Fear and Courage in Self-Publishing
From guest blogger Jodi Barnes, author of Santa Breaks Bad
Good writers seek out uncomfortable, sometimes terrifying, situations in which to place their characters — making for good character development and compelling plots. But when the writer puts herself, by choice, into uncertain territory, that can be the scariest of all.
We never know what's truly anxiety-provoking for anyone but us. Saying no more to a lucrative job and yes to unpaid time to practice writing might seem like a very brave (or foolish) thing to most of us. But my scariest decision so far is recently saying yes to self-publishing with my new flash-fiction book, Santa Breaks Bad: An international Christmas story wrapped in flash. All proceeds go toward 14 Words For Love's mission: to create small poems and stories that build inclusive communities.
I asked myself, why so much trepidation about self-publishing? First, I had nothing against self-publishing. I've been lucky and worked hard enough to have some poetry and short stories traditionally published. My first chapbook received an award. So it's not a situation where I got fed up with not seeing my stuff in journals and thought, I have to get my work out there!
Also, I know that there can only be a handful of Amandas. The self-published Amanda Hocking, that is. She sells a staggering amount on Amazon and Kindle; she's patiently built an audience, has talent, timing, and (no sour grapes) luck. For every Amanda, there are 1000 equally talented and dedicated writers who are not making rent.
But there is a lot of weak stuff out there as well and it's hard to throw yourself into an uncertain marketplace that could harm one's fledgling reputation as a writer. Isn't that what publishers and agents warn against?
I think some of my fear stems from my academic training: Quality work needs to be peer-reviewed, the best reviews being blind, to suss out what's BEST.
When I wrote Santa Breaks Bad, it was an experiment. I wrote the first chapter last year. Just let myself go with the fantasy, the supernatural mixed with labor history and the Cold War. Then, two months ago, I picked up where Chapter One left off. The rest happened within maybe two weeks, at most. I sent it to a handful of people whose opinion I trust. Two more weeks of edits, then a lot of approving nods.
I finally said, okay, self-publishing will be a lot more work, but I have an amazing husband/partner-in-design, who offered to create the cover. It's amazing. And, by publishing Santa Breaks Bad as the first 14 Words For Love publication, all proceeds will go toward my (unpaid, so far) job to promote and teach the mission of 14 Words For Love: creating small acts of art for social good.
I am so in love with the characters, Olga, Joker, the chief union steward Pinko, and the compassionate and beautiful patisserie chef Carmelita, that I wanted to get Santa Breaks Bad out for THIS Christmas.
The book is obviously seasonal, it's a book of flash fiction — very short chapters and the whole thing around 6000 words. I love its compactness. Love is a small act of social good. There. I did it!
Santa Breaks Bad is available on Kindle, Amazon and CreateSpace.