Maybe you’ve always dreamed of writing a book but were dissuaded by publisher rejection?
Join the club. After years of reading letters that began with, “Thank you for your very interesting submission, however…”, finally the nobodies of the world with a story to tell have an opportunity to enter the marketplace.
The Internet has become a cornucopia of literature offerings from talented nobodies around the world in multiple formats and price ranges on various web sites. But is it as quick and easy as the websites suggest?
Ever the adventurer, I opted to explore this self-publishing venue for my finished manuscript, “Nursing Chose Me: Called to an Art of Compassion.”
This book project started 35 years ago as a journaling of my many bizarre, humorous, heartwarming and humbling experiences as a bedside nurse. Writing for me was the way I unwound and processed my experiences, many of which were profound or stressful.
I wrote stories and songs sitting under a tree, playing my guitar, wind on my face, dog at my side. After I shared my sixth, depressing death song (pre-Phoebe on Friends days, but probably sounding just like her) with my soon to be spouse, he helped me realize what I was doing! I stopped writing the death songs, but kept journaling my experiences.
A decade later, I polished up my stories creating a book I entitled, “Nursing: The View from My Shoes.” After seven publisher rejection letters, I figured it wasn’t meant to be and gave up.
One lazy summer day, another decade later, I dusted off the old manuscript and began to add to the book, beginning a process of writing, editing, and rewriting that went on for years. New patient stories were added that reflected my changed perspective from bedside nurse to nursing faculty to Family Nurse Practitioner to Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. I enhanced the stories with the insight and wisdom that came with age and experience. Finally, I got editorial input from other writers with keen and critical eyes to fill in the missing pieces.
Ready with a manuscript in hand, polished looking and complete, I checked into the various websites available on line for self-publishing options. It quickly became clear that many of the self-publishing “packages” were costly, ranging from $400 to $2000 depending on cover desired, paper/printing quality and distribution channels. Not only was that more than I wanted to spend, I wasn’t impressed with the assembly line looking finished product.
The do-it-yourself programs had manuals to download with very detailed submission specifications. I figured, I had come this far, how long could this take if I did it myself?
I quickly realized that writing the book itself was the fun, relaxing, and creative part. This is why traditionally writers just wrote and left the publishing to the publishers!
It took months of tedious work to modify the original manuscript to meet the various self-publishing specifications which required me to take my knowledge of word processing up a few notches. I had to teach myself about the on-line book market; how it worked, what price points worked, what was in the fine print in the royalty agreements, what sells, how to market, the importance of the jacket information, and the critical importance of a “wow” cover. I commissioned Victor Juhasz, a nationally acclaimed artist to work with me to create a cover image that embodied the emotion of “Nursing Chose Me.”
Once everything was in the final format it still took over a week just to get the book loaded and lined up properly. Then the moment came to hit the finalize button, and within just a few days for the printed version and within minutes for the on-line version, I finally was able to read the words, “Congratulations! Your manuscript has been accepted.”
This translates into about two hours on the “Just Released” section of the website, then like thousands of others, your book falls back into obscurity. Not too far from the dusty old shelf it began on. Self-publishing also means self-marketing, creating a website, and shamelessly pedaling your books at conferences and to friends. It means believing in your book enough to not give up.
People are excited to hear that you have a “book” but the thrill rapidly dissipates when they realize you “self” published – like it is less of an accomplishment somehow. Only other independent publishers (“indies”) can appreciate the thousands of hours you’ve spent to get your story published and know that without a name or connection you were otherwise destined to obscurity anyway in the publishing world.
While I was thrilled to be accepted onto many different platforms for publishing; like Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobe, Scribd, and Apple iBooks – it turns out that only Create Space through Amazon (Kindle and print copies) is the only one I actually received royalties from. And if someone told me they bought a copy, the royalty appeared within days in my account. Read the fine print. For some publishers, unless you meet a specific quarterly amount of royalties, they don’t have to pay — and royalties don’t “accumulate” over time. A bummer to find out you sold ~100 books on their site – without any reimbursement. Some of the more obscure sites, crickets. My second book, released 2020, a suspenseful romantic comedy screenplay, “Looking for Lily,” was released only through Create Space/Amazon; I just didn’t feel I could trust the others.
So what if you don’t have a best seller! It really was an accomplishment to just to finish something that many people talk about but don’t do. If you are writing for fame or fortune? — consider buying a lottery ticket.
My greatest thrill was when a co-worker, an amazing RN, found me to tell me she had just read my book, not realizing at first that she knew the author. She said she laughed, she cried, but most importantly felt a release of unspoken emotions from her own similar experiences. With tears in her eyes, she hugged me and thanked me for writing the book that changed her perceptions of her own journey.
And that is why we write.