Tonight, as I emailed final approval for “Addie and Ollie” to Lulu.com, I thought I’d share some of the wonder, and irony, I’ve discovered in my self-publishing voyage.
First, if you follow my shared creativity blog, 4 Chicks and a Muse, you’ll know that the other Chicks and I continue to be very inspired by Julia Cameron. I only recently learned, however, that this bestselling author of the groundbreaking Artist’s Way series of books has always herself self-published. She vows it’s the only way she’ll ever go.
The truth is, I always thought of self-publishing as the easy way out. You know, those who can’t get published, self-publish. I mean, anyone with enough cash on hand to buy a knock-off laptop can publish their own book. Where’s the honor in that? How can you call yourself a REAL author if you publish yourself, right? Well, Julia certainly proves those assumptions wrong.
But for me, the real answer came some months back. Throughout this journey, my primary contact at Lulu.com has been a friendly and patient gentleman by the name of Gannon H. No, I’m not reserving his last name for privacy; that’s how his emails come. It’s all very efficient, and yet mysterious.
Anyway, after Gannon H. forwarded me a Lulu editor’s comments last spring, I was completely lost. He (or she) had said kind things in the general remarks. But when it came to specific feedback, I panicked.
It’s not like there were a lot of remarks, or that they were drastic. Nevertheless, I pored over the dozen or so relatively minor suggestions for days, maybe weeks. I’m sure that in between I worked very hard to avoid looking at the document at all.
Ultimately, I came to understand that the thinking and purpose behind each remark was very useful. However, I was torn because I didn’t necessarily agree with the exact words with which to accomplish each objective.
Mostly, this had to do with my rhyme scheme. I’m pretty picky about rhyme and rhythm. As a mom, I know I most enjoy re-reading books to my kids that are easy to speak. Dr. Seuss couplets roll off the tongue like happy little musical refrains. You feel where accents should be, even if there were no punctuation at all. I think children understand the music of books before they understand their meaning.
Thus entrenched in this dilemma, I suggested to GH that I speak with said mystery editor directly. If he (or she) knew my reasoning, perhaps they would approve of another solution. My contact informed me that this was not part of the process. What he told me next was nothing less than an abomination to this lifelong people-pleaser.
“It’s up to you,” he explained earnestly. “It’s your book, so it’s whatever YOU want.”
This was not acceptable. I had to get off the phone. How could I work under these conditions? (Diva hair flip)
I needed direction. I needed approval. I needed someone else to tell me what was best!
Gannon was, of course, right. Pondering his simple statement of the facts, I realized the full value of the gift I had been given to be able to self-publish first, if not always. It would force me, at least for a moment, to stop obsessing about what other people thought about what I wrote. I had to trust my voice, and my decisions. I had to approve of my words. Worse yet, I had to approve of myself.
It’s a lesson I don’t claim to have mastered but one I had to act on–or else. If I didn’t, the book wouldn’t get published. It was that simple.
I did (eventually) make those tough decisions. Tonight I made the last of them when I told Gannon H.–and Tracey J. S.–that the book was good to be printed. It was I who gave final approval, and it felt frightening/foreign/wonderful/empowering.
I can only hope this is the beginning of a trend.
And as you forward your own creative work–from writing, dancing or sewing to painting, singing or redecorating the living room–feel free to learn from my mistakes.
Seek out good advice wherever you can, but not approval. You know what feels right. Now go with it!