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Booktrope: My path to reinvention

Creative writing can be a pathetically lonely pursuit. And a demoralizing one. It is not for the feint of heart. (Yet, the feintly hearted pursue it--trust me.)

There is only so much unrelenting rejection a sensitive soul can take before it starts to eat away at your feelings of self worth and challenge your creativity.

That’s why I need to tell you that one company blessed my life five-and-a-half years ago and changed me in ways I could have never imagined when I began writing fiction 11 years ago, keeping me in the writing game.

Yes, that company is Booktrope.

Despite the fact that Booktrope announced they have to cease operations at the end of this month, I want you to know that they gave me a foothold to pursue publication for as long as I wish to play. They helped me realize success and recover my confidence to a degree I never thought possible. 

Speaking on a fiction panel with Chris Hinz and Mary Beth Matteo at the Reading Public Library

In 2010, after completing my thesis for my M.A. program—a humorous novel—I began shopping it. I was hardly new to the trials of querying agents and publishers. I’d been doing it since 2005 and even obtained a literary agent from Foundry Literary and Media in 2008 for GRACE UNEXPECTED, after pitching that novel aggressively for a year.

Because that agent and I parted ways, when my master’s thesis was ready to shop, I queried agents for six months. Got a great response, too. I received 19 requests for partial and full manuscripts, had two agents read the entire work and say how much they liked it, yet I received no offers of representation.

I shot one more arrow into the air, sending off a partial manuscript to Booktrope, having heard about them on Twitter. And I received word back from Booktrope’s co-founder Ken Shear that they wanted to publish what would be called DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA.

I feel as though I owe Booktrope and all the folks who toiled there to try to make this enterprise work my life. Or at least, I owe them my midlife.

Midlife is a time in a woman's life when people begin to forget you exist--unless of course you are Madonna. (We are the same age and have so much more in common--I like lace, she likes lace, I can crawl on my belly especially getting out of a sand chair, she crawls on her belly--that I thought I'd use her as the gold standard of middle age. Soon millennials will be saying Madonna who?)

I published my first novel with Booktrope, and my life began anew. At age 52, somehow I mattered again, for something more than being someone's wife or mother. I added artistic value to the world. I had written things that made a difference in people's lives, or so they said. 

I met wonderfully generous book bloggers. I received extraordinary endorsements of my writing from perfect strangers:

"Don Giovanni has never been more fun. Kudos to Gale Martin for offering up something fresh and doing it with operatic flair. Standing O, for sure." -- Shirley Y. Thomas

Kirkus Reviews, "Packed with comic misadventures, mystery, intrigue and opera lore, the book rollicks along to a satisfying conclusion." -- Don Juan in Hankey, PA

Curled Up with a Good Book - 5 stars for DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA from Barbara Bamberger Scott, "Charming, intelligent and welcome first novel." 12/07/11

Grace Unexpected by Gale Martin might just be one of the most smart and funniest books I’ve read in sometime. Book review by Ali Crean, All the Things Inbetween, 1/16/14.

Gale does such an amazing job at crafting realistic characters but adding a fun little flair to each of them, Book Review of Grace Unexpected by Sara Palacios, Chick Lit Plus, 2/28/13.

I had the chance to do readings at bookstores and galleries:

I received feature coverage from the media:


Centre Daily Times, "BOOK REVIEW: ‘Don Juan in Hankey, PA’ an entertaining opera tale," 6/29/12

A Comic Opera is the Basis for Funny Fiction, Book Review, Lancaster Sunday News, Jo-Ann Greene, 12/4/11 

Lovely, generous people sent me photos of DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA from around the world:


My husband realized I was a humorist and laughed out loud, especially at Don.

Friends and colleagues came out of the wordwork and invited me to read with them. Just last week, someone at a memorial service stopped me and said that she was so-and-so's cousin and she'd read WHO KILLED 'TOM JONES'? and that whenever she needs to lift her spirits, she thinks of my book.

Bloggers like Jen created outfits for my literary characters:

None of this richness--none of it--would have been possible with Booktrope's founder Ken Shear believing in my first book and encouraging me to publish more books with them.

Because of Booktrope, I learned a ton about publishing, kept practicing my craft, and my writing was able to touch so many more people than I'd ever dreamed of. And I sold two Booktrope novels to an Amazon imprint called Encore, which generated more sales than I ever expected when I started on this journey some five years ago.

I can't thank the Booktrope team enough for giving this experiment a hearty go. Besides Ken and Katherine, others at and working with Booktrope who made a profound difference in my writing career included Jesse James Freeman, Emily Clanton, Heather Ludviksson, Adam Bodendieck, Andy Roberts, Evie Hutton, Toddy Downs, Greg Simanson, and many fellow authors.

I can't and won't join the chorus of those who think Booktrope owes them something. The blessings I realized as the result of this publishing relationship will be cherished the rest of my life. Did I work hard to sell my books? Absolutely. Hundreds of hours of life energy invested. Did I spend my own money to help boost book sales? Yes, too much of it over the last several years.

The publishing industry is a fragile one, endeavoring to meet changes in the markets and technology, and often getting clobbered in the process. Booktrope is not the first publishing enterprise to close and won't be the last. To have found a great publishing partner for five+ years--who believed in me and my work, who got my work noticed, who helped me reinvent myself--sounds like a sweet deal to me. 

With gratitude to everyone at Booktrope,

Gale Martin 

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