My (Self) Publishing Adventure

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.

Our priorities are not the same and that’s fine with me.

ageless: my discovery

When it comes to embracing our purpose, age is irrelevant

There’s no set time when God calls us to our purpose. His timing in each of our lives is as different as we are. 

In the bible Mary was young, and Sarah was old; they both carried the promise.

I sometimes think about the years before I discovered writing.  I neither knew I could write,

nor that I actually enjoyed it.

I have to remind myself not to regret the wanderings of my youth; I didn’t miss my chance. I wasn’t ready for it.

Heb 11:11  By faith even Sarah herself received power to conceive seed when she was past age, since she counted him faithful who had promised ASV

“Plotting” or “Plodding🎫”

I had a story in my head, and was obsessed by it, but was scared to commit myself to being a ‘writer‘.  I’d jumped in before; put one of my daydreams on paper, and had been horrified by my own writing. I didn’t know then it was okay to write badly because there was something called editing. So I put the story points in a spreadsheet to get the details out of my head.

Photo by Adrienne Andersen on

That was too slow. I dumped the spreadsheet and the paragraphs started flowing. Short on time, I chose prose over plotting, letting the story tell itself while I committed it to the page. That was my first novel, finished in 8 months and as of now, it’s buried somewhere.

I was then convinced I didn’t need plotting.  Which is probably why my next two novels took so long, and were rewritten so many times. 

With my current work in progress, I got half-way through and because I’d taken a year off work, felt I had the luxury, to try things I’d always skimmed over: namely plotting, and research.  While ultimately the writing is better, it’s also been infinitely easier. 

Photo by Maria Gulyaeva on

I’ll never again try to write a novel or any long work without thinking through what I’m trying to accomplish in each scene, chapter, even paragraph.

I plot loosely, and always deviate from it, but the investment in that step is invaluable. Writing fiction without a plot for me is having to create a world out of thin air while trying to write about it.  Plotting breaks up the process.  I create the framework and roadmap through plotting, then fill in the blanks, let story live and steer itself when I write. 

What works best for you and why?