A number of years ago I found a belt at my favorite store that I really wanted but couldn't justify the price. Months later a friend invited me to on a shopping trip, explaining that my favorite store was having a blow out sale. All the way to the store I think of the belt I want and how it would coordinate with so many of my clothes.
When we get to the store I’m delighted to find my belt has been marked down by 70%! And there’s just one and it’s my size! I’m delighted…for about fifteen minutes.
All my delighted is swallowed up by the fact that my friend buys nine pairs of shoes. I knew that I should have been happy. I knew that I did not need nine new pairs of shoes. I knew that I had plenty of shoes, but that I really needed a belt. And I got one. And I really liked it. I should have been happy.
I let shoe envy consume me.
I still struggle with something very similar, although it’s not apparel related. I have a friend I really admire who decided to self publish a few months before I made the same decision. I really struggled with this giant, scary decision (if you want to read about that decision process, I have reposted a couple of blog posts written at that time.) When I finally did decide to self publish, I concluded that with the millions of self published authors out there, probably no one but family and friends would ever read/find my books. And I was okay with that. In a sea of not-so-wholesome entertainment, I wanted to provide people like me (and I know that people like me aren’t like the sands in the sea) family friendly, grandmother approved novels.
And I did that. And I’ve been lucky. When I first published Stealing Mercy I sold more than two hundred books (I have a really big family.) I now have almost five books out and more than 60,000 people have downloaded my books. (I say download because most of those have been given away.) Stealing Mercy has been in the top 100 of Amazon’s free historical romance list for more than 11 weeks now. I don’t know 60,000 people. By all accounts, I exceeded my goal. By a long shot. I should be happy. (I am happy.)
Remember my self-publishing friend, Debra Holland? Her books have made the US Today bestseller list. She makes tens of thousands of dollars a month.
I owe Debra a huge debt of gratitude. Without her first taking the plunge I never would have self published. I learned from her and I’m still learning from her. Watching her very, very closely.
And sometimes it hurts.
But other times, I think of how great it is that people who aren’t blood relations read, enjoy and review my books. And I remember my belt. Just like I didn’t need nine new pairs of shoes, I know I don’t need to be nationally recognized. I don’t need more money. (And since I’m being gut wrenchingly honest, I’ll admit that it hurts to say that.)
And since sometimes, like today, I need to be reminded of my original goal—I’m reposting about that long ago decision.
When the Hooray Goes Away (written May 11, 2011)
Last week I had the privilege and pleasure of attending the LDS Storymaker’s writing conference. I loved it and I learned a lot of things. I found every workshop I attended helpful and most made me stop and rethink my work. Storylines, concept, and theme – it’s all a little more clear and focused. But, I think the most important thing I learned was something I discovered pretty much on my own.
At lunch time, I randomly sat down next to a literary agent. We chatted. She told me she represented young adult fiction and I told her I had written such a thing. She told me to send it to her. This has happened to me before. I’ve met agents, they’ve requested my work, and my typical response is cool, calm adult behavior on the outside and childlike yippies and hoorays on the inside. This time, no yippee, no hooray, more of a thoughtful hmmmm…..
I took a class on marketing your book (an excellent class) and the presenter discussed the marketing strategies of different authors. One author spent eight hours a day, six days a week, for three months doing book signings in Costcos. Another author had a $10 thousand dollar marketing budget from her publisher and spent another $10 thousand of her own. She didn’t make anything on her first book, but is now making money on her second and third book. Even my friend Neal, a brilliant writer who collects awards like redheads grow freckles, is never home. He spends days, weeks and months away at school visits, which is noble work, but he's not writing and he's not home. Which might be fine for Neal, but it wouldn't be fine for me. (I'm a hermit.)
I spent the conference weekend with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. Every morning I got up early to run along the canyon to the Bountiful temple. The mountains were covered with snow. The air is clear there. From Cynthia’s window you can see the temple and the Great Salt Lake. It’s incredibly beautiful. On a wall in Cynthia’s entry she’s hung pictures of her ten children and 26 grandchildren.
I tried to explain to Cynthia some of my ambivalence towards the agent’s request and this was her advice. (I applied it to my writing, but I think it could be generally applied to any situation). Look at your next five years and what do you see? She asked. I saw graduations, missions, babies and weddings. I think it’s completely possible that five of my six children could marry in the next five years. Maybe some would even marry within months or weeks of each other. Babies could happen. Could anything be more fun than weddings and babies? Sitting at Costco for three months would not be fun. Traveling from school to school would not be fun. My life is full… much too full to do anything I don’t want to do.
And so, I’m passing on the agent’s request and considering self-publishing and not because I’m tempted by the siren song of greater royalties. It’s silly to believe that anything I personally published could sell as well as something backed by a professional team armed with experience and thousands of marketing dollars.
But, maybe, for me, that’s not the point. I’ve written for years without any monetary compensation and so I’ll continue. I’ve written mysteries, romances and young adult stories, because at that moment, that’s what I wanted to write. Currently, I’m working with a very cranky, somewhat hostile ghost. I wouldn’t have that luxury if I had a publisher to please. The ghost shouting my ear wouldn’t exist if I had to listen to editors, an agent and a publishing house.
It’s odd and yet freeing to abandon a life-long dream, to set it down and say this really doesn’t work for me.
Because, quite simply, I don’t want to turn something I love into work.
An Argument for Self Publishing (written September 23, 2011)
I have to share my latest Orange County Fictionaire’s adventure. I’m really lucky to belong to a writer’s group consisting of mostly published authors. (Google us, we’re an impressive group.) We have award winning, best-selling, movie making, teaching writers and then there’s me. And I’m the president. Bottom of the talent totem pole. Go figure. Sometimes I wonder how or why I got in the group let alone why I was made president. I think they voted me in because I had more time and attend regularly. (There’s a post about this railroading, I mean—election--on this blog. If I knew how to link it, I would, but all I can say is if you want to read it, you’ll have to look for it. It’s here somewhere.) In the past week there’s been some e-mails on the group's list flying fast and furiously for and against self publishing. The words schlock (which I've guessed is a Jewish derogatory term) and noble have both been used. I’ve posted my response. I wish I could share the all the e-mails, but I can’t. Respect for privacy and all that. Let me make it perfectly clear--I have enormous respect and admiration for my fellow Fictionaires and applaud their successes. I'm their biggest, noisiest fan. Now, my letter...
I know I’m slow to respond. It generally takes me days to formulate the perfect retort. I’d make a terrible attorney and I generally avoid arguments because, as I said, I usually think of a comeback days later.
I’m going to try to formulate an argument for self publishing, if you’re not interested, feel free to return to whatever it was that you were doing.
Why self-publishing works for me:
1. What’s happening in my family is much more interesting than anything else, including a writing career. I have a great big life. I have six children, two grandchildren, a husband, five siblings, 20 in-laws, and about 60 nieces and nephews. And elderly parents (age 90 and 88.) And a dog. And friends. It would be horrible to attend a wedding or a funeral with a writing deadline hanging over my head. By self publishing, I keep (somewhat tenuous) control of my time.
2. I’m not interested in meeting people I don’t know. I'm not out going. I don’t want to go to book signings. I don’t want to speak at conferences. I do not want to be on TV or on the radio. Crowds make me nervous and as much as l love children, I’m not interested in visiting schools (unless a loved one happens to be attending it.)
3. I’m not motivated by money. Really. I know I’m incredibly lucky and blessed that I don't have to support a family, or even myself and I've lived long enough to see that money has it's challenges, whether you have a little or a lot. (A lot, of course, would be much nicer than too little.)
4. I want to write what I want to write. I don’t want to bend my stories to a formula. I don’t want to toss in sex scenes or write about throbbing loins. I don’t want to sell a political agenda. I like telling the stories I feel like sharing at a particular moment and time.
I know that I won’t win awards. (Although shortly after I wrote this James sent me a link to the Indie awards.)I’m confident that I won’t be included in a literature anthology. No one is going to make movies out of my stories or talk about my work in a lit class. Would my writing improve with the guidance of a good editor? Absolutely. Would I reach a larger audience if I had a marketing team and a publishing house backing me? Undoubtedly. Am I willing to give up my autonomy for those added benefits? No. Sorry. For other’s traditional publishing is the best path, but it’s not for me.
I’m not snubbing my nose at the publishing industry. I admire their talents and their work. I really do. They provide a tremendous service to our country’s culture. But, just like there is more than one way to travel to the library, (car, bike, skate board, scooter) there is more than one way to have a writing career.
I’m extraordinarily grateful for the rise of indie-publishing. It’s allowed me to create a balance between my love of storytelling and a life full of people that I adore. After only two months I already have a small, growing readership of people who tell me that they love my work, and for me that’s icing on a cake of life that was pretty delicious even before I tried indie publishing.