I recently read a great article originally in the Indie Reader by Hugh Howey about how he came to self publish his stories, particularly his Molly Fyde and WOOL books. In the article as reprinted by the Huffington Post, Howey describes the best years of his life. And not surprisingly to me, but perhaps surprisingly to you, he describes the best years of his life when he wasn’t a bestselling author. He carries the reader to a place in Virginia where he spent two years working on roofs while his wife was a student. He relays a tale of near poverty, living below ones means and indulging in a life of plenty with less. A life very unlike the imagined one of a bestselling author, which would seem to be more attractive, but to Howey clearly is not.
Howey goes on to point out an episode in his life where he completed most of his writing. It was while he was working for very little money as a bookseller. The perception of such a job would be riddled with condescension at its lowly place on the totem pole, but Howey asserts the 30 hour a week job allowed him to concentrate on writing. I find this specific part amusing because I, too, worked in a bookstore once upon a time, and it was also a time when I did my most writing. But here is where I separate from Howey.
I did enjoy my time in the bookstore life, but I cannot say they were my best years. They were not for several reasons, but to the point of his blog post, they were not my favorite, because all of my stories were just thoughts in my head and in tiny electronic files on my MacBook. There was a key essential missing, an end that I couldn’t find with a flashlight and a magnet. It was lost under the refrigerator in the dark, mysterious depths of fuzz bunnies and crumbs. And in the life of a bookseller, I knew that I wanted more, and I wanted different. I wanted someone to read my stories.
Howey goes on to say he self published to fulfill a creative urge no matter what the naysayers might throw at him and despite the assumption that he self published to get rich quick. And this point, I can fully support. I am not in this to get rich. I could really care less about being rich. It would be nice to pay off my student loans, but I think that’s a dream of nearly every college graduate my age. But it is not about the money for many self publishers, as I have discovered for the many writing groups that I have found my way into.
It’s about the stories. It’s about sharing the ideas in one’s head. It’s about finding that ending that was lost forever in the murky depths of one’s fantasy. It’s about fulfilling a childhood dream. When I set out on this self publishing journey with my historical romance novels, I wrote in my business plan that my first goal was to sell a book to just 1 person that I didn’t know. That was the entirety of my very first goal. I just wanted someone I didn’t know to pick up my story, read it, and enjoy it. There were no champagne wishes and caviar dreams in my head. There was only a story. And I wrote it and shared it.
For the remaining naysayers out there who believe us indie writers are in this for the money, I advise you to take a look at the dedication to my first book. You may think Indy is the cute pet name for a dog or perhaps a childhood friend, but it’s not. I dedicated my first book to myself. Surprised? When I clicked publish for the first time on Amazon, I stepped into the end. That elusive thing just beyond the reach of my flashlight. It was suddenly there, it was suddenly huge, and it was suddenly real. And all those years that I had spent knowing that one day someone would read my stories had finally come to that point when it was true. So that first book was for me. For not giving up on a childhood dream. Because as a child when other girls were playing house and princess, I only wanted to be Indiana Jones. And no one was going to stop me. And no one did. So the first book is for Indy, and the childhood dream I never gave up on.
And if someone laughs at you and scoffs when you say you’re going to self publish, remember Indy and his persistence that it belongs in a museum. If Indy could do it, so can you.