Friday, August 12, 2016

To Self or Not to Self, by Pam Depoyan

Maria Dismondy
Are there great reasons to choose self-publishing? Bestselling picture book author Maria Dismondy says, “Definitely!”

Who hasn’t dreamed of getting that call -- a publisher wants your manuscript! But -- what if it’s just taking so long?    
As a teacher for over a decade, Dismondy did her homework. She believed the story based on her own childhood experience of being bullied would captivate children and motivate empathy, in a realistic way her research proved just wasn’t being offered. So, hopes high, she submitted her engaging SPAGHETTI IN A HOTDOG BUN to ninety traditional publishers.

“Over 13 months, I heard ‘no, no, no, no, no’,” she confides. "Finally, I heard ‘yes’ from a subsidized publisher, here in Michigan. Because I was so passionate about the message I wanted to get out to an audience larger than just my classroom, I put forth the investment and self-published. I’m happy I did because the message has now gone out to hundreds of thousands of children.”

Since then, SPAGHETTI has even morphed into a New York musical and stage tour!

No longer pursuing traditional publishing, Dismondy says, “I’m completely satisfied with the way my books are being sold and perceived…going out into the world now in different art forms… and that’s really rewarding.”

Also a writing consultant, she encourages clients with these tips:

  • Analyze the publishing path right for you.  You can self-publish, go traditional, choose an e-book… Once you’ve decided on a path, dig deeper into a variety of companies. Sit down with a local company, ask questions, get references from people who have worked with that publisher. Really spend time finding a company that shares the same mission and passion you do.

  • Set aside fear.  Fear of the book not being published, not being good enough… I have found not only is it a lack of motivation -- because the process of publishing a book is grueling -- it is extremely difficult and challenging and the outcome isn’t always what you want it to be. So my biggest (tip) is put aside fear and write.

  • Mine from your own experience.  I don’t think there’s enough realistic fiction out there, so I encourage people to stick with characters that are children and adults, stories (readers) can relate to on a deeper level. I also recommend taking time to develop strong characters. Finally, please do not forget your writing should entertain. It shouldn’t just teach, teach, teach, but should be witty in order to teach a poignant lesson.

  • Concentrate on what brings you joy.  Once upon a time, I made a huge accounting mistake and overpaid a retailer. That was an eye opener. I needed to educate myself a little more on that side of the business. A few years after that, a business coach suggested “try to do the things in your work that bring you joy.” The financial part of the business does not bring me joy! It brings me headaches. So I’ve actually hired a bookkeeper and together we’ve conquered that challenge.

  • Listen to personal stories.  There’s a free resource called “podcasts” I have learned a lot from. I listen while I run, bike, cook and drive. Start researching different podcasts. Stories of failure and success are both helpful in knowing next steps for your own (publishing) journey.

  • Give time to your business every day.  Seven days a week, I am thinking about my business, educating myself through podcasts, through professional literature…but I am not spending 40+ hours a week on the business like I did when I was a teacher.

  • Be yourself.  I’ve decided I am going to be myself when I present my work, open myself up to vulnerability and share my stories and children’s books with others. By being myself every single day, in promoting my work, I’ve found meaningful connections to others who are up to the same thing -- making a difference in the world. At the end of the day, think on this: What brings you joy and how can you do that every single day?

Maria Dismondy is a mother of three, fitness instructor, former teacher and bestselling children’s author living in Southeast Michigan. Learn more about her books, workshops, events, and teaching resources on her website.  

Pam Depoyan is a writer and artist in Southwest Michigan.  Her stories have appeared in HIGHLIGHTS, PRAY!, MATURE LIVING, and four volumes of CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL.  She once received a Letter of Merit from SCBWI for UNCOVERING THE GHOST OF NANCY DREW, and was thrilled recently when she stumbled upon HIGHLIGHT's fun audio link to this story - now a read-aloud online! Read more at her blog, Apples of Gold.

Coming up on the Mitten blog: Judging the Cybil Awards, Back to School with MFA Week, another Indie Bookstore Interview, and Gearing Up for the SCBWI-MI Fall Retreat.


  1. Great advice, Maria. Glad you felt that self-publishing was the right decision for you.

  2. Congratulations, Maria, for having the perseverance and flexibility to make your dream come true. Very inspiring!