We’ve heard a lot from writers on the traditional/indie fence lately. The debate to my mind should be less of a debate and more of a weighing of the pros and cons of each deserving path. That’s what author Tilia Jacobs did, and with some very good reasons for deciding, she chose a path. I won’t steal her thunder by revealing what it was. But the reason I’m featuring Tilia is not simply because she has a good story, or because her reasoning on this question is sound. It’s not because we agree on a lot of things, because we actually disagree about a fair amount. For example, I’ve found traditional publishing to be very different from her experience with it (and no, that didn’t just give the whole thing away). The reason I’m sharing this piece is because Tilia has a simply great Moment. One that takes that indie/trad fence…and knocks it all to bits.
First off, I must thank Jenny for offering me this spot on her blog. What a splendid, ongoing source of inspiration!
And now for that moment.
I wrote my book because I had a story stuck in my head and characters I took to bed with me every night. I wrote it because I loved it. Happily, I still do.
Even more happily, I am not the only one who feels this way. When it was still a manuscript I sent it out to a flock of Beta readers who said lovely things like, “This was the only thing I could read for three days,” and “I called my mom in the middle to tell her how great it was,” and “I couldn’t put it down—my wife was yelling at me to do the things I usually do, like sleep.”
Then it won an award, and more people told me how exciting it was, and how the characters drew them in. I basked; I beamed.
So when the twenty-sixth agent turned it down, I got a little cranky.
“This is stupid!” I fumed. “By the time I get published, half my characters will be dead.”
My nine-year-old, always my biggest cheerleader, agreed with me. He knows my secondary characters are old.
My “Aha!” moment came when I gave myself permission to indie pub. Some might call it a “Duh” moment. I won’t argue.
It took a while. I had, alas, drunk freely of the traditional-publish Kool-Aid. “Don’t do it,” people said. “It’s the last refuge of the unpublishable writer. You’ll torpedo your career.”
But. William Blake, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, Gertrude Stein, and many others self-published.
This, I thought, is not a bad club to be in.
Then I met several writers who had indie pubbed. Not one regretted it.
“Aha!” I cried. (Or perhaps, “Duh!”) “I can do this too.”
The real joy set in when I realized that in the absence of an agent, an editor, and a traditional publisher, I was the last word on quality. Being a Type A who doesn’t really want to turn her work over to a team of people who can edit mistakes into it (wish I were kidding about that), I embraced each moment of the indie pub process. Formatting the book for print. Working with an artist on the cover, and then the trailer. Re-formatting for Kindle. I was shocked at how much fun this was. Getting my much-loved story ready for its publication date felt like helping a firstborn daughter dress for her debutante ball.
My proof copy arrived one evening just before dinner. I opened the box and—
—and it was my book. It wasn’t pages from my printer or a bound copy I had made up at Staples. It wasn’t an image on my computer. It was My Book, and it was in my hands and it was solid and real. It was my work and love for the past several years.
I screamed. My kids screamed. Literary euphoria took over the house.
That night after dinner my nine-year-old said, “Mommy, I want to make dessert.” Giggling, he retired to the kitchen where he very carefully spelled out the word “Author” on a plate with chocolate-covered raisins.
And that was the sweetest Moment of all.
Tilia Klebenov Jacobs has won numerous awards for her fiction and nonfiction writing. She is a judge in the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, and teaches writing in two prisons in Massachusetts. Tilia lives near Boston with her husband, two children, and two standard poodles. Tilia is the author of Wrong Place, Wrong Time, available at Amazon and select indie bookstores.