Almost four years ago, I started a story. Just a tiny, weak flame struggling to grow into something bigger. At times, it would seem as if the light was about to be snuffed out; imploding into dark vapor that slipped through my fingers, no matter how tightly I tried to grasp it. But then something wonderful would happen. Just when I thought the story’s warm glow was all but gone, a teeny tiny flicker would erupt from its near-death. It would be just enough to spark my determination once more. I would nurture that tiny flame, give it everything it needed, block out all the nasty things that threatened its growth, and, in time, it began to spread. No longer a single flicker on a wick, my story ate everything in its path, swelling and devouring every piece of fuel offered it until it was a roaring, raging thing. Sure, sometimes it would get out of hand, and I’d let it burn me a time or two, but I had accomplished something great. I had nurtured and tamed this wildfire of a story. I felt as accomplished as the first man that had made fire. I created something and it was mine. But now what?
Now I had this wonderful thing (at least in my world it is wonderful) and wanted to share it with the world. Suddenly, I am clueless. Writing this story was the hard part, right? I mean it took years and years to finish it. It wasn’t easy to come up with likable characters or to make sure everyone served a purpose somewhere in the book. So, if that was the hard part, then why am I sitting completely impotent when it comes to the next steps?
Everyone knows that, after you write your book, the next thing to do is get it out there. Now, there are various ways to go about this. You could go the traditional route of trying to get published by a publishing house. Queries, agents, submissions, rejection, repeat, until you finally find someone who is interested or get told your book is not profitable material. Or, you could go the route of self-publishing. Write your book, edit your book yourself, test your book with some beta-readers, revise your book, upload it to an ebook distributor, design and create your own cover, price it yourself, and market and promote your work all by yourself. For me, personally, I weighed the pros and cons of each: With traditional publishing, I would have a lot of nervous waiting, heartbreaking rejections, self-doubt, and if I did get picked up then I would be bound by a contract where I would share the fruits of my hard work and be obligated to change things that they did not think would work out well. With self-publishing, I could either pay professionals to proof or edit my book and create my cover image or do it myself for free. Either way, everything else about it sounded doable to me…. except for marketing. End the end, I chose to self-publish because of the freedom it gave me but now I am forced to self-promote it.
A little insight into all the strangeness that is me: I LOATHE public speaking in any form. I not only hate it… I am terrified of it. My senior year of high school, I had to present an oral powerpoint presentation on my Senior Project to a small panel of teachers. It was a large chunk of my graduation requirements. In other words, there was no way around it. I worked my butt off on the subject matter, which was creating an agricultural mural on the wall of our Vo-Tech school. The mural came out great, the essay and powerpoint flowed beautifully, and, for all intents and purposes, I was as prepared as anyone could be. When it was my turn to present my Senior Project, I walked into the room, stood in front of the mic…. and crumbled into a tidal wave of tears. Yes. I friggin’ cried uncontrollably as I attempted to speak. All I had to do was read from the paper in front of me and I could barely breathe. That was the worst manifestation of my fear of public-speaking I have EVER gone through and I have done everything in my power to avoid putting myself back in that spotlight. (If anyone was curious, I passed the requirement. I received a B-. Hey, I’ll take the sympathy grade… I am not ashamed. Mostly.)
The point, I am taking ages to get to, is that I am now at a point where, if I wish to succeed in my endeavors, I must step back into that spotlight that has, already once, beaten me to a blubbering, hyperventilating, pulp. I have to figure out, myself, how to bring in the audience my book was written for. Facebook, twitter, even this blog are great things for the novice promoter, but they are tiny hors d’eurves in an all-you-can-eat buffet of possibilities. Press releases, submissions to world-recognized writing magazines, even going to my local library and begging them to take free copies of my book… these are going to be the true tests of my determination. I began writing because it was a beautifully peaceful place where I could say and do what I wanted (in print) and not feel awkward or panicked. Funny that, to do what I want to do for a living, I have to embrace some of the scariest things I’ve tried to avoid.