- Posted August 26, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
Alchemy and Self Publishing
I wrote my first book when I was eight years old. It was a book about the weather and it was called, of course, The Book of Weather. I took construction paper and drew the sun and wind and clouds and fastened the pages between two pieces of cardboard taken from my father’s new button-down work shirts. I covered the cardboard with green and yellow wallpaper that had bright and bubbly orange flowers dancing along it. The wallpaper had been left over from decorating our 1970’s Long Island kitchen.
I was pleased with my book but nothing made me prouder than when the librarian placed it in my elementary school library. I visited it every day. I don’t recall anyone checking out my book but I didn’t care. There it was on the shelves. My book. I was a writer.
And a writer I was determined to be until the day came when practicality usurped my dreams. I graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and was considering what I would do next. I had to get a real job. My father’s words bounced around my head. You have to have a career so you know what you’re unemployed from. I went to law school.
I wrote my first novel when I was 24 years old and while a prosecutor working felony trials and sex crimes. I didn’t have an agent. A small press that has since gone out of business published the novel, which was a murder mystery called The Forbidden Room. While I did not sell many books, I was invited to speak on panels and did book signings. I got an agent. I was asked by an editor at Simon & Schuster to write a series featuring a young female prosecutor. I was on my way.
Two months later, my agent presented my proposal to the editor who said, without further explanation, that she was no longer interested. Then my agent unexpectedly passed away. I was sad and wasn’t thinking about finding another agent when her associate called and said he was taking over her business and would not be keeping me as a client.
Opportunities continued to arise, at least for a short time. Another small press wanted to publish a book of mine, however things fell apart during the editing stage and the novel was never released.
At this time, I’m 29 years old and feeling like the height of my writing career would be traced back to my elementary school library.
I didn’t write throughout my thirties. Not writing gnawed at my brain but I was productive in other ways. I left the State Attorney’s Office and opened my own practice. I fell in love. I travelled. But still, I didn’t write.
Four days shy of my 41st birthday, I experienced a life-changing event. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After a radical hysterectomy and six months of chemotherapy, I emerged cancer free and ready to write. And write I did. Like crazy.
Murder mysteries. Historical novels. A commercial novel that I co-wrote with my sister.
I got an agent who spent four years trying to sell my murder mystery without success.
Then my sister and I found a small publisher for Wicked Good, the book we wrote together. That didn’t work out either.
Soon thereafter, my agent and I parted on good terms.
I called my sister and told her I was no longer having fun. I was tired of writing query letters and hoping someone on the other end of snail mail or email would consider my writing worthy of publication.
She said, if you’re not having fun, don’t do it.
I stopped. No more hoping to find an agent who deemed me marketable. No more praying for that editor to take me under her wing and make me the next big thing. No more yearning to call some well-known publishing house my home.
I decided to self publish.
Here’s what I’ve learned about self publishing, at least for us average folks (i.e. not famous). It’s better than traditional publishing in many ways. We still do our own marketing but we also have control over our product. The final edits. The cover. Where we publish. How much we charge.
Do you know who I’ve learned looks down upon those of us who choose to self publish? People in the publishing industry and other writers. Isn’t that odd? Shouldn’t we all be cheering each other on?
Do you know who doesn’t care if we self publish? Readers. All they ask for, all they deserve, is a good book.
What I don’t understand is how come self publishing, which is the same as being self employed, is given a bad rap? I started my own law practice with my own money and was congratulated for being an entrepreneur. I bought a house, fixed it up, flipped it and made more money and people were impressed. I have been self employed since 1997 and make a good living. Why do I have to work for someone else as a writer? Why is writing the only industry where being self employed is frowned upon?
After all, self published or traditionally published, all writers want the same thing. To find an audience. To evoke emotion in their readers. To whisk them away for a short time or, even better, to impact their lives forever.
Self published authors are finding their audiences. For the most part, the ones that are being read have books that are well written and well edited (the number one rules) and they work really hard to get noticed. But there’s something else.
Alchemy, I call it. Striving to turn metal into gold. Magic. Providence. Good fortune mixed with hard work, stubbornness and determination. Covering cardboard with yellow and green wallpaper and placing it on the school library shelf.