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.

Indie vs. Traditional Publishing, and Technology

I put a lot of thought into whether I wanted to be Indie published or traditionally published. Indie publishing gives you complete control, but traditional publishing adds a layer of respectability. Here’s how I made my decision, and the resulting issue I now have.

First, I received a letter from a well-known traditional publisher, wanting to publish a manuscript I’d submitted (for a story I have yet to publish). This publisher, while gushing in a very flattering way about my writing, wanted me to make changes. They wanted one character completely deleted from the story because ‘gay people don’t live in tiny towns’. (I know, I still laugh over that foolishness, too.) They also wanted me to remove all swear words from one character. I refused publication because I couldn’t do that to the characters.

Second, I spied on my friend, author Susan Schreyer. I saw how she had complete control over every aspect of her books through indie publishing. There are good and bad sides to that but it’s not the focus of this post. I liked the idea of control. I liked the idea of my characters allowed to be who they wanted to be.

Obviously I chose the indie route.

But here’s the aspect I didn’t consider – technology in this day and age.

To be successful as a published author you have to be ‘out there’. Platforms through blogs, Facebook, Twitter, your own website, etc. You have to be visible and accessible. That’s very difficult for me personally as I choose to live in that very little town with gay people because I like privacy. I try to balance my desire for privacy personally, with the need to be very public, professionally.

However, my real beef with the social media and technology aspect is the assumption by most that everyone has access. The assumption that every person out there can afford high-speed internet, smart phones, computers, iPads, and on and on.

How does that make one feel, who can’t afford those toys? And when did those toys become so immersed in our society that they are taken for granted and no longer ‘toys’ but ‘essentials’?

Yes, I am entertained by Facebook, although I dislike the amount of writing time it steals from me (I blame Facebook).

Social platforms would be required no matter which method of publishing chosen because traditional publishers don’t do the marketing like they used to for new authors. I’m not sure if the level of being ‘out there’ is the same. And we as a society would miss out on some amazing books, music, art, etc. if there was no indie route along the internet road.

But there are times when I wish I could shut the door.

And even more times when I wish people didn’t assume that everyone was on the same level of connectivity. I actually find that assumption to be, in a small way, prejudice. How difficult life must be now for those who cannot afford, or who don’t understand, all the toys.

And now I’m going to post this publicly, across all social platforms. What a conundrum.