Sunday, September 28, 2014

Guest author Joyce Ann Brown: Flushing out Publishing Process Frustrations

Joyce Ann Brown
Joyce Ann Brown is a landlady, story teller, retired school Library Media Specialist, former classroom teacher, former Realtor, and a freelance writer. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, and a Kansas City Writers' Group. The first two books of her “Psycho Cat and the Landlady” cozy mystery series are, CATastrophic Connections, ready for pre-sale, and FURtive Investigation. Visit her website at and her blog at . She will give away a copy of her first book to a random three people who comment on this post.

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:
  1. 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.)
  2. 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.) 
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.)
  6. 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.)
  7. 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.)
  8. 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.)
  9. 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.)
  10. 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.)
True, the final part of my analogy doesn't quite fit. I don't have the same giddy feeling of achievement after tricking that ornery automatic toilet as I do having brought my book to life. There might be a better analogy for my experience. I just haven't thought of it yet.

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.


Liane Spicer said...

Welcome to Novel Spaces, Joyce!

Now that's an analogy I'd never have thought of. I'm awaiting the proof of my first indie trade paperback and I'm on tenterhooks. Washed out colors on my gorgeous cover? Formatting problems? Egads! The automated process said it's perfect, but who knows?

*biting nails to the quick*

Joyce Ann said...

...yes, bitten fingernails, too. I'm sur we can all relate.

Joyce Ann said...

I mean "sure." This is another proof that we need editors! I read the comment before I posted, too. My only excuse is that I am out of the country using my phone to type. I was never good at hunt and peck. Good luck with your indie experience!

Charles Gramlich said...

Now that is an interesting analogy.

Sally Jadlow said...

Joyce Ann, here's my analogy of the writing/publishing process:

Birthing and Self-Publishing

1.You get an idea for a novel. (It’s like the first time the thought pops into you head you might be pregnant.)
2.You lay awake nights while plots flit through your head. (You lay awake nights wondering how your life will change with a small person to care for.)
3.You begin to put your thoughts on paper. (You choose colors to paint that spare bedroom and shop for baby furniture.)
4.When you get to the middle of the book, you find your plot isn’t working the way you though it would. You make adjustments in the story line. (You find your clothes are too tight. You need to wear larger ones to accommodate your growing waistline.)
5.You finish the first draft and sit back with satisfaction. (Your doctor tells you the baby should be here about the expected date—you can’t wait to hold your child in your arms.)
6.You go to Lamaze class with your husband to learn about the birthing procedure. (You take your manuscript to a critique group to learn a harsh reality—rewrites are in order.)
7.You practice your exercises as your baby becomes more evident. (You work diligently to put the finishing touches on your novel.)
8.You suffer sleep deprivation as birth day draws near. (You wrestle with the fine points of formatting and cover design well into the night.)
9.You awaken to the first-hand knowledge that today will be your baby’s birthday. (You send off the manuscript, complete with cover copy, pricing, and marketing instructions.)
10.You watch the baby monitor reports of heartbeat on a little screen beside the birthing bed. (You wait for that proof copy to make any final corrections.)
11.Finally, you hear the command to push. (You send off the final edits, put in your order, and wait.)
12.You hold a squirming, squalling baby in your arms. (You reach into the box and pull out the beautiful fruits of your labor as you exclaim, “It was all worth it!”)

Joyce Ann said...

Oh, I like that analogy. It's gentler and sweeter than my mine.

Sally Jadlow said...

I thought yours was pretty funny!