In this blog I will discuss the pros and cons of being an indie author, using my own experience with the self-publication of my historical novel, Maids of Misfortune, as an example. This first series of posts will be about why it took over thirty years to go from my first idea for the novel to the published work.
I suspect that my story will feel familiar to many. Like many authors, my desire to write was rooted firmly in my childhood as a voracious reader. By third grade I embraced the title book worm; it seemed preferable to being a shy nobody, but it wasn’t exactly a career choice. In fact, for a middle class girl growing up in the fifties and early sixties, there didn’t seem to be very many interesting career choices, period. So, I suspect that the female authors I was reading (Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart), in addition to my history award in eighth grade, had a lot to do with my decision to do my “future career” paper as a high school freshman on a local author of historical fiction, Gladys Schmitt. I still planned on being a fiction writer at graduation, pointedly rejecting the usual career choices of nurse, grade school teacher, or secretary. By that time I was already a proto-feminist, who had proudly refused to take typing, completely missing the irony that good typing skills would be useful in my chosen profession.
However, like many would-be authors of either sex, as I entered adulthood, the dream of being a novelist was shunted to the side as I pursued a career that had a stronger chance of paid employment. In my case, I got a doctorate and became a professor of history, and while I spent the next 30 years writing-papers, a dissertation, articles, lectures, reports, memos-I never lost the desire to write fiction. Ten years into my career as a history professor, I wrote the first draft of Maids of Misfortune.
It was 1989, and I had found myself at a cross-roads. I had left a tenure track job in Texas because my husband and I felt that San Diego, where my husband had gotten a job, would be a better place to raise our daughter. I found work as a visiting lecturer and adjunct at the local university and state schools, and while I loved the teaching, the work I was doing writing articles and trying to turn my dissertation into a published monograph seemed increasingly pointless. So I took a class on novel writing, joined Sisters in Crime, and helped found a writing group (which still meets monthly) and spent a year writing the first draft of my historical mystery. While the background of the story was based in the research I had done for my dissertation, I discovered the sheer bliss of writing fiction-writing from my imagination not my foot notes.
And then I got a full time job, teaching history at Mesa College, a community college. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t gotten that job, because teaching 5 large classes a semester, serving on committees, raising a daughter, while all very rewarding, left little time to write fiction or do the work it takes to get published. But I kept saying to myself, that when I retired, I would take up my dream again. That time has come, and this summer I took that early novel and rewrote it, and, after a great deal of research into the current state of the publishing industry and discussions with my friends who are published authors, I made the decision to become an indie author and self-publish my book. The next blog will examine why I made that decision.