The courage to publish independently
Here’s my story.
I started my journey as a first-time novelist full of hope and expectation that exactly the right agent, followed by exactly the right publisher would materialize at the proper time and represent me. After all, writing my time-travel tale was a joyful experience. No suffering writer here — just one woman happy to be the conduit for characters that were so human they were fun to be with. Their conversations seemed to happen in the next room with my eavesdropping ear pressed against the door. The ancient poetry that my beloved “fictional” kahuna shared glided effortlessly from her lips to my soul and my computer. Even Gabe, the heroine’s boyfriend, steadfastly linear and reluctant to embrace the mysticism in this story, decided to bare his soul to me. He made his fears so completely understood that I was ready to give him free passage to the story’s leap-of-faith ending. And he willingly obliged, boldly going where no psychologist had gone before. As it would turn out, even the dolphins and sea turtles that materialized in my story — heck, even the wind — were more verbal and responsive than the many publishers and agents to whom I wrote.
Now, I know this is to be expected. After all, who am I? Just one woman with a pen, computer, a passion for story. Sending out my query letters was at first an exciting experience, until the rejection form-letters came back in SASE (self-addressed stamped envelopes) wearing my own best penmanship to deliver news of temporary defeat. It hurt. I’ll admit it. It hurt badly. How was I ever going to break through this barrier and get noticed? Why was I even given this hope-filled story if I didn’t have what it takes to get it published? Fortunately, there is another side to me to balance out the sensitive writer. I have a tough skin and I love a challenge. I’m always cheering for — and assisting in any way possible — the deserving “under dog.” This time it was ME. And even when disappointment temporarily got the best of me and I thought once again about giving up, one of the characters started giving me a “Oh no you don’t!” lecture and I was back to hope. I knew that the people rejecting me had not read my story, except for one. And she turned out to be an angel. A highly regarded agent, she asked to read the full manuscript of “The First Lamp” twice, heightening my sense of anticipation and bringing me crashing back to feelings of defeat when she was not ready to take me on as a client. But she gave me some surprisingly good advice about my not-exactly-mainstream (and therefore harder to sell to a publisher) book-to-be. “I recommend that you self-publish right away,” she said, contradicting the old-school notion that this would be the kiss of death.
“Get it out there and show the publishers that you can build a following. Then come back to me and we’ll talk.” Now I’m not sure about building a “following,” but I am loving this chapter in the journey of “The First Lamp.” After comparison shopping for a way to go “independent” with my novel, I chose BookSurge, a subsidiary of Amazon.com. The staff could not have been more professional, and the cost of publishing my book was amazingly affordable. I remember the first time I went to Amazon.com and saw the cover smiling back at me triumphantly: “There. We did it. Now was that so hard?”
Six months later, I’m happy to report that the book breathes and lives. It has been to more countries than I have and so many more states. It speaks to people in its own way and then sometimes they speak to me and share insights that I might have missed. After all, half the time I was just taking dictation. I’m not the only person who is going to understand the layers of meaning in this book. And this circle of hope and anticipation keeps me going: to a sequel and short-stories and blogs like this one, where I have a chance to do what the characters in my book implore the heroine, Sarah, to do. USE YOU VOICE! Speak up with your powerful voice! So here’s my humble advice: Got Story? Go ahead and follow your dreams and try that traditional route. But don’t keep it in the computer too long. There is simply no need to do that anymore. And who knows where you and your book will travel — and what kinds of people you will meet?
My current project is to ask some of my favorite authors to read the book for an endorsement. Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Some already have said “yes.” We’re just getting started.
Cathleen Hulbert, LCSW, is a clinical social worker in the healthcare field and a free-lance journalist with a background in newspaper reporting. She also is the author of “The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination,” a time-travel tale about love, forgiveness and redemption. She lives in Roswell, GA. For more information about the author and the book, go to www.cathleenhulbert.com.
Information about the book from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/First-Lamp-Cathleen-Hulbert/dp/1439217416/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1253852527&sr=1-1