Self-publishing was never my plan. I had long looked upon the idea as a desperate attempt by bad writer’s to purchase their moment of fame. The term “vanity publishing” embodied all that I thought it could be. A look in the mirror to boost your ego.Ten years of searching for a publisher later, I stumbled on a novel-writing contest. Yes! I thought. This is just what I need. But the end date of the contest had come and gone and there seemed to be no thought of running the contest again. Another opportunity lost. But as I was already on the website, I decided to read more about the idea of publishing on demand.
I have since publishing four books via this method. At first, I tried to hide the fact that I had published myself, but it didn’t take long for those in-the-know to ferret out that little nugget of information. My first book did surprisingly well. I couldn’t wait to do more. I had pages of unread material on my computer and now, at last, an avenue for my work to be read. But I still felt I had failed. I longed to have a publisher. A contract. A publicity tour.My husband recently finished a Master’s degree and along the way, has read aloud any snippets from the books he reads that have to do with writing. I love hearing what other writer’s say about the craft. It is always a confirmation of this work I so enjoy and an inspiration to keep going. Last week, he read me a rather long passage from Eugene Peterson’s book The Pastor. Peterson has had a fascinating career as a pastor, professor, and author of, among other things a best-selling translation of the Bible.
He writes “I read Emily Dickinson’s pronouncement, ‘Publication is no business of the poet.’ (Truman) Capote exposed much of what I had been doing as ‘typing’ – using words to manipulate or inform or amuse. Dickinson rescued me from a lust to be published.” (The Pastor, p. 239)The words sang through my writer’s soul. Yes! Being published is not the goal of my writing. Learning, discovering, empathizing as I write is the goal. To find a reader is a gift. To have a well-written, deeply felt review is a trophy. I have found these things in writing. Most published authors work another job as well. I am not so different and there is nothing to be ashamed of in self-publishing. Of course, I wish I could afford a professional editor, publicist and someone who knows how to make my Kindle versions error-free, but still readers have found my work and joined my fanciful stories.
To quote Peterson once more “It was a way of writing that involved a good deal of listening, looking around, getting acquainted with the neighborhood. Not writing what I knew but writing into what I didn’t know, edging into a mystery. This, I was learning, was what real writers did.” (p. 238-239) Beautiful. It gives me chills.