For my first post on this site (and, incidentally, my first blog post ever. I know, right?), I decided to share some of my insights and experiences on the process of getting published.
I’ve been writing for the past 15+ years, most of which has been spent on my novel Solaea. As I mentioned in the background section for Caeli and the About page, there are two main reasons this has taken me so long:
1. My lack of training and experience, which resulted in me having to do some major rewrites over the years. Not an easy thing, especially as the book got longer, I assure you. Sometimes I rewrote because of plot holes I discovered, while other times I did it because my writing skills had naturally improved and I saw ways to strengthen the narrative.
2. My tendency to feel unsatisfied with the finished product. I can’t tell you how many times I looked over the “final draft” and found things to change, be it minor or major. I fell into that classic trap painters often experience, where they just keep making “corrections” to their masterpiece and never stop. They could keep layering on paint forever and ever, never finishing, and yet truly not making any improvements to the piece. At some point you just have to cut yourself off from the work and let it stand as-is, ignoring any of the warts you think might be there. This is not an easy thing to do as an artist, let me tell you. I can’t count the number of times my wife rolled her eyes at me and said “I thought the book was done.”
Regardless of my obsession, I still had the goal of getting the manuscript under contract. I did what anyone with an internet connection would do: I researched how to get published and came across a plethora of information on the topic. Unfortunately, most of it amounts to little more than this: “Look up your favorite authors to see who their agents/publishers are, hope that they are accepting submissions, send them a query letter, and pray that the stars are in alignment, pigs will fly, you’ll be asked to sell your soul, and maybe you’ll get picked up for publication. But you’ll probably fail. Good luck.”
Not very encouraging. There was the self-publishing-in-print route, but I didn’t have thousands of dollars to spend on such a thing, and the seemingly endless cycle of submission, waiting, and rejection was wearing on my very quickly. I felt that every time I received a “no” I had made zero progress in my career. It wasn’t like I was getting my name out there and developing my network of contacts, and considering the time it takes to produce a body of work worthy of publication, it’s not like I could just pick from my stockpile of stories and submit something else. I was getting really, really frustrated.
All that changed not too long ago. A friend and co-worker of mine told me about his efforts to get his own book published. He had gone through an author services organization, using them to edit his manuscript, generate cover art, set up a website and social media presence, and distribute the work through online channels. He got me in contact with his representative and we discussed the process. It sounded great, but it was still going to cost me a hefty sum of money, money which I frankly didn’t have. What I had gained from our conversation, though, was invaluable. In particular, I had been clued in to the folks over at Smashwords. I did a bit more research and came to the conclusion that here was a way to get published, not only on my own terms but with no apparent barrier for entry. All I had to do was put in the work to make my book as salable as possible.
I turned to my completed manuscript for Caeli, sitting on my hard drive and doing nothing, having been rejected by contest and magazine editors alike. Looking over the piece, I decided that it was good enough to stand on its own and that it was the prime choice for me to launch my career on my own terms. I read over the Smashwords help pages, downloaded and followed their style guide, put together some cover art, and turned in my submission.
In the end, it all came down to one day of work. That was what it took for me to have a finished cover image and a manuscript formatted according to their specifications. From there everything fell into place fairly easily. Within a few days Caeli had made the Smashwords Premium Catalog, which allowed it to be distributable to all the major online retailers. I registered my domain name and began building my website. I got onto Facebook and Twitter, informing all of my friends and family about my progress. I was in charge, I was in control, and nobody could tell me no.
Which brings us to today. It has been a truly wild ride these past few weeks, and I have loved every second of it. I can now say that I am a published author and that readers have bought my work. I haven’t yet reached my goal of being able to write full-time and support myself financially with the activity, but I feel more confident than ever that I am on my way. My name is out there, my work is out there, and from here on out there is no limit to how far it can go. I know this now, I believe it, and I couldn’t be happier.