The other day I got word that one of my books had got to the second round of the selection process by a mainstream publisher. I was elated. And then I took a step back and wondered at my reaction, and even the fact that I’d submitted the manuscript for consideration at all.
I’m a big believer in the ‘self-made (wo)man’. Large institutions strangle the uniqueness and individuality out of creatives. They mould them into sausage factory products to reap the financial gain. So why have I placed one of my beloved babies in reach of that machine?
Credibility. Though I hate to acknowledge it, there is something to be said for gaining the notice of the ‘big boys’. On some level, it isn’t enough to have had nearly 40,000 of my books downloaded across the world in less than five months. It isn’t enough that on average 300 of my books are downloaded daily. (That one really rocked my world when I did the calculations!) I wanted ‘authority’ to recognise my efforts.
I became an Astrologer without the aid of schools or teachers (beyond the wonderful man who taught me the calculations.) I had a thriving practise and I knew I was good at my work. But I wanted credibility with my peers. So I sat for the exams for practitioner accreditation by the governing body, the Federation of Australian Astrologers. I came 2nd, nationally.
Did that change my life? No. Did it bring me more clients? No. All it did was allow me to measure myself against others in my field and be deemed equal, even without mainstream training. And that gave me more confidence in myself.
Another woman I met had tried to do the same thing, but failed. She asked for my secret. I knew it instantly. I had a formal education. I was a teacher. I knew how to organise learning so that it met the needs of a curriculum. In a way, I was my own school, my own teacher, and my textbooks were the same as any accredited school would have used. I knew how to write an essay and to present an argument with evidence. All that, I acquired as part of my formal education, and I just applied it in another field. The woman who had failed hadn’t had my background. She needed a school.
And I think that is the case with writing. The Indie Revolution has opened doors for writers to experiment and explore new genres, new methods of storytelling that the big publishers would have rejected as unprofitable. The world is a better place because of the Indie Revolution.
But the freedom that’s now ours doesn’t mean poorly crafted work is going to make you a fortune. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to learn how to write, to tell your story. You still have to be able to string a sentence together so it makes sense. You have to create believable characters and a plot that holds together with a clear beginning middle and end. You have to learn your craft.
Maybe any success I have as an Indie published author comes because of my years as an English teacher drumming the skills of creative writing and analysis into my students. It may also have come from the years of writing I’ve done since I was old enough to hold a pencil. And maybe it’s partly due to some innate talent I have. Whatever it is, it’s not luck. And it’s come with hard work. Lots of hard work. And constant, on-going learning, so each book is better than the last (I hope).
And if my book gets picked up by mainstream, that won’t mean I’ll stop publishing Indie. I’ll be a hybrid, like so many other authors are becoming these days. If I get picked up, it will be because I found a publisher who saw profit in a specific piece of my writing, not because I tried to write to fit their formula. I can’t do that. I’ve tried. I really have tried. But my Muse doesn’t play that way.
And if I get picked up, it won’t mean I’m going to sell any more books than I have already. It will simply be another milestone for me, personally. One that goes next to 16,500 downloads in 5 days, an Amazon UK # 1 Best Seller Historical Fiction ranking, and the cancer survivor who wrote to me because ‘The Way Home’ made her finally realise and acknowledge that she HAD survived.
So, keep your fingers crossed for me. (Did I say there was no luck involved?) It would be nice to add another milestone to my life path.