I finished my first novel 15 years ago. It took eight months (which is nothing for me) because once I discovered I could write, I threw myself into it, scared if I stopped the ability would leave me forever.
I’d searched my whole life for that thing that was a part of me, and I didn’t want to let it go. I didn’t sleep well, and everyday after work my gradeschoolers sat in front of the TV od’ing on Disney channel, and destroying the house, but I’d find four hours a day to write.
Manuscript done, I found black literary magazine article listing publishers that accepted my type of material and I submitted to five. The very first one asked for the full manuscript.
There was no doubt in my mind my book was going to be published. I started planning, how I’d use the advance to pay my bills, quit my job, and write full-time. I was on a cloud, walking in my destiny. I was called, chosen, anointed, and appointed to be a full-time novelist.
Then the rejection letter came. I wasn’t just disappointed, but distraught and humiliated. I felt like God had played a cruel trick on me, leading me to my purpose then knocking me flat. I quit.
It’s not that I thought the novel was good. I did the best I could. I’d assumed since God had called me to write it, He had some provision in place for its meteoric success. All I had to do was finish.
I couldn’t quit for long, because writing was that missing glue that put me together. Through it, I found my identity. Not being raised around creative people, I didn’t understand what it meant to be creative and I’d always been a misfit. Discovering I was a creative meant embracing that part of me proudly. I tried so hard to fit in, and now I’m so grateful that I didn’t.
I never got over the query rejection. I completed two more novels, and tried to find an agent. Got some constructive feedback in one of my rejection letters —too much profanity for a Christian novel!
However the process was too much for me. I applaud those who can do it, and I suppose there’s a benefit to that misery. However, I went back and looked up the publishers who rejected my work early on, and most of them don’t exist anymore.
After my last attempt I decided self-publishing was my path. Why?
I needed to move on. I wasn’t going to change my writing style or my genre to try to cater to the market or to some person who would try to sell my work. I wasn’t going to run to writer’s conferences and take costly workshops and seminars to write better, or spam agents over social media.
I was going to write like me to the best of my ability.
I found the term self-publishing has different meanings, by clicking an internet link to receive a ‘self publishing kit’. The kit came in the mail with the announcement that for $6000 I could live my dream of being a ‘Self-published Author’. I might have gone for it, had they not harassed me with phone calls and emails every other day. It felt a bit slimy.
So I did my research and found each piece of the process has it’s own price range that I could choose to pay or not. There’s complete freedom from what form–e-book, paperback, audio, to what platform–Kindle…Smashwords… to cover art, to editing, to advertising. I happened to have a limited budget when I published my first so I used those resources to hire an editor and did everything else myself. I wasn’t all that impressed with the job she did so I self edited my second.
The bottom line is we all have different goals for our work. I have stories to write and I need to get them published without barriers, but I understand that the publishing industry is looking for products that will generate profit worth their time.