Sunday, December 13, 2015

My Chosen Path


A couple of months ago, a poet friend, Ariel, posted a blog titled Help a Sister Out? in which she inquires whether to continue to submit her work and wait for others to decide if it should be shared with the world or to blog her poems and risk them being ineligible for many traditional publication outlets. She mentioned that she doesn't think she has enough credits to start publishing chapbooks. I started to respond but decided to give it some thought first.

Over the intervening weeks, I've given her query quite a bit of thought.

In answer to her quandary, I'm going to share a bit about my writing journey.

When I decided to take my writing career into my own hands, I knew the risk I was taking. I really did; however, I wanted my career to be my own. My message was more important to me than fame. Staying true to my vision was more important to me than bestseller lists. Frankly, I'd rather share my work with people than struggle to impress the gatekeepers.


My first novel
I published my first book, All She Ever Wanted, through Xlibris when self-publishing was still very much the less traveled road. There were ups and downs, but the book is still available and still sells copies. It might not be perfect, but it's true to message.

Then I started shopping my second manuscript, Red, to agents. I got some encouraging rejections and some mild interest from myriad editors, agents, and publishing houses. Quite a few agents suggested changes until I ended up with a draft that had absolutely none of the heart of the original or my voice as a writer. When I re-read the latest draft recently as I prepared to incorporate parts of it into an earlier version I had a total crisis of confidence. I hated it. 

I contacted an author friend who reassured me that while I had a point about how bad this version was, earlier versions of the book were much better and encouraged me to edit one of those and forget about the latest version. This threw a bit of a wrench into my schedule and the book will be released later than I wanted, but it'll be a better book for the effort.

In addition, I'm incredibly grateful that terrible draft created by changes suggested by agents never made it into print. Did I mention I hated it?

Sometimes the gatekeepers don't know what's best for our work. I know that's hard to accept, but the reality is that the gatekeepers' decisions are subjective based on their opinions, by their own admission.


My first book of poetry
I decided to publish my poetry myself with only a few traditional credits because I wanted to get my poetry in the hands of people. I wanted to share my work and to earn money from sharing my work.

Frankly, I wanted to control my work and the message shared. If people love my work, hate my work, or ignore my work, at least I know it's my work they are responding to.

Technically, one can publish a book using CreateSpace and ebook technology for no cost. This assumes one has the capability to create one's own covers. CreateSpace even allows for one to create one's own imprint under which to publish. There is free software one with know-how can download to accomplish this goal. Registering copyrights does cost money but is worth it. Buying ISBNs costs money but is doable. It all depends on what one wants to do and how much one wants to put into it.


My latest book of poetry
Marketing can be done entirely online though works better with a mixture of venues. I do much of my promotion online but also do speaking engagements and poetry readings. There are multiple avenues to promote ones work. I continue to discover new ways to promote my work and to share my message.

I love having my books out there even though they don't sell quite as many copies as I'd like. From what I've heard this isn't an uncommon place to be for any author regardless how they are published.

For me, taking control of my career and risking people's direct criticism of the work I produce works. I understand it might not for everyone, but it's a risk I'm willing to take.

I can't decide what is best for anyone but me. All I can do is encourage others to study the options, really study them, and listen to their own instincts.

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