Wow. What a year.
I think we've all heard enough about Covid, however, so let's just steer clear of that minor aspect of 2020...I mean geez.
2020 has been a crazy year for me personally aside from the virus, however. For one thing, I embarked on my get-through-college-debt-free quest, which means working full-time while also being a full-time student. Debt free, yes. Stress free? Ha. Oh, but sleep free is a yes! Bring on the melatonin supplements and the Red Bull.
For another thing...I made the leap from writer to author. What had been a dream for so long became a reality, and I published all four books of my YA fantasy series between January and August of 2020. So, hooray, right?
Eh...yeah not really.
If I'm being honest, the publishing experience has not been the shining paradise I imagined. Granted, a large part of that is my fault--I was unprepared, despite thinking I was prepared. (ARC reviews? Yeah, forgot to do those...kinda important...) Maybe the books themselves were ready (up for debate), but I as an indie publisher, as a one-girl entrepreneur, was not. I don't know much about marketing, or building a social media platform, or any of that. I've certainly learned a lot in this past year, and even beforehand I had done tons of research, yet still felt (and feel) woefully unprepared to achieve success as an indie author.
Some days, I chalk that up to the flawed indie system. To the fact that self-publishing is nigh on impossible to succeed at, whether the book is good or the author is smart or not. On those days, I regret not putting more effort into a traditional publishing route.
Other days, I acknowledge that yes, it's hard to "make it" as an indie, but it IS possible with time and effort. Those days, I try to be more optimistic, and I tell myself that if I keep at it, in time I will achieve "indie respectability," which at this point is all I'm after. For clarification, I define "indie respectability" as having sold enough copies and gotten enough reviews to not be given pitying glances by other authors. Thus far, I definitely have not achieved that status. Sigh.
Today, I'm feeling rather in-between. But I'm at least feeling optimistic enough to tell myself not to give up all together. Yes, that thought has crossed my mind. I came this close (cue a thumb-to-forefinger measurement of perilous proximity) to taking my books off Amazon, deleting all my related posts on Instagram, and deleting this website. To pretending it had never happened. To admitting complete and utter failure as an indie author. To letting the painfully obvious lack of reviews, the amount of people who say they're reading my book and then never finish, the amount of friends I thought would be supportive who haven't been, the dwindling sales numbers, and everything else crush my final shreds of indie-inspiration.
But I didn't. Even if the thought still crosses my mind, I keep shooing it away. That's part of the reason I decided to donate this year's book sales profit to charity--I wanted to feel that, despite the overall failure of this publishing endeavor, something good came out of it. It may only be a modest donation to an orphanage in Uganda, but it's something. It's worthwhile.
A more practical, rather ominous angle of my determination not to quit is realizing that if I can't boost myself into "indie respectability," my shot at a traditional publishing deal for future books goes in the ground. It is unfortunate but true that agents and publishers will see my pitiful sales numbers for these books, and assume that any other book I ever write will suffer the same fate. They don't look at the quality of the story, they look at the author's platform and record. Currently, my platform and record suck.
And yeah, despite this disappointing publishing experience, I still aspire to being traditionally published someday. For awhile I stopped writing altogether. Half because, between full-time work and school, I didn't have time. Half because I was discouraged. I didn't see a point anymore. But I've recently dragged myself out of that little despair puddle and put my fingers to the keys again. School starts back up in a couple weeks, so it may have to go on hold again, but I am determined not to let myself stop writing. When I'm not being miserable and sulky about the unfairness of the book publishing industry, I know that I am a writer. And a writer has to write.
So I guess I'll just keep taking it one step at a time. And as I do so, I want the handful of people who read my ramblings to know that if you're one of the people who has left reviews on my books, or texted me saying you read it and loved it, or shared my content on social media, those little things make all the difference. Sometimes, a reader's positive feedback is what shoos away the temptation to throw in the towel.
However few they may be, thank you to my readers. A new year is just beginning, and hopefully, so is my adventure as a writer and author. I don't want these to be my last books, or this to be my last publishing experience. The best way to learn is through experience and mistakes, right? Well, I've gained plenty of both one year and four books later. The best I can hope for is to do better the next time, and the time after that, and one day achieve "indie respectability." One day, maybe even achieve a traditional publishing deal, or bestseller, or who knows.
And if I do ever get to that point, it will be thanks to--well, first, blood sweat and tears, but second--you guys. Readers, and anyone who offers support, encouragement, feedback, constructive criticism (YES, I do want criticism), and all the like.
So happy New Year, and here's to the end of a wild ride! It's been good times, 2020...now get the heck behind us.