Publishing: not for the weak-willed or faint of heart.
(And certainly not for anyone who likes to use cliches.)
I’ve been published four times.
The first time was my book of poetry (long out of print) that I self-published before E-readers were even a thing. (You know, in the Mesozoic era.)
The next two projects were actually intended to be one tarot deck with an extensive book. The artist and I submitted it to major publishing houses that publish tarot decks and had lovely responses but ultimate rejections. As a newbie to the publishing industry, I had no idea how lucky my initial experience with publishing was. The publishing houses were quite specific and full of praise for what we had created, just uncomfortable with the length of our comprehensive book to accompany a tarot deck. And yet, we didn’t want to cut the book down, because the purpose of our deck was to create a project that enabled even a person who knew nothing about the tarot to be able to do accurate readings without the aid of a professional reader.
My collaborator suggested self-publishing the deck and book through Amazon’s (then fairly new) CreateSpace, and she basically did all the work. (I fall down in reverence at her feet for this.) I could never have done what she did, getting the book out through Amazon AND making each deck by hand to go out to customers. She’s pretty amazing.
By the way, CreateSpace has undergone many permutations since my own use of it. Here is the most recent article I could find on the changes afoot if you’re interested in using this for your own self-publishing (and there are many more platforms and companies out there than when we were trying to figure out self-publishing):
Here is a good overview of how to self-publish in general, if you are interested:
As for our experience with self-publishing, it is a LOT of work but (honestly) has a greater potential for the author to make more money in today’s world than being traditionally published. (Which I know no one wants to hear–we all want to be a success story like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, or Tomi Adeyemi, but most of us writers in traditional publishing either have a day job or someone who loves us enough to support us while we write. This is just reality.)
On to traditional publishing: my compatriot met a wonderful lady online who suggested another publishing house that was just getting into the tarot market. We submitted (albeit with little hope), and in two months I received “the phone call”. They loved our deck and wanted to publish us, but with one caveat. They wanted to split it up into two projects–
- 1. A tarot deck and accompanying book:
- 2. A much longer comprehensive coffee-table quality book about tarot that would apply to all tarot decks (not just our own):
I must say, I love the process of traditional publishing. Collaborating with others to bring your own project to life, from working with an editor to the people who design your cover art, was pure joy for me. I treasure the relationships I’ve made because of working with my publishing house, Schiffer Books (you all know who you are).
I thought that I would be finished with the tarot world after these publications came out–after all, I had basically written down everything I knew about tarot already–and we even won some awards that year for our deck. BUT, I soon realized that there was one area that I continued to receive question after question about, even now that my book was published:
How does one do tarot readings about health and wellness? I had touched upon this in my comprehensive book, but as the topic is a critical one to life and living, I looked throughout what decks and books were available at the time and realized there was little to nothing about this crucial topic.
So I began writing another book. I contacted an already published artist that I admired to draw tarot cards, one for each chapter. I pitched it to my publisher, and they loved it–except. Except, what they really wanted was another tarot deck on the topic, not just a book. After much negotiating with the artist, we settled on creating an entire tarot deck and comprehensive book to accompany it:
I’m quite proud of this project. In my opinion, the illustrations are incredible, the deck is whimsically practical, and the book explores health and healing far beyond anything I’ve ever seen before. I love what the publisher did with the cover box–you can’t tell from this illustration, but it’s actually made to resemble a first aid kit. So clever!
However, the artist became so disillusioned after the small pay off for her monumental work for this project that she only self-publishes now. After all, she has to eat and does NOT want to be the stereotypical “starving artist”. Which I totally get.
Finished with both poetry and tarot, I returned to my first love: writing a novel. I’d written novels before, of course, to be read by my husband and my writers’ groups, but never to be published. But now I knew exactly what I wanted to write for publication, and I thought I understood the publishing market better.
I toiled for years on this book (and if you know me, you know I am a bit crazy in my meticulousness). I had beta readers, I even hired a professional editor whom I met at a writers’ conference (and she cost a pretty penny, let me tell you–but her wisdom was worth far more than what I paid for her services).
During the l-o-n-g process of writing and editing my novel, I researched breaking into the fiction market. The news is quite disheartening. In the world of fiction today, a writer can only get the top publishers to look at his or her novel through a literary agent. The problem for most writers is convincing one of these gatekeepers to represent you and your work. Some medium houses still accept author submissions (the illustrious Quirk Books of Miss Peregrine’s fame comes to mind), but these are few and far between and quite inundated with submissions. In fact, agents are equally drowning in submissions, so many that they actually call their unsolicited submissions their “slush pile.”
And the entire process is depressingly impersonal now, sort of like everything else in our newly online world.
Unless one attends conferences and events to meet agents. (I deliberately use a dangling dependent clause here to represent the unattached author in this exchange). These are a crap shoot anyway, as the relationship between agent and writer–which I am still convinced can be a beautiful thing–is like any other new relationship: based on chemistry. Many of these conferences remind me of your local pick-up joint on a Friday night, with desperation to connect all around.
So what’s a new fiction author to do?
There are other options, of course. Self-publishing is still alive and growing, as well as hybrid publishing. Both are completely viable options. I have many writer friends who have chosen either option, and they are quite happy.
But here’s the rub: I love traditional publishing. I love the collaboration, and most of all I can tell the difference between a traditionally published book and a self or hybrid published one. It’s not that traditionally published books are better, but they are more…refined. It’s as though the collaborative process of literary agent and editor and typesetter and proofreader and cover artist simply creates something beyond which a single individual working alone is capable.
I weighed the pros and cons, and finally decided to pursue the harder road of traditional publishing. Click on the Choice/Choice image below to read the blog post that convinced me:
So…now I am sending out submissions, attending conferences, and working on my second novel. I have made some wonderful connections along the way, but thus far have not met “the one” for me. And there are hundreds of thousands just like me.
My husband asks, “Why do you care about traditional publication?” I’ve had to ponder this, actually. I don’t need the acknowledgment: I know my writing is good, quite possibly even better. If I just want to get it out there, I know how to self-publish (and would probably make more money). But, if I am honest with myself, it’s neither the money nor the accolades.
I seek traditional publishing for Iago’s Penumbra because I know, deep within me, that it is meant to be traditionally published. This novel is meant to be read, not just by people who know or follow me, but by a broader audience. It says something (many things, actually) that has never been said before in this unique combination of words. Iago’s Penumbra is one more vital note in the refrain of the human story of love and living.
Just as I eventually met my husband, the love of my life, I will meet “the one” who will help shepherd Iago’s Penumbra into publication.
So, I raise my glass to the search for one more connection with a finite person for the creation of something infinitely beyond the scope of our individual parts.