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.

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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.

Sadness In The Bones

I recently discovered Hafsa’s blog ‘Safe Place’ and I’m so glad I did. What beautiful, lyrical words. But most importantly, it’s honest writing. And because of its honesty, because of its ability to touch emotion, many readers will breathe out a sigh of relief and say ‘finally, someone put it into words’. Bravo, Hafsa.

Here is her recent post, ‘Raw’.

There’s a certain kind of sadness that can make home out of my bones. There’s a certain kind of silence that can enslave my entire existence. A deeply embedded sense of loss that takes hold of every flicker of hope and blows it out. There’s a certain type of darkness that then envelopes my being. […]

via Raw — Safe Place

Firewood and Words

Stacking firewood is challenging. I look for the right piece, the right shape, so that the whole stack is locked in tight. I get offended by the wood when I can’t make the pieces fit.

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I’ll add a few pieces, then pause and stand back, studying the pile. I’ll see one that could be turned a different direction. Or one that would lock in better if placed elsewhere. I’ll swap direction, turning a piece on its end so the fatter part balances the whole.

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See the light? Still looking for just the right pieces.

Then I’ll go back to the pile and rummage, looking for a piece that’s the right angle, the right shape.

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In the winter, when snow is heavy, I’ll haul in pieces that I stacked in the hot summer sun. I’ll see smoke coming from the chimney and know the stack came out okay in spite of my doubt that all the pieces don’t fit just right.

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No smoke yet

Editing is challenging. I look for the right word, the right sound, so that the whole paragraph is locked in tight. I get offended by the story when I can’t make the words fit.

I’ll add a few words, then pause and stand back, studying the paragraph. I’ll see a phrase that could be turned a different direction. Or one that would lock in better if placed elsewhere. I’ll swap direction, turning a sentence on its end so the beginning balances the whole. Then I’ll go back to the story and daydream, looking for a theme that’s the right angle, the right shape.

In the winter, when snow is heavy, I’ll read the book that I worked on in the hot summer sun. I’ll see words and know the story came out okay in spite of my doubt that all the words don’t fit just right.

And so goes this hot sunny day. Stacking firewood and sweating and daydreaming, and then cooling off in the shade with words.

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