How I Became a Published Author
And now for the story of one eccentric writer who almost gave up before she started because she wrote things that no one was ready to publish….
Once upon a time, several long years ago, I wrote a book. Or two or three. I loved these books. I was pretty impressed with myself that I could actually finish an entire novel! More than once, even. Those books came out of a very difficult time in my life, but they set me on the right path and made me confident that I could take on the world. So I went to a local writer’s conference, learned everything I could about the publishing industry, and sent off about a dozen queries.
Once upon a time, I got about a dozen rejection letters back. Each one, several of them personalized and not form letters, said that while they thought I was a good writer and liked my style, the concept of the book I’d submitted just didn’t resonate with them. Hmm. This was when I learned a bittersweet fact about the publishing industry: they have boxes. For Historical Romance, there’s the Regency box, the Georgian box, the Victorian box, the Scottish Highlander box, and very few other tiny boxes. If your book doesn’t fit into what they think they can sell, then they aren’t in the business of taking risks.
And so, disheartened and with a bad taste in my mouth about the whole thing, I put those manuscripts away.
Then, a couple years later, in 2011, I went to another writer’s conference. Suddenly, an entirely new discussion was on the table, a little thing called Self-Publishing. Self-Publishing was new, untried, and mysterious. A few people had found success at it, but the majority of self-publishers at that time were considered also-rans who couldn’t get a publishing contract anywhere else. While self-publishers were looked down on, the undercurrent was that there might actually be something to the whole craze. It might just change the very fabric of publishing.
Of course, I knew the second I started hearing about it that self-publishing was for me. Why? Why would anyone in their right mind want to jump ship on the tried and true publishing industry to swim in the crowded, murky waters of a publishing method that was considered barely legitimate? Well, for me it was two things. On the one hand, I had solid evidence in my hands that the traditional publishing industry wasn’t ready for the types of things I wanted to write. On the other, my personality is such that I have a hard time accepting authority without understanding why things are being done. I chafe at being dictated to. I don’t fit well with the popular crowd and I am completely unable to pretend that I do. In other words, I am a maverick.
But I knew I wanted to make my self-publishing career look as close to a traditional publishing career as I could. The structure of traditional publishing works very well, even if it isn’t the place for me. I knew I had to pretend that I was in a traditional contract. My first step was finding a hard-hitting, professional editor who knew their craft and who would treat my book as though it was a submission at a publisher. I was extremely lucky to find just such an editor, someone who worked for a well-known traditional publishing company but did freelance work on the side.
Together we worked the heck out of that book. Under her tutelage, I learned how to gut and rework a novel, what things worked and what things didn’t. I learned to work with deadlines and to meet expectations. I learned to pay what things were worth too, which was the hardest lesson. That lesson also applied to finding a cover designer. Again, I knew that I had no talent for digital design at all, so I did my research, compiled a file of covers that I liked, found a professional design company, and worked with them to get the design I wanted. Then I checked that design with my editor and a few others. I didn’t take my own word for it.
Then came that day that I formatted the manuscript (which took hours), uploaded it, attached the book cover, and clicked “published”. It was awesome! It was also the barest tip of the iceberg of my publishing journey. Just because a book is published doesn’t mean it will sell. I had told myself that I would conduct my self-publishing career as if I were being traditionally published, and that meant marketing.
I have had to learn far more about marketing than I ever wanted to. I have had to learn far more about taxes and LLCs than I ever wanted to also. I’ve learned about investment of time and money into writing with the aim for a specific return. I’ve hired a publicist and a CPA. I thought I’d be a writer, but now I understand I am a small business owner.
And I love every second of it! Best of all, I still have the freedom to write the things that the traditional publishing world just isn’t ready to invest in. Like an m/m romance as part of a mainstream series, for example. Or a science fiction love story that takes two books to reach its HEA instead of one. I love being able to not only think outside the box, but to run with scissors around the outside, coming up with all sorts of crazy new ideas. And that is what has made my publishing journey worth every step!
How I Became a Published Author