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Halfway To The Stars: My First Ebook

 A little over a year ago I published my first ebook. At that time, I posted the following on my personal blog:

My first ebook, on Smashwords.com., is named for a line in the infamous song about San Francisco,  Halfway to the Stars. SF is home to a busy, thriving sex scene, an outrageous world of sex parties, masturbat-a-thons, S/M proms, sex workers, sex-positive radicals, and workshops that teach a plethora of sexual techniques on everything from dominance to anal sex to non-monogamous relationships. Halfway...is a birds-eye view of this culture.

Halfway to the Stars is actually my fifth novel. None of the earlier books have been published, though not entirely for lack of trying. The third one got as far as an enthusiastic agent who sent it to every major publisher in New York—and there were more of them in 1980. I had high hopes for that book, not to mention plans for what to wear on Oprah and who'd play me in the movie (Barbra Streisand). I even wrote my own reviews, mimicking what I thought certain critics would say about it. When it didn't get picked up, it was a turning point in my writing career, and not for the good.

By the time I finished Halfway to the Stars in 2005 I'd lost all energy and motivation for the selling process. I sent it out to only two agents, both of whom represented friends of mine. One of the rejections read, "Rachel {main character} is simply not my cup of tea." I don't remember the other agent's creative rejection, but after years of being subjected to this kind of crap, I didn't have the heart to put myself through the process again.

It wasn't only the five unpublished novels. Like Sylvia Plath, I'd been desperate to write for the women’s magazines, and for years kept sending my short stories, proposals, and articles to Cosmo, Redbook, and all the rest. Not only were they promptly rejected, but more than once I would discover they'd passed my ideas to their preferred writers, one of whom had the chutzpah to call me for an interview! 

My decision to epublish was made half from frustration, half from enthusiasm, after hearing Mark Coker speak about Smashwords. Like me, Mark was fed up with the publishing process as dictated by what's become a behemoth industry. Not only did he rant and rave in the best progressive tradition about low advances and royalties and lack of publicity for midlist writers; he spoke about the psychological damage inflicted upon writers by insulting rejection letters, and publishers' attitudes that our work isn't good enough to be presented to the reading public. Once upon a time publishing houses had integrity, but now they're impersonal corporations no different from Comcast or WalMart: they know little and care less about literature, yet are the gatekeepers who decide what will and will not go public. Worse, they've managed to convince us, if they don't publish our work, that the failure is ours.

For years I've been hoping and believing that the Internet would someday deliver the means of production into the hands of writers. First came the self-publishing venues for print, print-on-demand, and ebooks--but we usually had to self-pay if we wanted to self-publish, and made little money on sales. Smashwords, however, is something new: the writer doesn't pay a penny, and authors get about 80% of net sales. Every day more venues open up and more platforms become available.

Welcome to the writers' revolution!

About the Book:

HALFWAY TO THE STARS is the story of a 20-something novice journalist who leaves her small New England town on a quest for adventure, love, and meaningful work, in that order. After a brief stint in LA with her two best friends, she lands a job in San Francisco as an editor/reporter for Libertine, an online sex journal. Making her way through a maze of sex parties, sex workers, and sex-positive radicals, Rachel uncovers previously unknown aspects of her own eroticism, and faces the challenge of writing about sex in the upbeat, lighthearted tone demanded by her publisher/ boss. The adventure she'd been seeking, she finds, is more complicated than she'd anticipated.

The descriptions of the SF sex scene are authentic, written as they were by someone who spent the better part of a decade describing it for several publications. No, Rachel Max is not me, and the plot and characters are fictional -- but the activities, feelings, confusion and clarity encountered by Rachel are, if not exactly "ripped from the headlines," based on reality.

Marcy Sheiner's Smashwords Author Profile

 Book page to sample or purchase Halfway to the Stars