When Cindy Smith and I began talking online, I asked her, as I do many authors, if she’d be interested in contributing a Made It Moment to my blog. And, like many authors, Cindy said modest words to the effect of, “I can’t, I haven’t made it yet.” This led to a conversation about how possible it is to ‘make it’ in this brave new world of legitimate indie publishing, small presses cropping up, and traditional ones being questioned. Is it easier to succeed now? Or harder than ever? Please read Cindy’s thoughts, and take a gander at the links posted after, to take part in this very timely discussion. I would love to hear your perspectives in the comments and/or in a Moment of your own!
To be quite honest, I joined the Author Central group right when it started up. As I religiously followed it daily, I quickly got the sense of who some of the ‘bigger fish’ in the pond were. It didn’t take too long for Jenny Milchman’s name to repeatedly keep popping up. I checked out her site and had to admit that it was impressive. As I am one of the ‘little fish’ in the pond due to my lack of technological savvy, I decided that maybe latching onto her coattails with my book might be a smart move. When I contacted her about doing so, she answered quickly and with a warm response, but there was a potential problem: her ‘Made it Moment’ was supposed to be about how I felt as a success. “The truth of the matter,” I responded, “is that I don’t feel like a success. Everyone writes a book, and anyone can publish their book with a p.o.d. publisher, so how does this make me more successful than anyone else who’s been doing this as diligently as I have for the past 9 months (my second try at launching the book) and has had little sales to show for it?”
I thought my answer would throw her, but she emailed back that maybe this was a good point to bring up for discussion. I think most authors will agree with me when I say that about 30% of the struggle is writing the book, and that the remaining 70% is marketing and promoting it. Currently, I wish I had majored in business or advertising instead of English; it may have helped me a great deal more! Yes, I can say that thanks to my study of literature and grammar, my book is well-written in the areas of content, style and syntax, some things I know are lacking in many self-published books. But that doesn’t help me sell any more of my books than ones that are not well-written. And even if my book were to be picked up by an agent or traditional publisher and published, the responsibility of promoting and advertising it still falls upon my shoulders. It seems that there are some contradictions here: why would a publisher want to leave the promotion of what is now theirs in an unsuspecting author’s hands to publicize? I’m an author, not an advertising mogul! I didn’t get a degree in marketing! They have made an investment in the potential of my book: isn’t it in their best interest to advertise, promote and market it to the best of their ability? After all, they not only have much greater experience in this than I, but also more monetary funds!
Yes, I realize that the present state of America’s economy has hurt them, and so have the massive amounts of e-books in the book world, but both of those things have hurt authors, too! I’m sorry to be so depressing, but when I read articles which state: “proof-readers for many publishers are diminishing”, “don’t expect your book to find itself on bookstore shelves”, and “most agents have an aversion to self-published books”, I can only conclude that ever getting published, other than self-published, is just a matter of pure chance, and the odds are not in the novice writer’s favor. Millions of books and e-books are submitted for publication every year, and yet bookstores, large and small, are going out of business. Most I have found will not allow an author to do a book-singing or author presentation. One author wrote down in detail all the specific steps she followed in getting her book published conventionally, even listing dates, costs, etc. She finished her article by saying, “If I did the exact same things today, with the same book and the same contacts, I’m not sure it would achieve publication.” And so, coming ‘round the mulberry bush’ again, I wonder if there really is that much of a difference between traditional and self-publishing. Why do I continue to work so hard at it then? I guess I just don’t know what else to do.
The idea for Nettie Parker’s Backyard came to me in a very vivid dream, and whereas most of my dreams go unremembered, this one was definitely unique. My research took me down some fascinating avenues as I discovered such things as the Gullah language in the Sea Islands, the Kindertransport, sand fly fever, and the role African-American soldiers played in WWII. Nettie’s character was based on that of my granddaughters; thus, some of her best virtues are those of trust, love, and friendship.
I have been a teacher and para-educator for over 30 years, most of which were spent in classrooms. The book is written for kids ages 9-13, the time when youth questions everything. Adolescence is starting and many children feel insecure about themselves, their relationships with peers, or even their own families and home life. These insecurities manifest themselves in various behaviors; some children withdraw into themselves, while some overcompensate for their fears by bullying others. I wrote this novel hoping to illustrate to children that bullying and intolerance toward race, religion, or the physically challenged have no place in our world. I believe that my book inspires readers to see that what matters is the “core” of each person, and that acceptance of others and their differences truly means enriching themselves.
Blogger’s note: As I’ve written elsewhere, on our recent cross-country trip I had a different experience than Cindy has. We saw bookstores opening and reopening; flagship stores starting up new branches. For excellent tips on how to work with bookstores to set up author events, please discover mystery author Mark Stevens and this excellent blog post.