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My column first appeared in the Lewiston Sun Journal in June of 1995. It sounds even older when I say it was in the last century.
My simple goal back then was to write a weekly column and eventually get a publisher to publish the best columns in a book. This was back before I even had a state-of-the-art computer to work with. After I had written over 150 columns I decided to try and find a publisher.
Around that time, as luck would have it, a guest on my radio talk show on WGAN just had a book published by Covered Bridge Press in Attleboro, MA . During a break we got to talking about getting published and he agreed to give me contact information for Covered Bridge. I eventually mailed off some columns and a cover letter. In a little over a week I received a nice letter from the publisher – Chuck Durang – thanking me for my columns but saying he wasn’t interested in publishing a collection of columns, but I might be the one he’s looking for to write their Maine Dictionary. They’d already had success with a Rhode Island and a Boston dictionary and wanted to do a Maine dictionary next. He asked if I could send him a few hundred words on how I might handle a Maine dictionary. I wasted no time. Before sundown that day, I had written and mailed my three-hundred words and in a little over a week I received a signed publishing contract and a small advance. This getting published business is pretty easy I thought.
I pinned the contract up on my office bulletin board and circled the due date – June 15 – on the kitchen calendar. I would soon be the author of “The Maine Dictionary”- All I had to do was write it.
The Maine Dictionary was published in May of 2000 and became my first published book. My publisher said it began selling like whoopee pies. Soon after its arrival it made its first appearance on the Best Seller list of the Maine Sunday Telegram. Yes, I know it’s not the New York Times but it was still pretty special
All of this was done before I was even online and able to send my columns as attachments. I did have a very good word processer to write with and save all my columns on, providing easy access. I also had a zerox machine to send my columns off to editors. That was good, but not good enough.
The times they were changing. Eventually - one-by-one – I was told by my editors that – after a certain date – all submissions had to be as attachments. My high-tech Zerox was no longer acceptable.
So, I retired my zerox and went shopping for an Apple laptop.
Some friends told me that I should get a PC since the vast majority of computers sold were PC’s. Doing a little research I learned that the vast majority of writers use laptops not PC’s.
My next batch of columns went to Dean Lunt of Islandport Press, who agreed to a meeting to discuss my next book.
It took a while but book number two hit – A Moose and a Lobster Walk into a Bar hit the bookstores in late August of 2002.
The most important thing I learned about getting published is: your book MUST sell. If your books sell wells, you’ll be asked to write another, if they don’t sell, your publisher wont even return your calls or respond to your emails
Now that I have five books in print and in bookstores: The Maine Dictionary; A Moose and a Lobster Walk into a Bar; John McDonald’s Maine Trivia; A Storyteller’s Guide to Maine and Moose Memoirs and Lobster Tales - I hear from a lot of people who want me to come speak to their group on: “How to get published.” I am more than willing to tell all I’ve learned and already have more than a dozen programs lined up for next year.
My revised program is titled “How to write and publish your Maine Stories. People say they enjoyed it and learned a lot.

John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller
who performs regularly throughout New England.
Contact John at or 899-1868.
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