Jean Rabe: A Dead Dog Made Me Rethink Publishing

You’ve seen Jean Rabe featured here before, when her debut mystery came out. By that time, she had a long and illustrious career as a fantasy novelist, and from what I’ve seen, she’s on track for the same success as a mystery author.

I’ve been following Jean on social media for a few years now. She also has a terrific newsletter. She’s a dog lover like me, and she often talks about her fur babies–to the point I feel I know them. So when her lovable mischief-maker Jake died far too young, I grieved along with the rest of her readers who had come to know and love him through her words.

Jean has a brand new novel, The Bone Shroud, coming out (wonderful title, no?), and in honor of it, she was gracious enough to write this post about what she learned from Jake’s loss and how it influenced her writing.

Take it away, Jean!

Author Jean Rabe snuggles with her black pug, Mr. Wrinkles
Author Jean Rabe and Mr. Wrinkles

The Bone Shroud is my 37th novel … the first not released by a traditional publisher. It came out at the end of March from Boone Street Press (that’s me), and is currently available in e- and print from Amazon. I’ll be putting it up on other sites later.

Cover of Jean Rabe's novel THE BONE SHROUD

Jake was alive when I wrote the book, and when I sent it to the first publisher who asked to see the manuscript. Seven months later, I still hadn’t heard back from the publisher, even after I sent a follow-up email to see if it was still being considered.

Jake wasn’t living anymore.

Jake was a huge, goofy, endless-gut-of-a-Labrador who in the summer and into the early fall would jump on my back porch desk and curl around my laptop as I wrote. At a mere two-and-a-half, he contracted blastomycosis—a nasty disease the vet didn’t diagnose fast enough. Jake died right after Thanksgiving. Two and a half … not enough time for chasing tennis balls and tugging on ropes and counter-surfing and couch snuggling and wrapping around my laptop as I worked on a book.

Jake, author Jean Rabe's yellow lab, rests beside her computer

I figured said publisher wasn’t interested in my book … or it was taking too long for me to be interested in said publisher. I thought about Jake, and decided not to send The Bone Shroud somewhere else. I decided to wade into the self-publishing pool. Jake would have liked the title; he loved bones. Do I think another publisher would have accepted The Bone Shroud? Sure. I’ve never not sold a book I wrote. I have nothing finished in my computer that has not sold. The better question … was I willing to play the waiting game with another publisher? And maybe another publisher after that?


In my experience, it takes six to eighteen months for a publisher to say yeah or nay to a book. And if it’s a nay, you send it along to the next one … and sit back and watch the calendar change. I’m tired of the wait. Life is short—Jake showed me that. Live in the now—dogs teach me that. And the current publishing world definitely supports a do-it-yourself approach.

I hired an editor. (I am an editor, and I’ve edited a bunch of novels … but I’m savvy enough not to edit my own stuff.) I picked out a cover artist. I paid someone to layout the book. And I have a publicist. And I can do it now.

Write in the now.

Publish in the now.

Live in the now.

I didn’t know how much work it would take. Proofing, proofing, proofing galleys (I am a perfectionist). Going over epub and print files, sending away for a sample print book and proofing that. Putting it up on Amazon myself … that was a bit of a learning curve I had to master, and then it took a little more finessing to get the print version listed.

I had to figure out what to sell them at. And I based that on what I’d like to spend for a book.

This column is part of a “blog tour” to promote the book’s release. Jaden Terrell was so very gracious to host me. If you decide to self-publish, make certain you have a network of writers and editors to help spread the word about your books.

And all of this brings me back to my heading: A Dead Dog Made Me Rethink Publishing.

When I taught genre writing classes at conventions and museums, I used to tell the attendees always aim for the big publishers first. Submit to them. Submit to agents. Put together a list of top to bottom druthers and work your way down it until somebody accepts your manuscript. I don’t think that’s bad advice. I think the bigger money is still with the bigger publishers. But back then I used to scoff at self-publishing. I used to think it an amateur’s game.

It’s not anymore. There are amazing self-published mystery, fantasy, science fiction novels, and more. Best-selling authors translated into multiple languages are self-publishing. I no longer hesitate to buy self-published books. In fact, I just ordered two yesterday.

If I were to teach a genre writing class now, I’d encourage the attendees to self-publish. It’s an education … all the proofing, refining, hiring editors and cover artists, promoting, listing on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and more. It’s a lot of work, but it’s good work, it’s amazingly satisfying.

There are Facebook groups filled with authors and editors who help each other with self-publishing issues. I’ve joined a few, and have found them encouraging and resourceful.

I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to traditional publishing. Boone Street Press fits me (and has dogs in the logo).

Write in the now.

Print in the now.

Live in the now.

And now … I’m gonna go work on another book.

Jake, Jean Rabe's handsome yellow lab, mugs for the camera in black and white
A Handsome Boy

My web page:

You can find my blog at:

And my Amazon author page at:

The link to The Bone Shroud:

I have a newsletter filled with tidbits about my dogs, upcoming books, reviews of things I’m reading, and writing advice. You can subscribe here:

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