I'd like to share with you the details of my author journey, so that maybe you can find encouragement in whatever journey you are on, or are thinking about embarking on:
More than two years ago, I had a manuscript which I had no intention of ever publishing, and stack of drawn pages for a comic book series that I had no clear plan for. Publishing was too costly. I didn't have the money available for wholesale printing costs, and no plan for what to do with 500+ books even if I did have them printed. I was working a job I was good at. It barely paid the bills and it gave me no feeling of fulfillment. After doing so well in school and college I felt like a complete failure. It felt like my soul was slowly dying. My art career hadn't panned out the way I'd hoped. It hadn't panned out at all, and slowly, through the years, I lost energy to put into drawings and stories that once sustained my artistic hopes. No one was going to pick up my graphic novels, and despite having so many people who loved my artistic style, no one would give me a job. I was trapped in a world that was not accepting me.
It was at that time of the soul-sucking mundane that I gave a second look to my manuscript. About to toss it into the garbage, I decided to read it to see if there was any hope of turning it into a comic book series. It was then that I realized it was already in the medium it belonged in. It needed no drawings to bring my writing to life. The writing was already lively. It was as good as the books I enjoyed to read, so why had I ever written it off? Why had I ignored it and pushed it aside, considering it not good enough?
I looked into the cost of printing a paperback novel. Still much too high. Still out of reach. Then I pursued a search for a literary agent. I scoured lists of them at the library, searching for those who would accept my genre and and submissions. I began sending out email after email, including the specifics that each called for. I didn't get many rejections. Most of my submissions never made it that far. They bounced back immediately with automated replies that unsolicited submissions were no longer being received. I was dead in the water, searching for a nibble in a vast sea without any hungry fish.
Then my husband gifted me with a kindle, and it changed everything for me.
I began downloading books and read two that captivated me. Sterling by Dannika Dark, and Branded by Keary Taylor. I looked to the publisher credit. Createspace. That didn't sound like any publisher I was familiar with. I went to the authors' websites and discovered something amazing. These books were self published, and they were incredible. Then I realized something... Self publishing wasn't for the books that weren't good enough to make the cut. It was for those authors brave enough to step out on their own. Suddenly, my impatience with the publishing game didn't make me feel like a failure. I didn't have to keep waiting and hoping for a chance. There was another way.
It was at this point that I changed course, and also was laid off from my job. It was a misfortune that masked a blessing. I set about reinventing my career. I focused on my books and at the same time, a change in vocation into the gaming art industry. I taught myself programs like Z-brush and 3DS Max while writing more and editing constantly. I readied my book for beta reading and for professional editing. By some stroke of luck, I had access to an editor through a family member. She graciously accepted my book and I was on my way.
Then a bump in the road. I needed to go back to work. I'd been applying to jobs all the while, but hadn't even scored an interview. I'd taken that as a sign that I was moving in the right direction with my books, but hit the point in February 2013 when I had no other choice. I had to go somewhere that I had hoped not to. I found a job in a different town, with a long commute, less pay than my previous job, and it was back in a similar line of work that I had found so draining before. I had made so many strides, but found myself back where I started (and a few paces back) but something was different. Hope had returned. A new goal energized me. After a few months, I was forced to make the decision between art and writing. There wasn't time for both. And writing won out.
In the two years following that point, I have published two books, and have another that will be released soon. I have more than doubled my profits over last year (which actually doesn't amount to much, but double is double!) and learned so many things,, which I would like to share:
1. Writing is the easy part. A writer's desire to write all the time is what makes everything they do for marketing so important because...
2. Selling books isn't easy. Dumbly, I'd thought that once I hit that publish button readers would find me. I didn't expect hundreds of ales, but I'd never thought my book would be siting at the bottom of a very deep, dark hole, with thousands of books piled on top of it. Seriously, every sale I made, I knew exactly who had bought that book, which made the false promises of friends and acquaintances glaringly obvious. And they thought I would never know. Because they though like I had thought, that my book could be found on its own. How silly of us.
Since that realization, I have learned much about the world of marketing. I have found many things that do not work for me, and a few things that sort of do. Keeping in mind...
3. Stay optimistic. I used to have to repeat this to myself all the time, but after maybe a year and a half, it's finally sank in. I used to seek out famous books and scour their bad reviews in a reminder to myself that my book can't please everyone. Even books considered "the best ever written" have piles of snarky one star, hateful reviews. And honestly, who wants to read a book with only top notch reviews? I have found that sometimes a person's angered complaint of a book sparks my curiosity and makes me want to read it to see what all the fuss is about.
So after two years I'm still puttering along, slowly gaining momentum. Sometimes I think I should be further along than I am, but then I think back and see just how far I have come. The struggle was very real and intense, but I made it through, and I keep on going. Strides, while shorter than I'd like, are happening.
At the risk of sounding cliche, Rome was not built in a day. Things take time, and from what I've seen in the past two years, I am grateful for my struggles because small strides are working, not only to gain readers, but also in keeping my soul alive and energized. And that really what living life ifs all about.