The Sound of One Hand Clapping by Rebecca Taylor

By Rebecca TaylorThe Exquisite and Immaculate Grace of Carmen Espinoza

Yesterday, I uploaded my most recent book, The Exquisite and Immaculate Grace of Carmen Espinoza, to Kindle—Yes, I self published it. And as I, only hours later took it down to make changes (I suspect it won’t be the last time) I wondered:

Why don’t more writers make the leap into self-publishing?

I thought about it all day and here’s what I came up with:

  1. In truth, self-publishing still reeks a bit of failure (if you think it has completely lost all stigma, then you’re not looking hard enough outside the self publishing community. Like it or not, self publishing is still judged pretty harshly in some circles, especially the ones surrounded by the high gates of traditional publishing. There are only two things that truly mask this odor: Winning legitimate awards and big sales.
  2. If you do it right, it’s a ton of work. It can be super easy and not at all a ton of work if you just take your first draft, upload it to Kindle, and slap one of their cover generated images in front of it. Of course, if you do it that way you should also expect to get out what you put in—which is almost nothing.
  3. And finally, and this I think is the big reason why many don’t take the plunge, you stand completely alone beside your work, taking a huge risk that, even after all your labors the only sound to reach your ears is the eerie silence of your one hand clapping (the other one is, of course, occupied holding up your book to a world that doesn’t give a shish.)

Yes, number three, lack of self-confidence, I suspect it is the real reason why many writers don’t give it a go—of course this may be simply because it was the real reason why I didn’t.

Confession: I am always a little bit in awe of someone in possession of flagrant self confidence. I watch them, without even the slightest hesitation of self doubt, they will happily spread their feathers befor2000 x 1333e you and shimmy—it has been my experience that these people are usually connected to the theatre in someway.

When that self-possessed someone happens to be a writer—well I’m flat out flabbergasted to be in the presence of such a rare bird.

In March of this year, I sat on a publishing panel answering a variety of questions from writers. Towards the end of the session, one young woman approached the microphone and asked, “What one piece of advice do you have for aspiring writers?”

Now, there are many, many good answers to this question: Write, Don’t give up, Learn the craft, etc, etc. But what popped out of my mouth was, “Toughen up.”

Yes, find those bootstraps and pull them hard because the truth of the matter is, if you are still a walking wound of self-doubt, anxiety, and crippling insecurities when your first book, traditional publisher or no, comes out—that first three star review is going to knock you to your knees. And that one star, the one with the especially snarky, and yet cleverly crafted, dissertation-length review, may likely drive you from your dreams of writing anything ever again.

I think many writers, who might otherwise be interested in the allures of self publishing, still avoid it because they believe having a publisher (regardless of the publisher’s size and actual knowledge of the publishing business) is going to fill that void, that empty gaping hole where the writer should believe in themselves, and their work. That acceptance acts like a Band-Aid of, “Look, it’s not just me…someone else likes my book too.”

And maybe that Band-Aid will be enough.

But I will tell you, if this is how you are going to prop yourself up, by leaning against the facade of traditional legitimacy, all it will take for it to all disappear is for fickle winds of favor to start blowing the other way.

And then, where does that leave you?

Ever heard the tale of the traditionally published debut author that didn’t sell enough books to earn out his meager advance? It left him with no sales, no offer for that next book, and no confidence in his ability. Even with traditional publishing, nothing is guaranteed!

Self-confidence is an absolute MUST in this business.

Be bold! Stare the very real potential of deafening silence in the face and say, “I’m not afraid of you.” Once you face that fear, whatever yours may be, it can’t hold you in paralysis any more.

When it’s ready, when you’re ready, get your work out there anyway you can. If a traditional publisher wants to stand with you—great! Just don’t fool yourself into thinking they’re going to sit up with you in the middle of the night and rock you back to sleep.

Kind of like your kids, no one will ever care about your work as much as you do. (except your mother—for both examples.)

This is just my opinion, but I happen to think you have to stand at the center of your writing career and act as the captain of your own ship—no agent or editor is going to do that for you.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to talk you out of your Big Five dream—I don’t think self-publishing is for everyone. Truth be told, I actually hope it’s not the only avenue forever open to me because I’m probably the first writer in line to lick the feet of a Random Penguin should it happen to deign glance in my direction. I still want my books in Barnes and Noble just a bad as you do.

But, if it turns out that the publishing powers that be don’t want me there, I’m not afraid to stand alone, book in hand, and brace myself for silence. My biggest fear is not that I will make a fool of myself—it’s that I will stop trying.

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Rebecca Taylor 2000X3000Rebecca Taylor is the young adult author of ASCENDANT, a recently selected finalist for the 2014 Colorado Book Award. The second book in the Ascendant series, MIDHEAVEN, will release in 2014 and her standalone novel, THE EXQUISITE AND IMMACULATE GRACE OF CARMEN ESPINOZA, is now available.

You can find more information about her work at: Web: www.rebeccataylorbooks.com, Blog: www.rebeccataylorbooks.blogspot.com,  Twitter: https://twitter.com/RebeccaTaylorED,  Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/Rebeccataylor, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaTaylorBooks, Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/user/RebeccaTaylorED

 

13 thoughts on “The Sound of One Hand Clapping by Rebecca Taylor

  1. Patricia Stoltey

    Welcome to the RMFW Blog, Rebecca. Your post will be welcomed by a whole gang of writers who are struggling with the decision whether to pursue a traditional publishing contract or go it alone.

    Writers do need to understand that professional editing and cover art are essential, and these tasks cost money up front for those who self-publish. It’s a price one pays to present a top-notch product and do it much faster than the traditional publisher can.

    Then there’s there agony (and sometimes joy) of marketing for both traditional and self-published work. And those reviews you mentioned that can slam you upside the head for thinking you can write.

    I don’t think you could have given better advice than “toughen up.” Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Taylor

      Thanks Patricia! One nice thing that I didn’t mention is that authors don’t have to necessarily to do one or the other–the hybrid route has been a very exciting, and lucrative, option for so many writers. And so true about needing to invest in that professional cover and editing assistance!

      Reply
  2. Karla

    Rebecca! Thank you! I have been a waffler, waiting for that clear sign from above, or anywhere for that matter, to get take the steps to my book self-published! I will Toughen Up, thanks to you!

    Reply
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  4. Lesley

    Thanks for the comments, Rebecca. I definitely agree with the ‘toughen up.’ advice. :)
    I disagree with your thesis, though, that folks don’t self-publish because they don’t have confidence in their work.
    I think many folks don’t do it because it’s so difficult to sell self-published books. Once your friends and family have bought a copy, what then?
    I have some self-published friends who are excellent writers and have done professional editing and layout and cover art and who still have sold only a handful of books.
    At least traditional publishing can get the book out to more customers.
    Isn’t marketing more difficult when you’re self-published?

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Taylor

      Hi Lesley, thanks for your comments. Actually, I think marketing is tough regardless of whether you go it alone or through a traditional publisher. Even when your at a sizable house, the author is expected to do much of the heavy lifting with regards to connecting, building, and sustaining an active audience (Unless, of course, you are an already well established author–everything is different for John Green :-) I think the most successful authors have several books out there in the world and have been plugging away for longer than the life cycle of a single book in the publishing bucket. Many traditional books, actually MOST traditional books, only sell a handful of copies as well. I would argue that one book isn’t going to cut it for almost everyone–you need a longish back list no matter who publishes your book.

      Reply

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