I’ve been traveling along my merry writer’s path with an excerpt from the beginning of my novel on the “Shopat” page for all to see, and readers have been able to download the first chapter. I say I’m self-publishing but that’s a misnomer. I’m actually hiring a publishing company. Traditional publishing companies, such as the ones who produced my early childhood books, usually provide an advance and handle most or all of the marketing. The company I’ll be paying will handle the publishing exclusively and leave the marketing to me.
It’s truly dismaying to see how many negative reviews and complaints with the Better Business Bureau there are regarding self-publishing companies. So finding a reputable one takes some doing. After a lot of research I found one I really liked and after a conversation, was asked to send the first three chapters of my novel. No problemo. A few weeks went by. I followed up. And then I got feedback from the acquisitions editor. She likes chapters two and three very much. But she hates chapter one so much that she told me to take it off my web site. Like, immediately.
Wow. Not what I expected and definitely not what I wanted to hear.
Writing a novel for yourself with no particular intention of publishing it is one thing. But announcing to the world that you’re writing a novel that will soon be for sale is something else — meaning it’s not a hobby now but a professional effort that will be judged as such. I’ve been writing since I was nine when my Aunt Jan gave me my first diary (complete with a tiny lock and key) and my first (not very good) poem was published in the newspaper when I was 13. I’ve been writing for decades. But I’ll tell you something: I never imagined that writing this novel would be so hard. I’ve never been a parent but my relationship to my novel feels like what I imagine that experience to be. The novel is my child: demanding, tiring, exasperating as well as delightful, energizing, and at times intensely fun. And patience — oh my lord the patience required. When I worked as a communications professional, no one ever complained about how long it took me to write something. But with this novel — my progress is slooooooow. Sometimes it’s the last thing in the world I want to spend time with. Other times, it’s difficult to fall asleep because I’m so excited about plunging back into the story first thing in the morning. When things are going well, I’m completely absorbed — purely enthralled. When it’s going badly, there are a million things I can find to do instead of write. Like the needs of a child, I have to be willing to give whatever is required for it to thrive and grow. I have to be willing to pour myself into it 100%. I can’t be half assed for a minute, not for a single sentence, because the reader will know. And I do all this with the understanding that I’m profoundly lucky to have this creative experience. I’m incredibly fortunate that (at least for today) these are the nature of my problems.
I responded to the acquisitions editor: What about all the positive reviews my first chapter has received — some from strangers? She has been extremely patient and supportive in making me see that I need to add detail, depth and organization to my first chapter to bring it up to the standard of the second and third. So that’s why it has been removed from my site for the time being.
You may be wondering: if this is the second setback, what was the first? That would be my realization of just how hard I’d have to work to bring traffic to my web site.
So this is where things stand and of course it’s by no means the end of the world. Perhaps I should summarize this way: I’ve just encountered the second opportunity on this creative journey to get past a stumbling block. I’m sure it won’t be the last (!)