The Valleys and Peaks of the Self-Publishing Life

Looking out to Monument Valley - Bruce Witzel photo

I’ve learned that life will go through changes -up and down and up again. It’s what life does. (Ben Okri)

Ben Okri’s words resonate. You’re up, you’re down … such is life. Being a self-published author has definite peak and valley experiences. But, really, how could it be any other way? Self-publishing is akin to being the general contractor on a major construction job that never ends.

I write, I rewrite, edit and proofread. I format for publication and come up with cover design ideas. And after all of that, I try and promote my own work – times all that by four.

I’m not saying I don’t have help – I do my share of contracting out. From the early days of writing Disappearing in Plain Sight, I’ve had the joy to work with a fabulous editor who is willing to do conceptual and line-by-line editing. I’ve sought the help of a great e-book formatter and I’ve had my husband, Bruce, to create covers and take on the lion’s share of softcover book sales. He is a very active promoter of my work.

Columbia Icefields, Jasper National Park - Bruce Witzel photo

Even with a team of dedicated contributors, the choice to self-publish puts me down in the dumps occasionally. Amazon sales plunge, someone returns a $2.99 e-book for refund weeks after purchase, softcover sale move like molasses on a cold day, promoting on social media seems like soul suicide and worst of all, there never seems to be enough hours in a day to write something new. Characters and their stories clamour in my head for escape and I just want to get on with writing the next book.

But like most valleys, these experiences provide a view of the peaks. A local couple recently purchased the whole Crater Lake Series. A phone call the other day provided wonderful feedback – the wife is through all three, husband is currently sliding through the forest beside the cougar in Chasing Down the Night. They both love the series and can’t wait for the next instalment. They’ve already passed on the first two books to a good friend and are eager to order two more complete sets as Christmas gifts.

Barrier Lake, Alberta - Fran Guenette photo

I’m three years into my five year, self-publishing plan with three books out and one more soon to be released. All good things come to those who wait. I’ll just add my own spin to that maxim – those who work hard while waiting. I’m good on the hard work part but waiting is a challenge. Which leads me to a stream of consciousness question – what is it that I am waiting for?

Success, or that sense of having arrived, to a self-published author can be as diverse as the number of self-published authors out there. For me, it means being self-sustaining in my craft; over and above that, making a modest retirement income through my writing. Self-sustaining translates to having the money in my pocket from sales to produce my next book. Modest income truly is modest.

Not to say success is totally defined by money. I am successful because I pursue my dream. I am successful whenever I discover that my books have changed a reader in some essential way. I am successful in the satisfaction I draw from my own creativity.

There you have it – self-talk through a blog post takes me from the valley and plunks me back on the mountain top. I often assigned writing tasks to my counselling clients who were open to such exercises. The goal – write your way out of your current state of mind.

2 Kananaskis Country, Alberta - Bruce Witzel photo

Not a bad idea. What do you think?