Thursday, July 12, 2012

Indie Authors Spill on Self-Publishing: Jackie Bouchard

Today, I have the wonderful author Jackie Bouchard here to discuss her road to self-publishing What The Dog Ate. If you're a dog lover or simply enjoy a fantastic, funny story, definitely check it out. Thanks so much, Jackie, for joining us!

My Road to Publication: I’m Gonna Do the Driving

Whenever my husband and I go somewhere, I always drive. I grew up in the ‘burbs of
car-culture L.A.; he grew up in rapid-transit-friendly Montreal. So, I’m used to driving,
and enjoy it, while he doesn’t. Plus… I’m just a teeny, tiny bit of a control freak.
Therefore, I shouldn’t be surprised that I ended up self publishing my first novel. Of
course, I didn’t start out intending to. I wanted to be traditionally published—not because
I wanted to give up control over everything from the cover, to the font, to the release
date, but because I wanted the validation.

Not to mention the fact that even just a few years ago (when I was trying to get
published), self publishing was not really considered to be a legitimate option.
So, in the words of The Talking Heads, “How did I get here?”

In 2006, my hubby was working tons of hours. Like Maggie, the heroine in my novel
What the Dog Ate, he’s the head of Accounting at a public company—a very demanding
job. His company was going through an acquisition then, so he rarely got home before
8pm or even later. I needed something to do with myself at night, so rather than
frequenting dive bars, I signed up for “An Introduction to Creative Writing.”

I’m not one of those writers who’s been scribbling stories and my deepest thoughts in
journals my entire life. I liked to write poems (very, very bad poems) as a kid, and I
dated a wanna-be writer (if that counts for anything, and I think it should since I used to
help him come up with endings for his stories!), but that was the pathetic extent of my
writing history. Once, I thought I’d enter a writing contest. I sat and stared at a blank
page for 15 minutes until the feeling passed. Still, a writing class sounded like fun, so I
figured, “What the heck.”

Over the course of that class, I wrote a short story that ended up being a very abbreviated
version of the first quarter of my novel. The instructor encouraged me to explore the
characters and turn it into a manuscript, so, again, I thought, “What the heck.” I signed up
for more classes, and worked away fleshing out the story.

In the fall of 2007, I had the manuscript about three-quarters complete. Or so I thought.
It was actually the Swiss Cheese of Manuscripts: it wasn’t even close to three quarters
of the way done, but I was too much of a writing-virgin to know that. So off to a local
conference I went, with my sample scene and a stomach full of extra-fluttery butterflies.
A friend said there was a certain agent attending that she particularly liked, so I planned
to go to her session. I also planned to lurk in the back and just absorb.

At the session, there was no “back”—just tables in a horseshoe around the agent. So I
sat at the table, my scene hidden away. The agent asked who planned to read. Only five
hands (out of maybe 20+ people) went up. I’ve always been the type that feels compelled
to fill an awkward silence, and it seemed that with so few people reading, there was going
to be a lot of awkward silence in that long session, so I tentatively raised my hand too.

When it was my turn, my heart pounded. (I hate public speaking!) I got through the
scene—which is a pretty key scene in the novel, and survived all the later editing—and
heard silence. Then, everyone started to say how much they liked it! Okay, Butterflies,
time to take a break. At the end of the session, the agent asked me to send her the
manuscript when it was complete. Now the butterflies helped me soar! I was on a major
high—in great contrast to earlier when I’d sat at lunch thinking: “I’m not a real writer; I
don’t belong here. I should leave.” I almost did, but thankfully I’d said, “What the heck”
and stayed.

After that, I worked at a fevered pace. I finished (hahaha, delusional!) the book and sent
it off to her in the spring of 2008. And she rejected it. But… she sent me a very detailed
list of suggestions. Pretty much every one was spot on, so I worked hard and sent the
manuscript back to her that fall, and she signed me!

Oh, what exciting times… and then, the market crashed. By the time she finished
helping me put the final tweaks on the book we were pitching it in early 2009. Not great
timing in any industry, let alone publishing. Even though I got good rejections, they
were still rejections. I tried to put the book out of my head and just get on with the next
one. I hoped someday it would be published. Then in January, I had dinner with my
agent, and she encouraged me to self-publish it—and, (are you seeing a pattern here?) I
thought, “What the heck!”

Other than the cover, I’ve done everything myself: formatting the e-versions for
Smashwords and Kindle Direct Publishing, formatting the print version for CreateSpace;
all the marketing. I even built my own web site. (And one of these days, I’ll find time to
get back to the writing part!) It’s a struggle to balance the marketing with the writing, but
it’s fun. Well, mostly fun.

Today, I honestly can’t say what I’d do if a publisher wanted to sign my next book. I still
crave that validation, but I’d rather get it from the readers than the publishers, and I love
having control over how the book looks and when it comes out. It’s been hard work along
the way, but it’s been exciting and definitely a learning experience.

Thanks so much to Samantha for inviting me to share my story. I’m happy to share what
I’ve learned with others who’d like to drive down this same road!

The vet handed Maggie Baxter a plastic specimen bag containing a pair of size-tiny lavender thong panties extracted from her dog; but they were not hers. Or rather, they were hers now since she'd just paid $734 to have Dr. Carter surgically remove them from Kona's gut.

This is how Maggie Baxter, a practical, rule-following accountant, discovers that her husband of seventeen years is cheating on her. All her meticulous life plans are crushed. When he leaves her for the other woman, Maggie and her the-world-is-my-smorgasbord chocolate Lab, Kona, are left to put their lives back together. As Maggie begins to develop a Plan B for her life, she decides to be more like Kona. No, she's not going to sniff crotches and eat everything that isn't nailed down; rather she'll try to approach life with more ball-chasing abandon. Finding herself in situations where she begins to go through her usual over-analysis of the pros and cons, she stops and instead asks herself: What would Kona do? With Kona as her guru, Maggie begins her quest for tail-wagging joy.

"What the Dog Ate" is a funny, tender story of mending a broken heart and finding love and a new life right under your nose, with woman's best friend at your side. If you enjoyed Claire Cook's "Must Love Dogs" or Lolly Winston's "Good Grief," you'll love "What the Dog Ate" and be rooting for Maggie and Kona.

WHAT THE DOG ATE is available now as an e-book at Amazon (and all other e-book
retailers) and is available in print at Amazon and Create Space.

Connect with Jackie!

Blog: Pooch Smooches
Twitter: @JackieBouchard


  1. What an inspiring story, Jackie! And how brave you were to read a sample of your first book aloud in front of a literary agent and a group of your writing peers! I got sick to my stomach just reading that bit! No guts, no glory, though. And you wouldn't be where you are today if you hadn't cowboy'd up. So, bravo to you! And best wishes for your continued success.

  2. Thanks Tracie. I really came so close to leaving! I was really miserable at lunch! The lunch time speaker was laying out all his "rules" about writing. ("You must do x." "You musn't include y." And I'm thinking "But I don't have any X in my book. And I've got a lot of Y.") But then I realized... he wrote RAMBO!! He wasn't talking about *my* kinda book. I realized you have to take any of these "rules" with a grain of salt and always consider the source!

  3. Agree with Tracie! It's always tough to put on your big girl panties and you always, always always gotta consider the source :) loved What The Dog Ate :)

  4. Thanks for sharing your story, Jackie! I can totally relate... sometimes saying 'what the heck' can lead to total awesomeness! I love your cover! (My childhood dog was a Chocolate Lab named Billy.) Best of luck to you and your novel! :)

  5. Thanks Kit & Cat. (Kit and Cat - you guys would make a good team!) Yes, to paraphrase "Risky Business":
    'What the [heck] gives you freedom." :)