Friday, March 4, 2011

Giving It Away

Entering on the journey to publication is not for the faint of heart.

I started writing fiction the year after Megan was born. Nine years ago. I make the link between her birth and writing although it certainly wasn't a conscious decision and even now, I'm not sure what the link was. All I know is that after the birth of my last child, I began to gestate stories and to be great with characters.

My first little book took a year to write and a year to find a publisher, and then one more year until it came out. There was a year of promotion that followed.

In that second year - the one of finding a publisher - I got my hopes up repeatedly and had them dashed repeatedly. A publisher asked to see the manuscript and I began checking my email mailbox and my real mailbox several times a day within about two weeks of sending it in.

That first rejection took four months. I assumed I would lick my wounds for a while afterward and then decide what to do next, but what I actually did was to send it out again the next day.

The publisher who took the book was Lucky 13. Unluckily, the publisher went bankrupt a year later, leaving me to sell the rest of the books.

I met a woman at a conference soon after my first book came out. She had several books published and made an offhand comment that stuck with me: You're only as good as your last book. She herself felt a kind of desperate fear that she always had to have a new book ready in the wings, that there couldn't be a lull or else. She didn't exactly explain what the "or else" was -- but it would be dire.

So, I got right to work on my next book. It was longer, however, and more complex and made me doubt myself periodically. I had doubted myself wit the first book, but when that happened, I felt no pressure -- I was having fun. Having had one book published, I felt the need to get the next one published. Or else.

The next one didn't get published. Hasn't been published. At least not yet. I have since, however, written two sequels to this book.

I've had a few very kind people tell me about ads they have seen in magazines offering book publication to writers. My well-meaning friends who suggest I self-publish want to read another book of mine and they want to help me succeed. But what I learned through the process of the first book is that distribution is key - if people can't buy your book, it won't sell. Unless you have an amazing platform or are writing a family history and only want to have copies for all the cousins, I don't think self-publishing is for you. Or for me.

Someone else recently suggested e-books to me, not knowing what a complete Luddite I actually am. I still have to think about this one.

I have a new and interesting option I'm currently involved with. I hope it will lead to publication, but I've learned that hope is something you engage in for the long haul. Hope in this business requires either genius or patience - and ideally both.

But, I came across an idea a few weeks back. It was written by a pre-published author. I'd link to it if I could find it again. But the idea has stayed with me. This author has created a website that offers a home for the world of her story. If you go to her website, you can learn all about the characters and the world of the story. If it were Harry Potter's world, there'd be a map of Hogwarts, a list of food available at Hogsmeade, and that sort of thing. But the other cool thing she offers is complete short stories involving her characters. These aren't book excerpts - something she says leaves readers feeling ripped off and left hanging. Instead these are complete gifts to the reader, something that will be satisfying in and of themselves and leave you wanting to read more. I found this idea fascinating.

For now, I'm going to keep pursuing my new option. But, in the back of my mind, I'm remembering what this unnamed author said: You don't want a publisher. You want readers. A publisher is a way to that end, but there are other ways, ways that put the power back in the writer's hands. That power is to give stories away.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Both writers and readers.

1 comment:

  1. I hear some great thinking that I resonate with:
    -the freedom to recognize the roadblocks, be clear about what it is you want to do anyways and why, and then take the power you do have to make choices that no one can stop you from making
    -there's nothing worse than having a gift to give and being impeded from giving it!
    Cheering you on, and impatient to read your novels!