Funny thing happened to me last year…I started taking ballroom dancing lessons to help raise money for The Pink Fund. My one year anniversary is this week. Over the course of the past twelve months, I’ve attended multiple competitions and danced for assorted audiences. I’ve taken lessons, practiced, laughed, cried, been disgusted, and been tremendously happy. Dancing is an emotional art, for sure and certain!
Over the weekend, someone asked me if I was a dancer—she probably saw me practicing some West Coast Swing dance moves while I was waiting for Cat to try on her riding pants at an equestrian store. I responded with, “Yes, I take dance lessons, but I certainly would not call myself a dancer. Maybe in five years or so…”
Let me tell you another story. Last month, I overheard a woman telling someone how she was a “ballroom dancer.” My mouth dropped open and I had to look away. I know this woman and she has taken no more than six lessons.
Wow. I’ve been riding horses since I was a kid and (after a long twenty year break) I own six or so horses—one of them for almost ten years! My husband has multiple equestrian facilities and cares for over a hundred equines! To this day, I would never call myself an “equestrian.” I can jump on a horse and ride it without fear and usually without falling off. But I’m not fooled…I don’t know how to form collection or get the horse on the bit or any of those little expert things that a “real” equestrian would know.
Let me bring this back to writing now.
In 2010, I became a self-published writer. Self-published means that anyone can sell their book to anyone willing to purchase it. Self-published means that the author is responsible for the cover design, copy editing, developmental editing, proofreading, etc. Some writers go so far as to PAY to have their books published (called vanity publishing…you can figure out why).
Well, most people have a friend, aunt or great-grandmother who wrote a book and published it (or photocopied it to hand to the family members). Perhaps you always wanted to write a book, too, or have a great story that should be written by someone, if not you. Technology has created a way where everyone can publish their writing, just as technology permits anyone to create and sell music, art, poetry, etc. That’s great news because it gives serious writers, singers, musicians, artists, and poetics the forum to display their work for buyers to decide if it is of value.
But there is a dark side.
Some “authors” are just plain mean. I had one Christian author who sent me a Merry Christmas email accusing me of stealing her idea for writing an adaptation of Charles Dicken’s Christmas Carol (an idea, btw, that I had no way of knowing for she had not shared it with anyone!). She also informed me that I was not a “real” author.
And then there are less scrupulous people who view self-publishing as strictly a money-making opportunity, not as a true literary privilege. These people (or, as I learned yesterday, computer-based robots in some cases) pump out books every few weeks (sometimes only days apart) with poor writing, grammar, accuracy, etc. The people behind them resort to parlor tricks such as combining different authors’ names or using the exact same titles as another well-read author.
Not all self-published writers are like that, of course.
The fact of the matter is that the majority of “real” writers who publish their work do NOT earn a living or, in some case, make any money. For the most part, most of those writers do not really care. Frankly, I’m suspicious of anyone who writes or engages in any form of the arts who wants to “make money.” Sure, it would be nice, but that’s not why real writers publish their work. They publish their work so that it will be read and appreciated.
That is why I write.
Fortunately, several years ago, two traditional publishing houses took me under their wings. Working with a traditional publishing house means that you have to plan, sometimes years in advance.
A book that is published at Christmas might have been written 18 months earlier! Writing with a traditional publishing house is not something for impatient people. However, I have learned more about writing in the past two years and continue learning from these amazing professionals.
I know that a lot of traditionally published authors are starting to “self-publish” their books. It appears that they think that self-publishing is the magic elixir to wealth and/or literary freedom. Maybe it is…for them. I, however, am going in the OPPOSITE direction: I am not planning to self-publish any more books after the last two parts of the Amish Seasons series are available this month.
You may wonder why I came to this decision.
My answer is: I want to continue fine-tuning my craft as an author and a writer. Focusing on creating 2-4 books a year is plenty…well-written, well-developed, and well-received—by readers as well as the industry. That’s what I want. And, to be honest, 2-4 books a year is still a lot.
A friend of mine sent me a message the other day that I thought was very poignant. She wrote:
It hit me that you don’t need to write frantically anymore. You have life to live and before, you were writing to forget you might be dying. You were writing to leave a legacy just in case…but now you are writing because of joy and life and not to bury all your emotions…or to forget…or whatever. Besides, you paid your dues already. Four books a year sounds just wonderful…
Maybe this is true, on multiple levels. I will admit that I write because of joy and life. And I like that she feels that I have paid my dues. I think I have. Time will tell. But you can be assured of one thing…writing is a passion for me, a driving force that frames almost everything I do. I want what is best for me, my books, and my readers…
And that is why I am retiring from self-publishing…