I’m an author because I like it.
I like writing.
I like research.
I like pantsing the story. (I am not a detailed outliner.)
I like editing my own stuff as I go.
I like playing with the story and tweaking it until it shines.
I like playing with the words and the syntax until they shine.
I like it when the characters tell me what’s happening next.
I like it when the story reveals itself to me, and it’s not at all what I thought it was going to be. Yee-haa!
I’m an indie publisher because
I even like proofreading, as weird as that sounds, since I was an English teacher and I know the rules pretty well. Proofreading makes the work all shiny. Shiny is good.
I’m not as keen on the promotion part, but I’m becoming more adept at it. Bookbub, ENT, Freebooksy, Book Gorilla, Booktastik, Awesome Gang. I’ve never had a Bookbub, the holy grail of us indies. Sniff. It’s like not getting to go to the Big Leagues. Sniff. But then I haven’t tried that hard. I did get a new book cover, but now I need a promo assistant.
And a bunch of other stuff. See my Ancient History.
I didn’t write much when I was young because my typing skills suck. I took a typing class in high school and they still sucked. See, I never wanted to be a secretary, get stuck behind a desk typing someone else’s correspondence or be a sitting target of sexual harassment, so this was my way to rebel. Easy. I’d suck at typing. I would then have to be a waitress (who is not a target of sexual harassment? Go figure.) and hire people to type my papers for me all through college. Typing was excruciating for me then. Part of this was using all the white-out and correcting tape if you made a mistake, and you’d better believe I made them a lot. It didn’t serve me very well to be bad at typing, but that’s what I did for years. I became an English teacher, and hand wrote my tests and handouts to ditto off for the students. Purple fingers. Remember them? Yes, it was that bad.
Until we got a computer in 1995 and I found out I could make a mistake and correct it on the fly! (I just corrected the word “correct” four times on the fly as I typed it.) YES!!!! FREEDOM!!! FREEDOM!!! Did I say FREEDOM??? No more white-out or correcting tape! No more stopping and ripping the damned paper as I grabbed it out of my damned Brother typewriter or positioning it wrong so the lines were askew. No more retyping complete pages of work!!! (Sorry Brother. It wasn’t your fault. I just wasn’t that into you.) Also, I could now abuse the exclamation point with total abandon in one key stroke!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Okay, I promise never to do that again.
Just a couple of years later, the computer was my bosom buddy, the place where I churned out handouts and tests with ease, despite my crappy typing skills.
But we only had one, and the kids were on it constantly, playing World of War Craft.
Then I got my laptop, and I started finding daily reasons to sit down and churn out more than tests. Textbooks were expensive, and copiers were available, so I had been relying on copying jazz chants and skits for grammar practice for the students from a couple of my favorite sources—other people’s books. But that wasn’t really legal. At all.
So my little brain poked me on the way home from classes. “Hey, you could write your own jazz chants and skits that you could use legally. How about this one? I am riding, riding, riding in my car, car, car. I am running, running, running out of gas, gas, gas.” Or this.
What are you doing? I’m walking, I’m walking.
Where are you going? To the jungle, the jungle.
What’s in the jungle? We’ll see, we’ll see.
Who’s going with you? My puppy, my puppy.
Where are you now? By the river, the river.
What’s in the river? A hippo, a hippo.
What is it doing? It’s swimming, it’s swimming.
Where is its baby? Behind it, behind it.
What’s on the river bank? A crocodile, a crocodile.
Where is it moving? Toward us, toward us.
How do its eyes look? They’re bigger, they’re bigger.
Why is it coming here? It likes us, it likes us.
How many teeth does it have? A hundred, a hundred.
What is it thinking about? Lunch, lunch.
Why are you running? Guess!
Yeah, they were a kick. I loved writing my own skits and jazz chants. I still have them around somewhere. I need to put them out in book form.
Anyway, from there, I made the jump to stories. I took a couple of creative writing classes at the local college, and the creative well cap deep within me popped off. WORDS spurted up from there (or maybe from my spleen or tonsils) with fun ideas for weird stories that went nowhere. I was well into my 40’s, and I was having the time of my life with my lifelong friends: WORDS.
See, I am a language person. I studied German starting at age 11 in 7th grade. Followed by Spanish, French, and Italian. I even lived in France for a year to learn the language. Plus I have a degree in math, but only because it’s another language. I LOVE language and WORDS. I taught English to foreigners for 20 years because it was an excuse to play with language and words and get paid for it. Give me words put together in an interesting way and you’ve hooked me for life.
So the challenge was to put my own words together in an interesting way for other people to read and enjoy. Which took years. And classes. And many rewrites. And commentary from editors. And writers’ conferences. The first chapter of each of my books was rewritten probably 50 times each.
In 2003, I wrote Alice in Monologue Land, a humorous mystery/romance/adventure about a college instructor who reluctantly does a monologue in a college production for women and has the ride of her life, meeting three odd, interested men and solving some weird disappearances along the way.
It was a little long.
“You have a 150,000-word manuscript?” the agent or editor at a conference would choke out. “Uh, see. You can’t have a first book over 100,000 words published. Try again. Get it down to 90,000. Or could you cut it in half and have a series?”
Why? Why should I write this story shorter than it wanted to be? And it was not a series. It was a fun book.
Well apparently, paper and ink cost money, and the publishing houses didn’t want to waste money on printing extra pages for the first book of an unknown author, so the book had to be under 400 pages.
Grrrrrr. I’d actually started with 175,000 words. I’d already cut out 1/7—real chaff. But word count was prominent in all submissions to agents and editors.
Fine. Whatever. With great determination and much acute sadness, I cut Alice in Monologue Land to 100,000 words. But Alice was just like me on a starvation diet at my lowest weight. She would not stay put at that very precarious place. She really likes chocolate—and cheesecake. When I reread the book, much of it made no sense, so I put back some words. A bit later, I realized Alice needed a complete overhaul, as the book was based on a certain famous monologue production, and I was never going to get an OK from those famous monologue producers to use their material in my non-famous book. So I invented my own monologue production. And I rewrote. And every time I rewrote, the MS grew again. It needed clarity. It needed to be funny and not rushed. It would not fit in the “ready to print” box of a publishing house. It ended up at 120,000 words. Or so. That’s what it says on Alice’s driver’s license, anyway. I believe her.
Alice also wouldn’t fit on the traditional bookshelf. Print books in brick-and-mortar stores get categorized into a very limited set of narrow genres right off the bat—so the store clerks, who are apparently total nincompoops, can tell where to shelve a book. I mean, seriously? Writers are actually told to limit their books’ scope—i.e. not to mix genres—in order for bookstore staff to be able to shelve the books properly! No matter that readers (like me) are always looking for something new, or that even editors might want something new. Hah! When you give editors/publishers something new, they get all prissy and say they really just want the same old thing, something that fits into their hundred-year-old genre boxes. Grrr.
But Alice in Monologue Land (available on Amazon) is a mystery, a romance, and an adventure, and it’s funny. I put all this in the book intentionally, as a combination of genres was what I wanted to read. (Hey, I like Castle and the movie, Australia. That pretty much says it all.) For me, plain old mysteries needed a little romantic spice, and plain old romance was dull as dust without some mystery. (Sorry, romance writers, but how many men are that commitment phobic? Are there no other personality types in the world to write about? No other types of conflict?) And for my taste, most writers needed to lighten up a LOT and add some humor. Artfully written humor is what brings me to a book and keeps me reading. Hence my fondness for Spencer Quinn’s work, featuring first person narrative by a dog.
So. Genre. My book was not romance—too complex, too many scenes without the hero. And not really women’s fiction—too funny. It was a mystery, but what type? Not a procedural. Not a thriller. Cozy mysteries were not supposed to include sex scenes, and were supposed to be rather short. Not exactly Alice.
I decided the book was probably chick lit. Chick lit mystery. Yeah.
But to confuse things no end, the publishing houses/agents/book critics decided right when I wanted to publish my chick lit mystery that chick lit was no longer a viable genre.
Wait. What?!? It’s what I was reading and writing. What gave them (A bunch of fuddy duddy old males?? Surely women would not do this to each other?) the right to say that the exact books I liked–women’s humor = chick lit–weren’t a viable genre?
Actually, they called it a dead genre.
Deaaaaad? Reallllllly? They need to check out all the indie chick lit books that make a lot of money in this “dead” genre.
Upshot: I think there should be a chick lit shelf in all bookstores. Take that, Barnes and Noble, and every other store, brick and mortar or online, that doesn’t have a chick lit section.
Upshot 2: Poor Alice was too pudgy (large word count) and her genres were mixed. The genre she fit into best was “dead.” Not very PC of the publishing houses to hold this against her. I realized that my book would never sell to a big publishing house or get me an agent, even though it was pretty funny and full and it kept me entertained for a long time while I wrote it.
Upshot 3: It was time to write another book, a shorter one.
Which I did in 2006. Roll with the Punches. Starring Rhonda Hamilton, a librarian and author, whose manuscript got stolen by a big, hotshot bestselling author, and who went in search of the thief with the aid of a bunch of derby girls. Despite her dad acting totally weird. The book ended up to have the same mix of genres as Alice in Monologue Land. (Who would have guessed?) Now to her credit, Rhonda started at a svelte 120,000 words. (I had learned a thing or two about conciseness.) I shaved Rhonda down to 100,000 words, trying to make her salable to a big press. That lasted about a minute. She, too, would not stay skinny. When I finally self-published this book on Amazon last year, after a bajillion rewrites, it was back up to 120,000 words. Or so. Don’t ask Rhonda about it. She’s sensitive about her size. She’ll punch you.
Needless to say, my books were not a (narrow-minded) publishing house’s dream. But they were my dream, so when I realized I had another option, I became an indie publisher to get them out there and share them with other people as my vision, not someone else’s. And I haven’t displeased too many readers thus far. Yeah, I have some requisite 1-star reviews. Badge of honor for all indie publishers. Funny = juvenile. LOL. But plenty of readers find my books delightful, even if they don’t exactly fit on the bookstore shelves. Imagine that, Harper Collins. Or Simon & Schuster.
Recently, I finished a set of three seasonal short stories: sequels to Alice in Monologue Land, featuring secondary characters from that book. I published them under the title: Kiss My Sweet Skull. They’re chick lit, and two are mysteries. Please read them. The stories are nice little chunks of fun, easy to read in one sitting. I also have a short story coming out in a holiday anthology called: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Chick Lit. It will be out in November, free on all platforms. Read it! It’s fun! And because I said so. And if you haven’t read my 2 novels and reviewed them on Amazon, get with the program and do that. Good grief. Don’t make me stop this car and come back there.
Now, I have a third novel started, and need to finish it between writing short stories and the 5000-word plays I write to perform with my group of nonagenarian reader’s theater peeps at the local assisted living. (Not for the timid, working with old peeps—they die on you and have strokes, etc.—but lots of dress-up fun for the living.)
Wish me luck on finishing the novel.
But I don’t need too much luck, as I have this handy-dandy laptop here, just waiting to bring my words to life, and correct me when I’m wrong. LOL. I hope you have as much fun bringing your dreams to life as I have had writing these books and stories.
Thanks for reading.
For more blogs about the indie author experience, here’s a link to Kathryn R. Biel’s fabulous Indie Books Day Pinterest board. https://www.pinterest.com/kathrynrbiel/indie-book-day-2016/
Go there now. We indie authors/publishers deserve your attention.