Wednesday, October 9, 2019

From Traditional to Self Publishing

I became an indie author in 2012, after an enlightening talk with two self-published authors: the first was my fairy godmother, Terri Reid, who was--and continues to be-- amazingly encouraging and literally one of my best marketers, since she always tells her gazillion fans when I put out a new book. The other is a lesser-known humor writer named Norm Cowie who sat down over a Portillo's dinner (Terri got a fried chicken lunch! I clearly believe in food as bribery) to tell me that what I needed to keep in mind was that the more content (books and stories) I had available to the public, the better I would do at selling my books. So I listened to both of them, took the plunge, and Haunted saw the light of day that same year.

But the journey really began years and years ago when I wrote an out-of-print little book called Dead of Summer. Because I was too naive to know that when a Scholastic editor (still accepting unsolicited manuscripts back in the early '80s) sent back my manuscript with the note "This seems to be missing the last page" that they weren't actually rejecting the book, I spent six years before winding up with a vanity press. Because I didn't know any better. Sigh. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had responded to that editor with "Here's the completed manuscript. How can I make this a good fit for your company?" But I didn't, and that's neither here nor there.

I wrote Ghostwalk (still unpublished) shortly after that, and that was the manuscript that was rejected by Daniel Pike's agent because it was too soft. He was looking for a Freddie Krueger-type story, since Mr. Krueger was the supernatural poster child at that time.

And then I wrote Saving Jake. After receiving my first handful of rejections (such a familiar  routine!) I remembered a small article I had clipped years earlier about a local woman who had started a small publishing house. Feeling like I had nothing to lose, I dug out the article and called her. She was indignant that I would ask if she was still in business, but we did have a long talk and she agreed to look at my manuscript. After months of waiting, and asking for a status update, and then more waiting, and asking for a status update, I got the call that will forever remain one of the highest points of my entire existence on this planet. She called and said "I love your book and I want to publish it." I asked her to repeat that statement just so I could hear it again, and she very kindly did. Saving Jake was released in 2002.

Haunted was the follow-up book I wrote but I took so long about it that by the time I sent it to her, she said that she had stopped publishing novels and was focusing on nonfiction. But she also said that it was a good book and I should try submitting to New York. Oooohhhhh, noooooo... I did try to follow her suggestion. I even pitched to an agent who accepted the manuscript. And about four months after that acceptance, I got a letter from her literary agency telling me that the agent no longer worked there, but that she had taken my manuscript with her. I never heard from that agent again.

By that time, self-publishing was starting to look like a glittering oasis in the middle of the desert. Luckily, that oasis was not a mirage.

There are downsides to being an indie writer, of course. All marketing is on me, although the same would pretty much have been true even as a fledgling writer at a New York publisher. Sales are all on me. Editing/proofing, cover art, and formatting are my responsibility (although I am lucky and grateful to have people to beta read, a friend who is an artist, and a friend who is an expert at formatting.) I also have a gifted artist nephew who designed and maintains my website and set up my FB page. (He's seen me deal with tech: I think he feels sorry for me!) 

I don't mind at all that I have not been published by a New York company. I don't mind not being caught up in their whirlpool of hope, waiting forever, and then disappointment. In a story that will remain untold at this time, I did have one blistering, soul-blasting, mind-tilting rejection, that came over the phone, from a major New York publishing house. It was such a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking experience that I stopped writing completely for three long years. I never want to go through that again. Something like that might not stop me this time, but who needs it?

So thank you, all of you, for listening to my story. I'm sure everyone out there who is doing what I do has a story of his or her own. I'd love to hear everyone's. Writing is a solitary profession, but it's great to have comrades. And it's also great to have readers. Thank all of you.

1 comment:

  1. You've come a long way. I remember those beginning days. At least you stuck it out.