It was a dark and stormy night…
It was dark because, you know, nighttime and all. But it wasn’t stormy. In fact, it was a pretty boring night as far as weather was concerned.
The Husband was asleep. He always goes to bed early. He can’t help it. He says he starts to “shut down” at around ten p.m. I think it’s because, when he was a child, he actually listened to his mother when she said it was time for bed. He really went to sleep rather than staying up to covertly read under the covers with a flashlight.
But this blog post isn’t about my husband and his sleeping habits, as disappointing as they are. This post is about what began that night.
It was 2013 and a year had gone by since I started querying publishers and agents about my novel Clara. On the wall of our spare room hung some ten or fifteen rejection letters. They could be divided into two piles.
One pile would be for the “this book isn’t what we’re looking for right now” letters, which suggests that it would be a bad business decision, at this moment, to pick up my fantasy novel. I could understand that. As noble an art as writing is, you still need money for the ink and paper.
The second pile would be for the “I’m just not excited about this project” letters, as if agents need to feel the urge to do back flips off their desk after reading my sample. It’s as if the agent was saying that if he or she didn’t have to take periodic walks to calm down enough to try to sell the manuscript, then it simply was not worth the effort. I could not understand that.
In-between the submissions were gaps of waiting to hear back from whomever I sent the last batch of queries. During these gaps, I tweaked my letters, read article after article about the best way to write a query letter, and I edited my novel in an almost obsessive manner.
After a year, I had a choice. Three choices, to be exact.
My first choice would be to simply give up. Not give up altogether but to give up Clara and move on to something else. Perhaps the reason why I was being rejected so many times was because the book wasn’t any good and I was wasting my time.
This choice did not appeal to me. Clara had been written and re-written over the years since I was thirteen. It’s a very personal story to me and, one day, I may fully explain that. The point is that I had invested so much into this novel that the idea of giving it up was repugnant. That left the two other choices.
My second choice was to keep trying. Perhaps I just hadn’t found the right agent or publisher. Perhaps I needed to shoot for the smaller presses. Perhaps I needed to do even more research than I already was doing in selecting the agents to query.
However, I was tired. I put those rejection letters on the wall in a sort of silent “screw you” and a reminder to keep trying. But I was sick of seeing them. I was sick of rejection.
My third choice was to self-publish.
I did not like the idea of self-publishing, not right away. Before that night in 2013, I had been reading about the boon of self-published works and a friend of mine had been reading said works as they appeared on Amazon. She liked them but I suspected that they were all unedited piles of crap that had been rejected by those who knew better.
In other words, I was being a snob about the whole idea.
It’s amazing, though, what desperation does to a person’s point of view. Leading up to that night in 2013, I slowly began to find works that weren’t bad. And I began finding online companies, like Sherman Writing Services, who offered editing services. I began finding indications that there were those who really treated it like a business and a passion.
In the days leading up to that fateful night, I had made a cover for Clara and had even formatted the first version. I told myself I was just doing it as something fun but, as I sat before the computer on that night, reading the information on the KDP page, I realized I had been slowly coming to a conclusion.
My patience was running out. I did not want to let Clara go but, at the same time, I was questioning whether it was worth it anymore to keep pushing her. Telling myself about how many times Rowling was rejected did not give the amount of encouragement it once did.
So, on that night of boring weather, with every creature in the house asleep but me, I said, “Screw it.”
I became a self-published, or indie, author because I stopped having the patience for traditional publishing. I got tired of waiting for my writing to be what a publishing house wanted and I got tired of waiting for an agent to be “excited” about my work, whatever the hell that means.
I’ve learned a lot since that night. I learned that I really shouldn’t design my own covers. I also learned that, when publishing, you need to do more planning rather than just saying “screw it” and hitting the upload button. I learned about marketing and advertising and editing.
It’s 2016 and I’m now a full-time writer. I’m barely making enough money to buy coffee at my favorite coffee shop and there are times when seeing my stats on Amazon gives me the urge to drink. But with the publication date of Clara’s Return growing ever closer, I can’t find it in myself to regret the decision I made that night.
Dear readers, what are the times you’ve felt rejected or you’ve had to call up the courage to strike out on your own? Tell me in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter!