Forgive Me

Laurie Frankel

[Please note: In the interest of full disclosure, this is a self-serving blog post—as if there were any other kind? No, but really, this one is truly self-serving, so much so it has links to Amazon here and here, too.]


Forgive me Writing Establishment for I have sinned: I paid for a review and self-published my book. For years I swore I never would. In fact, I have looked down upon and discussed disparagingly and at length with other writers regarding those who did—those poor unvetted, clearly talentless, desperate losers who paid for reviews and then self-published. And now I’m one of them. Hi.

I have what I consider two types of writing: literary short stories and book-length commercial nonfiction (aka self-help). I’m still a holdout with the short stories as I very much value the nod from venerated journals ("thank you North American Review!"). With an acceptance rate of once every two to three years, I’ll be exceptionally well-known on my 292nd birthday.

For the record, my first commercial nonfiction book was traditionally published. A friend of a friend of a friend knew an editor at a mid-range publishing house. I sent her a proposal and she accepted it (I remember thinking, publishing is easy). Based on my online love column, “I Wore a Thong for This?!” (my title, not theirs) sold out within seven months. Not bad for a newbie, but then, for reasons unknown, the publisher hemmed and hawed, stood on one foot then the other, had meetings, hemmed some more, convened again, never completed the second haw, and one and a half years later printed a paperback version of my book, the effect of which was akin to that garrulous party guest who tells a long, loud joke and then vomits.

I wrote a second book. After two complete rewrites, countless workshop reviews, and forty-seven agent queries (five of which were kind enough to respond . . . and reject me), this second effort sat on my hard drive like a 35-year-old man-child who wouldn’t leave home. Then I remembered something called the World Wide Web.

Before sending my book out into the world I thought it could use a good word or two from someone other than my mother so I ponied up $350 (originally $425 with a $75 coupon) and submitted it to Kirkus Indie Reviews. The beauty of a paid Kirkus Review is if they completely shred your work, you simply don’t publish it—it becomes your expensive secret. If, on the other hand, there is a smidgeon of good, well, tant mieux (French for expensive smidgeon).

So I paid and submitted and waited. And waited some more. (I could have paid $150 more for a quicker review, but while I had sunk to new lows and I wasn’t ready to be pathetic. To me it was the difference between a one-night vs. a one-week stand—with the latter, you can pretend a little.) I decided if the review sucked, I would just get drunk.

The review didn’t suck. I wasn’t going to win a MacArthur Genius Grant off it or get nominated for the Pulitzer or even get a Kirkus star, but it wasn’t bad. After slicing and dicing (while strictly adhering to the Kirkus slice-and-dice rules) the review looked like this:

“...laugh-out-loud funny...

great practical suggestions...

A quirky, earnest guide to regaining

self-esteem for the modern woman.” — Kirkus Reviews

With a decent review in hand it was time to self-publish. I lost four days of my life to learning how to properly format a document for e-publishing. Then I uploaded it and, like two percent of life, it worked. I published it on Amazon and, for those who don’t speak Kindle or Kindle for iPad, Smashwords.

Now my man-child book sits on someone else’s hard drive, so to speak, but at least, like a girl looking for a dance partner, she’s out on the floor in her party dress, smiling, trying to appear hopeful as opposed to hiding in the bathroom crying her eyes out.

Short-story writer and humorist, Laurie Frankel, knows pain is the root of all comedy and is thrilled her life is so damn funny. Her work has appeared in journals such as North American ReviewAlaska Quarterly ReviewGulf StreamThe Literary Review, and Shenandoah. She is the author of "There's a Pattern Here & It Ain't Glen Plaid", "I Wore a Thong for This?!" and is currently at work on a memoir. Contact her at Laurie was featured in issue 296.3 of NAR.

Illustration: Gigi Rose Gray is an illustrator born and raised in New York City where she received her BFA in illustration from Parsons New School for Design. She now resides in sunny Los Angeles. Her works are inspired by the grace and elegance of women, mid-century design, french renaissance interiors, the colors olive green and mustard yellow, dreams, cypress trees, Greco-Roman art, and nostalgia.