A photo from happier times – just two weeks earlier – when Goddess of Suburbia hit the Top 100 best-seller list (and was sitting ahead of Fifty Shades of Gray and Fifty Shades Freed; You Before Me; Danielle Steel’s new book and other best-sellers)…
It was like the morning after a terrible break-up—that punch in the gut feeling of waking up and realizing that the empty space in the bed next to you will stay empty. Only, it wasn’t a break-up. Instead, it was waking up and realizing that what had transpired the night before wasn’t all a bad dream—that my book, Goddess of Suburbia, was really gone. Poof—it just disappeared into the ether of Internet-past, where things that are no longer relevant reside. It’s floating around with earthlink email accounts; offensive celebrity tweets that were deleted when the poster came to his or her senses (or a publicist intervened); photos of exes in happier times deleted from Instagram through tears and anger. It’s just gone. But unlike a broken relationship, it is entirely in my power to resurrect it and get it back out into the world better than ever….
But, I’m paralyzed. Completely and utterly paralyzed. There are so many options for publishing books now—almost too many. I’m afraid I’m going to choose the wrong one. I decided to start my own imprint, Gold Coast Press, and I want to make sure that whatever publishing service I use will publish it under that imprint. I would do everything myself, but it’s extremely time consuming, not to mention difficult, to convert a Word document to an ebook and a paperback.
I have the ebook and paperback files from my former publisher, Booktrope, but I need to take out all of the references to Booktrope. I couldn’t edit those files—only the final Word one. And I really don’t have the funds right now to hire someone to do it, not when I’m about to plunk down $295 to purchase ten ISBNs—the “identifier number” that’s unique to every edition of every book—and will be shelling out thousands more when our first college tuition bill arrives next month). Without an ISBN, it’s impossible to market and sell a book. Publishing services offer them for free, but then they become the publisher of record—and now that I’ve decided to take control of my career, I want to be the publisher of record.
Despite my anxiety, it is liberating knowing that I never have to worry about another rejection, which is actually part of what made Booktrope so seductive. They published books across all genres and accepted the author, more than just the work. Everything about the company encouraged authors to submit a new project—from their author-centric business model to the constant reminders that “your readers are waiting” to the super easy submission method on the website to the lightning-speed response to a submitted manuscript. This was why I finally worked up the courage to submit an essay book, Boys, Dogs and Chaos, I had been working on for years. It was accepted and almost ready to go to layout when production shut down. That hurt even more than my current book disappearing.
Boys, Dogs and Chaos is my heart book—so important to me and the one work that truly represents my soul. It has to—it’s all true. It opens with an essay about the aftermath fainting in the hospital when my youngest son was one day old and dropping him on the cold, unforgiving floor and ends with an essay about my oldest son getting his driver’s license and my coming to terms with the fact that he’ll be off to college soon (seven months from when that essay was written, but just three months away now).
I don’t know who else would take on an essay book, especially a book about all of the small and big moments of parenting, plus other essays covering a range of topics, from hockey to parenting a child with mental illness. I think there’s something for everyone—if you’re a parent; a hockey fan; have a family member with mental illness (or you have mental illness); if your life has been affected by an eating disorder; if you love dogs… Despite all of that, I’ve been told by previous agents and editors that no publishing company would be interested in an essay book, unless the author has a huge platform. But, Booktrope was interested. The book was accepted immediately. So, it’s my job now to get it out into the world.
My awesome proofreader, J.C. Wing has insisted on finishing up the proofreading job. JC was the editor for Goddess of Suburbia, so I know she’s good. This book got the green-light to skip editing, because the essays were deemed “very strong” and “clean” and some had already appeared in magazines. That was just another vote of confidence in me—the kind of thing that makes an author fall hard for a publisher. But just like an awful break-up, no matter how hard you had fallen for your ex, eventually you have to admit to yourself that it’s over, pick yourself up and keep going. Keep the good times stored in a little compartment in your heart and kick the bad stuff to the curb. There’s no point in wasting any more psychic energy over something that’s over and is completely out of your control. Sometimes the end really is the end.And it’s okay to be paralyzed by that. Just do something after the hurt eases a bit to shake yourself out of it.
Unfortunately, the stuff I used way back when to shake myself out of the post-breakup doldrums—Little Debbie Snack Cakes and margaritas out with the girls just won’t work now. (I haven’t had a drop of alcohol since I was twenty-eight and I don’t eat sugar-loaded crap anymore either, aside from the occasional Reese’s Peanut Butter cup.) No, the only thing that will ease the hurt and disappointment now is to just take a chance. Just buy the ten ISBNs sitting in my Bowker cart. Just click on the open Draft2Digital window, upload my Word document and hope for the best. I’m seeing lots of posts from former Booktrope authors who did this already and I don’t know why I haven’t. I don’t know what’s stopping me. Perhaps getting this all down will allow me to grieve and move on, because writing is the greatest salve I know. That was the other thing I used to get through a bad break-up – my journal. I wrote pages and pages and pages.
At first it was about how devastated I was and little by little, it morphed into how excited I was for what the future could bring—how excited I was to get to know myself. You can read a bit about that journal here. By the time I ran out of space in that pretty, harvest gold book, graced with red and black blooms, I was equally excited to embark on a relationship with a new guy I met—one who would eventually become my husband. And I know I’ll be equally excited to embark on this journey, as well. It’s pretty heady being in charge of yourself and not having to answer to anyone. (Of course, I still have two novellas with another publisher and I love them, but moving forward, it’s all on me.)
I have often mused that the path to getting Goddess of Suburbia published was A LOT like dating. You meet someone (an agent or editor) at a pitch session or even on Twitter, and it’s so new and exciting—it seems like anything is possible. You give them your heart (your work) and agonizingly wait for a message or even better a phone call, which sometimes never even comes. And then… then you meet someone who sweeps you off your feet, who promises to love you for who you are and not make you change. That was Booktrope for me—Goddess of Suburbia went to press how I submitted it, with only very minor changes. But just like great loves don’t always work out, neither do great publishing relationships. It’s over and I need to move on. I need to become unstuck.
It’s taken me two days to write this, with well over twenty-five revisions listed. During that time, my other open windows have included the three I need to get started down this path—Bowker, Draft2Digital and Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. I’m going to hit Publish on this post and then purchase the ISBNs on Bowker and hit Publish on the other two. As always, pouring my soul out into words has helped me get unstuck and in doing so has proven to me that no matter what happens, I’m on the right path—one that will enable me to keep putting my words out in the world.
After I hit “Publish” on this post, I did head back to the other windows to purchase my ISBNs and publish Goddess of Suburbia on several sites. Here it is on the major ones: