So, the boys are safely settled back into the school routine. Now what?
Well, since you’re asking . . .
I’ve been stay-at-home momming, with a few homeschooling years thrown in, since the birth of my oldest son. I spent the months leading up to his birth frantically scribbling away at the middle years novel I was writing. I’d like to say that his early arrival scuttled that project, but he was born a mere week and a half ahead of schedule. I would have needed the gestation period of an elephant in order to finish that project before his birth. Who am I kidding? Even that wouldn’t have been near long enough.
I’ve returned to that novel numerous times during my 14 years of motherhood. It’s still not done. I’ve started a few stories. An adult novel. A couple chapter books. None of them are done either. I have completed a couple of picture books, however, one of which has made the rounds of several publishing houses. Twice it has come back with encouraging comments handwritten on the rejection slip.
For those of you not in the know, that is A VERY GOOD THING. Yes, it’s a rejection, but if a busy publisher has taken the time to make a handwritten comment, then maybe, just maybe, your work has merit. (In the spirit of full disclosure I will admit that one of those encouraging handwritten notes was from a receptionist. She said to let her know if it was ever published because she loved it and would buy it. Yet another example of talented people working way below their capabilities — she obviously should have been the editor of that publishing house.)
But here’s the thing. Every time I send out my manuscript, it takes 4 to 6 months to find out whether or not it has been accepted for print. That’s a long time and Leaf (the working title of my picture book) has already spent 2 years trying to find a home. On top of that, when he is finally accepted somewhere (at this pace, I’ll need a good swig of Geriatric Elixir in order to hold the pen steady enough to sign the contract — “Just put a great, big X right here, great-grandma.”), I will have absolutely no say in who illustrates the story. And, in a picture book, that is a very important consideration. The last thing I want is for my beautiful Leaf to be reduced to a cartoon caricature.
Last autumn, I heard a woman speak who had actually turned down a publishing offer because she already had her own illustrator. She had found someone whose work perfectly captured the feel of her story and she wasn’t willing to give that up for an in-house illustrator that might not do her story justice. Hmmmm. Interesting. Seed planted.
Three months later, I attended a day-long course on marketing your self-published book (correction: marketing your bestselling self-published book). I came away from that course discouraged, angry and frustrated. The seed that had just started poking a tender green shoot out of the dirt was trampled to smithereens.
So many things stuck in my craw that day that I’m not even sure where to start.
There was the assertion that “it’s not about the book.” It’s about the speaking engagements that will arise from the book. Apparently, that’s where the real money is. Excuse me, but what if it is about the book? What if you have a lovely story that speaks to readers of all ages and all you want to do is get that story in the hands of as many people as you can so they can cuddle up with their children and enjoy it together? I don’t want to give a speech about it. I want people to read it.
Then there was the constant reminder that I had to be authentic. That word was used countless times throughout the day, interspersed with pieces of advice like: create a marketing platform. This platform should be made up of at least 300,000 people reading your blog, subscribing to your newsletter, following you on Facebook, visiting your website. Blog? Facebook? Website? Oh, yeah. Here’s introverted me authentically chatting up my platoon of faceless “friends.”
Here’s another one: if you are not able to sell 50% of 30,000 copies then don’t do it. Excuse me? My self-publishing printer counsels against doing an initial print run of more than 500 copies. Unless I have a stellar marketing plan in place. But the seminar marketing guru says don’t even think of hiring him until you’ve got 300,000 people crowded onto your platform. AND BE AUTHENTIC! Can you say “crazymaker?”
But what really got me were the tips on how to create a bestseller. Principal among them was getting all your “friends” in your platform to buy your book at Amazon at precisely the day (and hour of the day) you have designated. And that manipulation is authentic . . . how?
So here it is, seven months after that fateful, dream-stomping day and I’m doing what? Writing a blog? What’s up with that? Have I sold my authentic soul for the shiny lure of a bestseller?
No. But to explain it all will take a whole other blog so . . . tune in next week.