The Story of Open Minds
Ch 9: Owning theWriterly Path:Self-Publishing Open Minds (Part 2)
Epilogue: Finding Time to Write the Sequel
Deciding to Self-Publish Open Minds (Part Two)
In Part One, I talked about lessons learned along my writer’s journey, including publishing my first novel, Life, Liberty, and Pursuit with a small press:
Lesson #1: Story matters more than craft and readers matter most of all.
Lesson #2: Creative work is as valuable in the world as “practical” work.
Lesson #3: You can’t reach readers if you don’t publish.
Fear of Failure
Publishing Life, Liberty, and Pursuit took a lot of time, but eventually I got back to querying my middle grade science fiction novel Clone Runners and continued to work on Open Minds. I became very familiar with the walking-on-broken-glass feeling of querying. Rejections came in, but also requests. Lots of them. More than I expected, and I even had editors (at small and large houses) that showed some interest in this middle grade science fiction story that I loved. But as I worked through the list, and the rejections on full MS requests came in, I realized that it was a real possibility that Clone Runners might not get me an agent, or even get published in a small MG press (it took a while before I also realized there were some biases in the industry about what MG SF should look like). I had the fear that maybe—in spite of all my efforts—I might fail to get an agent. I might be a failure as a writer. I began to question why I was putting all this time and energy into something that was a huge risk, and maybe I should go back to Plan A (get an actual paycheck for engineering work). I remember having a very serious conversation with my husband about this.
Me: “What if 5 years from now, I still haven’t published (another novel besides Life, Liberty, and Pursuit)? What if I fail to make it through the traditional publishing gauntlet?”
Him: “Well, you could give up now and guarantee that you’ll never publish again.”
I hate it when he’s right. (And I also love it when he tells me what I need to hear.)
Lesson #4: Rejection isn’t failure; quitting is failure.
Fear of The Road Less Traveled
Realizing that I wouldn’t give up gave me the motivation to keep going as if I would succeed. In a way, it changed my entire definition of “success.” I decided not to run for re-election (I was on the school board of the third largest school district in my state), so that I could commit my time and energy completely to writing (and my family). I continued to work on Open Minds, and drafted a new MG fantasy The Faery Swap. I took the leap to try another MG project that’s still under wraps. I started querying Open Minds and got a lot of requests. When I started getting “glowing” rejections on my full MS, I realized something very important: I wasn’t willing to shelve Open Minds. And just as importantly: I wanted to write the second and third books, because it was really the start of a trilogy. All the “rules” said to never write the second book until you’ve sold the first, but I had already started to question those kinds of “rules” in an industry turned topsy-turvy by e-books and the rise of self-publishing. I had started this journey determined to pursue traditional publication (and for now that still seems the best path for my MG works), but in general that traditional path was snarled up with construction and had potholes the size of Montana. Self-publishing was looking more and more legitimate as many established authors were trying it out.
Did I want to be one of those writers that took the road less traveled? What if I ended up in a ditch? I took a hard look at Lesson #3 (You can’t reach readers if you don’t publish) and decided to self-publish Open Minds.There were other reasons that weighed into the decision, but that was the main one: I wanted to share this story with readers, and under the circumstances, self-publishing seemed the BEST way (not the only way) to do that. I could get the story out quickly; I could start work on the next book; I could write/publish the entire Mindjack Trilogy in 18 months.
I was owning my own path.
Then I realized that I was already on the weedy path. In fact, I had forged my own path my entire life, whether it was pursuing an engineering career when few women did, or running for public office because I wanted to effect change. I worked best on the weedy path. And I liked it there. The writerly lessons I had learned up to this point gave me the confidence to know the right path when I saw it. And to seize opportunities when they came along.
Lesson #5: Owning your writerly path is the way you find the success that’s right for you.
My Logic Brain thinks self-publishing is a great way to get Open Minds out to readers, and my Creative Brain is jumping for joy over owning my writerly path and making it happen.
For once, they both agree.