My first published work, Clara Claus; the cover was re-designed in 2012, with red and green "sparks" added.
Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
With the anniversary of my first time publishing coming up (mid-October), I've decided to do a series of posts about my publishing journey. It's my hope that these posts will both help and inspire, and hopefully encourage, other authors, or authors to-be!
Looking back, it's been a long, hard road full of both trials and tribulations, but also, I've learned so much from publishing. This year marks my third year being published, and before I start spouting about my journey, I really want to take the time to thank everyone who has helped me accomplish all that I have. Dearest readers, I could not have made it this far without you, and I am truly thankful for you. I love seeing your reviews, and excitement, and the knowledge that my writing has inspired you is not something I ever want to take for granted. So, thank you, from the bottom of my writerly heart.
It has been a long four years, and yet it seems as if no time has passed at all! I remember that first year somewhat fuzzily, starting at the end of 2010, in October. I had been searching for months for the best publishing solution. SOPM (Shadows of Past Memories) was nearly completed, and CC (Clara Claus) was done. That year, I sent out query letters to what felt like a million agents, and was rejected each time. It felt like my spirit was being crushed, but I didn't want to give up, so I kept searching. Self-publishing was beginning to become a thing then, and so after much debate I decided to try it.
I learned a lot that year. In October, I first published CC, through lulu.com, in paperback. I was so excited to finally get a copy of a book -- my OWN book, my own! -- in the mail, and was so excited about the prospect of publishing. I didn't know then how important e-books might be, though from what I remember they were still fairly "new", and I didn't know much about marketing. I remember printing out fliers, and posting them at the local Paneras where I attended write-ins during November (NaNo). They were home-made, but they actually looked very nice; I even handed them out at a garage sale that year, as I collected money for the YWP (Young Writer's Program) at NaNo. My fellow writers were all excited for me, but of course there were also people in the group who had been published for a little while, and thought I didn't know what I was doing--
The thing was, they were right. I didn't sell many copies that year, and I didn't do much marketing, not how I should have. I looked into everything I could, but resources on my end were small, and it was mainly me and my mom at the time, trying to figure this publishing thing out. I was only 19 at the time, and not very used to business. After spending years at home, helping to care for my brother after his accident, I had sort of lost touch with the world, and was trying to find my way back to it again.
This is where I can offer advice: search all of your options, and be sure you know what resources are out there for you. The internet is a great place for marketing, but as I was to learn later, don't completely ignore the real world, either. (I'll get more into this later, probably in another post.)
Christmas passed, and it was onto a new year. CC wasn't doing very well in the grand scope of things, and so I decided to search for other routes in my publishing. I then found Amazon, and e-books, and Smashwords, and also Goodreads and Twitter. I poured everything into releasing SOPM, until it came out in August, and into getting CC ready on the Kindle and paperback platforms (I switched to Createspace at this point, and I still really like them, especially since Amazon is such a large seller).
This year came with a lot of changes. I spent a lot of it trying to figure out what I was doing, and where I was going in my writing. I made some good friends on Goodreads, and even some fans, and learned a lot more about marketing. To be honest, everything from then seems like kind of a blur. It was rough year for me, as my grandmother was with us and I again sort of lost touch with the world. But the one thing I can say for this time in my life was, I definitely had touch with my writing.
A lot of writers struggle with the balance -- work, writing, editing, revising, marketing, publishing; it's a lot to take in, a lot to manage. Nowadays, writing is more than writing, more than a full-time job, even if you don't have the ample time to give to that schedule. Sometimes I feel as though it ends up being more about how fast can I publish, what marketing do I have to do today, what connection can I make, than about, well, writing. And though all of these things are important, and part of business, at times I wish that I could go back to those years when all that existed was me, and my story, and the bond that we shared.
Here, I hope that I can stress to you something that I have learned: never lose sight of the story, of the beginning, of what made you write in the first place. Marketing, publishing, business, they are only means to ends, and shouldn't be the focal point of your work, or your time. They are important, but if you become wrapped up in them, instead of in your story, not only will you have a story that is not as good as it could have been, but you also lose something in your writing, and therefore lose something of yourself.
Writing requires thought, time, and care. It is a part of you, your story. It comes from within, from what you notice about the world, from hard work and perseverance. Even if you're not the #1 bestselling author, or even if you are, in the end the story should be the most important thing.
Writers do not, generally, make a lot of money; this point has persisted throughout the history of the craft. Writing has, in some ways, become the next big thing, the thing that everyone wants to do, or should do, and in a way that's great, but some things about the craft will probably never change, the money aspect being one of them. If you're writing for money, you probably need to find another field; it's not to be rude or unkind, it's just a fact. In the end, the story is the driving force, or it should be. Without it, there is nothing, and it needs room to grow into what it can be, what it should be. The story needs to come before marketing, before money, before social media or blog tours. Without the story, you have nothing.
To go back to my writing journey, I didn't learn too much, by way of greatness, that first year, and at the beginning of my second in publishing. At the time, life was riddled with so much else -- with life itself, something that also can seemingly become swallowed by media and marketing, and all of those other things that are important in their own right, but should not be everything. It isn't until I look back, at those hours spent in that other world, where I could vividly see my characters, and picture their thoughts and feelings, writing down what I could of their adventures and trials, that I truly understand what I learned from that year, and my trip into the second year of publishing.
I miss it. I miss them, my characters, vivid and real and all-encompassing. I miss the worlds that I would go to, that I was constantly trying to figure out, to chart, as if they actually exist somewhere in the universe, and only I am privy to seeing them, until I release them into the world. I miss the days where writing was more about writing than about my Amazon number, or the number of followers or fans I have, or the number of reviews. I miss the days when things were simple, but not simple at all.
It isn't until this year, until now, that I have realized how precious those times were -- and that they don't have to go away. It's hard to balance the business side and the creative side of writing, but it can be done; it should be done. Your story deserves it, and you deserve it, as an author. The writing world is far too full of copies of other people's ideas, and while not everything can be brilliantly brand-new, nor should it be, your writing deserves the best you can give it. If we don't take our time, and show our care, then in the end, even if our works are bestsellers, will we as writers ever really be happy with our work? Writing should be fun and exciting, even if it is difficult at times, not the bane of our existence.
Last night I watched a film, one I've been searching for as inspiration for a project of mine: Finding Neverland, with Johnny Depp. It is based on J.M. Barrie's life (the author of Peter Pan), and was very inspirational. Sir James Matthew Barrie is one of my writing idols, and I have learned a lot from his life and stories, Peter Pan especially. Watching the film, which of course isn't completely accurate, I began to think of Neverland. It might sound odd, but if Neverland could be so real and encompassing, if only to the author, then I want to have a world like that, a place where I can go to be a writer, and nothing else. I want to see stories in everything, like I used to. I want to feel that my writing is special again, and I don't want to worry about numbers; I'm a grammar person, not a math person, anyway.
To say all of this, I think the thing that I learned, most importantly, that first year and some change was the beauty of the written world -- the world that readers' and writers' see in their minds. I've been working hard, after some revelations this year, to find my way back to that place...
Well, that concludes my first post about my publishing journey! Thank you for reading. Comments are always appreciated. Next time, onto year 2 -- with edits and writing trials!