The Divorce Book

An opportunity to earn back the money spent on my divorce…and refresh my writing career.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook or are a close friend, you probably know by now that I was contacted by an acquisition editor for a publisher on Friday afternoon. She told me that they’re interested in me writing a book about my divorce ordeal based on my blog posts and tweets.

Holy cow! That’s what I tweeted only minutes after getting that call. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since then — indeed, it’s difficult to think of anything else.

I thought I’d take some time to blog about how all this came up and what I think about it. Blogging helps me organize my thoughts and this whole thing definitely needs to be organized in my mind. Ironically, if I decide to move forward with this project, this blog post will become part of the book.

About the Blog Posts

The Divorce-Related Blog Posts (so far):

I started blogging about my divorce back in July 2012. My husband had called me on June 30 (yes, my birthday) to ask for a divorce and, in all honesty, I didn’t think he was very serious about it. I thought that once we’d talked in person and I’d had a chance to show or tell him about how I thought we could move forward together, he’d realize that what we had was too good to throw away. I while I waited for him to come see me — I was stuck on contract in Washington state — I wrote “29 Years Ago Today,” a narrative history of our relationship since the day we met on July 10, 1983. I wrote that as a tribute to our relationship, as a reminder to him of what we’d been through and what we had.

We met in mid July. I did a lot of crying and he did some, too. He claimed he still cared about me. He assured me that there wasn’t another woman. But when I took him to see the 10 acres of view property that I hoped we’d build a summer home on, I could see in his eyes that there was something else he was more interested in. Something that wasn’t in Washington. Yet I believed him. I trusted him. When he told me he wanted a fair and equitable divorce, I believed him. When he said he wanted to stay friends, I believed him.

I was a fool to believe him.

But how could I blame myself for trusting the man I’d trusted with my life for 29 years? Especially when one of my close friends was assuring me that my marriage could be fixed if I worked hard on it when I got home? I didn’t know that this friend was one of several friends and family members my husband had called to tell that he still loved me and worried about me. My friend thought that meant he wanted reconciliation and he pushed me to believe it was possible.

I was a fool to believe him, too.

Although I’d told my husband that I didn’t want to talk about the divorce until I got home, he pressed me several times after our meeting about a settlement. I was trying to finish a book and my state of mind was making work nearly impossible. (I finished the book two months late — the first time I’d ever missed a deadline on that title — and lost out on $5,000 of advance money.) I couldn’t understand why he was in such a hurry when he’d told me we could wait. I responded angrily and he cut communication not long afterward, going completely dark. I blogged about that on August 8 in “How I’m Doing.”

I later found out that behind the scenes, the woman my husband had been sleeping with since June was already pulling his strings, emailing him lists of divorce lawyers to call with instructions to call as many as he could so I couldn’t call the same ones. When I emailed him in August, telling him when I’d be coming home, he began plotting with his lawyer to get exclusive use of the house, effectively leaving me homeless when I returned. When I learned about his girlfriend and saw the lingerie photos she’d sent him as part of her seduction routine and realized that he planned to keep me out of my own home, I reacted by (finally) filing for divorce. I discovered that he had already gone through my personal files and given copies of my tax returns and investment statements to his lawyer. Clearly, he didn’t care about me at all and was planning to use my delay to maximize the amount of cash he could claim under community property laws. After all, I make 80% to 90% of my income during the summer; every time he forwarded my mail with a check from a client, he was likely thinking about how half of that check would soon be his.

From that point forward, my blog posts were explorations of my feelings about what was going on, trying, for the most part, to remain upbeat and positive. “Freedom without Guilt” discussed one positive aspect of cutting ties with my husband: I was finally free to do what I wanted without having to deal with his attempts to make me feel guilty for making the most of my life. “My Experience with Aging, Weight, and Medifast” talked mostly about dieting and didn’t really discuss the divorce at all. By that point, I’d lost 28 pounds. (I wound up losing a total of about 45 pounds by mid October.) But the post is remarkable because I posted my own version of a lingerie photo, which, admittedly, was pretty lame. (I’m not stupid enough to put a photo of myself in lingerie online — or to email it to a married man.) In all honesty, I think I still believed that if my husband and I could sit down and talk again, we’d be able to patch things up. (It was — and is — very hard to let go.)

Early Morning Helicopter Flight: Wenatchee, WA to Hillsboro, OR” briefly mentioned how I wished I could share the joy I felt from an amazing dawn flight over the Cascade mountains with my husband. It was hard to believe that I’d never go flying with him again. “Boating without Mike” talked about a boat ride Penny and I went on at the end of August. It was my last ride in the boat for the season; I sucked up some milfoil (weeds) as I returned to the dock and the engine wasn’t running quite right. I was lucky to get it back on the trailer. (I’m not looking forward to getting that fixed when I get back.) In that blog post, I listed many of the boat trips I’d been on with my husband over the years. It was one of many reminiscent posts, things I wrote that I hoped he would read — possibly to jog his memory about everything we had that was so good. To shake some sense into him.

But as I learned more and more about what was going on at home, I began getting angry — which is actually good for me. “The Pain of Betrayal” introduced readers to my feelings about discovering my husband’s lies without actually mentioning his affair. Thinking that my husband had left me for a younger woman — the woman in the lingerie photos — and knowing quite a bit about her financial situation, I wrote “Gold Digger.” At the same time, I was overcome with pity for my husband’s decision to turn his back on the amazing lifestyle we could have had together. I wrote “Pity for the Foolish” to express my personal joy at watching a beautiful sunrise from my doorstep and my remorse that my husband had trapped himself in the “box” he couldn’t think outside of.

By this time, I’d realized that a lack of communication — mostly on the part of my husband — had caused all of our marital problems and the breakup. “Communication Breakdown” presented my thoughts in a hypothetical situation. It was the closest I could get (at that point) to letting the world know that my husband left me for another woman. Most of my friends were able to read between the lines and understood what I was saying.

I explored the topic of my problems with self-esteem during my final months with my husband and the breakdown of our marriage, still not mentioning his affair, in “On Broken Marriages, Self-Esteem, Divorce, and Victoria’s Secret.” My emotions were all over the map. I was home at this point — after having had to break in while he was away because he’d changed the locks — living in the home I’d shared and built with my husband over the past 15 years. I kept expecting him to walk in the door and life to go on as usual. As I did things alone that I used to do with him — soak in the hot tub, enjoy breakfast on the back patio, look for satellites and shooting stars from the lounge chairs on the upstairs patio — I felt his absence sorely. I thought a lot about him doing the same things with his replacement for me. It hurt me deeply and I couldn’t understand why it didn’t hurt him. But, at the same time, I simply could not get over the change in my appearance because of the weight loss. The master bathroom in my house has big mirrors along one wall. Ever time I stepped out of the shower and saw my new, youthful figure, I was amazed. Seriously amazed. (It took months for me to get used to the sight of my new, slim body.) A new wardrobe, Victoria’s secret, and a later makeup consultation at a Clinque counter completed my transformation from dowdy, middle-aged woman to the new attractive, active person I’d become. So I was amazingly upbeat, despite my feelings about being home alone. Any damage my husband had caused to my self esteem was completely repaired, just by my own actions and being free of his disapproving attitude. The blog post also, again, voiced my pity for my husband, who I was convinced was going through some sort of midlife crisis, possibly triggered by hormonal changes — a sort of male menopause. I mentioned his irrational behavior, but at that point I still didn’t know what was driving it. I thought it was a purely psychological problem. I’d learn the truth a while later.

How to Tell if the Person You’re Dating is After Your Money,” was an exploration of what I hoped my husband had considered when developing his relationship with the other woman — again, without mentioning the affair. I’m not sure why I was still keeping it under wraps.

On October 3, my husband and I testified in court at a temporary orders hearing. That’s where he made some outrageous claims about me, under oath, in an attempt to get me kicked out of our house and the hangar I’d been leasing for my business for more than 10 years. Seeing and hearing him on the stand was profoundly painful to me. He was not the man I knew; he was some cold monster who tried to do everything in his power — including lying and stretching the truth beyond all recognition — to hurt me both emotionally and financially. He was living with his girlfriend (and our dog) in Scottsdale and had a condo in Phoenix, but he still wanted to keep me out of my own home. I was reeling with pain and anger during the proceedings and relieved beyond belief when the judge found in my favor and allowed me to stay in my only home.

I wrote “The Man I Fell in Love with is Gone” the next day. It was my attempt to convince myself that my husband was as good as dead to me. My loss was affecting me emotionally in very negative ways and I’d soon begin seeing a grief counselor to help me get through it. I found it extremely affective to imagine that he was dead and that I was mourning that death. The post refers to his desire to seek revenge for “imagined offenses” — indeed, at the court proceedings he made a wild claim about me preventing him from buying the company he worked for 12 or 13 years before. (I had no idea what he was talking about at the time and my testimony put my understanding of the matter on record; I now think this delusion is what he’s using to try to justify his recent treatment of me.) This was also the first post where I openly stated that my husband left me for another woman and that he planned to put that woman in my place in our home.

Saving the Cape Honeysuckle” was a reminiscence of planting these bushes in the back flower beds before I’d left for my fifth season in Washington state and my desire to maintain the few bushes that were still alive. He’d neglected the house over the summer, leaving behind an overgrown vegetable garden that was mostly dead because the irrigation system had been shut down.

I didn’t blog much about the divorce for a while, but I did write “Grief Counseling: A Note to Friends.” This was my attempt to communicate to close friends that I needed their understanding and support. I cried an awful lot in those days — I still do — and it was making some people uncomfortable. I needed them to understand that my grief was something that wouldn’t just go away and that I needed their support.

The Woman Scorned Playlist,” shared two embedded music videos with songs that applied to my situation. I had just heard Adele’s Rolling in the Deep for the first time and I couldn’t believe how the song so perfectly voiced my anger and sorrow. Like Adele, I felt that my husband had thrown away our life together when we “could have had it all.” I still can’t even think about that song without crying. Hit ‘Em Up Style is a lighter song that makes me laugh — except one line: “There goes the house we made a home.” (Damn! I’m crying again right now.)

I was going through some old papers while packing and discarding my things when I came upon a birthday card my husband had made me in June 1998 when he was 42 and I was 37. I included a photo of the card and my thoughts about it in “What Happened to this Guy?

Life Lessons” talked primarily about a blog post I’d read about things people learn too late in life. In it, I talked about how some of these lessons applied in my life, including the differences between me and my husband.

On November 30, I saw my husband again. We had to swap trucks and although we didn’t talk, he left copies of email messages I’d written as long as four years before in the truck for me to find. “Communication Breakdown, Part II” discussed my anger and frustration about how he’d chosen to communicate with me and my thoughts about it. I still couldn’t understand why he now apparently hated me. What had I done to him to deserve such hatred? This post marked a turning point in the way I talked about my situation. From that point forward, I had no qualms about talking opening about his girlfriend in my blog posts. I was beginning to see the big picture: she was calling all the shots for his divorce. She had begun communicating directly with his lawyer, providing him with inaccurate information about me, my actions (based on her paranoia-driven misunderstanding of my tweets), and my possessions. She was telling his lawyer what actions to take against me. (How I know this is not something I can share because I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, but I have two good sources that I trust.)

It was around this time where it became impossible to pretend my husband was dead. When I refused to accept his absurd and financially damaging settlement proposal and he refused to consider my counter proposal, he and his girlfriend went on the offensive and began a campaign of harassment that continues to this day. My lawyer received a stream of demanding letters — some of them quite threatening — and outrageous claims from his. Then he changed lawyers and they went on a new campaign of terror, beginning with an expedited hearing in front of the judge (by phone) that wrongly accused me of disposing of and destroying his personal property. All this was based upon tweets I’d shared about scanning and shredding my own personal documents and giving away two fish tanks I’d purchased prior to marriage.

This is when they made the first big mistake in their strategy. While they apparently thought they could “wear me down” by subjecting me to a constant stream of harassment, all they really did was make me angry. When we failed to reach any agreement at mediation — for some reason, it was “all or nothing” for him — I hunkered down and prepared for our appearance before a judge, originally scheduled for January. Their lawyer subsequently had the court date pushed back to April — I think they mistakenly believed that their harassment campaign would succeed if I thought it would go on until April. I still have trouble believing that my husband could make such a mistake — where did he think I would go if I gave into his absurd demands? I had no other home and was in no hurry to leave the one I was able to live in for free. But perhaps he wasn’t the one doing the thinking about this.

In the meantime, I did see my husband again and did get a chance to speak with him alone. It was when I was permitted to retrieve some (but not all) of my possessions in the condo he had gotten exclusive use of in Temporary Orders. That’s when he accused me of not allowing him to buy out that company he used to work for and owned a piece of in the late 1990s. He was absolutely convinced that I had prevented him from making this important decision for his life — a decision I honestly knew nothing about. How could I not remember this when it was a life-changing decision? The reason is easy: I had never been part of the decision-making process. My recollection is that he was not given the opportunity to buy the company, that the other buyer was a done deal and he was forced to sell his share. Whether that was true or it was just something he told me at the time was unclear at that point. I realized then that he was truly delusional and was basing his hated of me on something that had never happened. I sobbed for the entire the two hours it took to gather and pack my possessions in the condo. He was justifying his infidelity and his treatment of me with a lie. I touched upon all of this is “What is Truth?.”

I went to Florida to stay with my family for the Christmas holiday. It was great to be away from home for an extended period of time. I got melancholy, though, and wrote “THIS is What Life is All About.” The post mentioned that July flight to Oregon and my sorrow (and pity) for my husband’s decision to live inside the box he’d built for himself when there was so much more to life. “I Love My Life” was a similar post, rejoicing about the lifestyle I’d built for myself, recounting how I’d gotten where I was in my career, and lamenting about my husband’s broken promises and failure to get with the program that would make his life just as good.

In January, I found an old journal from 1991-1993. In “Found: Journal from the Past,” I blogged about one of the entries that hinted at the problems I was already having with my future husband. The journal will be a gold mine for future blog entries about my life back then. I even prepared for the series, although I set the book aside for a while.

Lost in the Desert” was mostly about a search job I’d done with my helicopter. In it, I lamented about how my client had lost a husband who loved her and I was being tortured by a husband that hated me. Why couldn’t my husband be the one lost in the desert?

The shit hit the fan at the end of January after I made a very brief visit to my husband’s condo and found both him and his girlfriend there. I spent less than a minute trying to talk to him about a telephonic court appearance he’d missed earlier in the day that had cost him more than $3,000 in legal fees payable to my lawyer. When I discovered he knew nothing about it, I left. But that was enough to trigger a fresh assault of harassment against me. My husband complained to the Phoenix police that I was harassing him. (Keep in mind that I hadn’t seen him in nearly two months or attempted to communicate with him for over a month.) That sent a Wickenburg police officer to my door the next day. My evidence clearly showed that there was no harassment and they dropped the case. They even apologized for bothering me. But the next day, my husband and his girlfriend had the nerve to show up in Wickenburg at a restaurant where I was meeting friends for dinner. Turns out, they’d come to town to bring an Injunction Against Harassment that his girlfriend had managed to obtain at the beginning of January. They’d sat on it for three weeks and then decided to spring it on me when his harassment complaint failed. I was served a while later. The officer told me that she’d tried to get the court to force me to stop tweeting and blogging about her — I think my “Get your own life” and “#DowdyBitch” tweets had gotten under her skin — but this is America and speech is protected. What she did manage to get was a court order for me to destroy the photos. Another mistake. She should have let sleeping dogs lie. Not only did I decide to fight the injunction, but I brought the photos to court. And even though they showed up with their lawyer, I won. That must have been a pretty costly experiment with the justice system for them.

Her birth date on the injunction is where I learned the truth about her age — she was 64 years old. That’s 8 years older than my husband and 13 years older than me. Hell, it’s only 6 years younger than my mother! Suddenly, it all made sense. My husband, a weak and confused man going through a midlife crisis, had been captured by a desperate old woman who would do or say anything to avoid spending the rest of her sorry life alone. My husband hadn’t left me for a younger, sexier woman. He’d left me for a dowdy old witch who had become his mommy. What did that say about him?

I pitied him even more.

For a month, I didn’t blog about the divorce. I shared the recipe for “Aunt Rose’s Dolmades” in a protected blog post. I found the recipe on a faded index card while packing and I wanted to put it in a safe place. What could be safer than the Internet? I protected it because I simply didn’t want my husband and his girlfriend to have it. (Petty, yes. But I think I deserve to indulge in pettiness once in a while. I look forward to making the recipe for my next life partner.)

The whole time, my husband’s weakness and the fact that he’d thrown away everything we had to spend the rest of his life with a vindictive old woman was nagging at me. I finally did something I didn’t want to do: I talked to my husband’s brother. I wanted to know if I was the only one who saw what was going on. I wanted to know if the family really thought this woman was better for him than I was. For 90 minutes, I sobbed to him about the situation. I got some confirmation of what I believed to be true. And my brother-in-law promised to talk to my husband, to ask him to meet with me and a mediator to resolve our problems. He called back a while later to report that he’d made the call. Unfortunately, my husband said he needed a few days to think about it. That meant he needed a few days to ask his mommy and a handful of friends who had likely encouraged him to leave me. It came as no surprise when the answer came back as no.

My husband was afraid to meet with me without his mommy to hold his hand. Although I didn’t think it was possible, I pitied him even more.

That marked the beginning of a new stage in my blog posts — from that point on, I would blog frankly about everything, sharing all of my thoughts and feelings about the situation and the parties involved. The posts would be painful to write but they would make my position clear. “Wanted: A Strong Man,” discussed my husband’s weaknesses in no uncertain terms. “My Desert Dogs” lamented about my dog Charlie, in my husband’s possession, living in a walled-in yard in Scottsdale and being boarded every time my husband and his girlfriend traveled. “On Marital Infidelity” talked about how my father’s and husband’s affairs had affected me and my family.

On Right, Wrong, and High Horses,” was my response to a comment on the marital infidelity post that had been signed with my niece’s email address. I was shocked that my niece should make such a semi-literate and harsh comment — I hadn’t seen or spoken to her in years and I thought she was better educated than the comment indicated — and I was harsh. But when she responded with a well-written and rightly outraged comment, the truth came out. Her father had posted the comment with her email address. Yes: he’d dragged his daughter into the matter without even letting her know. I revised the post to correct the attribution of the initial comment and apologize to her. The rest of the text still applies. (I need to write a new blog post about the dysfunctional family I’m leaving behind in the divorce. Boy, have I got a lot to say about that.)

Suicide, Revisited” talked about my August 2010 post, “Suicide,” and my new understanding of what might drive someone to take his own life. I admitted that the shock and grief I’d experienced over the past eight months had helped me connect the dots between misery, the desire for relief, and suicide. (Again, I need to remind readers that I am not suicidal; I just understand suicide better now.)

Lingering at the Crossroads” presented several quotes from a book I’d just finished reading and discussed how they applied to my divorce situation. I realized that my husband had been at the crossroads of our relationship back in the summer of 2011 — without me. I lamented that he took his problems to a stranger instead of me. I also talked about my own crossroads.

On Becoming Homeless” recounted my history as a home owner and my successful efforts to pay my current home off by the age of 50. I talked about financial stability and the freedom a person has when there’s no mortgage (or rent) to pay. And I talked about how I would be losing my home and possibly the financial security I’d worked for my entire life. Along the way, I reminisced about time spent working with my husband to turn our house into our home and the time we’d spent together there. I still can’t understand how it could be so easy for him to replace me with another woman there.

Although I haven’t blogged about it (yet), just last week, his lawyer claimed that they wanted to try mediation again. When I agreed, provided that we meet with our lawyers in the same room, they backed down.

He’s afraid to sit in the same room with me, even with his lawyer present. How can a man be so spineless?

Is he going to be able to face me in court? His mommy won’t be holding his hand when he’s sitting on the stand.

How can I not pity a man like that?

About the Call

The call came early yesterday afternoon. I was on my way home from a morning hike with a group. The caller was an acquisition editor with a publisher I’d heard of but never worked with. When I realized that the call had the potential to change my life, I pulled over to give the caller my full attention.

It was the “On Becoming Homeless” and “Wanted: A Strong Man” posts that triggered the call. The woman who called me, Jean, had been speaking with another editor I’d worked with in the past who was still a good friend. That editor had mentioned my divorce and blog posts. She said the post about losing my home to another woman was particularly moving. That got Jean to my blog. She read a bunch of posts. She shared them with others at their weekly acquisitions meeting. They liked my writing style, they loved my frankness. But what blew them away was the fact that my husband had left me for an older woman and that he’d stepped aside and was letting her direct his side of the divorce. She even used the word bizarre in our discussion — although she might have picked it up from one of my posts. And she said that based on what she’s read, this has got to be one of the “ugliest” non-celebrity divorces she’s ever heard about. (And she doesn’t even know all of the sordid details.)

The long and the short of it is that they’re interested in me doing a book about my divorce with the blog posts as a sort of base. I suspect it will be a lot like what I’ve written above, with more details of the behind-the-scenes events intermingled with the blog posts and even — their idea — my tweets. (Jean was pretty amused by the fact that his girlfriend/mommy reads my tweets and submits pages of them as “evidence” in court.)

I have to admit that I had my doubts about the idea. Although a Facebook friend of mine had suggested a book (in a private message) less than a month ago, I didn’t really give it serious thought. But these people have. Very serious thought. They did preliminary market research based on what’s selling now — memoirs are big, online dating is becoming a hot topic, women overcoming life-changing problems has a strong niche market — and ran numbers.

They even brought their legal department into a meeting to discuss the legal aspects of my “tell all” account. Their conclusion? I can not only tell all — including names — but show all — including photos. And with the power of their legal department behind me, I wouldn’t have to worry about any lawsuits or legal action against me. They’ve handled — and deflected — challenges to other authors’ books like this.

She talked a little about promotional opportunities. Unlike my computer book publishers, this publisher has a very active publicity department that arranges author appearances on talk shows and at book signings. They even have a travel budget. A lot of their authors have appeared on NPR and they’re sure they could get me on there, too. She suggested a segment of how online dating is being used by men to cheat on their wives.

It was pretty clear, by the end of our 23-minute conversation, that they not only think the book could sell, but they think it could sell well. We’re not talking millions here, but even the advance she suggested would help cover some of my legal expenses for the divorce — expenses that have already drained my savings and are starting to eat away at my business reserves. This would help me get on firmer financial ground to help me keep my business alive and rebuild my life elsewhere.

Next Steps

To say that my mind is reeling from that 23-minute conversation is a complete understatement. There’s so much to think about here. But I still don’t have all the information I need to make a decision. That’ll likely come on Monday, when we have a conference call that includes the acquisitions editor, her boss, and the publisher’s general counsel.

At this point, however, I’m torn. While my friends are telling me unanimously to go for it — and are even speculating about who’d play me in the movie adaptation they’re optimistically predicting — I’m not quite as enthusiastic.

Yes, I definitely want (or need) the money the project will generate. Even if the book flops, the advance would be like manna from heaven. And if the book did well, the benefits would go beyond financial reward. The project has the possibility of reenergizing my writing career, giving me an opportunity to branch away from computer books and start writing about something more interesting — and more marketable in today’s Googlized world.

But, at the same time, I am concerned about my husband and the potential heartache he might suffer from the publication and success of a book that clearly identifies his shortcomings, bad decisions, and betrayals. Each of these blog posts get a few dozen hits a day — a book could have thousands of readers. Right before we split, he’d finally gotten his dream job and I assume he still has it. How would this book affect him and his future with that company? Or any other job he might want or get? I’m sure a lot of people would start snickering behind his back. Although I need to leave this marriage with what’s rightfully mine, I don’t want to cause him any more financial hardship than he’s already earned through his (and his girlfriend/mommy’s) own actions. As I’ve said again and again in the blog posts referenced above, I still love the stupid bastard. I feel sorry for him. I don’t hold him entirely to blame for what he’s done to us and to me.

But I have no such feelings about the desperate old woman who seduced my husband, fed his delusions about my intentions and our past together, and spearheaded their efforts to make my life miserable since July. Revealing her by name and sharing her absurd lingerie photos with the world would make me very happy indeed. The kind of revenge I’d only dreamed about now seems well within my grasp.

In the end, I have to do what’s best for me. As so many people have reminded me (again and again), my husband brought all this upon himself by failing to communicate with me as part of our marriage counseling efforts — efforts that he initiated! — and then using online dating to actively search for my replacement. He brought this woman into our lives, he allowed her to make decisions that would affect us, he allowed her to start the campaign of harassment that has made this so painful and costly to both of us. My friends keep telling me to stop worrying about him, to stop letting my pity keep me from doing what’s best for me.

And they’re right.

So I’ll listen in on that conference call on Monday and get all my questions answered. And I’ll talk to my lawyer to see what he thinks. I’ll also talk to him about our latest efforts at settling out of court to see whether he thinks there’s any possibility of my husband taking control of his side and resolving this fairly without a courtroom experience that’ll be painful and costly for both of us.

And then I’ll make my decision.

One thing’s for sure: I’m about ready for a new book project. This is one topic that is consuming me, practically screaming for me to write about every single day. It’ll be painful yet extremely satisfying to complete.

Apple iBookstore: Understanding Payment Requirements

It’s a royalty agreement, folks.

The other day, I received an unusual email on my Flying M Productions email account. Flying M Productions is my little publishing company, the one I use to publish Maria’s Guides and other books. Its website isn’t much to look at; just a lot of promotional material for the items it publishes and sells. There’s no support for any book there; all support for Maria’s Guides can be found on the Maria’s Guides website.

The Question

Here’s the message, in its entirety; I’ve only omitted the sender name:

I am looking for understanding of this financial requirement for ibooks author:
(Apple does not pay partners until they meet payment requirements and earning thresholds in each territory. You should consider this before applying to work directly with Apple as you may receive payments faster by working with an Apple-approved aggregator.)
Apple was not able to explain this and said I had to contact you.
Please explain.

This is obviously a lie — or a big misunderstanding — I seriously doubt whether Apple even knows of the existence of Flying M Productions — especially since I’ve been waiting over a month for it to approve two titles for the iBookstore. The idea that Apple would refer someone to me about one of their policies is truly laughable. The idea that a tiny publisher with just four titles in 20 years would provide support for the most valuable company in the world is a real joke.

And that explains why I didn’t reply.

What’s This About?

But I wanted to know what she was talking about so I did a little search. I wanted to see whether the text she’d included in parentheses was actually present in any Apple agreement. I picked “payment requirements” and “Apple-approved aggregator” as my search phrases.

First I searched the most recent version of the 37-page Ebook Agency/Commissionaire Distribution Agreement that I’m required to sign to create books for sale on the iBookstore. No joy.

Then I searched the license agreement for the current version of iBooks Author. No joy.

Then I went online, and followed a bunch of links on the Apple and iTunesConnect websites. I eventually wound up on the requirements page for the Paid Books Account. And there, in the third bullet under the heading “Financial Requirements,” was the full text she’d put in parentheses in her email message.

Apple’s Stand on This

Before I go on, you need to understand two things:

  • Apple does not want everyone capable of typing a sentence and turning it into an epub or iBooks Author document to publish on the iBookstore. Think I’m kidding? Why else would they require ISBNs for every title sold on the iBookstore? That’s just another hurdle for authors/publishers to jump. Why does Apple take this stand? Because Apple (1) doesn’t want to publish crap and (2) doesn’t want to hold the hands of hundreds or thousands of author/publisher wannabes to walk them through the publication process.
  • “Apple-approved aggregators” exist primarily as a support mechanism for Apple. If an author/publisher is too clueless to publish on the iBookstore, Apple wants a way to graciously hand them off to someone else. Thus, they approve aggregators who apparently don’t mind holding hands with clueless authors/publishers in exchange for a fee.

The Requirements page linked to above is another hurdle for authors/publisher to jump. It lists requirements to further weed out the folks they don’t want to deal with. Hell, you have to have a relatively new Mac to publish on the iBookstore — if that doesn’t weed out a bunch of people, nothing will.

What are the Payment Requirements?

But what the person who contacted Flying M Productions was concerned with was the “payment requirements.” Of all the requirements, this is the least onerous. All this means is that Apple won’t pay royalties until you’ve reached certain minimum sales amounts. Why? Well, Apple doesn’t want to deal with thousands of tiny payments every month. Instead, it holds your royalties on account until you’ve earned enough for them to make it worthwhile to pay.

This, by the way, is common. Google has always done this with Adsense. does it for the Kindle Direct Publishing program.

While this may seem to suggest that you need to reach a threshold for each individual territory to get payment for that territory, that’s not what I’m seeing. In fact, I was just paid today for February’s sales. My royalty earnings on sales in each of six territories ranged from a low of $38.73 to a high of $659.40, and I was paid for the total amount earned.

Paragraph 5(c) of the Ebook Agency/Commissionaire Distribution Agreement states (in part):

After deducting Apple’s commission from eBook Proceeds, Apple shall either remit to Publisher, or issue a credit in Publisher’s favor, subject to Apple’s standard business practices, including minimum monthly remittance amount thresholds determined by Apple (e.g., $150), the remaining balance by electronic funds transfer (“EFT”) no later than forty-five (45) days following the close of the previous monthly sales period.

This tells me that you need to earn a certain amount of royalties before Apple will pay you and they’re required to pay within 45 days of the close of the period. That’s why I didn’t get my February earnings until April 5 — which is still a hell of a lot better than I get from my traditional print publisher contracts.

The $150 is an example. In looking at my past statements, for periods when I only had one title listed in the iBookstore, I was paid $28 one month and $31 another. Clearly Apple is not waiting for me to earn $150 before it pays me.

How Apple-Approved Aggregators Fit In

In re-reading this Requirements page, I’m thinking that Apple is using this scary sounding “requirement” as a way to encourage authors/publishers to use aggregators. But will aggregators pay more quickly? I can’t see how. Unless Apple uses different thresholds for different publishers? Or aggregators are willing to make payments for very small amounts? Or aggregators are willing to pay before the 45-day period has gone by?

Either way, it’s nothing to get all hot and bothered about.

But I do agree with Apple: if you can’t meet their requirements, use an aggregator.

Amazon KDP Select Double Fail

A contractual failure followed by a customer service failure.

As detailed in this blog post, I enrolled one of my ebooks into the KDP Select program. Almost immediately, I began seeing weird numbers on my royalty statements for the book: Sales at unit prices of 9¢, negative royalties, free books in a period when they were not authorized.

I immediately began a long and frustrating email correspondence with’s “customer service” staff. In this blog post, I’ll share the chain of correspondence that began in January and ended just the other day.

My original message, sent on or around January 10, 2012:

Subject: WTF? Positive unit sales with negative royalties?

This had better be a mistake.

1/7/2012 shows net unit sales of 13 yet net royalties of MINUS (-) $1.40. How is that even possible? Also, why is the royalty rate only 35%? I am set for 70%.

1/7/2012 also shows net unit sales of 169 at 70% royalty. The book sells for $3.99, yet you’ve calculated an “average offer price” of 9¢. How is THAT possible? I never authorized a selling price less than $3.99 except for 12/25 (free).

What’s going on here? Please explain WITHOUT using some canned response that does not apply to my situation.

The response from someone named Prasanna came on January 12 and, as expected, it contained a bunch of canned information:


I can certainly understand your concern about the reports reflecting the royalties in negative. I checked our records and was able to confirm that the all the sales made in the week ending 01/07/2012 were completely free sales due to the free promotion you offered for your book.

However, among those free sales, I noticed that there was a refund that was made for your book which was for a sale made in the previous month. It is due to the refund for the sale made in the last month, the royalty amount is appearing as -$1.40.

Further, with reference to the 35% royalty option, I’ve found that one or more copies of your book were sold outside of countries where the 70% Royalty Option is currently applicable. The 70% Royalty Option is only applicable for sales to customers in these sales territories:

San Marino
United Kingdom (including Guernsey, Jersey and Isle of Man)
United States
Vatican City

Sales to customers in other locations will receive a 35% royalty. These sales are recorded separately in your royalty reports at the 35% rate.

At this time, the reports don’t show the specific location where your titles were sold. I’ve shared your request for this feature with our business team for consideration as we make future improvements.

Thanks for using Amazon KDP.

This did not make sense. I had authorized only one day as a giveaway for my book: December 25, 2011. That’s the day I advertised it as being free on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere. There should be no free book sales in January at all.

I replied on the same day:

I’m sorry, but this is NOT true. The book was offered for sale for free on just one date: 12/25/11. That is NOT in the week ending 1/7/11.

Kindly explain why there were unauthorized giveaways of my book.

This time, Anuradha replied on January 14:


Please know, the Prior Six Weeks’ Royalties report shows the sales you’ve made over the past 6 weeks. The total “units sold” and the “units refunded” will fluctuate each week depending on which day you view the reports and the number of sales made over the combined previous six weeks (to date). Keep in mind the “Week ending” column shows the date that the week ends instead of the week beginning.

Thus, as communicated earlier, the refund which is reflects in week ending 01/07/2012, was for a sale made in the previous month. Hence, the royalty amount is appearing as -$1.40, in week ending 01/07/2012.

Further, the price at which we sell your book may not be the same as your list price. This may occur, for example, if we sell your book at a lower price to match a third party’s price for a digital or physical edition of the book, or Amazon’s price for a physical edition of the book and it appears that your title was price matched with a third party’s web site (to match the competitor’s price).

I hope this information is helpful. Thanks for your understanding and for using Amazon KDP.

This information was not helpful. There could not be any “price matching” because the book was available only on due to their KDP Select requirements.

I replied on the same day:

I did not authorize price matching. At least I did not intend to. If I did, kindly tell me where I can de-authorize it.

There is no other version of the book to match to. Amazon has an exclusive for the ebook title. THAT WAS REQUIRED BY AMAZON. The only currently available print copy of the book sells for $14.99. How is 9¢ matching that?

You are obviously picking prices out of thin air and it MUST stop.

On January 18, Violet replied:

Hello Maria,

Our price for your title, Making Movies: A Guide for Serious Amateurs is $3.99 and it was never offered for $0.99. You can confirm the price here:

I hope this helps. Thank you for using Amazon KDP.

Of course, this didn’t help either. I replied on the same day:

No, this does NOT help. Your reports indicate that you sold over 100 copies of the book for 9¢. WHY? You told me it was price matching. There is no price matching since Amazon has an exclusive on the book.

WHAT IS GOING ON? It certainly seems to me that you are either lying on my royalty statements or selling the book for a lower than authorized price. Which is it?

Violet replied again on January 21:

Hello Maria,

I’ve raised a request to the concerned department to check why your title was offered for a lower price in the week ending January 7, 2012.

I will contact you with more information by the end of the day on Wednesday, January 25.

Thanks for your patience.

And then again on January 30:

Hello Maria,

I wanted to send you a quick e-mail to let you know that I’m still researching on this issue. It usually takes 1-2 business days for this sort of research, but in this case it’s taking a little longer. I’m very sorry about this delay.

I’ll be in touch shortly with an answer for you. Thanks for your patience.

I guess “shortly” has a completely different meaning to the folks at than it does to most folks. I didn’t hear from Violet again until March 20 — more than two months after my initial support request. She finally admitted that Amazon had screwed up:

Hello Maria,

I apologize for the delay in getting back to you.

Your books’ promotion did not occur as scheduled on December 25th, and began instead on January 6th. A technical error then caused the promotion period to last longer than expected, but this issue has now been resolved.

We’re sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused. Thanks for your understanding.

So let’s get this straight:

  • Amazon did not do my free book promotion on the day I authorized it.
  • All the advertising I did that day to generate interest in a free copy of my book was not only wasted but must have looked like a cheap lie to the people who followed the link and couldn’t get a free book — thus damaging my credibility.
  • Amazon then ran the free book deal for “longer than expected” — a length of time that is still a mystery to me — thus giving away free copies of my book for longer than I wanted the offer to run.

I replied to her message the same day:

Screw-ups like this, and the amount of time it took you to answer my question — more than TWO MONTHS — are why I’ll never be in KDP Select again.

I promoted that book as free on Christmas Day. So I look like a liar to everyone who attempted to get the book that day on YOUR program for free.

By extending the sale beyond the allowable time, you gave away more copies of my book than you should have. How will you compensate me for those lost sales?

You’re already ripping me off — in comparison to other ebook sellers — by charging a bogus distribution fee and cutting my royalty rate to certain countries. You are clearly using your position in the marketplace to take advantage of authors and publishers.

You should be ashamed of yourself.

But I know you don’t care. It’s business as usual at

Even though I replied to her message by using the same technique I’d been using all along, the automated response I got said:

Our Customer Service department didn’t receive the e-mail message below. If you still need help, please visit one of the pages below so we can quickly provide you with additional information or give assistance via e-mail or phone.

In other words: fuck off, we’re tired of you.

Think KDP Select is a good deal? Think Amazon actually cares about its publishers? Think again.

One Publisher’s Experience with KDP Select

A mistake, pure and simple.

Back in December, I wrote “Amazon’s Bribe to Publishers: KDP Select and the $6 Million Fund,” a blog post where I discussed the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and’s attempt to fill that library with books: the KDP Select Program.

The Deal

KDP Select offers Kindle format ebook author/publishers a chance to earn a piece of a monthly $500K or $600K fund. Enrolled books must:

  • Be available for sale on only. In other words, if you enroll a title in KDP Select, you cannot sell the same title as an ebook anywhere else. gets the exclusive right to sell your ebook on
  • Allow Kindle owners who are also members of Amazon Prime to borrow the enrolled book for as long as they like for free.
  • Keep the enrolled title in the program for complete three-month terms. Once you sign up, there’s no getting out. And if you don’t turn off the automatic renewal option — which is enabled by default, of course — the book is automatically re-enrolled for another three months.

There are other “benefits” as well. For example, you get the option of making your book available for free to anyone on (Imagine that! They let you give it away!)

The Bait

Compensation comes in the form of a share of the fund. Here’s how Amazon explains it; note the big numbers they use to make author/publisher mouths drool:

Your share of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library Fund is calculated based on a share of the total number of qualified borrows of all participating KDP titles. For example, if the monthly fund amount is $500,000, the total qualified borrows of all participating KDP titles is 100,000, and your book was borrowed 1,500 times, you will earn 1.5% (1,500/100,000 = 1.5%), or $7,500 for that month.

So according to Amazon, although you’re letting a whole bunch of people read your book for as long as they like for free, you could still make $7,500 (or even more!) in a month on that book.

I Bit

My only ebook title at the time, Making Movies: A Guide for Serious Amateurs, was selling a few copies here and there on’s Kindle store, Apple’s iBookstore, and’s NOOK store. Not anywhere near enough to make me feel good about my first attempt at ebook publishing.

I thought for a while about KDP Select. I blogged about it. And I figured, what do I have to lose? So I signed up in December and even did a free book promotion for Christmas Day.

The Results

Over the next three months, I saw the following results:

Transaction Type Units Earnings Per Unit Avg.
Sales at 35% Royalty 2 $2.80 $1.40
Sales at 70% Royalty 37 $92.46 $2.50
Free Book (Christmas Promotion) 333 $0.00 $0.00
KDP Select Borrows 10 $18.40 $1.80
All Transactions 382 $113.30 $0.30

Let’s take a moment to analyze this. Here are the points that jump out at me:

  • Over a three-month period, the KDP Select program earned me a total of $18.40 for this title.
  • During the same period, regular Kindle earnings totaled $95.26. These are actually people who bought my book. I would have earned at least this amount if I had not been on the KDP Select program. I might have earned more if the 10 people who borrowed my book had bought it instead.
  • The average earnings per book borrowed was $1.80; the average earnings per book sold was $2.44 per book (that’s $95.26 ÷ 39).
  • Factoring in the free books, my KDP Program average earnings was less than 6¢ per book (that’s $18.40 ÷ 343).

Of course, this does not take into consideration sales that were lost because the book did not appear in buyer-preferred markets such as the Apple iBookstore and NOOK store. Based on sales figures before and after the book’s enrollment in the KDP Select program, that could be anywhere from 5 to 15 units per month.

So the KDP Select program earned me $18.40 and possibly lost me quite a bit more.

I don’t see any good from this at all. None. Do you? If so, explain it to me.

The Exposure Argument

A friend of mine who published his first novel on the Kindle platform enrolled his book in KDP Select about a week or two before I did. He and I had discussed it briefly via email before I dove in. He had the same “it’s worth a try” attitude that I did.

The other day, I contacted him with the following question:

How did your KDP Select deal go? Did you make any money worth talking about? I’m about to blog about my experience and was wondering what you thought about it.

His response:

Definitely no money worth talking about, unless that would be about $25! And no borrows at all. However, I’m letting it run for another 3 months. What has been encouraging is working with World Literary Cafe’s free promotion day, which runs through KDP Select’s free promotion days. That doesn’t bring in money directly but does at least bring exposure which has resulted in some sales and hopefully reviews at some point.

And that brings up an interesting point: exposure.

A writer who is just beginning to publish his work (such as my friend) has different goals than a writer who has been publishing her work for years (such as me).

Show Me the Money

I’m in it for the money, pure and simple. As print publishing dies and my existing titles no longer warrant revision, I need something to fill in the income gap if I expect to maintain the freelance lifestyle I’ve enjoyed for the past 20+ years. I need to create a book for a definable market and sell to that market at a price it’s willing to pay. In the ebook world, that price appears to be under $10 — more likely under $5. I did the math and realized that in order to succeed on this path, I need to build a library of long-lived titles and sell an average of 60-80 books a day. That’s why I was initially so disappointed in the sales results for my first book. It wasn’t even a drop in the bucket I needed to fill if I wanted to continue earning a living as a writer — which is what I’ve been doing for 20 years.

But I’m not in it for exposure. I have exposure. I’ve written and published more than 80 books, the vast majority of which are with major publishers such as McGraw-Hill, Peachpit Press, O’Reilly, and Macmillan. I support my books via a Website that gets about 1,000 hits per day. I’m occasionally interviewed on podcasts and video podcasts and have appeared numerous times at Macworld Expo. I may not be a “name brand” like some others who write the kinds of things I do, but I’m certainly quite a step up from those just entering this field.

Expose Yourself

My friend, however, is not in the same position. He’s new to writing novels and, as anyone who has done so can tell you, it’s extremely tough to break in. There’s lots of competition, much of it from best-selling authors that people turn to every time a new title comes out. It’s hard to get recognition for your work, let alone try to sell it when there’s just so much competition.

He’s doing the smart thing — the same thing I did years and years ago when I started out: he’s trying to build a name for himself. To do that, he needs to get his work in front of as many people as he possibly can. He needs his book read and reviewed, preferably with lots of stars and good comments. He needs to begin building a base of readers who not only like this first book, but will be anxiously awaiting his second. And third. Readers who will be willing to show support by paying to read his work.

And that’s why he sees KDP Select as something that might help him in the long run.

Is KDP Select Worth It?

In my mind, no. Definitely not. The exclusivity is enough to convince me that it’s not something I ever want to do again. After all, my third Maria’s Guides book, iBooks Author: Publishing Your First Ebook, is selling like crazy on the iBookstore. If I did an exclusive on, I’d lose out on all of those sales.

But for authors/publishers just starting out and trying to do the best thing for the long haul, it might be worth a shot. My friend seems to think so.

An Objective Comparison of Ebook Distributors

What I’ve noted so far.

I published, through Flying M Productions, my first ebook in October 2011 and have since published two others. (Learn about all of these titles here.) I went mainstream on all of the ebook distributions, choosing Amazon Kindle (custom mobi), Apple iBookstore (epub), and Barnes & Noble NOOK (epub). With about five months of sales and reseller experience, I thought it was about time to share my observations of these three platforms.

For each criteria, I provided a grade and notes to back it up. Remember, this is based on my experience with just these three books. For the iBookstore, I do not include my experience with iBooks Author-generated books in the table; that’s discussed briefly at the end of this post.

Criteria Kindle Store iBookstore NOOK Store
Ease of Publishing A
It’s very easy to get into the Kindle Direct Publishing program and publish books.
Apple’s iTunes Connect program requires a lot of paperwork and acceptance of agreements that are often updated. Its interface for publishing is surprisingly unintuitive (for Apple). It requires a unique ISBN for every book sold.
Getting into the B&N Pubit program is relatively easy, although there is an approval process that takes some time. Its online book submission process is easy.
Publisher Support D
Publisher support is nearly non-existent. It’s difficult to send questions. Most questions are answered with a “canned” response. Often, I’m told my question needs more research, but an answer never comes.
Publisher support is handled primarily through a menu-driven help system that’s poorly designed. It can take more than a week to get an question answered and it’s usually with a “canned” response.
I have no experience with B&N’s support system.
Ease of Creating Acceptable Documents B
I convert from epub to Kindle using the Kindle Previewer app. This usually goes smoothly the first time around, but it does require that conversion.
Apple is extremely particular about formatting and unusual characters in ebook files. For example, it doesn’t like uppercase filename extensions or spaces in file names. This often requires a lot of digging around in epub format files to fix problems. To be fair, I could probably improve my templates to prevent some of the problems I encounter.
B accepts just about any epub I send, as long as it isn’t any larger than 20 MB (which I think is too restrictive.)
Appearance of Ebook C
The Kindle format inconsistently formats bulleted lists and font sizes and completely ignores some formatting. As a result, my books are not usually formatted as I’d like to see them.
My iBookstore books usually look very good. Apple is true to all epub formatting.
My NOOK books usually look very good, although I sometimes notice instances where formatting is ignored.
Speed of Review Process A
Amazon consistently makes my books available for sale within 24 hours of posting.
There is no consistency in the speed of Apple’s review process. I had one book appear within an hour of posting while I waited a week or more for others.
B&N consistently makes my books available for sale within 48 hours of posting.
Sales A
In most instances, Amazon sells the most books.
Apple sells reasonably well — unless a book has an unusual amount of appeal to Mac users, in which case, it sells best.
B&N’s sales are sluggish and rather disappointing.
Royalties D
Amazon offers the worst publishing deal. To get 70% royalties, you must price the book between $2.99 and $9.99. The 70% commission rate is only available for books sold to certain countries. All sales to other countries earn just 35%.You must also pay “delivery fee” based on the size of your book file for all books sold at the 70% commission rate. Amazon enforces price matching, so if your book is available for a lower price elsewhere, Amazon will arbitrarily lower the price of your book in the Kindle Store. And don’t even think of getting into the KDP Select Program; that’s something else I need to blog about soon.
Apple offers the best publishing deal: 70% flat rate on all books. No hidden costs, no exceptions to the 70% rate.
B&N also offers a good publishing deal: 70% flat rate on all books.
Sales & Royalty Reporting C
Amazon’s reporting system is inconsistent and confusing, although it does have up-to-the-minute sales figures. Amazon’s staff does not reply promptly (or at all) to sales/royalty report questions. Reports seem to indicate book sales at unauthorized prices, making me wonder whether Amazon is ripping me off.
Apple’s reporting system is updated daily. Reports can be viewed its iTunes Connect website as well as in an extremely well designed iOS app.
B&N’s reporting system is minimal but accurate.
Final Grade B
The only reason Amazon gets such a good grade is because it sells a lot of books. Its royalty structure sucks, but I can still earn more there for most titles than anywhere else.
Apple’s fair royalty rate and reporting help it score well, but its disappointing sales figures and inconsistent review process keep it from getting a better grade.
B&N is a nice platform, but low sales keep it from getting a better grade. In all honesty, if it weren’t for the fact that publishing there was so easy, I probably would’t bother.

Of course, it remains to be seen how well my iBooks 2 interactive (enhanced) books do on the iBookstore, since Apple is taking so damn long to approve them.

Do you have any experience with any of these publishing platforms? If so, what have you observed? Share your thoughts in the Comments for this post.