My blog is focused on one topic alone: the process of publishing my second novel. I’m seeking a publisher, but if one to my liking doesn’t bite, then I will self-publish. If you’re interested in the process of fiction writing, publishing and self-publishing, then I hope you’ll find a few nuggets of useful information herein from my blow-by-blow reports, my successes and failures. And please feel free to post any advice or suggestions you have as well. Here’s to creativity.

A Greater Year

By on January 8th, 2013
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Happy New Year everyone!
New Year CardI was delivered some good fortune here at the beginning of 2013 when I learned that A Greater Monster was named to two top ten lists. It was named in “Top 10 Books of 2012” by Common Ills blog as voted by members, and it was also named in a “Best of” list on and described as one of “10 books every Chicagoan needs to read right now” to their email list. Refinery29 email header - Top 10 Books

In that spirit, I’ve written four top ten lists to evaluate my success as a self-publisher and provide a little bit of advice for authors-to-be.

Top 10 Things I Did to Produce A Greater Monster:

  1. Spent seven years obsessively writing it (through fourteen drafts)
  2. Paid a professional proofreader to give it the once over
  3. Asked two excellent writers to give me their detailed thoughts on it
  4. Hired a book designer and spent six months working with him to design it
  5. Hired an illustrator and spent six months working on the illustrations
  6. Hired an animator and a musician to collaborate on the web scenes
  7. Asked authors to read the manuscript and provide promotional quotes (if they liked it)
  8. Read and re-read several books on self-publishing (my favorite) and created long to-do lists
  9. Bid multiple printers to find the best price and quality
  10. Created a video and promoted a Kickstarter project to fund the print run of 1000 copies

Top 10 Things I Did After I Published It

  1. Held a big reading/release party at Quimby’s Bookstore in Chicago
  2. Made the rounds to all the indie bookstores in Chicago and St. Louis, leaving them copies with a press kit
  3. Held a reading at After-Words Books
  4. Reached out to numerous bloggers across the web requesting reviews
  5. Entered twenty (or so) literary competitions
  6. Contacted numerous distributors, trying to find one who would carry a self-published novel (Hint: it’s next to impossible)
  7. Emailed bookstores occasionally when I had news
  8. Participated in a Chicago author reading tour in New York City and made the rounds to bookstores
  9. Created a postcard that highlights my literary award and an excerpt from a blogger review for bookstores to post on the shelf
  10. Hosted two giveaways on Goodreads

Top 10 Successes

  1. Made two top ten book lists of 2012
  2. Gold medal as “Outstanding Book of the Year” in the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards
  3. Finalist for National Indie Excellence Book Award
  4. Received many thoughtful reviews from both readers and bloggers including The Chicagoist, The Midwest Book Review, Psychedelic Press UK, dig Boston, and the Seattle PI
  5. Interviewed for Chicago’s Newcity arts newspaper in both print and online, and by various bloggers
  6. A Greater Monster was featured in University of Wisconsin’s alumni magazine, On Wisconsin
  7. Managed to get listed with a small press distributor
  8. I feel proud of my work artistically
  9. Have sold more than 500 copies
  10. Am carried in nearly 15 bookstores

Top 10 Failures

  1. Post office lost 16 books and destroyed 8 (Lesson: always insure mailings)
  2. My distributor has done very little to promote my book
  3. One bookstore ordered 15 copies and the order never got through to my distributor
  4. Don’t have enough media attention to get picked up by a significant number of bookstores
  5. I have been disorganized following up with bookstores (especially those out-of-state) and getting paid for sales
  6. Struggling with developing an ebook version—had to fire my first ebook vendor; on my 10th round of feedback with my second
  7. Started an audio book version but put it aside due to other priorities
  8. Amazon sales have been pretty slow (bookstores have sold much better)
  9. Couldn’t get to 10 failures (oh, the irony!)

If anyone ever tells you that self-publishing is easy, they’re not doing it right. Sure, anyone can write a crappy book, export it as an epub and Kindle file, find a stock photo for the cover, submit it to Amazon, and voilà they’re published. But almost no one will read it, it will likely be riddled with grammar errors and typos, and the author will often be too close to the work to recognize its larger flaws. That isn’t to say, self-publishers can’t write great books. But they need some honest opinions and a lot of hard work. If a book is self-published in the wilds of Amazon, does it make a sound?

P.S. What a relief that this asshole lost


The Kickstarter Letters

By on October 27th, 2012
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The Kickstarter Letters by David David Katzman

This week I launched my third book on Kickstarter. This one is a truly collaborative effort with Jason Pettus, owner and editor-in-chief of the Chicago Center for Literature & Photography (CCLaP) and Mike Wilgus, designer extraordinaire.

I launched A Greater Monster with a Kickstarter project that can still be viewed here: As a reward for all my contributors, I wrote each person a stream-of-consciousness email or a handwritten letter (at higher contribution levels) inspired by their name or a suggestion they wishes to make. I wrote 125 letters, and I spent anywhere from one to four hours on each one. So, roughly 300 hours of work! It was quite a task, but it was enjoyable as well.

I came up with the idea to select the fifty most interesting and unusual letters and publish them as a collection. Jason loved the idea and wanted to release it through CCLaP. What made me so excited about this is that Jason hand binds each hardback edition. All of Jason’s author’s books are beautifully handmade.

Mike was my book designer and cover artist for A Greater Monster. He came onboard to do the amazing cover art and 20 interior illustrations, four in color and 16 in black & white. I’m so happy with how the book came out. And I believe the letters will be entertaining even for those who don’t know me at all.

For my Kickstarter project, we shot a rather amusing video. Please take a look. I would much appreciate shares, Likes, and if you do find it intriguing, your support, of course.

A Room with an Interview

By on August 9th, 2012
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My most exciting news: I was interviewed for the Newcity newspaper. Newcity is Chicago’s only locally owned and operated cultural weekly, and it’s been around for 22 years. The article just went live on the Newcity Lit site. Check it out here!

Some of you may recall I won a literary award for A Greater Monster. Turns out I was a finalist for another one. Isn’t that kind of like winning a bronze medal in the Olympics? You work your ass off, beat like 3025 people, come in third best in the entire world … and no one gives a shit. Eh, bronze? What a shame. Who won gold? But seriously … bronze is still cool. I was one of three finalists in the fantasy category of the 2012 National Indie Excellence Book Awards.

Here are some interesting stats that I read last month in Poets & Writers magazine. Within an article entitled A Day in the Life of a Literary Agency, which was a peek inside the workings of a mid-size literary agency, they revealed that the agency received 100,000 queries per year, which breaks down to slightly more than 200 queries per week for each of their nine agents. And based on the number of writers they pick up in a year, the odds of an author finding representation from them are one in 11,111. By contrast, do you know what the odds are of getting published when you self-publish? One in one.

I have two videos up from my reading tour in New York City. Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

Lastly, as always, I urge you to support your local indie bookstore! If you know anyone who might like A Greater Monster, here’s my updated list of bookstores that currently carry it:

After-Words Books
The Book Cellar
Chicago Comics
Quimby’s Bookstore
Sandemeyer’s Books
Unabridged Bookstore
57th Street Books

St. Louis
Dunaway Books
Left Bank Books
Pudd’nhead Books
Star Clipper Comics
Subterranean Books

Book People (Austin)
Domy Books (Houston)

Portland, OR
Reading Frenzy

The Beguiling

Bristol UK
Here Gallery

Berlin, Germany
Modern Graphics

Western Australia
Planet Books

You can also ask your favorite bookstore to order it from Last Gasp Distribution.

The Illustrated Tanzer

By on July 12th, 2012
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As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I went to New York City last month for a reading tour along with several other writers who have been published by the Chicago Coalition for Literature and Photography (CCLAP) press. Ben Tanzer was one of the writers who performed with me at the KGB Bar, and if you ever get a chance to hear him read, do take it. He’s charming and hilarious, and his stories are great to hear aloud. Ben’s most recent collection of short stories, entitled The New York Stories, was released in a beautiful handbound, limited edition book with illustrations by CCLAP.

The New York Stories Cover Art

A few weeks ago Jason Pettus, the editor and owner of CCLAP asked me if I would be interested in interviewing the artist who illustrated Ben’s book, and I said I’d love to. The illustrations are righteous, and the book is gorgeous. And available for purchase on the CCLAP site here. So without further ado, here is my interview of Laura Szumowski.

DDK: Thanks for coming on my blog, Laura. I got a copy of Ben Tanzer new book, The New York Stories, a while back, and I really liked your work. It’s quite sharp. How were you introduced to Ben, and how did you get the job to illustrate this collection?

Laura: Thank you for having me! I was originally approached by Jason, the owner of CCLaP. We were at Quickies, and Jason introduced himself and said he was a fan of my work and had a project in the works that he would love to have me illustrate. At that point, I didn’t really think of myself as an illustrator, but it sounded like a really fun, interesting project.

DDK: So you mostly have thought of yourself as a fine artist then? Do you primarily produce paintings?

Laura: No, although I did start out as a painter. Over the past six or seven years, I’ve been writing and illustrating my own books, but for some reason had never really broached the idea of illustrating other books. Writing and illustrating felt very contained; I hadn’t separated the two.

DDK: Interesting. Where could people find your own books? And did you have a general subject matter you were writing about?

Laura: All of my work is non-fiction, and my main focus is women’s health. I also started a small press, ZMK Press. My books are all listed and available on my website I also branched off and wrote an illustrated guidebook to Chicago.

DDK: So were you formally trained or self-taught?

Laura: I was formally trained in drawing and fine art– I received my BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. However, as far as writing and publishing books is concerned, I am completely self-taught. It’s been an interesting challenge, to say the least!

DDK: When you are writing your own book and then illustrating it, what is generally your process of going from text to illustration and how did that vary when you were working with another author’s work?

Laura: With nonfiction, choosing what to illustrate is often pretty straightforward. However, I’m also trying to take subject matter that some people may find taboo or uncomfortable and make it approachable. Because of that, I always try to be aware of what type of message the illustrations send. For example, I’ve written both of my women’s health books with non-gendered language. At the same time, I also like to throw in drawings of cats or an accordion, to keep it interesting, friendly, and a bit playful. For Ben’s stories, it’s a bit different. I read through each story several times, highlighting key words and making notes about characters or aspects of each story that stood out to me. In that case, I felt there was a little more play, and I was able to take quite a bit of artistic license with what I chose to illustrate. Sometimes there was a specific character or moment that I found moving or particularly interesting—and these weren’t necessarily the main things that would jump out to every reader.

DDK: I like that. It causes the story to interact with the reader in a different way. Tell me about this one image of the house in flames. It has a very interesting dimensional effect to it. The fire looks like it is alive.

Laura: That illustration is from a very small moment in the fourth story, What We Thought We Knew. This story, in my opinion, is about adolescence and how volatile and out of control it can feel. It’s also about sexuality and desire, and how life sometimes happens around us in a way that we see and feel but can’t seem to touch or control. In the story there is powerlessness mixed with violence, and for me it culminates in this house being burned down. I like that you think it looks alive.

DDK: Yes, the flames seem to reaching upward with a force and dimension. I can see an analogy to desire in them, as if they are exerting their will to escape the house. Is there anything you want to mention before we close?

Laura: Only that I really enjoyed illustrating these stories– and thank you for taking the time to interview me and share my work on your blog!

Szumowski illustration 1

 Szumowski illustration 2

 Szumowski illustration 3

 Szumowski illustration 4

Szumowski illustration 5

News York

By on June 17th, 2012
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A Greater Monster

My New York reading tour was a blast. Some great fellow readers, too much alcohol, not enough sleep, and … New York! Most exciting city in the U.S.A. I did sell a few books while I was there, met some interesting people, and walked about 50 miles.

I visited 25 bookstores and shared with them my new press release—about my literary award “Outstanding Book of the Year” in the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards—and several of them seemed quite interested in ordering it. The manager of the Strand Bookstore, which is the largest in Manhattan, emailed me a few days ago that he was in fact going to order the book from my distributor Last Gasp. When you self-publish, and even when you are published by a small to mid-size press, an author needs to do a great deal of her/his own publicity. That’s just the way it is.

Lori Hettler, who runs The Next Big Book Club, came out to the great Sunday reading at KGB Bar, and took videos of all the readers. She broke them up into roughly five minute chunks, so mine is in two parts that you can view here.

It was a great trip all around! Some photos below.

And I came close to winning another literary award. I was named as a Finalist (one of three Finalists), but not the winner, in the 2012 Indie Excellence Awards, Fantasy genre. I’m going to read and review the winner’s book on my Goodread’s page, The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh after I’m done with Have You Seen Me, which was written by one of my fellow tour authors.

Le Pouisin Rouge

Le Pouisin Rouge

Book Thug Nation

Book Thug Nation

Book Thug Nation

Vaudeville Park

Vaudeville Park

Vaudeville Park

 Vaudeville Park

Vaudeville Park

Vaudeville Park

Vaudeville Park

Vaudeville Park