Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Musings: Writing is my business

I've been an aspiring writer pretty much ever since I learned how to write.  I've always had stories in my head, a notebook in hand, and have spent countless hours scribbling and typing away.  However, I also suffered from crippling insecurity that made me really loath to share anything other than papers I wrote for high school and college.  I poured so much of myself into my writing that I was terrified of someone criticizing it.

It took me a long time to get over that fear.  Along with that, I constantly reminded myself that writing wasn't practical, so I had a series of more practical jobs.  Of those, teaching was the only one that was fulfilling for me, because I loved working with students.  Still, there was something missing from the equation.  I felt like I wasn't really getting out of life what I wanted to get out of it.

After much research and agonizing, my husband finally helped convince me to self-publish.  I won't lie: a really strong voice in my head told me not to do it, to instead query agents and to try to find a publisher.  I wanted the sense of validation that I thought a publishing contract would bring, and I also wanted to realize my childhood dream of standing in a bookstore next to a copy of my book.  However, I had reached a point in my life where I knew I was going to need to start looking for another career, and I was tired of taking meaningless jobs just to pay the bills.  I didn't have years to devote to trying to get a publishing deal, so I decided to take the plunge and self-publish.  I wanted to see if I could make a go of writing as a career.

So far, the results of my self-publishing endeavor have exceeded my hopes and expectations.  I thought maybe I might be able to sell 100 copies of The Eye of the Beholder in a year, so imagine my surprise when I reached that goal less than three months after publishing.  Every time I see the book on someone's "to-read" shelf on Goodreads, or I look at my sales figures on Amazon, I have this sense of unreality.  People are actually reading my book.  They are actually spending their hard-earned cash on something I wrote, they are reading it, and they are taking the time to write reviews and/or rate it.  That truly blows my mind.  What's more, I wouldn't even have tried to shop The Eye because I'm pretty sure no publisher would have chosen to take a chance on it.  If it wasn't for self-publishing, The Eye would have remained a book that only a few people had ever seen.  Since it took me more than seven years to finish it (between the actual writing and the editing), it makes me really sad to think of it languishing on my hard drive.

The other thing I've realized about self-publishing is that I love having control over the process.  I love that I don't have to completely redo a manuscript with which I am happy.  I don't doubt that many editors can and do take works and make them better, but it hurts to think of being compelled to make changes to my story that I wouldn't really want to make. 

Another huge plus for me is having complete control over my cover art.  I can say quite confidently that I am the world's worst artist, so I've reached out to talented people to design my covers, and I love working with them and watching the cover take shape.  I love being able to pick which elements I want on the cover.  Had I been traditionally published, I would have had absolutely zero say in this part of the book's production.

But the real icing on the cake is my ability to write whatever I want.  I don't have to be confined to any one genre, and that's a good thing for me.  There's nothing wrong with being devoted to a single genre, but I want to dabble in several different ones.  I love that I can write some fantasy, then some science fiction, and then maybe a mystery, all without being under a contractual obligation to deliver one type of book and one type only.

I'm not trying to say that self-publishing is all fun and games.  It's also very stressful, and a ton of work.  I hate promoting my work but, then again, even if I'd been published by a traditional publisher, I'd likely have been responsible for doing a lot of my own promotion.  Still, I'd love to have experienced marketers on my side since I am seriously lacking in that area. 

At the end of the day, though, hitting that "publish" button on Amazon was one of the best things I've ever done.  Who knows if I'll ever reach a point where my writing provides a living wage.  I hope it does, but what really matters is that I am finally able to share my stories with others, which is what I've wanted all along.  Even if I do have to go out and get a practical job, I won't stop writing--and I won't have to.  I have my readers to thank for that.  There really aren't enough words to say how much I appreciate you.  With every sale I get on Amazon, I'm more and more inspired to sit down and write, write, write.  Thanks to you, I'm now a more productive writer than I've ever been in my life--and I'm also happier than I've ever been.  So thank you for giving me the chance to truly live my dream.