Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Author's Journey

I would like to talk a bit about WHY I went the self publish route, and what I found when I got there.

I am shy and insecure about selling myself. I knew I didn't have the energy in me to face the rejection process of finding an agent then finding a publisher--I wanted to save all the positive energy I had for writing my book and I focused on honing it as best I could.

I owe a great deal to author, Hugh Howey. I became an instant fan of his Wool books when I was somewhere between the first and second drafts of my book. I followed his journey, and it struck a chorde with me; here was this humble, personable man who knocked it out of the park--and look how open and upfront he is with his fans! Very inspiring for me and he showed me just how I could go about keeping the focus on my work and not on my self promotion.

I found beta readers by getting engaged in discussions, talking with readers--getting to know my audience. I found readers from among my friends and online aquaintances that I have known for many years. Gaming buddies who I have never met face to face but have already shared virtual lifetimes with!

I edited and edited, then proofread and honed the book some more. I painted my own covers and designed my interior graphics (helps to be an artist in my day job), learned how to do my interior layout through CreateSpace's wonderful resources. I was able to do it all myself! But that 'myself' includes friends and family (my supporting wife in particular).

The process began over two years ago and yielded a 200,000 word fantasy which I divided as cleanly as I could into a trilogy (I did that back when I was still thinking I HAD to go the traditional route--and research showed that debut authors books were rejected if they had wordcounts above a certain threshhold.)

The division of books has also allowed me to focus on the three parts individually...insuring that each was given my undivided attention and its own rich cover. It has also allowed me to test the waters, to a certain extent, with a low price point that insured someone buying the ebook versions would pay less for all three books than the typical cost of a traditionally published ebook.

At the time of this posting I am a few days away from the release of my third book and reviews have been wonderful--Better than I had ever hoped for my efforts.

There has been one drawback to this whole process that I did not see at the outset however. I am finding descrimination against Indie Authors, something I never wanted to be a target of. The people in the writers group I joined after last years NaNoWriMo are truly wonderful people, but even they have cast disparaging comments my way, calling me 'prideful' and 'unwise'...when all I really have ever been was insecure and non-assertive.

I want people to look past the dividing line. What counts, all that should really count, is the story in the reader's hands.


  1. Thomas - I am sorry that you may have felt any of the comments directed your way were disparaging. I myself think the act of writing, and putting it out there is a prideful act no matter how you choose to go about it.

    There is a great deal of skepticism over indie authors - but truthfully it is really no greater than that which is directed at many published authors as well. (ask me my opinion of Terry Pratchett some day - or of Stephanie Meyer - or of James Patterson) One of the difficulties that is inherent in choosing to 'go it alone' is the fact that it all seems so personal. When I criticize James Patterson that criticism is shared by his publisher, his editors, his numerous ghost-writers, the book stores that carry the books etc. For an indie writer - all those things are concentrated on the writer himself. In my experience going indie requires a greater pride, assertiveness and sense of self-worth precisely because there is no 'team' in place to diffuse responses.

    No matter how we choose to get our story out there though we must always remember that the reader owes us nothing. If our story does not grab them, if it does not transport them to another world, if it does not fill their needs, then it does not matter how much we have worked on it or how good we think it is. Too many independent authors have gotten the reputation of defensiveness and hostility towards people who do not like their writing. Maybe this is only a problem because they do not have a team stopping them from outbursts against negative reviews or reminding them that every book will have some fans and some haters - but whatever the cause, there are numerous cases of indie authors behaving badly and this hurts the community.

    You can best guard against this (and help to change the tide of public opinion) by never arguing with someone who dislikes your writing. By developing a tough skin and learning to let 'hurtful' comments roll off. And finally by remembering that rejection is a part of life. If your goal was to avoid rejection, then self-publishing WAS unwise because once you have placed your writing in the public sphere (no matter how it gets there) you risk rejection.

  2. The amount of ego required to allow anyone to read what one writes is substantial. When we write there is a vulnerability that goes with it, fear of rejection or fear of being hated.

    What I find interesting in your post is how much that it is what I see in my world with our dogs. We raise some good quality pets, very good quality. Notice that I used the word pet, not hunting dog nor show dog. Early on I learned that trying to work with that elitist crowd was of no interest for me.

    I do write myself, which considering how long we have been friends online you know how often I will post on a forum. I love writing. Going to college I actually enjoy a solid academic criticism of my writing as well. Having said that I also smell elitism a mile away. You are braver then I would be by dealing with some of the groups you have.

    I thank you for your friendship. I will do all I can to help. And I hope you do not mind if I watch and learn from your experience. We do write differently, but as humans our experiences are the same.

    1. Thank you, Randy.

      I am just one guy with a penchant for creating characters with barely acceptable names in on-line role playing games!

      No, really, if you can find any inspiration in my journey, go for it! I think everyone's journey along any path is their own, but if we see them stumble, we can make note of the may be there for us, it may not be (the pothole that is).

      I am uniquely qualified to express only my own opinion.

  3. Thank you for a truly eloquent reply, Eddie.

    I take all criticism to my writing as constructive and helpful...something that over 25 years as a professional artist have taught me (even when a VP of Marketing rejects because 'they just don't like red') Just as I know that it is not always the best image that gets accepted, rather it is the image that the client feels best suits his needs. The question of which image is 'best' becomes a moot point.

    I've never thought it prideful to be an artist, but an artist who is prideful is someone I would frown a nutshell that is what makes an innocuous comment 'hurtful' to me. Not in a 'slam my book down and walk out' kind of way, but in a 'I am being misunderstood and judged' kind of way. Not my work, but me.

    I have endeavored to approach writing with the same attitude I approach my artwork: To try, with each successive piece, to improve my skill. To approach each piece as a labor of love that deserves the best of my attention.

    To me, the reader is the client. I have never argued with the client, even those who have been argumentative--I know already that I cannot see into their head and produce exactly the product they were hoping for. Under the best of situations it becomes and iterative process.

    I disagree that self publishing was unwise for me. I have found it very fulfilling and exciting. It is a joy to have my work read. The rejection that my story has gotten from readers has been completely understandable and acceptable to me. Everyone has their own tastes in what they choose to read.

    For all I know, if I HAD queried an agent or a publisher, the first one would have heartily accepted. But the fact is I never even tried. Did I think I was doomed to failure and rejection? No, at least not completely. I knew already that most of the rejection I would receive would be due to not meeting the client's current goal. As an artist I knew that I could expect a lot of rejection by blindly producing a piece without first knowing exactly what the client wanted...but if I could produce a piece and hang it on a wall for people to view, it would find acceptance by some. Better, it would find the person who loved it.

    Now if I had to stand against the wall beside my piece, yikes. I am no good at selling myself. I get tongue-tied and hyper self-aware. I have stories to tell about the reactions I have gotten all my life by just walking into a room of strangers...I am not comfortable in my own skin. I don't believe I have what it takes to sell myself to an agent, to sell my work, yes, but my research showed I would have to sell myself...that is where the shyness and insecurity influenced my decision.

    I am not living under a false umbrella that will shield me from bad reviews of my books or future rejections. I know already that all authors get them, deserved or otherwise.

    And I stand by what I said about criticism of my work. I welcome it, I use it to become better. As I sincerely hope other writers in our group do with any criticism they receive from me. Criticism of me, for self publishing, I view as hurtful and judgemental.

  4. I'm surprised and saddened you have felt criticized for self-publishing while also acknowledging that I have a predisposed dislike of self-published work - mostly because I have yet to read one that lived up to my 'client's' expectations.

    Here it is in the barest possible honesty: the world is FILLED with books - more books than I could ever read. This leads to arbitrary restrictions on my part of what I will spend time with. For example - anymore I rarely read crime fiction, or romance, or thrillers because too many of the 'forgettable' books I have read in the past fall into those genres. Therefore, unless a friend I trust recommends a book in one of these genres, I don't bother.

    Self-publishing has been tainted in my view by my experiences over a great number of years attempting to read SP volumes (many produced by friends or acquaintances) and finding most of them lacking in myriad ways. But it has been tainted further by bad behavior in the community. SO - in the end run, I will only read the first couple of paragraphs of any self-published work. If it doesn't grab me, I don't bother.

    But here is my really hard question for you: In traditional publishing, you submit a cover letter (which describes your story) and the first 10 pages of your book and you are accepted or rejected on the strength of your writing - how is this 'having to sell yourself'? In fact - the one agent I came close to signing with said as much - "My primary consideration in signing a client is 'can I sell their work' only after I answer yes to that do I consider whether they are a person I can work with."

    Are you saying you do not want to have to market your book as traditional authors do (public appearances, book signings etc)? Then perhaps you can understand the confusion, because the average self-published author spends a great deal MORE time marketing - needing to arrange their own appearances, and personally convince bookstores and libraries to carry their books.

    In the end run - what I think you might be saying is that you self-published as a form of internet interaction and really have no desire to take it into the realm of real life interaction with bookstores, libraries and fans. I also get the feeling you aren't overly concerned how many books you sell/how much money you make, because you are not looking to make a career of writing on the scale that would require those 'selling yourself' interactions. There is nothing wrong with that.

    So - I invite you to re-examine the comments that you felt were hurtful and see if perhaps they were a simple misunderstanding of your motivations and choices based on the existing paradigm.

    This article has been very helpful for me in understanding. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Thanks for sharing your insights hereon this post! And I am sorry to hear you had such comments from indie authors, that is just ridciculous... Perhaps they are envyous of your work...