Five Things I’ve Learned About Self-Publishing

What 5 things have I learned from Self-publishing?

Now that’s a question that could have a short answer and it could have a long answer. So, let’s see where this takes us.

The very first thing I learned was that I was in for a huge, I mean really huge disappointment, because I was terribly naïve, short-sighted and ill-prepared for what lay ahead of me. They don’t call it “The Vanity Press” for no reason. The fact that I was just plain lucky to have happened upon one of the premiere self-publishing companies in the world, did not mean that I had a clue about what needed to happen after I sent them my manuscript.

I have always been a dreamer. The one issue that came up repeatedly in the parent-teacher conferences of my youth was that I was a day-dreamer. The reality of school held no interest for me. Apparently, a certain dose of that has endured. I had visions of the first people to read my book spreading the word far and wide about what an amazing read Dear Mom and Dad, was.

Here was where I should have remembered a lesson I learned long ago. If something you do is good, if you do something worthy of notice, people will tell others, but only a few close acquaintances. On the other hand, if you screw up, make a fool of yourself, do something shameful the same people who were so careful to spread good news; those same people will tell everybody they come in contact with. Therefore, in this case, since it was rather good, very few people outside of my immediate circle of friends ever heard about it.

Lesson #1 then is be prepared for disappointments and criticism. They are inevitable but not insurmountable. You can’t be “thin skinned” as Granny used to say.

The manuscript isn’t the only thing that requires preparation. You need a plan and for that plan to work you need realistic assessments of what it’s going to take to make your baby a best-selling winner. You need to know where you are going with the effort and what you want readers to absorb and remember. When I started writing Dear Mom and Dad, I had no outline. I had an idea of what I wanted to accomplish and after one chapter I realized that I wasn’t accomplishing a thing. So I stopped writing and spent nearly a month creating an outline. This is something that any author needs to do but it’s really critical for a self-published author.

Lesson #2 was, have an outline. Know where, and why you are going with your book.

The next thing I learned is that I was not prepared for the investment I was going to have to make beyond getting my book published. The investment for that turned out to be a drop in the bucket. If I’m honest here I will tell you that I guess, I thought I was going to sell a million copies after a measly $2,100 investment. If I had really thought it through I would have researched what a major publisher invests in publicity when it takes on a new book project. With what I know now I imagine that an investment of that kind is far beyond what most self-publishing authors are prepared to spend.

Lesson #3 then is it takes more than a couple of thousand dollars to make a book a best seller.

The fourth thing I learned about self-publishing is that it takes perseverance. Even with a big investment it will take time for the seed money to germinate. The more specialized your subject matter is, the longer it will take. Self-publishing is another way of saying self-promotion. What I should have remembered was something I heard the late Dr. Wayne Dyer talk about what he had to do to get his first book on the book shelves and in the hands of buyers. He would go into a book store and ask if they had the book without telling them who he was. When they said, “No, they didn’t have it.” He would introduce himself and tell them he just happened to have a box of books in his car. Then he called the publisher to find out when the next printing was scheduled and they said it wasn’t, he asked why not, since they were sold out and he knew they were because he had bought them all himself.

Admittedly things are a bit different than they were in the early ‘60s but the principle remains.

Lesson #4? Hang in there Cupcake. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

There is never ever going to be a consistent substitute for hard work. Writing is hard work for most of us and the hardest part of it is actually sitting down to do it. And, once you do the next hardest thing is to stay on message. We all tend to think that what we have to say is so important that however long it takes is how long it’s going to take. When I was finished with the original draft of Dear Mom and Dad, it filled a 2-inch binder completely. Published in that form would have meant a 700-plus page book. Cutting into my baby was tough because, after all, what I had to say was important. Of course it was … Cupcake. However, brevity being the soul of wit is also the soul of making your point effective. I lost track of how many times I edited that original version to get it down to the 270 pages which eventually went to the printer.

If you are self-publishing and you really want a polished product a professional editor can be a big help when it comes to punctuation and style. But if you’re like me and working on a shoe string budget that may not be doable. If you have a good friend who happens to be a journalism/professional editor like I did, don’t hesitate to ask. For me it was a Godsend because Linda Talley-Branch was not only my friend but had been one of my late wife’s best friends and knew us and our relationship well enough to make some very important edits and suggestions.

Lesson #5 summarized: It’s hard work to edit/refine your own work, but staying on message is critical.

I learned a lot more than these five things but they are the most important … especially if one is writing about one’s self. So … don’t just read … WRITE!!!

Another Afterword

My life has been a perpetual event; a perpetual moment of major effects.

I write in Dear Mom and Dad about various moments that have had a major effect on my understanding of what the heck was going on in the depths of my soul. Of all the moments of clarity the most significant, up to the point of publication, the three most significant were: the bathtub incident, the definition of a Wenkte and of course Genesis 1:26-27. But there have been more significant moments since that have further solidified my understanding of the dual nature of the soul God has blessed me with. But before I delve into the nature and in some cases the specifics of those incidents I need to backtrack a bit.

The first and most consistent issue that comes up is this. If I am truly dual-gendered then why am I living solely in Georgia’s world and not equally shared time with “George”? Good question. The answer to that question is rather simple. I was relegated to the shadows for years while George struggled to figure out a solution, and it was his solution to find. After all the body was his in all physical aspects.George is no more absent from my mind than I was from his. The only real difference in that respect is that I’m fully aware of where those “not so me” thoughts are coming from. For much of his life he didn’t.

Through the early years of my “coming out” I was terribly confused by the conflicting emotions. One minute it was me and then suddenly out of nowhere the emotions and the thought process was George. I realize that sounds schizophrenic but it wasn’t. In schizophrenia the person affected has practically no control over who puts in an appearance and literally takes over at any given moment. That’s not the way it was with me,,, us. I make the point in my public presentations that, short of serious mental illness like schizophrenia, we all have control over our actions, but not necessarily our emotions. When those conflicting emotions erupted I always had control over whether or not I responded to them and how I responded.

As I said, my life has been a perpetual event; a perpetual moment of major effects. However, if I had to pick one particular moment in time, that at the time was most significant, it would have to be that moment when I realized I was on the south bank of the Rubicon. I wonder if Caesar, when he stepped out of the water on the south bank headed for the Imperial City; if just for an instant, he didn’t think, “Oh shit, what the hell have I done? Why didn’t I just surrender command and control of my future to the status quo and let someone else remain in charge?” That would be my single most significant moment, because of all the moments, that was the one moment with no recourse, no re-do, no return.

But was it Georgia or George’s emotions serving up that tumultuous batch of thoughts? After the tempest settled down in my/our head I had to admit that it was George. And it was George who rather quickly said, “Okay, okay, I get it. It’s your turn to take full and complete charge, but I’m not going away, ever. I will always be here just as you have always been here.” And with that, I proceeded toward the Imperial City.

If there is one central message I want to convey in Dear Mom and Dad it would be that if …when one really wants to live their life joyfully, meaningfully and purposefully, take the time and the effort to get to know your Maker and let Him show you what all those likes, dislikes, passions, talents and ambitions were intended to be used for. All of those ingredients that are you, are the recipe that if followed will result in a life that is a veritable banquet. Will it be perfect? Of course not. It is life after all. But, it will be fulfilling and satisfying beyond imagination. There will be moments like the last sentence of Dear Mom and Dad, when I quote an old Dennis the Menace cartoon, “Wish I was three again … knowing what I know now.”


In the three plus years, nearly four years now, since Dear Mom and Dad, You Don’t Know Me, But …was published, no one has asked me what inspired me to write it … that is until now. So, I’ll tell you.

If you’re expecting a story of startling revelation or jolting inspiration you will most likely be disappointed. However, if you’re hoping for understanding and a view into the mindset that led to the writing of my memoir, then I think you will come away pleased with what you are going to discover … about me, my path and the many starts and stops along the way.You will understand how the inspiration for what I wrote eventually evolved into purpose and that it was the combination of the two that resulted in Dear Mom and Dad.

The first thing I ever wrote was a three-page theme for my 7th grade English class, titled “Wild Horse Hunt in Skull Valley”. It was about a wild horse hunt in Skull Valley, Utah that Dad had arranged for him, “our” brother and me/George to take part in. That was the only A+ “George” ever received in any academic endeavor.

One would think with that kind of encouragement,that writing would have become a passion, but it didn’t. From time to time, thought was given to various ideas for novels and a list of possible scenarios was even created, and a file started for those ideas. I still have that file … somewhere. But that was as far as writing ever got for me. I had difficulty even writing letters, beyond the ones, we were required to write every Sunday afternoon at summer camp which inspired the title for DM&D.

So years passed without ever writing anything. I relate in the book my first experience with the only job I ever had that involved writing. It was at a radio station and was due to the support of the man who is quoted on the front cover, my friend, mentor and chief encourager, the late Doug Benton. It was enjoyable and the results were surprisingly good. But after 3 years of that we moved to Arizona and the creativity streak ended.

After the death of “our” wife I became involved in Alpha Zeta, the Phoenix chapter of Tri-Ess International, a now mostly defunct organization for “Crossdressers” and it was there that I was first asked to write something about myself for the monthly newsletter. That effort was rewarded by a request to begin writing a monthly column. The result of that request was “Georgia: On My Mind”. Many of those articles were then picked up by Tri-Ess for publication in their quarterly publication, The Mirror.

My experience with Alpha Zeta and a “sister” organization TransGender Harmony brought me face to face with the primary dilemma in the trans community … “to be or not to be, to do or die” There was that segment of the community that only “dressed” on weekends, or once a month on meeting night. And on the other end of the spectrum were those that had “crossed the Rubicon,” so to speak and were living “full time” as they said. Those that had “crossed the Rubicon,” stood on the far side chiding those who chose not to.Considering them wimps and scaredy cats.

But the ones who suffered most were the families. Here was Dad, Mom’s handsome prince morphing into something that, in all too many cases, was a sad, silly looking imitation of a woman. That’s not what Mom met and fell in love with; that’s not what the kids wanted for a father. For many of us it was a hard lesson to learn, that Mom especially was not the least bit excited with this new “best girlfriend”.

For me, I simply couldn’t bring myself to say to my children, “I, Georgia, am doing away with your dad; putting an end to his existence. I had seen that happen a number of times and it was heartbreaking. The fact is that I did have two complete sets of emotions and just didn’t identify them as such. So, what happened?

I also learned that the suicide rate in the “gender-variant” community was horrendous; one study pegged the rate and nearly eleven times that of the normal world. I discovered too that there were many who were perfectly happy going back and forth from one to the other gender expression. How did these two spirits that were engaged in a tug-of-war in my soul manage to reconcile their differences.

I had two conversations with friends; both of them women that I/George had known for some time. I relate the incidents in my memoir. The first conversation involved the definition of a Sioux word, “Wenkte”. Loosely defined as a “two spirit person” and was a man who lived as a woman in the Sioux tribes.

The second conversation was with a woman I had known even longer than the first, but had never known of George’s “other side”. George shared the knowledge with her over lunch one day and when he was through, she quoted verbatim Genesis 1:26-27 which ends with, “So God created people in his own image; He patterned them after himself; male and female he made them.”It was the final key for me. George didn’t have to die for me to live. Whatever I chose to appear as on the outside was not as important as what was on the inside. And what was on the inside was two distinct sets of emotions.

In 2006 George was a victim of corporate downsizing due to the collapse of the construction industry in Arizona. I needed money and naively thought I could easily publish “something” that would yield some income. Silly me. What was I going to publish and how? Two things occurred almost simultaneously.

The first was an invitation to spend a weekend with friends at their home in the Sonoran Desert northeast of Phoenix. While I was there I was handed a copy of “How I Got This Way” by Patrick F McMannus. This book turned out to be a major inspiration because it was actually a collection of articles he had previously published in magazines like Field and Stream which were sandwiched in between a chapter on his early life and a chapter on how it all turned out for him. That was the answer for me about how to get publishedwhat I had already written. I would put together a collection of my best articles for Tri-Ess. But how would I get them published? I had the form but now I needed the how.

When I was in high school I had occasion to utilize Writer’s Market and thought I would find the solution to my publication dilemma there. So off to Barnes and Noble I went in search of a current copy of Writer’s Market. I found it easily enough but on the same shelf was a copy of “Get Published”, written by Susan Driscoll, then president and CEO of iUniverse, and Diane Gedymin, then editorial director of iUniverse. It was, for me, the perfect book at the perfect time, because it had detailed, easy to follow instructions on how to prepare a manuscript for publication. Within a month I had selected, edited and prepared a manuscript according to their instructions. In addition, I had e-mailed a copy to the president of Tri-Ess and asked her to write the Foreword. And then I waited.

While I waited for the promised Foreword to materialize I had time to think; to think about, among other things, my audience. My audience would be, at most, the membership of Tri-Ess which at the time might have reached two thousand. Call me grandiose, call me egotistical, call me greedy, but I wanted a bigger audience. I wanted the whole world in my theater. But, how was I going to achieve that?

It would be impossible because without a back story the world would not come to my theater. The title of McMannus’s book literally leaped off the cover; “How I Got This Way” ,,, how did I get this way? Indeed! How did I get this way?

I took a lead from my experience in AA where we are told to follow a simplethree item course in talking about our experience; what it was like, what happened and what it’s like now.

Maybe that could be called inspiration, maybe not, but I finally began to write, really write, for the first time in my life. However, as each page materialized I became aware that I had no idea where the next page would take me. I soon realized what all writers must realize at some point; that being the necessity of an outline. My outline revolved around the homes I had lived in over the years. After that list was compiled, and it was a long one, forty to be exact;the next step was short notes about anything or anyone that came to mind in relation to that home and place in time.Writing about a person’s own life can be a bit troubling at times, especially if one is brutally honest with themselves.

I confess that the first draft, while it may have been cathartic, was more ventilating as well as an expression of memories based in a desire to absolve me from responsibility and give the appearance of the various outcomes being the fault of others. Had that version gone to print it would have been over seven hundred pages long. In addition, it would have most likely resulted in numerous lawsuits. Thankfully, the man I had begun working with at iUniverse convinced me that seven hundred pages was totally unrealistic unless my name was James Michener.

Something about actually dealing with someone there at iUniverse brought the reality of my effort actually being published into focus. What I saw through that lense was the real truth of what had transpired in the past and that the people involved would know if I was not being honest and would certainly protest angrily if I wasn’t. That of course required that I be brutally honest with myself about the actual events and relationships. I recommend that activity to anyone regardless of whether or not they intend to actually publish or not, because that process alone did more to bring peace to my soul than anything.

The fact that I had responded to the inspiration to write in the third person, me always being there and observing George work his way through life without understanding why he felt so different from other people, aided greatly in dealing with the events of our life honestly. And that brought me to the brink of purpose; that being to share my experience and solution with others who might be coping with the confusion of two distinct sets of emotions, one male and one female.

Ultimately, I believe that God was the inspiration behind each and every move and that He intended me to be exactly what I have become. And that is the true inspiration behind Dear Mom and Dad, You Don’t Know Me, But …

Restroom? Really?

I really don’t know where to start. If you don’t know me well you might assume that on the issue of bathrooms and gender identity that I would be railing against the narrow minded people on the hyper-conservative right end of the spectrum, but you would be wrong. That would be like railing against a stray dog that has never been house trained when you let it in the house for the first time and it pees on your new carpet. It and “they” don’t know any better.

The dog that’s never been house trained is not the one to blame. The owner, and there surely was one at some time or other, who didn’t bother to house train the dog is the one at fault there. Likewise, the hyper-conservative, generally hyper-conservative Christian, who’s railing against the transgendered person, which in most cases is a transgendered woman, for peeing in the house (the women’s restroom) is not the one to blame. Why? Because, like the untrained dog, they don’t know any better.

So, why don’t they know any better? Why haven’t they been trained? Or to state it better, why haven’t they been educated? In my most humble opinion, it’s because the voices in the gender identity community have made practically no effort to educate them. There were no efforts at all, to speak of, for society to learn anything about those of us who find ourselves in a situation where our bodies have little in common with our brains. As Paul Newman’s character, Luke, in “Cool Hand Luke” said just a nanosecond before he was shot, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

.One of the first things I discovered when I first became involved with the transgendered community was that virtually all discussions were about how to make society accept us. If the discussion is on that topic it’s about how to force acceptance on society. There were few, if any, serious discussions about how to gain acceptance.

In my experience, the activists among us, who like to think of themselves as martyrs for having stepped into the line of fire, cause more discrimination because their solution to the problem is to force trans acceptance on society; to take what they don’t appreciate and rub their faces in it. Call me narrow minded or ignorant if that makes you feel better, but the result of cramming acceptance down society’s throat is like picking a scab. It only prolongs the healing.

I get angry every time I read or hear about some trans activist raising a ruckus over the smallest affront, perceived or real. Get over it. Do “normal” people normally make a career out forcing their wishes and opinions on everyone around them? Not “normally.”

Another issue that I found disconcerting, was the fact that trans people tended to go “out and about” in groups. It seemed to me that it was more like a “pack” of whatever, dogs, wolves, coyotes. I understand why. There is safety in numbers, but packs tend to generate fear in people who intersect with them. I am not a trans-activist. I consider myself a “trans communicator.” We are never going to be accepted by the society we live in until we learn to communicate instead of agitate. We are never going to be accepted by society until we, the genuine trans community, weed out the trouble makers, the perverts, self-appointed martyrs in our midst.

There is a flip side to the coin of this argument. My big question for the hyper-conservative self-appointed “stray dogs” is this; of all the times in the course of a single day in this country, how many reports are there of a woman being attacked in a restroom by a “genuine” transwoman? And my point here is the word “genuine”. It’s an important point to make and here’s the reason.

A genuine transwoman is a person who is making a real effort to be and act as close as possible to a real woman as is humanly possible without having been born a “real” woman. “Real” women do not hang out in restrooms alone unless perhaps they’re hiding from a man. If a “real” woman enters a women’s restroom and sees a person who is obviously not a “real” woman because they are only partially or garrulously dressed as a woman, and that person is just hanging around, loitering, then and only then should security be called.

The further point I want to make here is this; and it’s a point I make early in my public presentations; the probability that 95% of the population of this world is strictly what the world would call normal to a large degree. Agreed?
So, for the “normies” of this world, and I will start with the men,If you are “normal”, you enjoy sports to one degree or another. You might wear your hat backwards on the weekend; you like your loose fitting comfy jeans and your New York Giants football jersey. Maybe you feel good in a suit and tie. In other words, you are comfortable in your own skin … you like being a “guy”. Your mental and emotional make up matches your body in a way that society approves of.

How would you feel if society said to you: “We don’t care what you “feel”; we don’t care that the way you express who you are shows in the way you want to dress and act. We, society, say that you have to shave your carefully trimmed beard, and your legs and your armpits. You have to pluck your eyebrows, wear makeup, dresses, high heeled shoes. In short, you have to dress like and act like a “lady” because that’s what we, society, dictate.”
For the women “normies” … flip that record over. You like to look feminine for the most part. You probably enjoy dressing in way that reflects your femininity. Maybe you enjoy having a man hold the door for you, send you flowers and pay for dinner. How would you feel if, regardless of what your inner emotional and mental make-up is, you cannot do all those things that make you feel good about who and what you are; no more shaving your legs, armpits, plucking your eyebrows, no more makeup, no nice dresses etc. In short you have to drag your knuckles and burp and belch, because we, society, say you cannot live your life according to your emotional and mental make-up. You have to live according to our dictates.

Life would be a miserable existence under those circumstances wouldn’t it? Well, that is what the average “trans-person” endures until they finally respond to their inner emotional and mental make-up. And then they have to endure the slings and arrows of a large portion of society. As an old saying from my southern background goes, Put the shoe on the other foot.”
In closing I have a word for the handful of conservative clergy, and this from a devout Christian who has read every word of the bible not once, not twice but repeatedly; quit acting like Pharisees and take your lead from your Savior and get to know the people you’re condemning. Then let’s talk.