Last year, I choose to become an independently-published author (affectionately dubbed an “Indie”). This year, I’m going make an effort to share some of my experiences with others who may be considering the same route. Today, as my first post in this series, I’ll describe the eight-year road that precluded my own decision.
Actually, I’ve been writing far longer than eight years. I made up stories for fun as a kid, and in high school I managed a 50-page novella. Another followed in college, then a trilogy of short, Christian, middle grade fiction. None of these were publishable, but, as I’ve come to understand, they were all excellent practice.
Fresh out of college, I took to heart some general advice I read about breaking into the publishing world; I began playing with articles and short stories in an attempt to build up a portfolio. I wrote dozens of stories for church programs and even managed to publish fifteen or so of my articles, but I quickly decided this was not for me. My heart belonged to novels.
Because I taught in the public schools for several years, I ultimately chose to forego the Christian market. I wanted to create stories like the wonderful literature I taught at school – fun, clean, quality reads for mainstream students to enjoy. With this new focused goal, my writing suddenly went from hobby to serious pursuit. That was the moment I said with certainty, “I WILL be published.” I stopped teaching after the birth of my second child, and about a year later, my first novel, The Color of Freedom, was born. And that marks the true beginning of this eight-year journey.
I’ve never been very good at pushing my work to publishing houses. I gave it a half-hearted attempt, receiving back several rejection letters. Before they even arrived, however, I was well into my second novel, The Quill Pen. After a year and more rejections, I rewrote The Color of Freedom, doubling its length. I then scrapped The Quill Pen completely and started over. More rejections, further revisions, a third child, mommy duties, church duties, a little writing time stolen here, a little there, then the big decision to homeschool. Eventually, The Candle Star took shape, followed by its sequel, Broken Ladders. More time constraints and rejection, rejection, rejection…frustrating, but pushing me to become better and better.
And then the event that changed everything…
Last year, I received a Kindle from my husband for Christmas. Before this, I had heard of self-publishing. I thought it involved a small fortune and a basement full of books leftover from a print run. My Kindle opened up a whole world of digital publishing: ebooks and print-on-demand paperbacks. It was overwhelming and a little frightening, but I jumped in. I was ripe for it. For eight years I had called myself a writer. I was ready to call myself an author.
I took out my old copy of The Color of Freedom. I was appalled! In the years since my last revision, I had indeed learned a great deal about the artistry of writing! But my story was solid, so I took a few months to clean it up, and in the spring of 2011, I became a published author. Over the course of the year, I dug out all four of my finished manuscripts and brought them to print. Two more will debut this year, along with a series of classroom resources booklets to help teachers get the most mileage out of my books.
In the next few months, I hope to pass along some of the knowledge I’ve picked up: how and where to publish ebooks, how and where to publish paperbacks, using various file formats, self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, editing, ISBN numbers, marketing, creating cover art, making Amazon work for you, creating a platform for your work.
I’ve barely started in this endeavor, and I’m still learning a LOT. I probably bit off more than I should have publishing FOUR books this year. In fact, last month was the first I managed any kind of profit worth mentioning, but I finally know where I’m going, and my numbers are continuing to improve. I hope these posts will help others debating whether or not to take those first self-publishing steps.