I woke up this morning with a thought about the book, so I had to get up and write it down before it flew away as these things do. For some reason the very first thought in my head was a bit of writing, a story about a smile from a stranger on a winter sidewalk, just after my divorce. It was a beautiful little story, about one page long, one of several that I had cut from the book in a fierce purge to make my memoir Victory Is My Name short enough to be accepted by a traditional publisher. I’d spent most of a year on cutting, trimming, condensing, Hemmingwaying as best I could, when I knew I should have been writing more chapters.
But then one day that “still small voice” of intuition, spirit, or grace, whatever name you call it by, whispered to me a brilliant idea: publish it myself. The decision came at once, set me free as a sparrow, and opened a whole new world of possibilities.
Number one, I could publish it as a trilogy or a series and make it as long as I want. So I did, and now, Book One: The Burning Barrel is happily published and available everywhere through Ingram, the largest wholesale distributor in the world, and Amazon, the largest retail distributor in the world. It’s not selling like hotcakes, but it’s out there.
Number two, during that year I’d spent trying to make the impossible possible by brutal editing, I published some of the out-takes in a little book of stories, poems, and essays called More About This. Now it’s out there too.
Number three: In all the work of editing and cutting that had seemed wasted, I learned (“the hard way” as my Dad used to say) a wealth of skills, a little bit of (badly needed) self-discipline, and a sharp eye for essence (what matters most) that I take with me now as I write Book Two and Book Three.
The minister of a New Thought church I belong to has said more than once “Every obstacle contains its own solution, and every challenge contains a blessing.” Something like that. (If “blessing” is a heavy-ish word for you, you could call it a gift, or a prize, but I promise you, it’s there every time.) You might have to hunt for it, and sometimes you don’t discover it for years, even decades. Then when you do see it, the Aha!-moment sends chills down your back and you realize “This needed to happen to me– for me, and it brought me to this place where I am now.” So I have learned from my own life to look for that gift each time.
Today when I remembered the story of the stranger’s smile, I put it back in to the book it originally came from. I can do this, because I Am The Publisher. I have both the copyright and the authority. Nobody can charge me with any crime or miss demeanor for plagiarizing myself. (Whee! I’m in the cat-bird seat! I laugh secretly to myself.) I am in charge. This, for a natural-born, too-honest/ good girl/ troublemaker/ shit-kicker/ gentle spirit/ ex-firefighter-warrior/ emergency caregiver/ writer like me, feels glorious.
Other gifts of self-publishing: There’s a vast population of other writers doing it too, willing to help, advise, sympathize, aid, and support you and me. In fact they ARE us. We’re all setting our truths loose into the world, wide open and available to be discovered. Or not.
Like the little paper boats we made as children with toothpick masts and scrap-paper sails, and then launched them onto trickling green creeks behind the neighborhood, and believed that somehow they might reach the sea …
I needed help with editing and distributing, but I had been a graphic designer in my twenties as a first career, so I could reliably format and produce books. Few if any of us have all the resources needed, and it’s a Vanity-Publisher Jungle out there, so take great care and do some research to find an honest & legitimate self-pub assist app and service providers.
Writer’s groups and Independent author/publisher groups are absolutely essential. Ask for help and many other writer/self-publishers will help generously with the often hard-won wisdom of their own early mistakes. A group I personally love for myself, a tremendous help and support, is The Alliance for Independent Authors, nicknamed ALLi. It’s not free, but so worth the membership I think, with perks and discounts on things you actually want, many free how-to webinars, and a member forum that’s been practiacally a Godsend for me.
(This is not an advertisement, just a personal endorsement.)
“The Alliance of Independent Authors is a professional business membership organisation for self-publishing authors. A non-profit, we provide trusted advice, supportive guidance, and a range of resources, within a welcoming community of authors and advisors.” https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/