Thoughts on NOT self-publishing

A funny thing happened when I received notification that Kindle Press had selected me for a publishing contract: I had little obvious reaction. My husband was joyous. I felt like I’d suffered a kind of shock, and it took nearly a week for that feeling to completely dissipate. That happened when I woke in the middle of the night and thought, I’m going to be published by someone else!

17zv8Except for a vignette published in an online literary journal, I’ve only been self-published. Oh, I tried for a “traditional” publishing contract with my first novel, but at that time indie-publishing was really taking off, and my impatient and impulsive self jumped in. By the time my second novel was ready for publication, I’d decided I didn’t have the personality type to have a successful traditional career. Or a writing career at all.

I saw myself as a hobbyist, writing what I wanted, the way I wanted to write it, accountable only to myself and readers in that I would write the best books I knew how. I didn’t set out to brand myself as a women’s fiction writer or a romance writer or any other single genre writer. My author friends, volunteered as beta readers and editors and, for one book, a cover designer. I did everything else on my own. And I’ve made mistakes.*

The biggest mistake was in failing to understand the necessity of abundant platform and marketing resources to succeed financially as an indie author. Realizing, finally, how much I lacked in that area, I didn’t expect to—and didn’t—make much money. And for a while, I convinced myself I was okay with that. Oh, how we lie to ourselves!

I work hard at writing. For the last seven years, I’ve sat at this computer nearly every day—for several hours on each of those days. Writing is my full-time job. The thing is, my only job before this was raising children—four of my own and then providing day care for four of my grandchildren for various periods over the next several years. Though childcare was absolutely the most rewarding thing I’ve even done, I didn’t receive a paycheck for that job.

Now, things have changed. For the first time in my life, someone has paid me for my work.

As I write this, I’m waiting to hear from my first professional editor. I’m accountable to someone else. I’m no longer just a self-published author. Someone has seen value in my work and was willing to invest in it.

Yes, I know authors say validation comes from satisfied readers. And definitely, it does. I don’t discount that a bit. Readers complete the equation. And I don’t discount the readers who’ve invested their money by purchasing my books.

Still, the money Kindle Press deposited to my bank account was a different kind of validation. It was a much needed boost of confidence. Finally, I feel like a professional. I feel like a grown-up. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m a bit apprehensive about this new kind of publishing too. Then again, I suppose the unknown is always a little scary.

We shall see.

Linda

*I’ve been wondering if, once again, I acted impulsively by submitting High Tea & Flip Flops to Kindle Press … but that’s a topic for my next post.

Titles and covers and blurbs, oh my!

I did not intend to blog only once last month. September just disappeared while I was busy writing. If you’re a self-publisher trying to do it all yourself, like me, maybe you’ll relate to my current predicament. Actually, even if you have a team who decides on the title, cover, and back cover copy for your books, you might sympathize—and feel fortunate.

unkbookEven though I planned for my romantic comedy to be a shorter novel than my serious women’s fiction, the first draft missed the goal by a good bit. No surprise really. I write lean, so my first drafts always fall short of the word count goal. Still, I worried I wouldn’t be able to add enough in revision. Now, I’m no longer concerned.

A successful and busy writer friend graciously offered her time to read my first draft and make some excellent suggestions. Those comments inspired me to add over 5,000 words so far. By the time I finish the first revision, I expect the word count to grow a bit more.  So, that’s all good.

Unfortunately, I still don’t have a title. The scary thing is, when I think about titles, my mind goes blank. At this stage of writing my first two novels, I’d started compiling a list of possible titles, most of them terrible, still I had something. This time I have nothing except the working title, and even though this is a rom-com, I think the working title is too cutesy.

I’m getting impatient because I want to start working on the cover, and the title is an important factor in the design. Other than knowing the cover needs to announce the book as a fun read, I have no image visualized. I fall asleep every night hoping my subconscious will allow me to see the perfect cover in a dream—and let me retain it when I wake.

Also, I need to start work on the back cover blurb. Oh, joy! I suck at writing those. I’m still not satisfied with the blurbs for my first two novels. You’d think that since I wrote the books, describing them would be a cinch. Not so, for me. It doesn’t help knowing I’ll have to do this all for two more books in the next few months.

Dang. Where’s a good title, cover, and blurb fairy when you need one?

 

Linda

My salad days, when I was green in judgment . . .

Research the origin of the phrase “salad days” and you’ll discover, especially in the U.S., it’s currently used to mean being at the peak of one’s abilities. That’s not how I’m using it. I use it as did William Shakespeare when he coined it in 1606. “My salad days, When I was green in judgment …” is from Anthony and Cleopatra: Act I, Scene 5 and Cleopatra speaks of her youthful naivete.

salad_mI’m a long way from my youth in life, but not in novel writing. In the fall of 2008, I was in the midst of writing the first draft of my novel The Brevity of Roses. Concerning the publishing business, I was not only hopeful that I’d be a success, I was confident. Ah, yes. I was “green in judgment.” I was naive. But I felt alive.

When I finished writing that novel, I queried it to the big name agents, none of whom broke the sound barrier in their haste to send me a contract. I revised my query letter and sent it to other agents. I received some, but not a lot of response. My confidence took a big hit. My hope waned.

Then, a major change in my life circumstances made the idea of self-publishing attractive. In hindsight, I see how “green in judgment” I remained. I am not naturally suited to indie publishing by personality. But I was even less suited to it after  the agent querying process eroded my confidence. Since publication, some lovely positive reviews have helped restore a bit of that, but I fear I’ll never regain it completely.

I know I can’t fully return to those salad days. It’s unrealistic to think I can retain naivete and gain experience at the same time. But my Muse, jaded by reality, misses the exuberance of her “youth.” I’m having a devil of a time shutting off that publishing/marketing voice that questions every aspect of what I’m trying to write now.

To say I’m stressed is putting it mildly—and stress, for me, always takes a physical toll. Before I published my first novel, I was a few pounds overweight, but otherwise mostly healthy. Now, I’m more pounds overweight than I can bear to say, and I’m beaten down with health problems. In some sense, I have to find a way back to those “salad days” of writing.

I really don’t want to make the decision not to publish anything more, but I do want to write without distraction from publishing/marketing concerns. I need to recapture some of the innocence that made my fingers fly over the keyboard, thrilled at the story unfolding before me. I need to throw off these chains of stress and depression by believing once again that the story I’m writing is wonderful and the words flowing from my imagination will speak to readers in the way I’ve always dreamed.

So, I rescind my statement in a previous post that I hoped to have two books ready for publishing by the end of 2014. I don’t know if I’ll have even one ready. Right now, publishing is off my radar. I want to write. Further marketing of what I’ve already written is not something I can deal with, either. I want to interact in social media simply for the fun of it, like I did in my salad days … but maybe with a little less greeness.

It’s time to quit frowning and start smiling again. It’s time to feel alive again.

Linda

My Month of No Writing

My self-imposed hiatus from writing is over. I needed to take a break because I’d just published another novel and wanted to get caught up on things I’d neglected while working on that book. I stepped away from the keyboard, did some housework, and started reading again. So did I cheat by writing?

Well, I succeeded in not writing any new fiction, but I did revise two short pieces. One I needed to submit to my critique group and the other I’m considering submitting to an online journal. But it was easy not to start on a new novel project—too easy.

lazy

I have a serious case of the writing blahs. It’s not because I don’t have an idea for another novel. In fact, I have four ideas, in various stages of pre-writing. But I have no enthusiasm for working on any of them because I’m questioning everything to do with writing.

Actually, that’s not true. I don’t question why I write. I always have and will continue to make up stories, some to write down and others to keep in my head, because that entertains and challenges me. So I guess what I’m really questioning is publication—what to publish, how to publish, whether to publish at all.

I’m a little angry at myself about all this indecision. I thought I’d settled this long ago. I’ve been published for two years now, and I’ve stated that my true aim for publishing was only to share my writing. Now I’ve done that and even had the thrill of total strangers telling me how much they loved my stories. So am I whiney and shallow to be dissatisfied?

That’s only one of the many questions draining my energy. Every time I think I’ve weighed the pros and cons of something I’m questioning, the whole thing slips and slides and flips on me. I talk myself into something and then talk myself out of it. Clearly I don’t have any solid answers yet. But I think I’m going to have to find some before I regain the motivation to start writing another novel because, right now, my Muse is just lying there, inert with the blahs.

Can you relate?

Finding the way back

I wrote my last blog post thirty days ago. Thanks to all who commented on that post and wished me happy holidays. I did have a wonderful family Christmas and New Year’s, ending with a pleasant weekend in the Sierra Nevada where I saw snow falling for the first time in several years. And yes, I caught some on my tongue … and fingertips and lashes.

At the time I wrote my last post, I thought it might be the last time I’d blog. To be honest, I needed to push away the thought of writing—period. Last year, I so pressured myself, as a writer, to do and be that by December, I was not only exhausted, I was lost. So I just gave up.

Two years ago this month, I’d made the decision to self-publish my novel The Brevity of Roses and had started a final edit in preparation. I’m in the same position this year with my next novel An Illusion of Trust. This time, though, I’m more realistic about the amount of work left to do before I can announce publication and in what to expect after that day.

Actually, my only expectation for after publication day is deciding what project to work on next. I’ll continue blogging and hope to interact more on the blogs I read. I’ll try to be more engaged on my Facebook author page, but I’ll probably continue being practically invisible on other social media.

I’ve faced that I suck at book marketing. But I’m not going to continue beating myself up about that. I have to trust that An Illusion of Trust will find its way to the readers who are meant to read it. I love to write. I love to share that writing with others. I’ve found my way back to that true path and I’m going to keep my eyes focused on it.

Your turn: What path are you focused on this year?