How I Stopped Looking For A Publisher And Did It My Damn Self

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Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

I had no intentions of writing a book. For five years I’d been totally focused on my baby, an illustrated web comic, and concentrating on turning it into an animated series. That’s where my head was at. But I attended a friend’s book signing and he introduced me to his publisher.

“While you’re waiting for that animation deal to come through,” she said, “you may as well create a book.”

I hate getting sidetracked. Don’t you? But there was no denying it. Creating a book, a graphic novel, made sense. The pieces were already done. The stories. The art. With just a little reformatting and some tweaking, it was doable. And besides, a book would make a nice leave-behind for potential producers of the animated series, right? So I talked myself into it and got to work.

I selected several publishers who I thought would be a good fit for my project, composed the query letters, and sent them out. And I was rejected by every single one. Even the publisher who suggested I write the book got lost on me. Now, I could have let that turn me all the way off. There was a time when that would have really fucked with my head.

Instead, I licked my wounds for a few days and that’s when the idea of self-publishing came to me.

The numbers I pulled up online were amazing. People were taking the leap in droves, eliminating the need not only for agents but big, fat publishing houses, too. According to BOWKER, the official ISBN Agency for the United States, in 2018, 1.68 million ISBNs (commercial book identifying numbers) were issued to self-published authors. A 40% increase over 2017. So I was hardly alone. As a matter of fact, things were feeling a bit crowded.

The #1 goal for any new product, especially in a saturated market, is to stand out from the crowd and self-publishing provided the freedom to do that. This wouldn’t be just another book with words. With full-page illustrations in full and glorious color, it was a book of art more than anything. Instead of the standard 8.5” x 11” size, I needed to go bigger. More fabulous. And only the self-publishing company, Bookbaby, offered what I envision.

But the price I was quoted per book gagged me.

Standing out from the crowd was gonna cost a small fortune. But I heard my mother’s voice in my head. “Nothing worth having comes easy, baby. Or cheap.” With my husband behind me 1000%, I took a deep breath and dived in.

My girlfriends called with dinner invitations and theater tickets. I even missed a few Costco runs. And I love Costco. But I locked myself indoors and devoted every waking hour to designing my masterpiece. At these prices, every page of this bitch had to sing and I spent several weeks getting it exactly the way I wanted before sending it off to proof.

Self-published indie author. My new title. It sounded bad-ass and rebellious and I liked it.

When the proof came back I actually screamed. It was gorge! Bookbaby had truly outdone themselves. But now I had to sell this thing. Within weeks I designed my website and hung my shingle. I was open for business.

It’s niche-y and not for everybody. It was never intended to be a million seller. But I’ve sold well over 100 copies, gotten great reviews, and guess what? I even got that animation deal.

Me and Erika Alexander at the polls. Photo by Ben Arnon

Actor and activist Erika Alexander came to my polling location on Election Day. The reporters and camera crews were packing up to leave when I pulled into the parking lot. I recognized her immediately and told myself to vote first and if she was still here when I came out, I’d try and talk with her. Sure enough, after voting, I emerged to find her still outside, shaking hands. I wanted to be last so I stood back and waited.

I was familiar with a few of her projects and also her production company COLOR FARM MEDIA, so we had things to talk about. Friendly and personable, we chatted about her movie GET OUT and working with Cosby, Tim Allen and Denzel. Finally I handed her a business card and told her about my project. She said it sounded like fun. We took pics and she promised that she’d check it out and get back to me. I held my breath for days.

A week later her business partner Ben Arnon ordered a copy of the book from the website. He fell in love with it and bada-bing-bada-boom, they conference-called and made me an offer. Just like that.

The animated series is being shopped as we speak.

I’m not just tooting my horn here. There’s a moral to this tale and it goes like this. Life is short. Figure out what it is that you want and grow the balls, take the risk, spend the money, and go after it. Put yourself out there, on the line, and chase your dream. That’s what life is all about.

Michael Thompson wrote, while lying on your death bed —
“…all of a sudden you’re hit with a realization that makes you sit straight up and scream — You decided to not pursue your passion because Randy from accounting thought it was a stupid idea.”

Can you imagine not going after your dream because Randy, Mary, or your brother thinks it’s stupid? Do you know how many sad and unfulfilled people there are who have done just that? Allowing fear and uncertainty to keep you on the sidelines only gets you death-bed regrets like the one above. So get after it. Be rebellious. Don’t let them tell you NO. And when your “Erika” moment comes, put your big drawers on and take your shot! Cuz baby, it might be the only shot you get.

Illustrator, graphic designer, self-published indie author. Lover of beauty and creativity in every form.

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