Hi everyone – please join me in welcoming Laura Smith to The Book’s the Thing. Laura is a middle-grade author and is going to share her self-publishing experience with us today.
From Dinosaurs to CreateSpace: My Self-Publishing History
By: Laura Smith
The first book I ever wrote was a book about dinosaurs. It was going to be the ultimate guide on dinosaurs – all five species. I was a dinosaur expert, you see, and not only was I was going to write about them; I was going to draw them. Using special paper that was blank at the top for illustrations, and included lines at the bottom for the corresponding sentences, I got to work, writing down every fact about each dinosaur that I knew, sketching them out, and then coloring them in.
My mother was my editor.
“How do you spell ‘the’?” I’d ask.
“T-H-E,” she’d say, distracted while folding laundry or cooking dinner.
“How do you spell ‘Tyrannosaurus Rex’?”
“Just put T-R-E-X”.
“How do you spell ‘is’?”
This went on all week, after school and my nap, of course. I remember punching holes in the sides of the paper with a pen and stringing thick, orange yarn through the pages to bind them together. Suddenly, I had a book. It wasn’t a story, just a bunch of thoughts organized together the way I organized the thoughts in my head, but it was the kind of book I would want to read. It shared everything I knew on the subject. It was fully illustrated. It was mine. Sadly, this book is no longer in print. It was sucked into the vacuum of papers that get thrown away with each Spring cleaning, likely having been crumpled up and Kool-Aid stained before its eventual demise. That’s why I now use a laptop.
Writing hasn’t really changed for me in the last 25 years. I still organize my thoughts in notoriously precise categories before sketching them out in prose. I still draw my own covers and bind together my finished pages on CreateSpace, which can be just as tedious, though not as primitive, as punching holes in paper with the tip of the pen. The only difference is that my mom no longer has to be around to spell out the words for me. Instead, she and my dad provided me with the means to earn a B.A. in Creative Writing, and the world provided me with my own method of publishing my own work after numerous traditional publishers decided to pass on my inexperienced queries thrown into inboxes full of similar pleading letters. So, when the opportunity to get my work out there now without the thumbs up from a publisher came up, I jumped on it.
Self-publishing is, by definition, a do-it-yourself process, which is not necessarily a bad thing, especially to control freaks like me. It just takes a lot of commitment, something that writers are familiar with. Even a 100 page book is a huge accomplishment. A lazy person cannot pull that off. Believe me, I’ve seen many wannabe writers come and go, those who can’t devote the time to the craft. They would rather have “real lives” or spend their down time vegging out to NetFlix or the latest game app. I’m not putting people down for spending their time the way they want, and it’s not like I devote my every waking minute to writing, but I do set aside the time for it. All serious writers do. So, a true writer can juggle the many hats that self-publishing demands they wear.
What’s unsettling, though, is the sales aspect of self-publishing, mostly because it never seemed like an important part of the job. That’s something you get other people to do after you punctuate the last sentence of your book. But now, it’s an imperative part of the job, one that I’m not entirely comfortable with. We’re in it for the writing. That’s why we blog, we proofread homework for our friends, speeches for our wedding-bound co-workers, and emails for our bosses. We do whatever it takes to get our fix, even if that fix in no way furthers our intended careers.
Writers get into writing for one reason or another. Writing is a way to transfer thoughts that I am unwilling or unable to speak aloud. It’s a release when I need to let out emotions. It’s an escape when I need a break from my own reality, and I like to share that new reality with others. I’m just here to play God, not Flo, the Progressive spokeswoman. Herein lay the catch to self-publishing, creating a whole new set of hills to climb, but the promise of instant publication provided a motivator to get up and down those hills, however many there would be.
Last year, I started an author interview series for other self-published authors. We would help each other out. I would get them exposure, and they would help me gain followers on my social media accounts. Since then, I’ve interviewed over 40 self-published authors of various backgrounds all working toward the same goal. If we couldn’t get exposure with our target audience, at least we could network among each other, share tips, offer support, and keep each other motivated. My 10 interview questions revealed comparisons between a diverse group of people and provided me with a small but successful side project to keep me going while I continued to try new ways to expose my book to the masses.
It helps to remember that though we are struggling in the self-publishing industry, we are also thriving in it, putting our work front and center and ensuring that while we are not getting the readership we would like, our manuscripts are not sitting in a drawer while we beg publishers to take a chance on our work. We are getting exposure now, even if it is small, and at any time, that lit candle can turn into a roaring blaze. We just have to fan it the right way. At least for now it’s out there, and even if each story does lie dormant in the vast list of self-published titles on Amazon, it can be revived at any time, and believe me, I’m keeping mine lit.
We may never be the next Roald Dahl or J.K. Rowling. I can live with that fact, but I will not stop dreaming about it. That doesn’t mean I’m in it for fame. Writers, even Dahl and Rowling, put their characters front and center. Nobody has to know my name, but I do want them to remember Heidi Williams, Mike Hascal, and Jamie Cooke, the main characters of my first three books and their adventures which are more exciting than my life any day, staring at a computer screen, typing furiously away, working towards the moment when I can tie my thoughts together with orange yarn. I think any writer would agree.
HubPages Blog: www.hubpages.com/Laura335
Links to Books:
To participate in my Author Monday series, contact me on Facebook, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laura Smith is an office worker by day and writes books at night and on weekends. She earned her B.A. in Creative Writing from Carlow University in 2007. Since 2006, she has blogged for several websites including Tales of our Time, The Blogger News Network, Suite 101 and most recently, HubPages. She has had poems published in 6 Sentences, Rune Magazine, Voices from the Garage, Falling Star Magazine, Blast Furnace Press, and The Lavender Review. She has also self-published three middle grade books available on Amazon. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA.