The whole truth about why I self-published

Three years ago, I started this blog to chronicle my journey to publication of my fiction writing. I wrote often about my trials and tribulations in writing, editing, and querying my first novel. I had always planned to get an agent, who would then sell my book to an editor at a traditional publishing house. It didn’t work out that way.

Three years ago, I started this blog to chronicle my journey to publication of my fiction writing. I wrote often about my trials and tribulations in writing, editing, and querying my first novel. I had always planned to get an agent, who would then sell my book to an editor at a traditional publishing house. It didn’t work out that way.

The_Brevity_of_RosesPart of what went wrong with that plan was not something I could control. By the time I finished that novel, traditional publishing was in upheaval, and editors were buying fewer debut novels than ever. It seemed the only way to get an offer was to have an inside connection or write a book in the hottest genre. Neither my book nor I qualified.

One element that I could possibly have controlled was to write a book destined to become a classic. I may be a bit delusional about my talent, but I know I’m not that good a writer. My book is a good story, it’s a pleasant read, but no one will ever add it to their favorite-book-of-all-time list.

So, if no editor was likely to buy my book, no agent was interested in representing it. I woke from the dream of seeing my book published by a big New York publisher. I started exploring other options. I researched self-publishing as well as small presses.

I was leaning toward submitting my book to these small publishers when something happened that changed everything.

Exactly a year ago, my husband’s employer downsized and because my husband was the highest paid manager in his store, he was shown the door. Overnight, our income dropped by 60%—sixty percent! We’ve never had much money, and what we had we didn’t manage the best we could have, so I knew if my husband didn’t get another job right away (difficult because of his age), it wouldn’t be long before we exhausted our savings. Long story short, he didn’t.

I panicked. Then I decided I could help. I had a book to sell. Suddenly, waiting another year or so to have my book published by a small press was out of the question. So in an extraordinary mixture of overestimation, misunderstanding, and fantasy, I chose to self-publish.

If you know the stress of total DIY publishing, imagine adding to that a total lifestyle change. I think I handle stress well, but I don’t really. I just internalize it. My body takes what it can and then starts packing on pounds, breaking out in skin problems, and producing pain, pain, pain. Nice, when you have no medical insurance, right? Okay, that’s the last of my whining on this blog.

Now I’ve finally told you why I really self-published. It wasn’t a well thought out decision. I think only now, seven months later, do I even understand how I should have tried to market the book. And despite what I wrote earlier, I now know you can publish without spending a lot of money, but it’s incredibly hard to successfully sell without spending money—at least not when you’re trying to sell a debut novel.

I apologize for writing so many glum posts this last year, but maybe now you’ll understand why. Nothing has changed in our financial situation, but I’ve decided it’s time to change my attitude. I’ve read many posts lately by writer friends that have lifted me up and shown me the path I need to get back on. This post is already too long, so I’ll publicly thank them next time.

Three months in and how’s it going?

Yes, I know it’s not exactly the end of February, but it’s close enough. We’re chipping away at 2011. One fourth, twenty-five percent, of the year is gone. Whether you made formal New Year’s resolutions or just had vague hopes for this year, how are you doing so far?

I like the idea of a fresh start. Of course, years of our lives never begin without the baggage of the years before. But we can set new goals each year. My first 2011 writing goal was actually a publishing goal, and I’m on-track to accomplish that.

Making a serious dent in writing my next novel is my second goal. I’d like to say I could write, edit, and have it polished by the end of the year, but I’m not sure that’s a realistic goal. I don’t know how publishing Brevity will affect my writing life.

I’ll also be a partner in a new writing blog. It’s top secret right now, so I can’t give specifics, but you’ll hear all about it soon. My obligation to that will be a weekly post and commenting. And since I’ve sort of stumbled off the path on my own blog posting and commenting, that will be a challenge.

But challenges are good. Goals are good. Moving forward, even if at tiny baby steps, is good. So now …

Your turn: How is 2011 going for you so far?


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What did I decide?

In the last half of 2010, I started researching indie-publishing. In November, I finally started voicing my questions about the subject. I emailed friends. I discussed it with my critique partners. I blogged about it, posting polls and asked you to share your views.

Which way shall I go?

Some of you assumed I had already made a decision to indie-publish, but that was not the case.

I had several conversations with my husband. I told him what I’d learned from my friend Cathryn Grant—a newly published Indie Author. I pointed him to a few articles on the internet. We discussed the pros and cons of publishing my novel.

After a few days of talking, I felt more confused than in the beginning. I believed I was far from making a decision. But my husband said, “You’ve already made up your mind. It will just take you awhile to realize it.”

Finally, my subconscious spoke in a dream. I had made a decision. Then I reversed my decision. Then I reversed my reversal. A few days later, I reversed the reversal of the reversal. Are you sensing a pattern?

My indecision was no longer fueled by a desire to continue seeking traditional publishing. This quote from veteran literary agent Richard Curtis summed up the reality of that for me [emphasis mine]:

“I’m blessed to represent a core group of successful authors whose advances have held steady or even increased. We also handle many genre books that traditionally are more resistant to downward pressure than ‘softer’ kinds of literature, such as general fiction. Where we definitely feel the ‘shrink’ is in the resistance to new authors. The wall is far higher than we’ve ever seen it, and sadly that means we must turn more newcomers away than we want to.”

This way.

I sat myself down for a serious chat. What did I fear from publishing my own novel? Many things, as it turned out. After more deliberation and soul-searching, I made another decision.

A couple days ago, I read this 2011 prediction by Smashwords founder Mark Coker:

“Self Publishing goes from option of last resort to option of first resort among unpublished authors – Most unpublished authors today still aspire to achieve the perceived credibility and blessing that comes with a professional book deal. Yet the cachet of traditional publishing is fading fast. Authors with finished manuscripts will grow impatient and resentful as they wait to be discovered by big publishers otherwise preoccupied with publishing celebrity drivel from Snooki, Justin Bieber and the Kardashians. Meanwhile, the break-out success of multiple indie author stars will grab headlines in 2011, forcing many unpublished authors off the sidelines. As unpublished authors bypass the slush pile, publishers lose first dibs on tomorrow’s future stars.”

Sounds good to me! Today, I officially announce that 2011 is the year my novel, The Brevity of Roses, will be published! My fears have not disappeared, but neither will they will reverse my decision. I will face them one by one. The journey begins …


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New Year Stress

I feel like I lost my train of thought in October and still haven’t found it again. November was all cleaning, little writing. December has been all traveling and holiday preparations. Now, it’s time for a new year to begin and I’m scrambling to get my mind back on track.

Why? Do I LOOK stressed?

Nearly all of my October posts were about editing, literary agents, and query letters.  January will be about major editing. No agents and querying, but a thousand other things are in the works. And, as my friend Kasie reminded me yesterday, I have to write something in the next week for critique group. First chapter of my next novel?

So, yeah, three days left in this year and I’m already stressed about the next one. In some aspects, you can take one day at a time, but in most, you can’t really do that. The business of writing takes planning. I now have certain tasks to be done in a certain order by a certain time.

I’m trying to ignore the actual number of tasks though. Overwhelming leads to inaction. When the new year starts, I’ll keep my eyes down and edit my heart out.

Your turn: Are you winging it with your writing in 2011, or do you have a plan?


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