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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

March 2015



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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

On Being an Independent Publisher

The dreaming started when I was in fourth grade in Mrs. Fites’ class. I was awakening to the idea of books as something more than a requirement to get through school. Books were full of adventure. Books were a stepping off point for play and pretend. Books held a kind of magic that I could lose myself in, whether The Boxcar Children, Daring Wings or The Sword and the Stone.

What’s more, there were books already forming in my head.

The light side of the moon is really hot and the dark side is really cold. So my moon landing would have to take place right in the middle at perpetual sunset. I’ll call it the equation belt.

Well, a lunar fantasy was certainly possible, but I’d just read Ivanhoe (the illustrated classics comic book version) and there were princes and princesses, knights and ladies, swords and lances, quests and conquests. I could write that. I’d cast my best friend and me as princes, and decide later which of the girls in my class would be the princesses. The four of us would ride beautiful white horses as we went on adventures to protect our four kingdoms.

Only I got a little confused with the sibilant sounds of too many esses and couldn’t tell the difference between when I was spelling the plural of prince or the singular of princess. My burgeoning manuscript had a lot of blanks in it where any variation of “prince” was supposed to occur. Eventually, I abandoned the manuscript, not even able to remember which word I intended to fill in the blanks.

But I was convinced of one thing: Someday I would write a book.

Someday was a long time coming.

Nearly twenty years later, I proudly wrote “The End” on page 117 of my finished novel. It had been difficult to keep writing creatively when there were technical writing deadlines. Corporate and training material creation required research and I had to stretch my knowledge of learning theory. But late at night or early in the morning, I had continued to pound out page after painful page of my novel. Now at last, I had fulfilled the dream. I had written a book—albeit a very short book.

Then I made the most common mistake of budding writers. I handed the manuscript to my girlfriend to read.

Dust billowed explosively from each step as the explorer trod into the breathless canyons lecturing to himself.

By the time my ex-girlfriend stopped laughing, I had redefined myself as a technical writer. Books would have to wait.

The realization dawned on me over the course of 30 frustrating years and 15 more novel-length manuscripts silently stacked in boxes in the attic that writing was the easy part.

I needed to publish.

Even with 30 years’ experience writing and publishing technical material, trade journals, marketing material, training manuals, and even fiction, I was unprepared for what came next. Publishing and selling my own novel is incredibly hard work that consumes time I would rather spend writing. If I want my book to sell for the next 30 years, then I have 30 years’ worth of selling to do. So much for retirement.

With three novels in print, I’ve made the transition from “writer” to “author” to “independent publisher.” That doesn’t mean I write best-sellers or that I get six-figure advances. It does, however, mean that I’ve experienced the entire process. Repeatedly.

This is the life of an independent publisher.