Saturday, October 06, 2012

Special Edition: Why I've Decided to Self-Publish

Photo Courtesy of Freedigitalphoto.net
Let me start by saying it's not because I don't think I'll ever get an agent or a publisher.  I haven't thrown in the towel of traditional publishing because I believe I will fail at the process.  I queried Finding Meara approximately four months and received eight rejections. Because all but one of the queries were just the query letter, I feel like my query was rejected, rather than my story or my abilities.  Obviously I didn't query long enough to feel like my story is a lost cause and I should slink off with my tail between my legs.

In that four months of querying, I did learn some things about myself, though.

Quick backstory.  If you remember several months ago I wrote a post about what writing is to me.  What I didn't relate in that post is how I realized that writing was not going to be the replacement career I'd been hoping it would be.  I understood that, even if I did become traditionally published, the likelihood of sales ginormous enough to quit my job was pretty slim.

Another epiphany is that Finding Meara is incredibly hard to define.  It's not because it doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up, but it's because I tend to write unusual, genre mixed stories. I've had feedback on a couple of different short stories where the editors asked me what exactly the story was. Is it romantic comedy? Horror? Thriller?  When I pitched to Lou Anders at the Pikes Peak Writer's Conference last April, I believe he requested my manuscript solely because he wanted to see what a novel described as Janet Evanovich meets Roger Zelazny looked like.  He cushioned me for the rejection he knew would occur before my pitch session was over because he knew it wouldn't be something Pyr could publish.  I've been told by editors my stories are well-written, enjoyable and intriguing.  In traditional publishing today, that's not enough.

Finally, I have never been thrilled with the idea of having an agent, but because I wanted to try traditional publishing I bit the bullet and started drafting a query letter.  Initially I viewed it as a challenge.  Then the new wore off and I started really resenting the process.  I don't want to be nasty, so I won't tell you all the unkind thoughts I had about writing a query letter, sending the query letter, and then getting rejected off of the crappy query letter I'd written.

Because I was now dialed into different agents and their websites/twitter feeds, I became increasingly disillusioned with how many of them treated aspiring authors.  The attitude of superiority many of them appear to have left me with a nasty attitude of my own. I know there are lots of wonderful agents out there, but I seemed to be finding the not so nice ones.  The only exception is Russell Galen, who is known as the kindest agent in the business for a reason.

Last Wednesday I was watching the twitter feed of a small press editor I had sent FM to in July.  He was tweeting, not so kindly, about the queries he was reading.  There were two Urban Fantasy queries he mentioned, either of which very well could have been FM.  He was dismissive, obnoxious and entitled.  He didn't even care that he was publicly humiliating people who had tried very hard to "get it right."  It was the proverbial last straw.

When my husband came home, I told him I wanted to self-publish.  He's actually been pushing me to self-publish since I started writing short stories. I kept holding off because my personality wants that outside approval of the "experts."  I have changed my mind.
Photo Courtesy of Freedigitalphoto.net

Instead of sending my story to people who want to find a reason to hate it, I want to get my story out in front of people who want to find a reason to like it.

I wanted a traditional publisher to help me make my story the best it can be.  Now I will hire people to help me make the book the best it can be.  It feels really nice to have my future back in my hands, instead of waiting for someone to notice me.

Yes, I know it's possible I won't sell any copies.  I know the statistics for how many books are self-published a month.  I know how hard it is to get noticed in the sea of self-published books.  I know all the bad stuff about self-publishing.

But, I have to tell you, for the first time in five months I'm excited about writing again.  My story--which I really think is a good one--has the chance to be seen and enjoyed by people again.  I don't feel like I'm locked in a hole where I can't seem to find the key to open the door to get out.  Because that's how I've felt the last five months--like what I write, blog, tweet...none of it mattered because no one was going to see my stories, anyway.

And I write stories for people to enjoy.  I really do.  I've never understood people who say they write for themselves.


Besides that, I also had an epiphany regarding the fact I'm going to be fifty in nine years.  I don't have a lot of time to waste, first with trying to find an agent, next a publisher and then to get the darn thing out.  In nine years I could be sitting with nothing if I wait for traditional publishing to take a chance on me.  Or, if I keep a budget of $500 dollars, and sell ten books a year at a $4.99 price point, I might have made back my investment.

So, I'm entering the ranks of those who self-publish.  I know it's not the choice for everyone, but I am very confident it's the best choice for me.


Have you ever considered self-publishing?  If you have self-published before, do you have any tips or suggestions to share?  Anyone know of a good line editor who isn't insanely expensive?
 




53 comments:

  1. Good for you Lara! One thing I know about writing is that you discover a lot about yourself. It's awesome to see you find the path you want and need to be on. THAT ROCKS! And I know your book will be amazing! YOU'RE AMAZING! So congrats on making the decision to self-publish! I'm already excited to read it when it's ready!

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    1. Thank you, Leigh. You have always been so supportive, and I really, really appreciate it!

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  2. I'm excited to see where the new venture takes you! Good for you for moving forward!

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    1. Thanks, too, Nina! I might have to get some ideas from you on websites and the like, if you don't mind. :)

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  3. Hooray! Another virtual shoulder to cry on in this self-publishing endeavor. I've reached the point of finding an editor for short-short collection as well. However, I've always intended to self-pub... although I'm contemplating querying/contest submitting one of the stories before I do.

    Congratulations on your decision to move forward with this. You're right. We're not getting any younger. Let's take our work to the readers and let them decide!

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    1. I've been reading some self-pub websites and it's interesting how many people do sell a decent amount. Let me know if you submit or contest one of your stories. Submitting my short stories was actually a whole lot nicer than querying the novel. And, while I didn't get anything placed in a major named magazine, it did feel good to know my stories were being read and appreciated. Go for it!

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  4. Go for it girl, and I owe you some free editing.

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    1. Thanks, David! Are you up for some proofreading? I mostly need comma help, I think. :)

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  5. "Instead of sending my story to people who want to find a reason to hate it, I want to get my story out in front of people who want to find a reason to like it." I really liked this, Lara. It exemplifies the critical mindset and fear that currently reigns in publishing. I'm proud of you for taking the bull by the horns and staring him in the eye--and excited for your success. You already have one book sold--me. and I'm quite sure there will be many others. Your writing is brilliant and you may well create new trends the agents/publishers will scramble to follow. Best of luck, my friend. Keep me in the loop. <3 (And, oh! I was excited that R. G. got a nice mention.)

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    1. Yeah - couldn't leave Russell Galen in the meanie group. I still am twitter-pated over the rejection letter. :)

      Thanks for all your support Denise, and for thinking big for me! I hope you'll hang out with me for this new journey I'm starting!

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  6. Lara, congratulations!!! I think you're awesome and I know you put your heart and soul into your work. Because of that, you will find readers and they will love you. I'm sorry your venture into traditional publishing was a not so great experience but excited that it's not the only route to make your dream come true. Go forth and publish, take your destiny into your own hands, you can do it. :)

    As for editors, make sure you pick the right kind. Do you want a developmental edit or just a line edit? Many editors do different things.

    Keep us all posted on your journey! *pom-poms at the ready*

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    1. I love "Go forth and publish"! I should make a sign!

      Editors - yes. I signed up for Larry Brooks' story MRI coaching service and filled out the questionnaire yesterday. I'm using his service as an economic developmental edit, to make sure the structure is solid. Then, I want to have a line editor, and if my good friend David up there will proofread while making sure there's flow, I think it's all I can afford. I'll need to buy a book cover, too. It's kind of exciting, though, because it's like I'm shopping for my book. And I love to shop! :)

      I'm excited you're in my cheer squad! Thank you!

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    2. Good luck, Lara! Sounds like you've got a plan in place, that's the most important thing. If you're looking for a good and affordable cover design, check out Stephanie Mooney. She is awesome! http://mooneydesigns.net/

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  7. Ah, the gatekeepers. Some are exactly as you described, Lara, and I've run into a few myself. (Those horrid query letters! I once hired someone to help me write mine.) But some of us are merely looking for the story that excites us, one that we can help bring into the light. As a writer, I stand clapping my hands at your courage. As an editor, I wish a few more really fine writers would wend their way in my direction.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Normandie! You are right, you know. Publishing is a business, and like in any business there are really nice people and then there are the Geckos. (How's that for an aged reference?) I know lots of really fine writers, so I'll send them to you!

      I'm not sure I'm all that courageous, but I definitely have a stubborn streak. :)

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  8. Kudos to you!! I can't believe the nerve of some of these people on social media who think it's okay to bash writers. :/ I just wanted to stop by and say congrats on your decision.

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  9. Hey Lara! Don't forget, Stephen King's "Carrie" was rejected by 30 different publishers. :)

    I think self-publishing is the way of the future anyway! Congrats.

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    1. I wonder if Stephen King would have self-published if it was an option back then? Hmmm...I wonder if anyone has ever asked him.

      And thanks for the well wishes! :)

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  10. Yahoo! Well, you know my thoughts about self-publishing since I finally broke down and published my third book a little over a year ago. It brought me and my books back to life, literally, because I felt like I was fading away. The rejection became crushing, especially after having been published traditionally. It seems only other writers seem to understand how being accepted in the "industry" defines as professionals. And when some (but not all) editors/agents, etc. hold themselves up as the gatekeepers into the that special world, it is very defeating. Lara, you will find there is an entire "indie" or "independent" writers world out there that is very supportive and encouraging. Most readers do not even know the difference, or care, whether the book is traditionally or self published. They seem to care the most about reading a good, polished and entertaining book. Yes, not all of us indies are getting rich or famous overnight. But I have to say it is very exciting and satisfying to be moving forward with my writing career. My dreams are coming true, and yes, I'm investing in myself to make it happen. And why not invest in yourself--you are worth it. The way I look at it, some people pay $1,000 for a fancy vacation or fancy jewelry. We indie publishers are investing in a business! FYI, to hear more about self publishing, Lara, you can come listen (No cost for the workshops) to Mary Gillgannon and I talk about the process Nov. 10 at the Laramie County Library. Paths to Publication Workshop, 10:15 a.m. - 4 p.m. Several other authors are presenting as well with some great info. Yay, yay, yay for you!


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    1. Sounds fun, Cindy! I was conspiring to include you in my local schemes, if you decide you're interested. I do view any money I spend as investment, and it is exciting to be looking at self-publishing as a career, not a one shot deal. Just over the last few days I've found some great websites and resources that I think will be very helpful. We'll compare notes!

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  11. "...for the first time in five months I'm excited about writing again."

    That's the key, isn't it? If we're not excited about our writing, what's the point? I'm so happy for you, and your decision. Great post! :)

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    1. Yeah, no excitement makes writing a chore. I don't think you have to be all fired up all the time, but writing for writings sake just isn't so much fun. Thank you for coming by and your well wishes. :)

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  12. I loved this post; I've reposted it on Twitter. Writing should be fun, and about the stories -- as I've said often, writers who want "traditional publishing" learn to market to editors and agents, not readers. Indie writers like you learn to market to readers. I will wholeheartedly support you in this. When you get ready to publish, drop me a line -- you'll get the "10 1/2 questions" treatment and I'll give you a big splash page, etc.

    No offense to traditional writers like PT Dilloway or Michael Offutt, of course, but people like you and Andrew Leon are great.

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    1. Thank you so much for the tweet, and the offer. That is so kind of you. Maybe you can show me what to do and I can return the favor some day. :)

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  13. As Braine wrote: just let me know when you publish so I can promote your book on my blog. Many people are only as good as their options ... in a variety of ways.

    Agents know they have the illusion of power to novice writers. The real power belongs to the publishers who accept or reject the idea of putting our books into print.

    Agents know that we cannot fight back. There was one agent who actually followed a would-be author from Twitter account to Twitter account insulting and belittling her. As it turns out that agent had a long gauntlet of personal and professional wounds. It is a fearful thing to find yourself at the mercy of a soul in anguish.

    The publishing world is evolving, job functions are changing, jobs are being lost. Despite the fact that people are reading less statistically for enjoyment, the deluge of submitted manuscripts is increasing. To pick another manuscript that does not sell well could spell termination for the agent or editor we submit to.

    Self-publication can be thrilling. Let me know if I can do anything to help. There are so many self-published books out there that we Indie's are looked at as inferior writers who were not good enough to make the cut on the basis of our talent. It is an inaccurate assessment but it is the prevailing mindset.

    So you like Roger Zelazny, too? You are the only other person I know besides myself who even knows he was an author. Actually, he was the author who inspired me to write "Science Fantasy" as he called it. Only success for you, Roland

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    1. Thanks to you, too, Roland. I have felt rather impotent on the blogging front, and asking for help is scary, so your offer is amazing to me. Like I told Briane, I need some help on knowing what I could do to return the favor. I've tried by tweeting! It seems like the only place I have any kind of significant presence is Twitter.

      I've read some Roger Zelazny and the way he goes between the two worlds is like Finding Meara but there is no science at all in FM. However, The Age of Stars is a "science fantasy" type book. I'm trying to decide what to do with that one, though. I think it's going to get a plot overhaul. I've got the complete set of the Amber Chronicles and am trying to read through them, but have no time to read!

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  14. Good on you, Lara! I wish you the best of luck in this new phase of your writing careeer :) And of course, you'll have to let us all know how it goes!
    Wonderful post.
    Mel

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    1. Thanks, Melanie! It's going to be interesting, for sure! I guess this is where the April challenge will pay off, right? :)

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  15. Good luck on your self-publishing endeavor! I think I've decided to do self- or indie-publishing for my superlong historical sagas, simply because I don't want to wait around to make a name for myself with shorter historicals before bringing out my big guns. I already finished my first Russian novel a decade ago, and spent almost a year editing, revising, rewriting, and polishing it starting last spring. I've heard so many people say they wish there were more longer books these days, but instead there are all these books that are all of 250-300 pages.

    I've gotten so many nice comments about my contemporary historical Bildungsroman, though I got a lot of rejections for it. That might also work with self-publishing since it's really a mix of so many genres and age groups. The best way I could describe it is as sort of like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, only set later in the 20th century, with more characters, and parents who are anything but loving. It's also sort of like the old Five Little Peppers series.

    I pitched two of my shorter historicals at a pitching event earlier this year, and all three of the agents basically dogpiled me and said I don't know how to write historical well at all, based on a six-line pitch. That's funny, because everyone else has told me I write historical very well and that I have a natural talent for it. I was also told that the pivotal midway point of one of the books was unrealistic just because it wasn't a common event, and that therefore I might as well not even bother. And I was nitpicked at because i said Holland instead of The Netherlands. I later found out one of these agents was involved in online bullying of someone who gave a bad review to one of her clients' books.

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    1. Holy cow, Carrie-Anne! I don't understand how anyone can think they can know everything about someone's book or abilities based off a query letter or pitch. It's good to have options, I think, and that is what self-publishing is - another option. Let me know if/when you do take the self-publishing step. :)

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  16. Hi Lara! First, I'm sending a big (((hug)))

    Second, I want to say congratulations and send you the best wishes I can send.

    I have always wondered how it is that someone can read a a few sentences in a pitch and say your story is no good. I get the same feeling when someone is dogging my story when they haven't even read it! How can they do that with a good conscience? How can they say anything derogatory about my story after reading only one paragraph. If someone would only read a few chapters of my manuscript, I would then take their criticism seriously.

    As for FM, it's a story that needs to be read! Many writers have self published and found an agent and/or publisher after others were finally able to read the entire story and see how good it really is.

    So, you go, Girl! Best wishes for FM and your exciting journey you are about to take!
    Talynn

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    1. Thanks, Talynn, for the hugs and wonderful wishes! I guess we'll see how it all turns out, huh! I'm hoping Finding Meara is one of those stories people just really love. :)

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  17. Hey, you're playing around with your blog background again. So am I. I like the one I have, but for some goofy reason the blog archives and tag cloud show up twice, along with a few other weird things.

    Anyways...

    Glad to hear you're excited about writing again. I look forward to reading FM too. Whatever the category is, it sounds good. And as I said before, /u will help in any way I can. Good luck!

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    1. I do like me some new blog bling!

      I'd really like to know what exactly Finding Meara is, but even a past president of SFWA wasn't able to put his finger on it. I'm glad it sounds interesting, though!

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  18. Lara,

    I applaud you, I really do. I'm not as successful at self-publishing as some I know, but I lack the marketing skills. Nancy Lynn Jarvis is a mystery writer who does an excellent job and is making quite a bit of money through self publishing. She told me she wouldn't even consider traditional, because she loves the marketing aspect so much. Google her if you want to make a great contact. Barbara Sacks Sloan is my editor, and believe me she has a lot to work with when it comes to me, but she is reasonable. Again, Google her if you're interested, she has a web site, so does Nancy. (Sorry I never remember websites) Both great women, with knowledge and a desire to help.

    Good luck to you, I admire your choice! I'm trying to figure this all out and go for the traditional too, not for the trilogy I just finished, but a future book, maybe.

    Great post, it's inspiring, especially for those of us who need a double helping of the Insecure Writers Support Group! The writing, publishing, and marketing world are a bit intimidating -- at least for those of us who would rather sit in an office looking out on the world, and write -- oh, if only it was as simple as telling a good story. :)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and for the great referrals. I'm not at all sure about how to go about this, either, so I'm falling back on the anal-retentive part of me that likes to gather information and organize into some kind of plan. Your suggestions give me a place to start!

      Marketing is scary. I don't do well with asking for help, which is weird, considering I'm a social worker by day and should be used to it. a case of do as I say and not as I do, I guess. It's great you've found some resources/friends who you can lean on. That seems to go a long way on these challenging journeys!

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  19. Great post, and best of luck with the self-publishing! I've recently made the decision to self-publish my next book, as like you, I was getting rejection letters saying there was nothing wrong with my writing but that they couldn't sell the book because there are so many other books in the genre out there. It's getting harder and harder for new writers to make their work stand out, and I hate feeling as though all my hard work's gone to waste. I just want to write without worrying about whether it'll be worth it in the end, and it's great that self-publishing can give us writers our confidence back!

    Good luck! :)

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    1. Good luck to you, too! It is nice to have options. I don't know what exactly to expect from self-publishing, but since I have hope back, I figure it's a good move. :)

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  20. Congratulations and the best of luck!

    I follow a few blogs besides yours and read this one just before I read yours. Same sentiments. http://susannahill.blogspot.com/2012/10/oh-susanna-when-is-it-time-to-give-up.html

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    1. Thanks for the link! It was a great article to read and made me feel a little more secure in my decision. Just this weekend, when I was writing this post, I talked to about three other people who reported feeling the same way. Isn't it funny - synchronicity or something.

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  21. I'm excited you are excited! And, I've thought about it too. I am here to support you in anyway. Plus, what fun to stay up late reading your book!

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    1. Thanks, Stacy! You know if you self-publish I'll be there for you, too. At the very least, I've got two little boys who I'm sure would love your story! :)

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  22. Great post Lara! And yes, I have considered this. More and more, I am thinking it's the way to go for me too. Not because I think I can never be traditionally published, either, but because a) self-publishing means you can get your work out quicker, and b) a lot of times I have a tough time defining my novels' genres, too.

    But I'm not anywhere near being ready to publish anything, regardless of how I try to do it.

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  23. Congrats! Just think, your book will be in the hands of readers much more quickly than any other route and it will be on your terms. Good for you! Let me know if you need any help with promoting it. I'm happy to help in any way I can. My email address is lisareganauthor@hotmail.com.

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  24. How exciting! Excited about writing again? Well, that is a biggie. I can't wait to hear all about your journey!

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  25. Congrats, Lara! I'm glad to hear you've made a decision that sounds right for you. I can't wait to buy your book :)

    I'll be doing the self-publishing thing, myself...although it'll still be awhile before I'm ready.

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  26. Lara,

    You Rock:)

    Seriously.

    Wishing you ALL the best with FINDING MEARA - and please let me know when it's available :)

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  27. I'm sorry to not respond individually anymore, but my internet is being weird, and if I post comments in one window, I might actually get to respond to everyone!

    @Trisha - Let me know when you decide. I'm wondering about that being ready thing myself, but at some point I just want to move on. It's kind of scary to be sending it out into the world without someone else saying "Yes, it's ready to be published." I just keep telling myself I'll live with the consequences and hope for the best!

    @Thanks so much, Lisa, for your support!

    @Linda - Thanks! I'm so glad we got to be internet buddies!

    @Mike - I can't wait to read your story! I love your writing, so now that I know I'll get to read it without having to wait for the whole agent, publisher time frame, I can hardly wait!

    @Sarah - and just how did you do that (comment) from work? I can't wait to have you read it!

    @Mark - Thanks! :) I hope my story rocks! I will probably be shouting from the rooftops when it's available - although just today I started freaking out a little and thought about just sliding it out there without a lot of fanfare, "just in case it sucks." That probably should become a blog post... :)

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  28. I found it! I missed this post last week but looked it up.

    Yes, yes, YES. Welcome to the world of self-publishers who CHOOSE to take this route for any number of myriad reasons, none of them being because our work is sub-standard. I seem to be meeting lots of authors whose work is cross-genre like yours (and ours) and who are prepared to take a chance on themselves to get these fab books 'out there'.

    Very best of luck with Finding Meara - I can't wait to read it.

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    1. Thanks for looking for me! I am excited to join your ranks, all you wonderful self-publishers! It's a little overwhelming now, but I'm looking forward to the challenge.

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