Whew. This last month completely slipped away from me–but that’s to be expected, especially with the holidays and traveling and the horrible flu-like thing that’s been going around. It seems like I’ve been scrambling to catch up with everything lately, so my blog has definitely been put on the back burner.
But! The long weekend really helped me tackle my to-do-list and now I can’t put it off any longer. Here I am! Blogging! I’ve been putting this off for forever but I figured it was time to talk about why exactly I decided to self-publish A Magic Dark and Bright.
I have to admit, once upon a time, I was extremely skeptical of self-publishing. When I was writing my first book, the idea (thankfully) never seemed all that appealing. Why would I want to go it alone when I could find an agent, score a book deal, and live happily ever after?
2010 Jenny was incredibly naive about how this whole publishing thing actually works. And to be fair, 2010 was an incredibly different time in the publishing landscape. Heck, from what I can tell? Even 2013 was different. In 2010, I hadn’t started my freelance design gig. In 2010, I didn’t know any other writers (except for Sarah Kettles, who I’ve been best friends with since elementary school. Does that count?). I didn’t have critique partners or beta readers. What I did have was a lot of faith that one day, I’d be a real writer.
I became more active on Twitter. I befriended other authors online and here in DC. Each one of these friends seemed to follow a different path on their way to publication. Some had MFAs or MAs in Fiction. Others wrote full-time. Others were write-at-home moms. Even more worked really interesting jobs and wrote at night. Some were published with big houses. More had deals with small presses. Even more hadn’t sold a thing. All kept writing, writing, writing.
I started to realize that maybe, just maybe, I had options. If everyone’s path looked different, why was I wasting so much time worrying about how my journey compared?
I finished and shelved one book and started my next, the book that would become A Magic Dark and Bright. I was told paranormal was on its way out, that maybe I should try writing something else. I was told it would be a hard, hard sell even if I was lucky enough to sign with an agent. At the same time, I also heard don’t write to trends. Good writing stands out. Story is what matters.
So I put my head down, and wrote my heart out.
In the meantime, something kind of incredible was happening. Writers I respected–writers like Trisha Leigh and Leigh Ann Kopans and Faith McKay and Rachel O’Laughlin–were self-publishing their books. Each had different reasons, but they all had something in common. They all put in an incredible amount of work to create books indistinguishable from traditionally published books.
And they rocked it.
Because of their example, I started to think that maybe, just maybe, self-publishing could be a valid path for me. I bookmarked some articles and went back to my manuscript. I finished it, polished it, and started another book. I began putting my 3/4 of a design minor to good use and started creating book covers and interior layouts for Spencer Hill.
This time last year, deep in the throes of my final re-write of AMD&B, I started to formulate a plan. I was going to send out a round of queries to see what would happen. And then I’d start researching indie publishing and small presses, to see what the best path for this book would be.
In April, I entered #PitchSlam. I hadn’t even sent out a query letter on my own yet, so I figured I had nothing to lose. I didn’t think I’d make the final cut, so I was shocked when I did. And even more shocked when I ended up more requests than I could have imagined.
Then came The Writer’s Voice. I made it on to Team Brenda, and once again, I was absolutely floored by the amount of requests that came in. It appeared that people actually wanted to read my book! I was ecstatic and humbled and so, so grateful. And I started to think that maybe I could do this after all.
At one point this summer, I had 30 full manuscripts out to agents. My anxiety was through the roof every time I checked my email.
The rejections started coming in.They were all, by and large, personalized and nice and encouraging and above and beyond the form letters I was expecting. I started to wonder if maybe the traditional route wasn’t the best for A Magic Dark and Bright. This business is just as much about luck and chance and finding exactly the right person at the right time as it is about talent…and my timing was all wrong.
Was I being impatient? Maybe. Probably. But by the time fall rolled around, something strange started happening. With every no, my heart became a little lighter. I felt a little freer. I stopped being anxious over my email. I stopped sending out queries and instead started reading everything I could about indie publishing this series.
I reached out to friends who had self-published and asked questions. I started revising the manuscript based on the feedback I’d had from some of the agents. The more I learned about self-publishing, the more viable it became. Shelving this manuscript wasn’t going to be an option. I believed in the book too much to set it aside. I loved it too much.And based on the responses I’d gotten from the contests I’d entered, I knew that I could sell it. And thanks to the community I’d built around myself, I knew that I had the tools available to make it the best possible book it could be. I talked it over with my husband. With my CPs and other friends I trusted.
And then? In November? I did what 2010 Jenny would have considered unthinkable. I pulled the trigger. I decided that for this book, in this current moment, self-publishing was absolutely the right choice. I drew up a plan. And then I emailed the last two agents who had full manuscripts out and withdrew my book from consideration. Does this mean I’m giving up on traditional publication forever? No. Not at all. I’m going to write more books. And I’m going to fight for those books the same way I’ve fought for A Magic Dark and Bright. What’s right for this series may not be right for another. And that’s okay.
When I made the announcement that I was self-publishing A Magic Dark and Bright, I knew, without a doubt, that I was doing the right thing. And the last two months have only made me more certain in that belief. I’ve gone through yet another revision and a round of copyedits and a round of proofreading. I have a cover (!!) and finalized the interior layout. I’ve learned more about POD and distribution than I think I ever thought I would know. I’m preparing ARCs and putting together a marketing plan and crossing my fingers.
It’s crazy to think that just 100 days from now, on April 28th, A Magic Dark and Bright will be set free into the world. I’m excited. I’m terrified. And I absolutely can’t wait to share it with you!