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Writing Books/publishing: getting over the slush pile


Dear Bobbie:

Let me lead up to my questions by telling you about my most recent life experiences and writing endeavors (if you have the time).

Currently, I am a second year, full-time university professor in Bilingual Education in a very tiny town in New Mexico.  With my wife in San Diego, CA., I used writing as a way to enjoy and not loath my spare time last year.  

As such, I wrote over twenty short short stories; was even a finalist in the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds competition (by the way, Dean Wesley Smith is a great mentor.  I've pitched stories in Hollywood, written screenplays, novels, textbooks, and completed manuscripts that were accepted and promoted by literary agents.  Yet, no sales . . .

With time still on my hands these days, I want to get back into serious writing.  

First off, I'd like to once again market my manuscripts (pop culture, non-fiction) to new agents.  Is it a bad idea, since I didn't have a sale years back?  Should I focus on new work instead?  Is self-publishing a profitable venture?

I love writing short stories, and will continue to send a few off to sci fi magazines, but I would love to get back to writing books (fiction this time).

Hope I didn't abscure my questions in a maze of self-indulgence.

Talk soon?


Dr. Joseph Di Lella
Assistant Professor
Eastern New Mexico University
(another All-Expert volunter)

Iíll address one question at a time.

1.   Should you try to sell things today that you wrote years ago? Sure! Why not? If itís still good, itís still marketable. No sense in wasting good material. Some say you should inform new agents that it was pitched to certain publishers before. I disagree. If years have passed, most acquisitions editors at publishing houses have moved on to other companies or careers, so todayís agents would be pitching it to new people, anyway. Your success in being a finalist in the Star Trek competition may also be a boon to your writing career.

2.   Is self-publishing a profitable venture? It can be in some circumstances, especially for writers of nonfiction who travel the country giving talks to large audiences and selling their books wherever they go. Self-published books have great difficulty getting into bookstores, though, and fiction almost always has to be marketable through a bookstore, to be successful. I donít recommend self publishing fiction, unless you are willing to put most or all of your time and money into publicity, promotion, publishing, and distribution.

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Bobbie Christmas


Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas owns Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm in metro Atlanta. She not only edits books, she also helps writers power up their prose to increase their chances of success. She is the author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), a creative-writing guide that won three awards.


Bobbie has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry and has run Zebra Communications, a book-editing company, since 1992. The editor of many publications and periodicals, she has worked with book publishers and trade magazine publishers as well as working in marketing communications and corporate communications.

Past president, Georgia Writers Association; past vice president, South Carolina Writers Workshop; charter/lifelong member, Florida Writers Association; Southeastern Writers Association; Atlanta Writers Club; Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL); International Guild of Professional Consultants

Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation), A Cup of Comfort for Friends (Adams Media), A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (Adams Media), Haunted Engounters (Atriad Press), Remembering Woolworth's (St. Martin's Press), First-Time Home Buyer magazine, HomeBusiness Journal, Apparel Industry Magazine, Edge Magazine, Atlanta Jewish Times, Time Travel Australia, American Writers Review, Points North, That's Entertainment, Atlanta Parent, Agnes Scott Alumnae Magazine, etc.

Journalism: University of South Carolina plus four decades of working in publishing, marketing, communications, advertising, newspaper and magazine production, book publishing, etc.

Awards and Honors
First Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers Annual Contest, 2005; First Place, education, Royal Palm Literary Award, 2004; Best in Division, Georgia Author of the Year Awards, 2005; Finalist, Best Books 2005, USA BookNews Third Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers, 1999; Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, 1998; plus many other awards

Past/Present Clients
Capital Books, Sourcebooks, Olin Frederick, The Writer's Machine, Russell Dean & Company, Outskirts Press, and hundreds of writers.

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