December 5, 2011

Made It Moment: C.V. Smith

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 10:26 am

Nettie Parker's Background

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!

C.V. Smith

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.

Related links:

The Self-Publishing Hall of Fame

A New Self-Publishing Success Story

When Anyone Can be a Published Author

Why Not to Self-Publish

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.






11 Comments »

  1. As always, a great Made It Moment.

    Comment by Alison DeLuca — December 5, 2011 @ 10:38 am

  2. Great post. I think we often keep at it because we don’t know what else to do!

    Comment by Connie J Jasperson — December 5, 2011 @ 10:43 am

  3. Neat!!!!

    Comment by Savvy — December 5, 2011 @ 11:51 am

  4. Thank you, Cindy, for keeping it real. I especially like your question about why publishers would rely on authors to do their own promotion. I get a sense they regard fiction writers as the same as non-fiction writers–ye olde “who knows your book better than you do?” rationale. The skill sets for self-promo and non-fiction writing are not contradictory; both ventures are social and based on (more or less) objective knowledge. Fiction writing is subjective and personal, and a solitary activity. Of course, there are those who can do both–Jenny being one of them. But I know that spending days alone in a room inventing a world on my computer screen (which I find rewarding) is nothing like blogging, social networking, touring, doing events, and constantly blowing my own horn (which I find unduly exhausting). The writer me wants to be the quiet girl at the party who doesn’t miss a trick. I prefer to listen than talk, to observe than be observed. I like to be modest and have someone ELSE tell the world how fantastic my novel is. Doing PR forces me to be someone I’m not. And–dare I say this–is PR is really the key? I sometimes wonder if those few who succeed like to think there is a reason that they succeeded other than luck, and the disheartening truth just might be that either trad or indie publishing is equally a crap shoot.

    Comment by Sara — December 5, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

  5. A thought just occurred to me – one which I hear all the time in “business” but I have never heard any indie authors mention it. That is – often to get a job in business, especially these days with few jobs, it’s who you know. It’s not how good you are, but you must have the connections. I wonder how much of that comes into play in both traditional and pod publishing?

    C.V. – I hear you about “working so hard at it!”

    Comment by Doctor Barbara — December 5, 2011 @ 3:35 pm

  6. All so very true Cindy, and put so very well. Thanks for sharing your story!

    Comment by mountainmama — December 5, 2011 @ 4:56 pm

  7. This moment has its own virtue

    Regards,
    Arthur

    Comment by Arthur Levine — December 5, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

  8. Cindy, I’ve heard every single point you made and have to admit there have been times when I was under the delusion my own thoughts on the subject were original.
    I loved your reference to the fact that a publisher owns the title once it is sold, yet they leave the marketing up to the author. Frankly, this makes the publisher nothing more than a printing shop with a “know” imprint.
    Back when publishers were doing some marketing of their wares there was an article in Writer’s Digest. The mid-list author was very frank. He said, “You are seldom going to sell through the advance, so take the money and run. Write another book and forget the first one.”
    Strange, but today you are expected to have a marketing plan in place before the title will be sold. Agents are advertising offers of marketing services (for a fee.) You are expected to sell someone else’s property. Wonder if that also goes for the Brooklyn Bridge.
    Thank you for your honesty.
    Nash Black (Irene)

    Comment by Nash Black — December 5, 2011 @ 9:47 pm

  9. Dear Sara,
    You’re right–trad or indie publishing is all a crap shoot, and a snowball’s chance in Hell. We’d have better luck playing the lottery! But because of that one slim chance, that ‘dream come true’ that just the right person at just the right time will read it…that’s what keeps us going. In talks with Jenny, we’ve decided that there will have to be some objective way of rating self-pubbed books for language mechanics as well as style of writing, content, etc. I vote for Jenny to set up this new venture for all!!

    Dear Dr. Barbara,
    I think very often it comes down to connections rather than talent, darn it!! This doesn’t happen with POD books–ANYONE can get their book printed! And that’s the problem that kills us other self-pubbed authors right away!

    Dear Irene,
    Thank YOU for your honesty!! I couldn’t agree with you more!

    And to all my other friends who commented, thank you so very much for your thoughts, support and frankness.

    C.V. Smith

    Comment by C.V. Smith — December 5, 2011 @ 11:31 pm

  10. HI CINDYZ; YOU ARE A VERY SMART & GIFTED WOMAN,& I AGREE WITH WITH EVERYTHING YOU WROTE. I ESPECIALLY AGREE WITH =
    “IT IS WHOM YOU KNOW, NOT WHAT YOU KNOW.= IN MY YOUTH, I HAD
    A SIMILAR EXPERIENCE, NOT WITH A BOOK = BUT WITH SONGS I
    WROTE. IT WAS VERY DIFFICULT TO MEET THE “RIGHT PEOPLE”
    & RIGHT PUBLISHERS” I FINALLY (WITH LUCK) MET THE RIGHT
    PUBLISHER, BUT BROKE MANY APPOINTMENTS WITH THEM, BECAUSE I WAS
    ABOUT TO BECOME ENGAGED, & AT THAT TIME, IMPORTANT TO ME
    THAT I GET MARRIED TO THE LOVE OF MY LIFE. (NOW GOING ON
    62 YRS. I AM NOT SORRY I MADE THAT DECISION==

    BUT CINDY, PLEASE KEEP GOING & HAVE THAT FAITH, =WITH YOUR
    “FIGHTING’ THIS, & COURAGE, ONE DAY YOUR “LUCK” WILL CHANGE,
    & YOUR BEAUTIFUL BOOK WILL BE PUBLISHED. I READ IT & COULD
    NOT PUT IT DOWEN. I L O V E D I T.& WILL PASS IT ON TO
    FRIENDS.
    LOVE, MINNIE KRAMER

    Comment by MINNIE KRAMER — December 8, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

  11. Cindy,

    Your honesty is refreshing, and you couldn’t have hooked up with a better person than Jenny to help you think through the publishing process in these slippery times. It used to be so much easier. Either a publisher bought your book or you didn’t get published (assuming you didn’t want to go to a vanity press). Now that self-publishing has entered such a different realm, i.e., it has gained respectability and viability in just a few years, it’s much more complex to decide which route to take, and how to make it work for you. I enjoyed reading your thoughtful journey. Liz

    Comment by Elizabeth C. Main — December 8, 2011 @ 9:51 pm

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