|Joyce Ann Brown|
For the past several weeks, whenever I had a few minutes to reflect, I tried to come up with an analogy for the experience of self-publishing my book. The process of searching for an agent or a publisher is like applying to a good university or for a job with an outstanding employer. You go to class and work hard to produce your best work, send out applications and individually formatted resumes, and wait for ages to hear, receive rejections, get some interviews, and wait for more ages to hear anything. The process of self-publishing is similar up to a point, but...
More analogies ran through my mind, until one day I visited the restroom at a movie theatre. It hit me. Self-publishing is like using an automatic toilet. Now, don't get me wrong. The end product of both can be very successful—achievement and fulfillment. One doesn't often see people leaving restroom stalls looking depressed and anxious.
Consider the similarities in the two procedures:
- You learn about nutrition, drink plenty of liquids, and pay for organic fruits, vegetables, and low-fat proteins for years. (Study creative writing, spend years writing a book, and pay for professional editing.)
- Inside the stall, you pull out a paper seat cover, tear it open, and set it on the toilet seat. (Open self-publishing Websites, read the formatting rules, and download templates.)
- You stand up in triumph, having avoided tearing the paper cover to shreds, unbutton, and unzip. (Sit up straight at the computer and, with confidence, enter the manuscript into the template.)
- The automatic toilet flushes before you can turn and sit on it, and the paper cover is flushed down. (After a week of unexpected formatting technicalities of uploading your masterpiece, you learn that the free cover choices are unremarkable and that you need to hire a cover artist.)
- You grab another paper cover and tear out the middle with care. (Look for and hire a superb graphic artist to design a magnificent cover.)
- You cross your thighs and squeeze when your bladder becomes demanding. (Wait with an impending sense of urgency for the cover artist to do her thing, because you've announced to your following that your book will be out very soon, and it is beginning to not be very soon at all.)
- You lean over to hold the cover to the toilet seat while the automatic flush repeats. (Consider all the proposals for the book cover and start learning about the formatting rules on another self-publishing site while waiting for the cover.)
- You jerk back up and wipe your face with your sleeve in disgust after the toilet flush splashes droplets into your eyes while you were holding the paper down. (Reformat parts of the text and send the file back to the graphic artist for additional work after the publishing service again finds some formatting problems.)
- You look down to discover the second paper cover is gone. The toilet flushed it while you were wiping your eyes. Phooey! (Submit the reformatted files and receive the paperback proof only to see washed-out colors on the book cover and a centering problem on the copyright page and realize you must return to the formatting process.)
- You stand to the side of the motion detector, take your pants down, pull the cover out, jerk it open, throw it on the seat, turn, and sit before the cover can be flushed. When the sensor delays the flush for a full minute after you stand up, you raise an eyebrow at the mechanism. As you pull up your pants and grab your purse from the door holder, you feel cocky about having conquered the problems. (Complete the corrections, resubmit the final files, and look back at the process with a sense of accomplishment mollified by the understanding that the pain of learning to format is only the beginning of the work involved in sharing your story with readers.)
Author Jenny Milchman spoke at my local Sisters in Crime meeting this month. Queries for her first book, Cover of Snow, gained her an agent, but it took thirteen years, during which she wrote eight more books, for her book to be published. She then did a seven month book tour across the U.S. to publicize and sell the book before she wrote Ruin Falls and had it published and subsequently started another tour. She is now a successful psychological mystery writer. I wonder what she would say…. My pen-to-press saga was like…
Juliet Kincaid received rejections for her cute fairytale-based novelettes until she self-published and started selling. Her Cinderella, P.I. stories have made the top ten on Amazon for short fiction. It's probable she would relate a different self-publishing comparison.
Sally Jadlow's first book was published by a small publishing house, but since then she has become an indie publisher of several Christian books and historical fiction novels. To what would she compare her experience?
Deb Julienne wrote for twenty years and now has her first book published (Sex, Lies, and Beauty Aids) and several more coming. I'm sure she could think of an analogy for her twenty year voyage.
Do you have an analogy for your own publishing story? Please comment.