Gatekeepers and Creativity

From Writer Unboxed:

I signed my book deal with Red Hen Press over two years ago, before COVID times if you can even remember those days! It comes out on June 7th and I’m in the freak-out-and-get-ready phase right now. The process of working with this indie press has been very positive and I’d be happy to chat about it sometime. (Do I recommend Red Hen Press for other authors? Yes!)

But the funny thing is that, while having this good experience with a small press, I’ve also been thinking a lot about the gatekeepers involved in getting a thing out there into the world. I’m using the term “gatekeepers” loosely because in some cases these gatekeepers are more in my head than in real life. But there are quite a few folks involved in the process of getting my book out the door. There is my agent, there is my publisher, there’s a publicity person, a media person, and the list goes on. I’m honored to work with these people, but it’s a lot of voices (on top of the voices in my head). There’s another element of the process around anticipating reviews from the big reviewers like Kirkus Reviews or Publisher’s Weekly. What if they love it? What if they hate it? (So far the news is good, but…) There are just a lot of steps and a lot of rules between finishing the book and sharing the book with the world.

All this to say that it takes a lot of mental space for me to manage this process and I continually re-assess whether I’m going through each step because I believe in it, or because others want me to do it. I think I’m going down a road that I believe in, but some days it feels… complicated. I have a tendency to want to please people and I have to keep that people-pleaser voice in check.

And that’s why I’m particularly giddy about how many avenues we creative people have at our disposal to get stuff out there on our own terms without any gatekeepers stopping us or assessing us. We can self-publish stories and essays and books, we can pump out YouTube videos, we can make a podcast, or TikTok our way to fame, or blog about all the bloggy things we’ve ever dreamed of blogging about.

There are many difficult aspects about what we’re facing right now as I sit here in the middle of 2022, worrying about the many things to worry about. But one amazing aspect about right now is how many ways we can share our cool creations with an audience.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

On “Significant Authorship:” Writing as a Team

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

“We should write a book.” My husband, Jon, said it casually, five or six years ago. I adjusted our baby son on my lap and laughed a little.

“Write a book.” My voice was deadpan as I repeated it, as if I thought he were joking. Hell, half of me hoped he was joking. Write a book? I was a new mother. Sleep-deprived. Frazzled. Probably hadn’t washed my hair in a few days. But the other half of me felt something else. A strange brew of hope and trepidation. 

The suggestion had opened a door inside me…one that had been closed a long time. One I’d probably closed myself, for reasons I’ll never quite know. Well, I guess that’s a lie: it was mostly fear that had closed the door. I did that slow, backward walk away from writing that people often do from the things (and sometimes the people) they care about when they’re afraid to mess up. I’d written constantly as a child. My nine-year-old self had churned out fun, whimsical stories about kids who could change the past through lucid dreaming, and melancholy ones about the sinking of the Lusitania. I’d written poems, songs, retellings of fables and myths. I’d fill Lisa Frank notebooks with my preteen musings, commandeer the family Compaq for hours to clack out my manuscripts on Microsoft Word, much to my sister’s dismay. I’d write on napkins. In the margins of my school papers. But somewhere between college and adulthood, that part of me had faded.

Yes, it had been years since my writing life had flatlined, but Jon’s suggestion had begun to breathe life back into it. We had an enthusiastic conversation around our kitchen island that day. We’d call our book “Time Teams,” we said. We argued about whether it would be for middle grade or young adult, and bantered about the main characters. Still, it would be another couple years still until we’d sit down and actually write that book.

 It happened during the summer of 2018, when I was teaching summer school and our second child was learning to scoot around our living room. We’d moved to a new house, I’d started teaching in a new district, and we were more sleep-deprived than ever. Most nights, we’d fall asleep while binge-watching old seasons of Survivor.

“Let’s start that book.” Jon sat down in our living room and started the first scene in the “Notes” app of his cell phone. I watched him, eyebrows raised, as his thumbs moved across his cell phone keyboard. When he got stuck writing a dialogue scene, I jumped in, and we spent the rest of that June passing the document back and forth, using an Expo pen on our dining room window as a storyboard, until the first draft of our first book, a young adult sci-fi novel about a grieving teenager who finds himself sucked into a competitive time traveling club, was done. Thus, we became what Jon termed “Significant Authors.” 

After a year of unsuccessful querying, we were offered a revise and resend by Tiny Fox Press, who published our book in September 2020. The Fifth Timekeeper, the book’s first sequel, is slated for publication this summer.

Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books

PG had never heard of Tiny Fox Press prior to reading the OP. He checked the sales ranks of the most-recently-released books he could find and didn’t see a single book that was ranked higher than 500,000 by Amazon.

While PG wishes the authors in the OP well, he knows many, many indie authors who sell significantly better than the books PG looked at that Tiny Fox Press has released recently.

Independent Publishing: Off the Beaten Path

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

Independent publishing, as opposed to commercial pushing (think Random House), is a terrific option for authors whose books don’t fit a literary agent’s idea of “saleable.” Authors of short story or essay collections, flash fiction, poetry, hybrid work and off-the-beaten-path novels very often seek out independent presses for possible publication, and they are right to do so: the world of independent publishing is an exciting one, full of terrific presses and excellent books.

I have written three collections of stories, two published and one forthcoming, all with independent presses, and I cannot overstate how supported I have felt, and how preciously my books have been treated.

My first press was very small—a “micro” press—that publishes only two books a year, so you can imagine the attention that was paid to every aspect of my book. I was treated as an artist and my book a work of art, and it was marvelous. Though my editor there wasn’t interested in publishing my second collection, I am indebted to her, and we are still good friends.

At the other end of the spectrum, my second publisher was quite large; my book was one of many and so did not receive the same attention, yet that press works with a larger distributor than a smaller press can, which means my book could end up on bookshop shelves—a big plus, as brick-and-mortar stores rarely stock small press books.

My third publisher lands between the first two in terms of how many titles they publish in a year. So far, my editor there is attentive and sensitive, and I foresee a good experience.

How do you find the right publisher for your book? 

. . . .

By now you’ve doubtless gathered that if you want your book displayed in the front windows of Barnes and Noble or to be an Oprah pick, independent publishing is not for you. There are downsides to publishing independently, and lack of exposure is one of them. Amazon will carry your book, of course, and bookstores will special order it on demand, but it will likely not be available to browsers and that will affect sales.

Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books

PG has an alternate answer to the question in the OP, “How do you find the right publisher for your book?”