The decision was made: I was self-publishing.
Mousetrapped would finally see the light of a printed day and with any luck, I’d sell enough copies to keep me in ink cartridges while I worked on the real focus of my published writer dreams, i.e. The Novel. It was all very exciting.
Approximately three and half minutes later, reality struck. If I was going to have any hope of shifting the 20 copies that every self-publishing-related blog post, article or cautionary tale assured me would be best case scenario in terms of sales, then I had to actually tell people that I was doing it. I had to tell people about the book.
I wasn’t so excited about that, for the following reasons:
(NB: List not exhaustive.)
As I’ve described in previous self-printing posts, I wasn’t all that enamored with the idea of self-publishing. To me, it wasn’t entirely unlike an actor writing, directing and starring in his or her own movie after failing to secure a part in anyone else’s, and although I’m a (little) bit ashamed to say this now, whenever I heard of someone self-publishing I rolled my eyes and shook my head (one after the other, not at the same time), bemused at the author’s deluded fantasies involving just-inside-the-door displays and national bestseller lists. I was sure the news that I was about to join these ranks would be met with a raised eyebrow, a dropped chin and a, ‘So you couldn’t get anyone to publish it then?’
At the end of last summer I jacked in my job (the one where, if the office had had a staple gun, I’d probably be in jail right now) so I could write full-time/be unemployed. Having no money, of course, isn’t much fun, but there’s a recession, the percentage of the population out of work swells every week and, as I read in an article in the Irish Examiner not long ago, there’s Booker Prize-winning novels being read in the dole queue. In other words, if there was ever a time I could get away with not having a proper job, it’s now. However, I quit my job to write a novel. Mousetrapped was finished a year and a half ago. People would be confused, thinking after only a month or so of trying to get it published, I’d gone ahead and self-published my novel, which is something that would NEVER happen.* Or worse, they’d think I’d abandoned my novel altogether in favor of self-publishing my ‘Disney book.’ Or even worse again, they’d think I’d got properly published. That, out of all possibilities, would surely be the most embarrassing to have to politely correct.
3. Newspaper Articles
Ever since the dramatic Quitting Incident, my mother has developed a supremely annoying habit. Any time an article appears in a newspaper, magazine or scrap of paper she finds on the street that is in any small way related to a girl or woman or sock puppet who has got a publishing deal, she folds the paper so that the headline is at the top, corners me while I’m eating my dinner, watching that episode of Friends with the wedding dresses for the 500th time or just waiting for the kettle to boil so I can make yet another cup of coffee, thrusts it in my face and says, ‘Did you see that?’ Unfortunately, we live in Ireland where girls my age (I refuse to refer to myself as ‘woman’ for at least another five years) get six-figure publishing deals every day of the week, especially, it seems, for novels with paper-thin plot lines wrapped around feisty females named after characters on American prime time TV shows whose lives revolve around chasing men, changing for men and being upset when the changes they made to better chase the men didn’t work out, all while wearing a laundry list of designer labels, using Facebook and breaking for episodes of Sex and the City, a show which, may I remind all the Irish women who’ll be signing their three-book contracts in the coming weeks, ended SIX YEARS AGO. (Jealous? Me? Never!) Embarking on this adventure would guarantee that this habit of hers would extend to self-publishing stories as well.
4. The Drama
Mousetrapped is non-fiction; it’s the story of the eighteen months I spent living in Orlando and working in Walt Disney World. I stress the word story. It’s not a diary or a journal. It’s not – thankfully, for both you and me – a blow-by-blow account of what I did every minute of each of the 541 days, give or take, that I spent in the Sunshine State. I combed my experience for clumps of meaning, comedy and/or excitement and then hung them like clothes pegs on a line stretching from September 5th, 2006, the day I arrived, to 28th February 2008, the day I left. Not everything or everyone made it in, even if they had attended an event that did, and even if they had attended that event with me. Telling the world that in a few short months Mousetrapped would be available for all to read would undoubtedly have a number of people marking the date in their calendars so that before the ink has dried, they can thumb through a copy looking for mentions of their name. Chances are they wouldn’t find it, and not just because everyone’s names, with the exception of just three people, have been changed. Now I don’t know how you’ll feel about the exclusion of that time we went tyre shopping together but I’m guessing it won’t be increased feelings of love and affection towards me. I wanted people to read the book, just not all the people.
5. Great Expectations
I worried that while I was being brutally realistic (meagre sales figures, costing more money that it makes, more an embarrassment than an embarrassment of riches), everyone around me would be choosing outfits for the launch party, marching up to the Customer Enquiries desk of Waterstones (if you live in the US, read: Barnes and Noble) asking to pre-order my book and setting their DVR cable systems to record my appearance on The Late Late Show (an Irish talk show/national institution; after an appearance on it you’re considered to ‘have made it’) when, in reality, the book would be available on Amazon.com, from my website and maybe, if all went well, one or two independent bookstores in the locality. (This, of course, depending on how much like a chimp’s finger painting the cover didn’t look like.) This was not going to be the realization of all my published writer dreams. It wasn’t even going to be one of them. Could I even be arsed explaining that? Would they even understand?
There was one other thing too: telling people meant I would actually have to do it, and do it to a schedule. That, more than anything, scared the bejesus out of me.
*I couldn’t self-publish a novel. My self-doubt and self-loathing just about allowed me to do this; if no one wants my novel, then I don’t either. Yes, I know. I’m positively brimming with self-belief.
UPDATE: I went public at the beginning of last December. I was right on all counts.