A Blog | Anne Calcagno

The Real Argument Against Self-Publishing (sort of)

Why you really shouldn’t self-publish:

It is a full-time job.

CreateSpace produces the book  (…  Love Like a Dog), but I have to build a marketing plan.  Sure, I’ve pruchased the press-release packet they provide.   But no book comes into the world kicking and crowing because of a press release.

Marketing starts with: what is your “target goal?”  Mine is to get my book read by pit bull owners and rescue shelters.  It’s a novel about a pit bull rescue that changes a family.

Know your motive:  I came to write it because, years ago, I started volunteering at C.A.R.E., an animal shelter in Evanston, Illinois.  There I discovered pit bulls.  This led me to
D.A.W.G’s court advocacy program, where I followed a core of ardent volunteers who track animal abuse and dog fighting cases.  I interviewed police officers working Chicago’s Animal Care & Control (then headed by Sgt. Steve
Brownstein), following them on raids of suspected dog fighting rings.  This is how I became obsessed with telling a story about the ends to which humans will go against, and for, this misunderstood

First Mistake: My tag line is: “This is a novel about a boy, his single dad and the pit bull they rescue.”  In describing the upcoming book to my doctor I use this line and he says: “I’ll give it to my eight-year old daughter.”  OMG!  It has dog births and human sex and violence!

Much Research: I buy and read every dog magazine I can find.  I clip and copy names of dog networking sites and writers who write about the bully breeds, and record the addresses of professors who teach texts in which animals are the subjects in Animal Studies programs and departments.  Two favorite students help me for low wages.  We troll the Internet for advocacy sites.  We email, seeking URL links, and offer future copies of the book as donations.  Getting any reply back is super good luck.   I am glued to the computer from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.  And I’m not writing.  Fiction, I mean.  I’m emailing, list-making, letter-writing, and phoning contacts.  I have done this for four months straight.  First between classes.  Now that it’s summer, I’m a full-time publicist.

Though I am grateful for every single person who replies (each actually a huge gift, an important connection to these misunderstood dogs), I feel self-indulgently sorry for myself for not being able to write.  When you self-identify as a writer and have been alone for so many years, dependent on the habit of solitude, that meditation practice of sorts which is writing, it is hard to dislodge yourself from seeking that “signal” instead of scurrying about in the ‘noise.”  I feel thin (not physically unfortunately), but mentally.   It feels lonely to talk/write/email to a lot of people you don’t really know, day after day.  This is my writerly defect.   Salesmen have a gift for talking to people that I lack.

Event Planning: Also known as Experiential Marketing.  Also known as Getting the Word out.  Being There.

We have decided that if art is political, then it’s gestures matter.  So we, my student and I and husband and son and a friend, and a talented film maker are going to film the stories of people who have rescued dogs, especially pit bulls.  If Love Like a Dog’s rescue story has relevance it is because it is shared by the greater world.  Yes!  Unite!  Join!   This way, the chorus of voices will grow a bigger song, better, broader, and more complex and shared and fun.

Just that getting this organized involves:

Finding the film-maker

Setting up a “call for rescue stories ” email address

Creating flyers for vets offices and pet supply stores

Lining up interviews (an average or 3-6 calls/emails per story, a bunch of which fall through when the person finds out they have to go somewhere to be filmed)

Selecting a date & site (and an alternate date/site

Reminder calls

Objects to bring to the event: (which we hold outside the entrance to Montrose Beach Harbor)


(Ugly old) folding Table

Tablecloth (elegant disguise)

Large scotch tape dispenser to attach flyers of the book & story sharing to the tablecloth

(Promotion! Visibility!)

Books (one donated to each rescue story-teller)

Easel; (to display a book upright)

Plexiglass Flyer holder: (why do they cost so much– $8 minimum!!!)

Rope Tugs with little tag: (to give away; note it took hours to prep these)

(the tag says: Let a Dog Tug @ your heart

Nothing says Love like a dog.

Share your story at:


Dog treats (to entice stray dog owners & help dogs stay still 7 concentrated)

Icebox & ice: (it’s July in the Midwest; water & root beer & some goodies)

People food & blanket to sit on:

(Chips & salsa & more, because it’s my student’s birthday)

Raffle Box: (for dog owners with a spirit-of- gambling

Folding Chairs: (so the interview subject can sit down & help their dog sit, too)

Film-Equipment: (provided by the film-maker)

What Happens:
On the day of filming, none one of the ten people scheduled shows up.  It’s well, almost exactly like the publication ratio of  to non-fiction (one book of fiction is published for every ten books of non-fiction, if you remember).  One person calls to re-schedule.

Another lonely moment.

What You can’t Plan On: But, but, but because Thomas Wolfe is right and magic is always ready to happen, we start talking to any stranger with a dog, asking for their stories, and these people leaving the beach with their wet, tired, happy dogs, say, “Sure I’ll talk!  And we get seven interviews in the next couple of hours.    Carpe Diem!  Oh we seized the day.