I’ve mentioned it a few times, but in case you’re not aware, I’m publishing two books in March, From the Tea Village (a middle grade novel) and Simply Yunnan (a cookbook). You can read more about them by clicking here.
What you may not be aware of, however, is that I’m self-publishing the books and completely thrilled to be experiencing the publishing process as an indie author. Each step of publishing — from registering for an ISBN to hiring the designer (check out the work of Streetlight Graphics) to viewing the cover for the first time to becoming a Goodreads Author — has been a dream come true. These books that I’ve poured my heart into for the past few years are becoming a physical reality.
The process didn’t start out quite this way. After writing my novel, I traveled the traditional route, sent out numerous query letters, and had positive interactions with a handful of agents and small publishers who read part or all of my manuscript. I was encouraged about my writing style and the quality of my work — but over and again I was told things like, “The book is publishable, but not for us” or “I love the writing/story/details about Yunnan, but I don’t think this book will sell” or “The characters and setting are too exotic.” The last one is especially ironic considering I heard this from multiple agents who have posted that they’re looking for multi-cultural works to add to their book lists. But following the protocol of politeness in response to rejected queries, I’m not allowed to point out to them the contradictory nature of their responses or the fact that the “too exotic” argument doesn’t stand when you consider the proliferation of fantasy and dystopian books for a young adult audience. Exotic is OK as long as it’s fantasy, not Asian.
Through talking with these agents and publishers, with other writers, and with other entrepreneurs, I’ve decided that in my situation self-publishing is perfect. As a self-pubbed author I can make decisions based on my heart, not just on money. There is an audience for my books — it’s not a national best-selling audience, but I’m ok with that. Agents and publishers don’t want to take risks for books that won’t pay my salary and theirs, but I am willing to take a risk for my own sake. My success or failure only affects me. That is a good feeling.
To self-publish I can work on my own time-table. I can take the time I need to do quality writing, work on revisions and editing, and arrange for the design work, while still living a healthy life with the correct focus on God, family, and other relationships. I set my own deadlines and choose my own launch dates. Having been a freelancer for the past three years, I’ve grown accustomed to being in control of my own schedule, and I like maintaining that control over the life of my books.
And so my first two books will be available in March, and the people who want to read books like mine (with a story set in a realistic but exotic location with a main character who deals with real-life problems and is not obsessed with romance at too young an age) will be able to. If the books fail, I am the only one responsible for their failure. If they succeed, I’m the one who benefits from that success. I was responsible to write a good story, get feedback from beta readers and editors, make the appropriate changes to make it a book my audience would want to read — and now I’m responsible for getting the books into the hands of that audience. I like having this responsibility