Made It Moment: Tilia Klebenov Jacobs
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.
So happy I made it to the blog today… and congrats, Tilia. As one who fought through years (and years, and btw STILL years) of rejection to succeed in getting traditionally published (for my YA works), the indie thing terrifies me, mostly, at this point, from a technical standpoint (from formatting and editing to obtaining ISBN’s and distribution, etc, I just know it will be a full-time job, when I already have at least two or three other almost full time jobs. But I’ve also had three different agents take on my women’s fiction manuscripts (a sign of faith in the quality, yes?) and it’s made it up to the exec boards of at least three major traditional publishers (another sign of quality, yes?) before being rejected for everything from being “too interior” to being “too commercial.” As such, I started thinking I would publish for my 50th birthday this July (not going to happen and the ms is now out with another traditional editor for better or worse), but I get closer and closer to that indie publishing line. I hope I am brave enough to cross it when the Aha moment comes. Certainly, the DUH for me will likely be withstanding so many years of No’s. . . anyway, thanks for this post. xoxo gae
Comment by gae polisner — February 19, 2014 @ 11:17 am
How exciting and what a brave but wise decision. I am debating what to do next and so this was of particular interest to me. Well done and lots of success and many more books to come too. Thanks Jenny for hosting Tilia and thanks for being such an interesting guest Tilia.
Comment by Jane Risdon — February 19, 2014 @ 11:21 am
It’s a wonderful and powerful feeling to open that box and see how YOUR vision and all YOUR hard work came together – the cover, the formatting, the size, the weight.
And I relish the sense of being responsible for it, of “owning” it. If comments are good, then terrific, it’s all on me. If not, it’s a learning experience, and it’s also all mine. I can’t say, “My editor should have spotted that.” or “My agent should have seen that.” or “My publisher wanted it that way so I did it.” I do say, “That’s something to think about.” or “Maybe I was so caught up with that character I couldn’t see that she wasn’t complete.” or “I’ll be more aware of that when I write the next book.”
And I’ll write that next book on my schedule, not racing toward a date on a calendar set by someone else.
Comment by Carolyn J. Rose — February 19, 2014 @ 11:21 am
I loved reading this. I’m still holding out for the traditional publishing experience, but like Gae I’m getting closer and closer to considering indie publishing as a viable option – at least for other people if not yet for myself. Funny, I’ve loved indie films for years and lately my son has introduced me to some excellent indie music, but I balk at becoming an indie writer. Why?
Comment by Marianne Sheldon — February 19, 2014 @ 11:41 am
So glad to hear your story,Tilia! Thank you for sharing
Comment by Windy Lynn Harris — February 19, 2014 @ 11:58 am
I had a delivery today – copies of an anthology in which I have stories included. Not the first time I have nearly passed out with excitement opening such a package – have had other books with my stories – but I cannot wait for the day when my own book drops through the letter box. So I can really relate to this.
Comment by Jane Risdon — February 19, 2014 @ 1:03 pm
What an inspiring post – I am so pleased I stumbled across this blog today of all days!! You’ve hit on exactly what is most exciting – and terrifying – about indie publishing, the buck stops with me. I’ve worked as a screenwriter for many years, and so many times a project has been rejected at a late stage, and it has been all the more frustrating because I’ve had to compromise creatively by that point so much that I’d almost reject it myself. I would much rather people reject what I actually wanted to write
Good luck with your book!!
Comment by Claire — February 19, 2014 @ 3:00 pm
What a sweet, sweet child! I love this story. It brought tears to my eyes.
My experience is also different, having feet on three sides of the fence, so to speak (self-published, small press published, and the first of three Penguin books coming out this year). However we can get it done, it’s the story that matters, and getting it to the reader. Congrats, Tilia and thanks for bringing us the post, Jenny!
Comment by Kaye George — February 19, 2014 @ 5:09 pm
Thanks for the support, all! What wonderful, thoughtful comments.
Comment by Tilia Klebenov Jacobs — February 19, 2014 @ 8:48 pm
Marianne, you hit the nail on the head, because this realization was part of my process too. There are indie movies and indie bands; why shouldn’t there be indie authors too? The joys and frustrations are the same. Sure, it’s hard to break through the noise, but knowing that what’s out there is mine, warts and all, is deeply satisfying.
Comment by Tilia Klebenov Jacobs — February 19, 2014 @ 8:51 pm
Gae and Jane, one thing I didn’t have time to mention in the blog post is that I’ve been traditionally published too, in anthologies and the occasional article. For the most part that’s been a very positive experience too. We have so many options today as writers that I think the line between indie and traditional publishing is blurring and will continue to do so. And I agree with Kaye: what should really matter is how good the story is, not how it was published!
Comment by Tilia Klebenov Jacobs — February 19, 2014 @ 8:55 pm
What a great, insightful essay! This is a fascinating time to be a writer, with all the different publishing methods (legacy, small, hybrid, self) available. My novel was traditionally published, but I self-pubbed a prequel novella, and both methods have their risks and rewards. Thanks for being so open about your experiences.
Comment by E.A. Aymar — February 20, 2014 @ 1:44 pm
Name a traditionally published debut author who made a big splash in the last two years. Right. Now name indie published debuts: Hugh Howey, AG Riddle, Steena Holmes, the list goes on. These days, you indie publish, build a following, prove sales numbers, then consider traditional publishers for distribution. Too many of my fellow indies raise their noses at traditional publishers but the distribution option is huge. Best of luck!
Comment by Seeley James — February 25, 2014 @ 6:45 pm
What a beautiful post!! Congratulations Tilia. It sounds like you made the perfect decision
Comment by Johanna — February 26, 2014 @ 6:03 pm