I am thoroughly convinced that the one thing I have yearned for throughout my entire life is success. Before desiring acceptance, purity, or even love I was daydreaming about recognition and admiration, as well as an unspoken understanding that whatever I did would be bought and beloved by millions. Yeah, millions. I am not a miserly daydreamer. I cannot recall a moment when my heart desired anything else, which leads me to believe, a little unsettlingly, that the journey to obtain success is my life.
I did not want just any success, however. I wanted Specific Success. I wanted to contribute, to do something worth recognizing. Starting at a young age, I have had something of a significance complex. I wanted to matter, to be important, and to be set apart from the rest. And if I was not, I felt my existence blur at the edges, until the strong sensation of invisibility set in, the feeling of non-existence never far behind. Thankfully, I found a passion, and discovered my talent for it.
Books and I are like two puzzle pieces that fit together so well you know they were crafted for each other. It has never been a struggle to love them, perhaps because it always seemed as though they loved me right back. It was as if they cooed with wide open arms, ‘Here we are, Emily! We too tarry in the realm of imagination and frolic with the mysterious and gambol amongst all unnamed curiosities. A perfect place for you, who has never been impressed with reality and has always seen Beyond. We are so glad you found us, for you won’t find welcome much elsewhere. Let us hold hands and amble together!’
Well, how could I resist such an invitation? An ‘Outlet’, as it is often referred to. Creativity has always been a part of my DNA, so I am happiest when it is required in my work. I’ve always been drawn to things that stretch my imagination. Writing is like bodybuilding for your imagination. Not only when it comes to the plot and characters, but also in the discernment of vocabulary, atmosphere, prose, and grammar. Every element that goes into writing a book, or just writing in general, has to be shifted about, tacked up and taken down, and compared. It isn’t about what you think sounds cool, or what is going to make you come off as intelligent or introspective. It’s about what the story needs. The story is the client, the cause, the driving force. You are there to tell it, hence the very humble and apt term: Story-teller.
As a writer, you do bring in a component of self, because you are telling your story. Your purpose is to differentiate yourself from all the other writers who are also clawing at the same success that you are. By letting my originality take over when it comes to my writing projects, not only am I separating myself from the swarm, but I am also creating a brand. Writers should not be remora fish. We should not be attaching ourselves to ideas made successful by other writers. We should be swimming and feasting on our own in the Sea of Literary Possibilities. However, this ideal is based on integrity, and only offers an uphill battle.
Publishers, those darling discriminators, like the feeling of safety. And safety comes with sticking with what you know works. They examine a manuscript, and instead of thinking about whether or not it’s a great book, they wonder if there is a place for it in the market. The market is fickle. The market is a monster, and a picky one at that, gobbling up only certain kinds of products. The publishers, who have a symbiotic relationship with this monster, want to continue appeasing it for their own gain. They do this by hording all the authors that have previously proven themselves profitable, while shunning the upstarts bobbing up and down outside their window, begging for them to just read their synopsis.
This cruel lockout has massive disadvantages for everyone. The new, talented, passionate authors who really deserve the backing; the world, since it will never be improved by the marvelous works said authors would churn out; and the publishers, who will never know if they are blowing off the biggest jackpot of their professional careers. Typically though, it is only the authors who are aware of this gripping loss. In my own struggle to the top of the pillar, I’ve all too often encountered the phrase, ‘We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts’, which is their concise way of explaining everything above. And when that phrase popped up everywhere I looked, I was left with two choices: Either, one, acquire an agent, or, two, use an alternative publishing method.
As it happened, it was while I was trying to get an agent that I stumbled upon the alternative method.
Six months after submitting to a traditional publisher, and not hearing back, I learned that their submission guidelines had changed. Whereas before, they did accept unsolicited manuscripts and worked with first-time, non-represented authors, they now rejected both. I was stunned, devastated. Six difficult months of my life had just gone to waste. I had no idea what to do next, or if there even would be a “next”. I was at a juncture that I had encountered many times before with my book: Go on, or give up. Once again, I chose to go on. I nose-dived into research, looking for publishers who would take manuscripts that arrive out of the blue from writers they have never heard of. The options were limited, to say the least. Additionally, I learned that at some point, quietly, traditionally publishers had decided to purposely make it hard to submit to them without an agent, to keep both the market and their rosters tight. It slowly dawned on me that if I wanted to continue sparring with this seemingly impossible endeavor, I would need an agent.
Luckily, in the midst of my internet rampage, and entering my basic information for every publishing ad I saw, (all of which later proved to be for self-publishing, which at the time I wanted to avoid) I saw an ad for an author agency. They had a very impressive opening statement and asked for much more detailed information, so I felt it was worth filling out the forms. Three days later, after a very despondent and soul-baring prayer, I received an email from a company I had never heard of.
They had all my information. And they wanted to see my manuscript. Seven days later, they wanted to work with me. As it turned out, they were the sister company to the agency I had submitted to. However, at the time I had very little concept of what kind of publisher they were exactly. As time went on, I learned about a new breed of book publishers. They ranged from ebook self-publishers, to Indie, to small-press. I fell under Indie. As in, Independent. As in, I had a team, so I wasn’t entirely alone, but they needed to be paid. At first, I was signed on for a 100 book pre-sale program, to pay for the publication, but when I figured out that wasn’t going to work, I switched my contract to just pay for it up front.
Being Independent is hard work. I’ve had to be both the creative genius and the savvy entrepreneur, and I was only born one. When I first began the marketing for my book, it was a nightmare. I was young, inexperienced, and thrust into a sink-or-swim situation. Just because I wrote a great book did not mean automatic readers. No one can read a thing if they don’t know it is there. That is why marketing is so crucial. I wish I did not have to be well-versed in marketing, but I do. I am blessed enough to not have to worry about the distribution, shipping, tallying, and whatnot, but as far as representing my work out there in the big, jaded world, there is only me.
In some ways, not being a petri dish child of the mainstream literary world is a good thing. The cliquey attitude of YA lit themes probably would not have allowed my own original, unusual ideas might to see the light of day anyways. Modern writers think they are regulating the pulse of the modern reader, but the reality is that they’re just making the genre stagnant. But, because of this alternative route, I have found an In. Trends want to oppress and ignore, but I am relying on my own talent and vision to grab audience’s attention. Instead of being intimidated to the point of walking away, I am fighting back, and without all the help mainstream authors are afforded. By being Independent, I can honestly say that it was all me. My heart feeds my career.
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Genre - Young Adult Fiction
Rating – PG
Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.