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So, one of the things I hoped to do with this blog was to advertise my books. Shocker, right? I love writing and have been doing it both for fun and professionally for over two decades. My first two published books were not the first two books I actually wrote. Those books are waiting until their point in the series comes along and are ready for publishing. My first books were a random spark of inspiration, something which had to be told. Once they were out, the story changed, and morphed, and melted into a new form. After simmering for a while, writing, editing, it was ready. But I wasn’t. I was not ready to publicly put myself out there and seek publishing. What made me finally decide to take the leap?
It was time. Time was running out. The books were just sitting there waiting (some of them waiting for years to be published) so I published. I set myself a goal that I would publish my first book before my next birthday and another book would be published a few weeks later. All my life I had intended to publish traditionally. That’s what “real” authors do after all. However, at the time I didn’t care about being a “real” author. I just wanted to fulfill my life’s goal within the timeframe I had set for myself and self-publishing was the only way to achieve that.
Years ago, someone asked me if I was willing to sell the rights to my books and see them made into movies. At the time my answer was “No, not right now. I’d feel like I was a sellout.” Because my books weren’t done yet. Anything which was made from my ideas wouldn’t at all resemble what I had intended them to be. So, I waited and worked and waited for my work to be completed to my satisfaction. And my buyer had moved on. I had no agent, no publisher interested in me. No social media platform, no fan base, no time to make great advertising campaigns for myself, and no money to even pay a “professional” artist to create a cover for my books (More on the reason why “professional” is in quotes later). I was a single mom struggling to make ends meet.
The one thing I did have was my number one fan. My son. Anything which is kid appropriate that I have written, he has read…and critiqued. (Boy, is he a tough reviewer!) He’s also my personal cheerleader. He thinks I can do anything despite my many protestations to the contrary. After reading the first book I published, End of Imperium (More of a short story really.), he insisted that I finally get myself published. And I was inclined to agree. It was time. So, I sucked it up and sketched myself a cover. Then I doctored it up in an art program I wasn’t very familiar with (It’s been almost twenty years since I’ve worked with digital art regularly and soooo very much has changed.), and voila.
It is a cover which I both love and hate. Love, because it conveys exactly what I want it to. The style is deliberately not very flashy or detailed. The art is supposed to look like a simple sketch from someone’s sketchbook. It is a theme for the series which the succeeding covers will follow. As the Maker of Fate series progresses the art of the covers become more complex, mirroring the development of the characters and plot. (Spoiler ALERT!) One of the main characters in the series is an amateur archaeologist and the covers are sketches and paintings from his notebook. Try to guess which character because that isn’t going to be revealed until “Empire of Man” the next book in Maker of Fate, is released.
However, without an established fan base, or a large advertising campaign, covers are the main reason that some people choose books. It’s hard to guess at what my books are about when casually searching them and glancing at the covers. My covers being drab and boring as they are don’t help my sales and probably cost me some. In that respect I hate them, and a more experienced digital artist probably could have put together something much nicer if I’d been able to afford a custom cover. But considering that I majored in digital art way back before my son was born, it felt really silly to pay for someone else to make my cover when I’d earned a living from my art once upon a time.
Yet all of this seems like reasons not to publish, or at the very least not self-publish. If I had gotten up the nerve to start submitting my books for publication a decade ago when they were ready for publishing, I would be ten years farther along in my career as an author. I wouldn’t have had to self-publish and I’d probably have enough of a fan base that self-publishing wouldn’t such a gamble for me now. Most importantly, I would have been happier if I had done it. There wouldn’t be that “what if?” question floating around in my mind. Would I have made more money, and therefore been able to work less, spend more time with my son, and afford him more of the things I wanted him to have?
I’m not saying that publishing is going to make anyone rich. And I’m not advocating self-publishing or traditional publishing. What I’m saying is that I was afraid to publish because I was afraid of what readers, and more importantly, my family, would think. For me, it wasn’t worth waiting so long and missing the opportunities that I missed, just so that I could be confident of myself and my work. Should you try to publish your books? That is up to you. However, nothing about my personal life has changed since I published my books.
I still hang out with my kid every day. I still write every day. I still paint and take photography trips on the weekends. Professionally I’ve grown. For the first time in over a decade I have social media accounts. The events I’ve been attending and blogging about for other people I now blog for myself. My photography and artwork are displayed on my, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook instead of sold and published as someone else’s work. I feel busier than I’ve ever been. More importantly, it’s nice to be able to say “That was me. I made that.”, instead of pretending that I don’t know anything about that photo, article, advertisement copy, or book I sold to someone else as a ghost writer.
Publishing my work for myself has been a life, long dream of mine which I’ve now fulfilled. And for the first time in my life I’m getting credit for my ideas and my creativity instead of someone else. I’m still not fully out of the closet as a writer. I use a pseudonym, so that my professional life and personal life remain separate entities. But I now know I shouldn’t have been afraid to publish for so long because I frequently wonder, “what if”.
What about you? Are you ready to follow your dreams? What keeps you from doing the things you secretly want to do? Do you have a serious case of someday-itis?