Impulsivity is something that doesn’t really work in the publishing world.
We are wisely warned to be patient, to practice and hone our craft, to ask for as much feedback from other writers and editors as possible before pressing send or wrapping our bundle into a FedEx envelope.
And yet, three weeks ago I felt a strong pull to independently publish my book of flash: Santa Breaks Bad: An international Christmas story wrapped in flash.
I’ve been fortunate and worked hard enough to have some poetry and short stories traditionally published, even to receive an award for my first chapbook. So this wasn’t a reaction to rejection or nose-thumbing at more traditional processes.
But, attached to the pull was an underlying fear that I didn’t understand. I tried to reveal it layer by layer.
The fear wasn’t about delusions of fame or money. Amanda Hocking sells a staggering amount of books on Amazon and Kindle; she’s patiently built an audience, has talent, timing, and (with all due respect) luck. For every Amanda, there are 1000 equally talented and dedicated writers who are not making rent.
Casting a wide distribution net was my only goal. And what better way to cast than print-on-demand and e-books?
I looked a little deeper, under my 20-something years of academic training and research writing: Quality work is blind peer-reviewed in order to suss out what’s BEST.
Yet I knew that subjectivity, even cronyism, exists in both academic and literary publishing. Even so, wasn’t the submission/revise/resubmit process still the best way to recognize merit?
Although I’d purchased well-crafted CreateSpace, Lulu and iUniverse books, didn’t the self-publishing space contain a lot of weak–even poor–work?
I had to admit that I was afraid to throw my work (and my name) into a marketplace that might harm my fledgling reputation as a writer. Isn’t that what publishers and agents warn against?
Then an epiphany:
When I wrote Santa Breaks Bad, it was an experiment.
I had let myself go with fantasy, the supernatural mixed with labor history and the Cold War. With the exception of chapter one (written last Christmas) I’d written the rest of the book in two weeks. Then I sent the manuscript to a handful of writers whose opinion I trust. Another week of edits, then nods.
I had ventured, colored outside my poetry/short-story lines: Yay, an experiment!
It took a lot more work on publishing side, but I have an amazing husband/partner-in-design, who created the cover–which I love.
Sometimes I get too close to a piece of writing or a project to see how it’s connected to a bigger goal. In January (2013) I began a bigger experiment called 14 Words For Love.
I’d always wanted Valentine’s Day to be a bigger celebration of community love and inclusiveness, so I invited everyone I knew to write 14-word poems to hand out on Valentine’s Day.
By Valentine’s Day about 700 people had written close to 3,000 poems. Then more events–Pen It Forward (on Pay It Forward Day in April) and Peace One Day in September. (You can read more about the mission and poems at 14WordsforLove.com.)
So once I backed up and saw the connection between 14 chapters of flash and 14 words, I decided to publish Santa Breaks Bad as the premiere 14 Words For Love publication, and to dedicate any proceeds to support its mission: to create small literary acts for social good.
I am so in love with Olga, Joker, the union steward Pinko, and the compassionate patisserie chef Carmelita, that I wanted to get Santa Breaks Bad out there for THIS Christmas 2013. Within each character is a humanness (the potential for superhero and villain) that resonates–especially during the most stressful time of the year.
Impulsive? Maybe, but this rush to market fits with the nature of flash, which is intense and fast. Add to it that Santa Breaks Bad is obviously seasonal, and the season is here. So I decided to leap. And in the spirit of experiments: learn as much as I can.
Santa Breaks Bad is 14 chapters (and an epilogue) all in flash. The entire book is a mere 6000 words. It’s compact just like 14WordsforLove. Any proceeds will go to fund more activities with 14WordsforLove.
I guess I had to realize that a lot of my fears were dated and limiting and that if I didn’t try independent publishing, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn about it first-hand. I wish the same spirit of experimentation for you as you move ahead with your own books and initiatives!
What experiments have you done with publishing and writing-related projects? How was it for you?
Jodi Barnes is a writer with a passion for social justice and community activism. When she’s not writing, she’s a writer-in-residence for NC schools or facilitating adult writing classes. Her short stories and poetry are published in a number of journals and anthologies. in January 2013, She founded 14 Words For Love, an online community that encourages writers and non-writers alike to create and freely distribute 14-word poems and stories about kindness, inclusion, peace and, of course, love. She is the author of “unsettled” a chapbook.
Follow Jodi Barnes on Twitter at @jodi_barnes.
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- Featuring Women Writers on WWWB 2013 - Women Writers, Women Books | December 31, 2013