The pluckiness of the modern author

If you’re a reader, God bless you. You are the butter to the writer’s bread, the sustaining force whom we drive to please. But if you’re an author, nothing I’m about to say will surprise you. And if you’re an eager, hopeful writer… well, none of us face this alone.

Writing has always been hard. Profiting from writing has always been hard. Surviving on the written word has been the hardest.

If the Penguin Random House/ Simon & Schuster trial taught us anything– it’s that nobody really knows how to make people buy books. And that Random House got its start in publishing, ummm, randomly. (Google the history if you want to know more.)

If you want to know how realistic it is to make money publishing books, listen to Rachael Herron’s “How do You Write?” podcast, the annual money episodes, and follow that up with Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn and Sacha Black of The Rebel Author. They do it. They live off writing, and the three of them have very different careers.

Echo City Capers

Most of my weekend evaporated while attending to Parisian Phoenix business. That is not a complaint. I headed straight from the day job on Friday afternoon to a local Panera Bread that we affectionately call “The Office.” There I met Echo City team Ralph Greco Jr. and Joe Swarctz and my art director and dear friend Gayle Hendricks.

Ralph and Joe spent the morning at a school visit, and Gayle had burned her eyeballs grading student projects from her graphic design students. I, by comparison, had a leisurely day at my day job– where I fold clothes, listen to podcasts, and brainstorm business ideas.

Ralph and Joe met with us to debrief on the last project, the second edition hardcover release of their book, Sometimes I Get…, which is a children’s book for ages 3-6 focusing on how to deal with emotions. We used the book to make mistakes, to learn the capabilities of our printing methods, and to experiment with different paper/ink.

pencil sketch concept by Joe Swarctz, with a robot in a spaceship, a carload of bunnies and some chocolate chip cookies

We moved from the post-mortem on the Sometimes project to a new compilation of Echo City Junior titles– where we will rerelease the remaining Echo City Jr. titles in one hardcover with activity pages and bonus material, thereby making the book cost effective for us as a publisher and for parents. That book will feature robots, cookies and bunnies. The ultimate all-in-one.

From there, we all must have gotten a little punch drunk as Joe starting telling us about his ancient Mac and Ralph wanted to talk abut his windows, but with three Apple people around the table Ralph had to be silenced. But somehow, we slipped into a tangent about Lume and from there Ralph and I giggled and chatted about naughty things like Fitbits that don’t measure steps while Joe and Gayle tried to work.

Then throw in a few bad jokes about “Angel’s having brain surgery again,” (and to be clear Angel is not having any brain surgery, but has some doctor appointments that makes it sound like she needs brain surgery because she had a CT scan recently that needs some follow-up, but if you’re into medical drama, you can enjoy that here.)


Saturday morning slept in an hour (5 a.m. versus my normal 4) and made myself my favorite strong coffee, poured it into a steel tumbler to keep it hot, and blessed it with the last of my half and half. I returned to my bedroom desk and finished proofing the laid out copy of Larry Sceurman’s short story collection, Coffee in the Morning. When I finished it, at 6:57 a.m., I called Larry immediately and we made arrangements to meet for breakfast at my new favorite diner. That’s how to hand off a proof!

The Peace Candle Breakfast at Big Papa’s: three pancakes with two eggs, bacon and sausage between the layers

Larry and I are planning a diner tour for the launch of his book– and Big Papa’s Breakfast Bistro (@eatatbigpapaseaston on Instagram) is one of the diners with whom we wish to partner. The diner is across the street from Paxinosa Elementary School in Easton, Pa. (which for old timers– that’s the original Easton High School beside Cottingham Stadium. They keep changing that school it feels like every other year.)

The staff at the diner know who I am, because I’m eaten there five times in the last month, but don’t know that I run a publishing company. Big Papa’s is a family-run, minority-owned business very much trying to have a positive impact on the community. Just like Parisian Phoenix. So cross your fingers that Larry and I get this diner book tour off the ground.

I came home from that and started work on pre-publication editorial pass on William Prystauk’s new book, his first horror novel. William publishes through End of the Line, as he has been publishing longer than we have been around. He has an essay in last year’s Parisian Phoenix anthology, Not An Able-Bodied White Man with Money, and we distribute his Kink Noir series along side our books. The entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.

When a horror novel makes you LOL: “If some functionally insane screwballs can run countries, then I think some can do crosswords.”

Now, Bill is what I call an easy writer. He works so hard on his manuscript that by the time it comes for an editorial pass, it’s simple, fast and fun. But I, as a professional, have to clear my schedule and make sure I am sharp and focused because his story will always pull me out of editor brain. Reading a story is different than editing a story.

His latest novel is his first horror novel, converted from a screenplay, and written in the third person point of view, which has been a stumbling block for Bill. Pardon some bad words, but this book is creepy as fuck and I could not put it down. I edited the 200 pages in 24 hours. I wanted to finish it in 12 hours because I was that invested, but I had to force myself to slow down and do my job.

Romance MiniCon 2023

You know how I said I had to force myself to slow down? And how modern authors have to have pluck? And how Parisian Phoenix works really hard to support other authors whether they are ours or not?

Barnes & Noble Bethlehem made a little breakout room among the shelves.

Yesterday, six romance authors banded together to present a romance writing “conference” at our local Barnes & Noble, the Bethlehem Barnes & Noble (@bnbethlehem on Instagram) in the Southmont Shopping Center. One of them was Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group member, Laurel Olsen Wenson (@dizzylaurel on Instagram), who mentioned the event at the last GLVWG meeting.

She mentioned it. So, I went. Because that’s what it means to support. And despite my concerns about my own expenses, I bought a book. Because I want people to buy our books. She personalized it. I promised to read and review it. Because that’s what it means to support. I do not normally pay $15 for romance novels, but I think her genre and mine have some crossover (both involve middle aged women) and all writers need to get out of their comfort zone to grow.

Shout out to the bookstore. The format and set-up was easy to see, comfortable and they did a fantastic job of announcing the panels.


In closing, it is now nearly 6 p.m. on Sunday and I started work on the initial editorial review of Eva Parry’s upcoming Tarot Workbook. I still don’t have a definitive title for it. But I realized quite quickly, my brain was oozing from my ear and with no half and half in the house there would be no coffee in the house to revive me.

So, I did one last thing. I took my right hand woman, Nancy Scott, editor, poet and essayist, to Lehigh Valley Space Fest. Why do I mention that here? Because Nan is a huge NASA nerd who has followed the space program since the first moon landing. If the other Lehigh Valley Space Nerds are hosting their inaugural festival, which I discovered through George Wacker’s Lehigh Valley with Love, I was taking my NASA nerd. (And kudos to the organizers for hosting a very disability-friendly, accessible event.)

And thanks to Gayle finding free NASA images on the internet, I may have planted the seed for Nancy to have her own space-themed collection to debut in late 2024. She started pulling out Braille notebooks to see what content she had… so I know I’ve gotten inside her head. So, I mentioned, we might be able to market it at a future Lehigh Valley Space Fest.

Published by Angel Ackerman

Writer, Editor, Traveler, Fashionista, Francophile, Student and Mother Publisher at Parisian Phoenix ( Author of the Fashion and Fiends series

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