manuscript critique. It was still going to be at least three more revisions before the manuscript was ready to be published, two that I could do and one more from the professional editor. Note that this editorial critique is the work product of Parvati Press.

Despite my honorable behavior, there was only continued hand-wringing and hawing and excuses about the second contract.

I woke up.

I realized–finally!–that this writer had no intention of signing a contract with me. One tip-off was when he asked why there was now no “out” in the new contract so he could go to a bigger publisher if one made an offer.

It broke over me that this writer was out to get free editing for his manuscript so he could shop it around to other publishers.

I conferred with several experienced business people close to me. One woman with her own PR company told me that it happens all the time. Clients come to her, get her ideas, and then don’t sign a contract and pay her. They go off and use her ideas either by themselves or with another PR firm.

Essentially, they rip her off, the same way that this writer planned to rip off Parvati Press.

Another businessman said to me, dryly, “Welcome to the business world.”

Another friend said, “These are the early business mistakes.”

My publishing attorney said, “Never work on a project without a signed contract.”

I emailed back to him, “I’m learning.”

This is just writer relations, a tiny slice of the whole juicy pie. There is so much else to independent publishing, especially the way I do it: with integrity. The book has to be high quality in terms of content, and it has to look good, too. It has to be copyedited, proofread, professionally laid out with an appealing, professionally designed book cover, and given an ISBN and accurate categories…And all that is BEFORE the hard work of marketing a book so it stands out from the crowd: so that readers will know about the book and buy it.

Marketing is a big challenge. It deserves its own post, so I’ll pause here. Meantime, here’s Professor Maxwell’s post about finding BROKEN in his textbook, called, cleverly, “My Content Machine is Broken.”

Maxwell is a good writer himself. His post is worth reading, though his characterization of my novel BROKEN is condescending and pejorative. I emailed him to let him know this:

I would like to put out there (please indulge me) that BROKEN is more than a paranormal romance. It is based on a serious philosophical question with which I wrestle every day: How could a good God allow such pain and suffering?
In this vein, FOREWORD REVIEWS, which is the Library Journal for independent publishing, is reviewing BROKEN for its forthcoming Sci Fi issue, and wrote, “This is a gorgeous philosophical treaty on right and wrong….”

To his credit, Maxwell agreed with me.  He has yet to correct his post to reflect the respect my novel deserves. And this is part of independent publishing, too: Making sure that independently published books are valued and respected.

independent publishing

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I am so excited about this forthcoming book review by FOREWORD REVIEWS.

FOREWORD REVIEWS is the Library Journal of Independent Publishing. It’s an excellent periodical that’s available in both print and digital format; it was founded by three women writers and magazine professionals who got together to found a trade review journal for the burgeoning independent publishing industry. They have a great story about it here.

FOREWORD REVIEWS chose to review BROKEN in the forthcoming Sci Fi/Fantasy issue, which will ship at the end of February to B&N newsstands. The review is absolutely beautiful and I’ve been given permission to quote from it. They’ve also chosen to feature Robert Ferri’s gorgeous LIBERACI DAL MALE, the painting from which the cover of BROKEN is taken. I’ve seen the spread and it’s gorgeous.

Here is the review:


Traci L. Slatton

Parvati Press

Softcover $16.99 (225pp)


Slatton has created a beautiful, heart wrenching tale of humanity during the Second World War. When her beloved Ariel is lost, the angel Alia chooses to fall, taking on a human body in Paris on the eve of war. She befriends the city’s artists, from Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí to Edith Piaf and Sacha Guitry, and experiences all of Paris’s human pleasures: drinking, partying, and having sex with wild abandon. Two men, in particular, catch her affection: bullfighter Pedro and openly Jewish musician Josef. As the war takes over, Alia also finds herself drawn protectively to Josef’s widowed sister, Suzanne, and her young daughter, Cécile. But as the Nazi’s march in, Alia begins to fear she cannot save them all.

Slatton writes poignantly, with lyrical prose: “I have been shattered, the shattering is still with me. I am only shards now. There is no core.” This is a gorgeous philosophical treaty on right and wrong, the “why” behind impossible decisions, and what remains when everything is gone. Slatton guides the reader gently through to the end, all the more heartbreaking for its inevitability, imparting powerful, resonant themes as she goes. Among them, “neutrality is an excuse to give free rein to a bully.”

I love this review! MANY THANKS to Foreword Reviews!

book reviews

First Parvati TV Video: Fundamentals of Independent Publishing I
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First Parvati TV Video: Fundamentals of Independent Publishing I

Our first Parvati TV video!

It’s part of the mission of Parvati Press to spread the word about independent publishing. Here’s our first video. Please try not to laugh at my flyaway hair. I will redo this video when I have a better coiffure…and some makeup on.

I discuss how we are in the midst of the biggest sea change in book publishing since the invention of the Gutenberg press. New technologies have arisen that give authors new opportunities.

So, first, believe in yourself. The legacy publishers are putting out a lot of crap. People are hungry for good stories, for innovative stories. The legacy publishers have also forgotten the importance of nurturing a mid-list author through a few books in order to grow their readership. The big publishing companies have decided that they want an MBA type algorithm for turning every book into a bestseller out of the starting gate, and in their pursuit of this algorithm, they’ve lost sight of some important truths about books and publishing–such as offering readers well-told stories that aren’t slick, superficial examples of branded, franchise entertainment.

So believe in your material, and go for it!

Number two, a non-negotiable part of independent book publishing: Have your manuscript professionally edited and copy-edited. I repeat, have your manuscript professionally edited and professionally copy-edited by a professional editor and a professional copy-editor. Get past the crap excuses for not spending the money on a professional edit and professional copy-edit, and pay for this service to make your book as great as you can make it.

So have your manuscript professionally edited. Revise. At the end, have your manuscript copy-edited by a professional copy-editor. This makes all the difference between a silly amateur manuscript and a real professional manuscript that deserves to have customers spend twenty of their hard earned dollars on your book.

Number three, spend the money for a great book cover, which is your first marketing task. A great book cover is the reader’s first impression of your book, and it matters. It’s not a splurge to spend the money to get a great book cover. It’s the most important marketing tool for your work.

These are the first three How-to’s.


First Parvati TV Video and Publishing Today
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Publishing Today

This is a fascinating and adventurous time to be an author. We are in the midst of the biggest shift in publishing since the invention of the Gutenberg Press. It’s the wild west of publishing right now, which is way cool for fast-writing, pathologically persistent, independent-minded, iconoclastic authors like me. The old “rules” and algorithms of legacy publishing are crumbling to dust–as they should.

The old gate-keeper mentality is withering, thank heaven. This revolution will benefit both authors and readers. ePublishing serves the demotic.

How boring is the old publishing way of being? Boring and pitiful.

I personally am sick of the anti-hero, “God is dead,” the post-modernist, ironic bent of it all. Most “literary” traditional publishing today is vomit-worthy, with boring plots, unlikeable protagonists, and a jaded sensibility that is supposed to be elite, educated, and intelligent.

Most popular publishing is worse.

Before I started Parvati Press, my indie publishing company, I worked with the incredibly good-natured and helpful people at Telemachus Press.

I recommend them highly. If you want to get published, and you have good ideas and a strong self-esteem, DO NOT wait for the old legacy publishers to give you their stamp of approval. Take a page from Walt Whitman’s career and publish yourself… with Telemachus.

So it was Telemachus that mentioned me to, and here’s the page. Telemachus is publicizing their author services. I’m promoting my books.

Go for it!



My New Post on the HuffPo: Censorship, Eros & Assplay
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My New Post on the HuffPo: Censorship, Eros & Assplay

Censorship, Eros & Assplay

I wrote an article about my iTunes censorship experience and the HuffPo ran it.

Censorship, Eros & Assplay

by ,   Author


iTunesconnect ticketed my new novel The Love of My (Other) Life, denying it access to the unlimited pleasures of worldwide distribution through iTunes. The reason: the cover art was deemed “inappropriate.”

Truthfully, it is a saucy cover: a woman’s slim, sinuous back, dropping into the juicy plumpness of her ass.However, as I pointed out in an email to the iBookstore, there isn’t even real nudity, just the fleshy part of a derriere.

This cover is not explicit. It’s artful, taken from a black-and-white photo. The faceless woman’s back spirals around a bit, as if she’s turning with an unseen, but beguiling, smile. You can see more any day on the side of a city bus, or watching Jersey Shore. It’s what’s suggested that is suggestive, eg, inappropriate. This is a lush, sweet ass, begging to be fondled. By the eyes, and by whatever else.

This is the invitation of eros. I think it’s still a forbidden frontier, even in our over-exposed, boringly unsubtle, 50 Shades of Grey culture. It’s all too confusing, this softness and sweetness, the playful surrender of a woman to her lover. Not because he’s spanking her and tweaking her nipple and she’s a hapless virgin at the mercy of some kinky damaged billionaire. But because sex is neither politically correct nor is it hapless.

For many women, falling off the cliff into bliss requires boneless surrender.

. …

Check it out here.

Censorship, Eros & Assplay


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Make my day: I’ve been censored! I’ve arrived as a novelist.

Specifically, the cover of my novel THE LOVE OF MY (OTHER) LIFE has been censored. iTunesConnect has deemed this cover “inappropriate.” See below.

By the way, if you click on the title, it will take you to the Amazon sales page.

Here was my initial response:

To my surprise, there is a ticket on this title, that the cover art has been deemed inappropriate.

Please note that this cover is from a black-and-white art photograph, and that the nude body has been considered the highest form of art since antiquity. This cover is not at all inappropriate, as there isn’t even any real nudity, just the fleshy part of the derriere. There is nothing really explicit on this cover. Moreover, the cover has been live on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads since mid-January.”
How fun is this? Is iTunes really this backward and provincial? Is iTunes really going to censor this cover?