Shame In The Eye Of The Beholder

Sunshine On My Shoulders should be available in just a few days. As part of the publication process, I decided to go with a new cover artist, and then asked her to redo the covers of previous books. I’m beyond thrilled with the results.

I’ve been thinking about these changes, beyond just the business aspect.

First, let me say that there was nothing wrong with the previous cover artist. She was new to the trade and I was new to the design aspect, and neither of us knew how to make our needs clear. There were misunderstandings and mistakes on both sides. The end result was three covers I never liked.

There’s a bigger issue though.

Shame.

I wonder how many indie authors feel that. I’ve written about it before on this blog. The struggles to feel like a ‘real’ author when there isn’t a large publishing house behind the book.

There are a lot of things that contribute to this, like opportunities for beginning authors, but only if you’re traditionally published. Yes, there are some opportunities for indie authors, but the market hasn’t reached the point yet where they are equal. Same with trying to get indie authors through the doors of book stores and libraries. Which leaves many feeling not good enough.

Then there’s the indie publishing process itself. It’s so easy. Which results in millions of books. When I started this, the thinking was that if you were professional, if your product was polished, you’d float upward through the masses while those books that were tossed out with no editing, no writing experience, etc., would sink and disappear. Maybe they do, but again, with millions, if not billions, of books out there, that means a lot of sinking and rising to do.

If I look one of my books up and see that it’s ranked around five million, I don’t see rising going on, only failure on my part. After all, I’m just an indie author.

That underlying shame is not something I’m often consciously aware of. It doesn’t impact my writing. Nothing can take me out of the story world. But it surfaces when I squirm with certain phrases in the real world.

I’m an author. I say, I’m a writer.

I have published books. I say, I have stories out there.

I’ve been invited to speak at an author’s panel. I say, I’m going to talk about writing.

But with Sunshine, I realize that shame has always been there when I look at my book covers. Just that little brief feeling of uncomfortable. That back-of-your-mind thought where you wish your books looked better when you’re at those author panels.

That really never sank in on a conscious level until today when I saw the final concept for Sunshine’s cover. When I saw how professional it looked.

SOMS Screen Shot

Finally, after four books, I feel like an author.

And the weird thing, which is also rather sad, is that feeling like an author has nothing to do with the story, with the words inside that cover. My feeling like I have something now to be proud of comes from the beautiful artwork of another.

I don’t mean that I’m not proud of the story inside the cover. There are lots of pieces in there that I like. But I’ll be the first one to tell you that I see the world through words, not color and design. I can’t even tell what colors go together. It’s just that the visual, the first impression, all comes from the cover of a book.

That first impression, I think, just got a lot better. So a great big thank you to Monika Younger of Younger Book Design.

The other book covers should be redone before too long.

Feeling like a real author will take more time. Well, probably a LOT more time. But hey, I have a lot of stories still to tell, so we’ll consider that a work in progress. I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

10 thoughts on “Shame In The Eye Of The Beholder

  1. Let me start with an apology — both for the length of this reply and for what may be taken as a “scolding” tone. Nevertheless, it’s been a long time since I’ve climbed up on the self publishing soap box, and I think it’s time for me to do it again. Publishing companies have not treated authors well, and from what I gather in speaking with traditionally published authors lately, not much has changed since I made the decision to go indy seven years ago. Their business models beggar belief (I’ll spare you my rant on that — it’s pretty easy to look into on one’s own). Also, there is no more “nurturing” an author and growing her career like they did 50 years ago. They chew up authors and spit them out with such astounding consistency that it’s a wonder anyone submits books to them any more — you’d think they didn’t realize where their product comes from. They’ve gotten rid of their editors and expect the author to shoulder the responsibility of finding her own, and once a book is accepted it is the author’s responsibility to carry the burden of marketing and promotion (and pay for it herself, like she does with the editor). Easily half the authors I talk to hate their book covers and don’t get to even choose their title. It astounds me that there are still a good number of people “out there” who believe the publishing houses are the only legitimate route to becoming a “real author” — if they only knew how little respect a traditionally published author gets!

    I grant you that there are an absurd number of subpar novels in circulation right now — and let’s be honest: a good number of those come right out of publishing houses — with kickass covers. I’ll also grant you that there was never anything more untrue than the saying “the cream will rise to the top.” Not only is that not true in publishing, but it can be said of virtually every single product with a price tag on it and every single profession.

    That said (all of it), I understand the need for validation. It’s been hammered into us, and it’s a sneaky devil the way it pops up and ruins what should be a real celebration. But listen to me; there is no shame in writing a beautiful and compelling story. I challenge anyone to point out what is wrong or foolish about crafting a piece of art and then sharing it with others who will appreciate it. Is what we produce perfect? No, of course not. There will always be that piece we know could have been better. If we’re smart, we strive to improve. For myself, it’s that constant opportunity to learn how to be better that keeps it all interesting. I confess, I get bored if a task ceases to be a challenge.

    One last thing — and this is important; when you diminish your own work because it is indy-produced, you diminish the work of all indy authors. Take pride in the fact that you have chosen this path. It is the path that shook the publishing world to its roots and continues to shape the future for the benefit of all. You are part of the Revolution, as are the rest of us. Wear “Indy” with pride — the only easy thing about this has been the technology to produce our art. All the rest has been damned difficult.

    Remember, in whatever form it takes, Earth without Art is just “eh” — celebrate your art!

  2. Very interesting read, and beautiful cover. I so get what you mean about author vs writer. I helped my husband publish his Indie book, and it just got lost in the millions.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • It takes a lot of patience with the ‘getting noticed’ part. And a willingness to balance the time needed for marketing with the time needed to keep writing. I do believe the better the quality and the number of books you have out lend an air of professionalism, which helps. Especially in genres where series are the norm, like mysteries. Thanks for commenting and good luck with your husband’s book. Don’t give up on it yet.

  3. Its funny, but I just relized that I copy your words. I say to my other friends “she is a writer, she writes books” I think in the future I should say “she is a famous author, have you not heard of her books???” 😉
    I am glad you feel like a professional now! And I agree from the picture point of things, the new cover does look way professional. But then personally I will read your stories in any form!! Be it as a draft send over in an email, or an idea read on your computer or a nice looking book…. because I just love your voice, your writing voice, your stories! 😊

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