I am beyond excited and incredibly honored to be one of the newest Muses at Pen and Muse, and maybe even more so that being self-published got me here!
See, self-publishing is weird. It’s thinking outside the box, in a big and multifaceted way, especially for someone who’s tried to go the traditional route, and has an agent representing her work. It’s taking chances, making choices with no guarantee that they’re the right ones. It’s walking a tightrope without a safety net, and most of all, it’s being okay with being different.
My decision to self-publish my debut novel doesn’t fit the mold in so many ways, but then again, neither do I – beginning with the story of how I became a writer.
Nothing makes me feel like a weirdo more than when people talk about how they got started writing. “I’ve been writing since I could hold a crayon,” or “here’s a story I wrote and stapled together when I was eight,” are common tropes among writers. That’s not my story, though.
I fell in love with reading when my fifth grade English teacher handed me copies of JANE EYRE and A WRINKLE IN TIME and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. I mooned over strong heroines and complex thematic arcs in equal measure, but the idea of writing the stuff never crossed my mind.Fast forward eighteen years, to the explosion of THE HUNGER GAMES. I read it and fell in love all over again with YA Literature, with the strong heroines and high stakes. I kept reading, and discovered that YA had come a really long way, and that I still loved it just as much as I had as a little girl. At the same time, I found myself unexpectedly moving my family states away for my husband’s work. This meant giving up my day job, which I’d always found to be fulfilling work, and staying home with three very small children.
After five months of baking and scrubbing and wiping little bottoms as my sole occupation, I needed an escape. Badly. And it needed to make me feel like I was creating something solid, something lasting, and something valuable, because depression was hitting me hard – really hard. I was having a tough time feeling like I mattered in the world. Lots of people say they escape by reading books – I decided I wanted to escape by writing one.
I took on writing a novel as a 365 Project – every day at the kid’s naptime, I committed to write words, and keep track of the count. Slowly, with 700 words here and 1200 words there, a story came together. After three months, I had created something that made me feel fulfilled and useful, that I had pulled out of thin air – my first novel.
I don’t write because I’ve always written, or because I’ve always dreamed of being published – I write because writing saved my life.
But something funny happened while I was writing to save my life – I actually got to be pretty good at it. A year and a half after I first tried my hand at storytelling, I signed with one of the best children’s literary agencies in the country for my second novel, and my book went out on submission.
Thing is, most of my books don’t really fit the mold, either. My debut novel, ONE, could be considered the off-off-genre of biopunk – a superhero origin story – and while every editor who looked at it loved the concept and my writing, they just couldn’t seem to put their fingers on what would have to change to make it marketable.
So, having been inspired by some top notch examples of self publishing authors, and one in particular, I set out to figure out how to market it myself.
I have lots of ideas, and I’m not sure which will work and which will tank. Most of those ideas came from observing what I don’t want to do, rather than copying what I do want to do. But I’m excited to try them all. Excited to discover along the way what works for me, and especially what might help someone else.
I know, however, that I have the most essential ingredients in place – an excellent book, an incredible team of professionals, a strong support network (including this blog!), the willingness to learn, be taught, work hard and do what it takes to help this book succeed.
The crazy thing about this whole process is? I realized that for every way I don’t fit into the mold of How To Get Published, there are probably hundreds of other writers who can say the same of their path to publishing. We may not all be traveling the exact same road or going to the same destination, but at least we’re all traveling together.
I feel so lucky to have been chosen by Jolene and Kristen as a self-published Muse, and honored to be part of the amazing thing they have going here at Pen and Muse. Mostly, I’m so excited to tell all of you about some of the sights and stops along my path. It’s going to be fantastic.