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Our First Release!!!!!!!

Surprise!!!!!!!! I’m elated to shat that I’ve just released Low-Fat Love: 10th Anniversary Edition as the first title from Paper Stars Press. And yes, I chose to release this on 7-14-21. The novel has been thoroughly revised, including a brand-new ending that I absolutely love. One of my all-time sheroes, Laurel Richardson, has generously written a foreword. This release is both a reclaiming of my work and a tribute to the many readers around the world who have been affected by the novel.

Here’s the afterword I wrote for this special edition:

I’ve always had an ambiguous relationship with Low-Fat Love. It was my debut novel. There was so much I had yet to learn about writing fiction. In addition, I released it with an indie publisher who offered no peer review, editorial feedback, copy editing, or assistance writing the back cover copy. I was even saddled with the production costs. Today, I would call that kind of publisher a vanity press, regardless of how they try to present themselves. Eventually, that press was sold to a much larger publishing house with a more than 300-year history, and they rereleased Low-Fat Love in a compilation of my novels. Sadly, many of the same issues persisted—no peer review, editorial feedback, copy editing, or marketing assistance. Given my inexperience and lack of guidance, I was on my own with this book. I’ve always looked back and wished I could have done a better job. Despite its flaws and thanks to a hard-working publicist I hired, support from my friends and colleagues, and word of mouth, it was well-read and embraced by readers in ways I could not have anticipated. People saw themselves reflected in the pages. Many readers sent me emails, direct messages, or sought me out at book events to tell me how much the novel meant to them, how it resonated, and how they carried the story and message with them. Many even pulled me close to whisper their own stories of low-fat love.

Now with more than a dozen published works of fiction, my writing style has evolved. In that respect, Low-Fat Love remains one of a kind in my back catalogue, something that I will likely never repeat. However, as the tenth anniversary of the original release approached, I reflected on the heartfelt stories that readers have shared with me over the years on a range of personal topics, including body image struggles, toxic relationships, depression, addiction, and even suicide. I decided to revisit this story once more and finally do it right. The pages in this book are my do-over. In addition to professional copy editing, I’ve made substantive revisions throughout the text and written an entirely new ending. The truth is that I’ve always been disappointed by the original ending. I had something compelling in mind but wasn’t quite able to achieve it. I simply wasn’t able to do better at the time. I hope the new ending brings greater satisfaction to readers, as it does for me. My intent was not to alter the ultimate message of the story, but rather, to crystallize it. I fought hard to get back the legal rights to this novel, not from one, but from two publishers; I not only sought the copyright, but also the right to release new editions. I’m thankful to finally put out the version I always wanted to release. While I did make improvements with each new edition, it’s only now that I can fully see my vision through. From the front cover to the final words, this is my definitive version of Low-Fat Love. Whether you’re a returning or new reader, I hope you enjoy it. The style I employ and the topics I explore in my novels these days are a world away from this book, but I’m profoundly grateful I’ve had the chance to go back, revisit this story, and set things right. All these years later, this book still taps into something real for me and reminds me never to settle because we are possibilities. I hope it does the same for you.

Here are some reviews:

Low-Fat Love proves the astonishing talent that Leavy possesses as both a writer and social commentator. Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Girls meets Sex and the City, but all with Leavy’s raw honesty and clever wit. This is one of my favorite books with a message I can’t shake.” – U. Melissa Anyiwo, Ph.D., editor of Gender Warriors

“Witty, humorous, and smart. The true beauty and power of this novel is reflected in the ways the characters—just like many of us—settle in life and love.” – J. E. Sumerau, Ph.D., author of Via Chicago

“This definitive 10th anniversary edition of Low-Fat Love does not disappoint. The new ending is brilliant. I would run, not stroll, to get a copy for yourself and all the important people in your life. This beautiful and relatable novel offers smart critique of how pop culture’s expectations for intimate relationships often let us down.” – Sandra L. Faulkner, Ph.D., author of Real Women Run

Please pick up a paperback or e-book on Amazon:

Thank you boundlessly for your support. I can’t wait to share what’s coming next…

The Shadow Side of Publishing

I loooove writing. Making my life as an author is my childhood dream come true and I’m enormously grateful. When I was just a few years old if you would have asked me what I wanted to do when I was grown-up, I would have said, “make books.” While creative writing is my happiest place, to me being a writer has always also been about the publishing world. From the start, I was determined to learn everything I could about the industry.

To date, I’ve published around 40 books with traditional publishers. There are some publishers who add tremendous value, and I’ve been lucky to work with a couple of them. However, there are also many publishers, both small and large, indie and world-renowned, who offer little to no support, and this occurs within the context of horribly inequitable terms. For example, many publishers:

  • Do not provide editorial feedback
  • Do not provide copyediting
  • Require authors to format their own books
  • Require authors to create back cover content and other marketing materials
  • Require authors to solicit their own endorsements for their books
  • Do not provide any marketing
  • Do not go after piracy
  • Place books in digital repositories for which authors receive little to no compensation

For all this, publishers still take 80-97 percent of all earnings, as well as legal ownership of the author’s work. I’ll say it again: legal ownership of the author’s work. Ownership often extends to licensing rights (they can chop up a book and sell it off in parts), translation rights, derivative works (including sequels and entertainment deals), the right to give the book away for free, the right to price a book (a poor price point can kill sales), the right to publish on any schedule they choose (they can sit on a project for an indeterminate period of time), and so on. While this is going on, they have likely also required the author to sign a noncompete, preventing them from publishing other books on the topic. Add to this, some publishers use print-on-demand technology so they aren’t even creating a print run and warehousing books, which admittedly is a real service (although one that could be arranged through a distribution deal, instead of taking ownership of the work). As an author, I have experienced all of this for the “privilege” of having a publisher stamp their name on my work. And I’ve been lucky to get much better contracts than many, including high royalty rates and having the rights to many of my works of fiction reverted back to me, and in other cases, coming to licensing and distribution deals in which I’ve never lost ownership. But this has been uphill and hasn’t alleviated other issues, such as price setting, lack of marketing, publishers breaching contract terms, etc. Overall, it’s a deeply problematic system that doesn’t make sense in the age of Kindle Direct Publishing, print-on-demand technology, and other means by which authors can release their own work, without giving up ownership of their art and intellectual property. (Note: Today, there are some hybrid publishers who provide some of the value traditional publishers offer, while allowing authors to retain more ownership, both creatively and financially. That’s an exciting new option for writers, especially those who may lack the experience to feel confident self-publishing.)

After years working in this system, and trying to improve conditions for myself and other authors, I’ve realized the battles are never ending and the costs too high. For me, the only reason to continue on in this kind of scenario would be vanity– the idea that having a publisher stamp their name on my book is more important than all these others issues. It isn’t. It’s an illusion and one that I’m shattering in my own work life. Believe me, it’s not for a lack of options. I’ve recently turned down book contracts and even had one of my existing publishers cancel two contracts for forthcoming books. It’s not that they don’t want me. I don’t want them. I share this because self-publishing has gotten a bad rap, and it’s often thought that writers resort to it when there aren’t other options available. This is untrue. I believe I could go on indefinitely having my creative work published by others. I simply don’t want to. So I’ve decided to become a publisher.

I started Paper Stars Press as a way out of this imbalanced system. I bring with me 20 years of experience as an author of both fiction and nonfiction, as well as my experience creating and editing 10 book series for publishers (I was involved in editorial, marketing, sales, etc.). I plan to continue maintaining the level of quality I’ve always tried to bring to my projects, by seeking peer review and continuing to work with the professional copy editor I’ve collaborated with for nearly a decade. I’m so excited to finally free myself from the shadow side of publishing and step into the light of creativity. In fact, I’ve never felt more creative or inspired.

I know that I’ve been privileged compared to many authors and I am truly grateful to every publisher who has supported my work. I’ve learned so much along the way and I’m proud of my back catalogue. Nevertheless, it’s time to make a change. I will continue to work with a couple good traditional and hybrid publishers on a project-by-project basis– those who bring real value. I’m fortunate to work with them. For example, Guilford Press is a world-class publishing team, they bring enormous value and are guilty of none of the grievances I’ve noted in this blog. I will happily continue to work with them on my research methods texts for as long as they’ll have me. I’m also excited to have recently signed a contract to publish a novel with She Writes Press (an outstanding hybrid publisher). As for the other publishers I’ve worked with in the past, thanks, and see ya. I wish them well, but under the current conditions, I can’t see handing my original authored work over to them again. That’s why I established Paper Stars Press. I plan to release many new works and new editions of older works under my own label (I’m very glad I negotiated fiercely for the rights to do so). I have several projects just waiting to be released, so stay tuned.

I’m over-the-moon that I’ve finally taken this leap. I should have done it sooner. That’s part of the reason I wrote this blog, to help ease the way for other authors who want out of this system but might feel afraid going out on their own. Personally, I have no fear, only enthusiasm. My father gave me the best advice I ever got: always bet on yourself. That’s exactly what I’m doing. I want to extend my deepest heartfelt gratitude to my loyal readers. You allow me to live my childhood dream and it’s because of you that I’m able to take this leap. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I can’t wait for you to see what I’ve been working on. Although my whole life has been words, sometimes they fail me. After 20 years as an author, I have no words to tell you how excited I am to publish projects under my own imprint.

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