You Don’t Need Money to Become a Published Author

            I have been in this industry for a decade. I have seen every type of scam, scheme, and actual honest help. There are scores of people out there ready to take your money so you can achieve your dreams. (Trust me. I have poetry about it written in glitter pens from a decade ago.) So let’s talk about what you think you need and what you actually need.

Scam: “Give me $1,000 and I’ll give you a book.” and sometimes they promise fame and fortune too. These people do a really crappy job doing exactly what you could accomplish all by yourself but often give you an inferior product. It used to be a guy with a printing press in their basement, now I’m sure it’s more of a guy who knows how Lulu dot com works. It’s basically vanity publishing, and often, because of that, your books won’t even be available on Amazon. Sometimes they just take your money and run. Don’t give them money.
(I’ll let you guys know of a few of the “publishing houses” that have approached me climb into my inbox. Tehe!)

Scheme: I have seen smallish companies that offer to do things like take over the production of your book from start to finish. Which, I mean, if you wanna throw $1,000 at someone to do that for you go for it! Just do your homework and make sure they’ll actually do the job right. They’re usually upfront with their practices. “We’ll do all the work it takes to get your book self-published on Amazon. Editing, cover art, listing it,” etc. They have different tears of help they can give. They’re not necessarily bad. They just do things you could easily do yourself.

Actual honest help: Okay. This is what I do. It’s still not ideal, but it’s what’s working for me. Over the years I have accumulated a team of freelancers to do everything I can’t do well myself. Poor Richard does my cover art, and sometimes gets memes about how crazy I drive him made about him, even though he assures me I’m not that bad; Caren Speckner is an awesome human who edits my stuff so I don’t look like an idiot in public while allowing me to keep my Goshen County accent. (Most people cry “That’s not grammatically correct!” but that’s how I talk…) Cierra does my logos in that traditional American tattoo art I’m so fond of and allows me to pay her in bones and bottles, because I’m a cowgirl who likes booze. In Tales from the Gishlan Wood she’ll be doing the flags.
If you choose this rout Pay. Your. People. That street runs both ways and I’ve seen authors walk off with 35+ hours of work without paying their freelancers. Not a “I’ll pay you $5 a month until it’s done.” just poof! Not cool.
The reason I say this is not ideal is because these people’s services are something a traditional publisher should be paying for. The reason they should be paying for them is because traditional publishers know more about making books than you or I. At least they’re supposed to. Poor Richard’s cover art might not fit current marketing trends! Accent or no, it’s still grammatically incorrect. And traditional American tattoo art? Not in my good Christian suburbs. The price you pay for a good traditional publisher is less creative control. But. I am confident that if I got a wild hair and started self-publishing my books, say, next week, it’d be the best quality product I could offer the public. Perhaps, one day, I will find a traditional publisher that shares my vision.

            Like many things in life, you don’t need money but it sure as Heck makes things run smoother. Jeeze. My biggest expense when I published War and Chess was buying copies to resell. I’d buy them 50 at a time, so that costed about $300.  I remember I would save my money $20 bill by $20 bill at a time in a ceramic pig I made in middle school that sat in the corner of my parent’s house. (Obviously, I have no money hidden there now.) It was a big investment but I made the money back by selling copies at book signings. Those were some treasured and adventurous times.

            Not having money doesn’t mean you don’t have to work. It means you have to work twice as hard to accomplish the same thing. You can publish a book without spending a dime (especially if you self-publish on Amazon). If you’re sleeping on your own career because “YoU cAn’T aFfOrD iT.” I’m here to tell you it’s bullsh*t. You can do anything you set your mind to.

Boo! It’s the Fear of Failure

I have to share something truly scary with you guys: I want to give up.

That’s right. I said it. I want to turn around and dump all of this off. I want to unload every single piece I’ve written, my life’s work, online for free so someone will read it and love it. Maybe Wattpad? I am tired.

No hard feelings, of course, but the press I was in a gentleman’s agreement with and I decided it would be best if my books and I moved on back in July. It’s like a breakup. Even if you were unhappy and it was just not working it still hurts. And yeah, much like a breakup, I wish them well and hope they get all the happiness this world has to offer too. But still, it’s about as disheartening as a punch in the jaw. (Actually, a punch in the jaw would make me incredibly angry but that’s beside the point!)

Like I started off saying, I just want someone to love my books as much as I love them. I’ve spent 10 friggin’ years in Gishlan. This October will make it official! I am, in all seriousness, thinking about self-publishing my Gishlan series. Which, is something I promised myself I’d never do because self-publishing is great for hobbyists! More power to ya! But this is so much more than a hobby to me. My itty bitty vegetable garden is a hobby, my Etsy shop is a hobby, making memes in Facebook groups is a hobby. My writing is not a hobby.

You know what’s easier than rounding up all the freelancers I’ve been working with for the past five years and tapping my foot impatiently at them while we try to meet some fancy smancy deadline I made up? Giving up.

I could just drop it. Never talk about it. I could swear off writing (even though I actually can’t because I get this weird itch under my skin when I don’t write and BLEH!) I could just let this skill set I’ve been working on since I started elementary school get rusty, let the stories die inside of me, never make another blog post, get out of the game. I could.

But why? Why sacrifice that year I lived off of the royalties and revenue from War and Chess? Or all those hours where I broke my back over an antique kitchen chair as I typed out 40,000+ words during a global pandemic? Or that time when I was 17 and I gave a nice lady with eyelids that reminded me of butterflies $10 to read my fortune at a street fair, and she told me “I don’t think you’ll publish your book. I know you will. Kick some ass.”? Why would I let go of that time I was first world starving in my first apartment, pressing 700 shirts a week, wondering if anything good would come of my life or if I’d just pay bills and slowly rot away, but instead one March day I got email a contract for War and Chess? I coyote howled all the way to the grocery store where I bought sparkling grape juice I couldn’t really afford because I was 19 and wasn’t legal to drink yet. Why would I let any of it go?

The fear of failure. That’s why.

This is friggin’ terrifying. Here I am pouring my heart out to you guys in fiction, and someone who doesn’t even read young adult fantasy could just come up and “I don’t like it.”, give it one star on Amazon, and “It needs more romance.” Or not even that! War and Chess has been rejected 25 times and Tales from the Gishlan Wood has been rejected 26 times. Both pieces could never meet the right publisher! And what about the other two books on my desk? They just go inside of my coffee table which is a trunk containing manuscripts? I could completely fail.

But you know what? War and Chess has been accepted by indie presses twice, and Tales from the Gishlan Wood has been offered three different contracts. I just feel that it’s important to find the right publisher where we, me as an author, and them as a press, can mutually benefit each other. And as for books three and four: one day one of my friends will ask “OH! Is this the one with the pregnant lady who swears a lot?! Yass!” and somewhere out there, there is a little girl who is really excited to see her mermaid book in print. Even just to read it! (Because I only just did the first draft editing and she watched me write it from afar.) I firmly believe there are people out there who need these stories and I want to do it in a way that can reach the most people. And if that’s not it, then I’m sure people need the story of me wanting to give up because I’m so gawldarn tired of failing but then persevering. Even if that person isn’t a writer. My childhood heroes ran brothels. The sex industry just isn’t for me even though I respect the con craft. Some examples: 1, 2, 3.

What’s catastrophic failure to the owner of a brothel? The church shuts your practice down? Dell Burke offered to shut down the power plant for them if they dared. For me catastrophic failure would be amassing a fandom over the course of 20 years then saying a bunch of narrow minded garbage that defames a certain group. *Looks into camera* So why not give myself that chance and keep working?

Don’t sweat. I’m currently querying agents because I obviously can’t find the right publisher on my own. Don’t get me wrong! I’ve worked with good people! We’re just not right for each other. I’m not giving up and neither should you!

These things take time. And it’s about as much as having bamboo shoved under your fingernails then lit on fire. Go for your goals! Battle that dragon! Lay siege to that castle! Pick one that the beefeaters aren’t guarding. I don’t want to see you die. Learn a new language! Travel the world [when it’s safe to do so]! Write your bleedin’ book. Publish your bleedin’ book! Whatever you came here hoping I would tell you to do! Do the thing!

And please continue to follow my career so I can disappoint you, as all heroes do eventually. *Whispers* except you, Dell. You’re perfect.

Happy Halloween! Come back next month for NaNoWriMo is Weird. And as always don’t be a stranger. Contact button is to your left, comments are below. Would love to hear from ya!