ast week I was featured in a Huffington Post blog post about self-publishing literary fiction. It was exciting watching the likes and positive comments pile up through social media. A few called me a “role model” for other writers.
That makes me a little nervous. Every writer’s choices along the path to publication will and should be different, according to his or her goals, talents, and plain old luck. Everyone’s mileage will vary along that path, too. I like to share my experiences in the hope others will learn from it. (That lesson could very well be to steer clear of my path.) Just so someone learns.
But I do feel like a role model in another sense, one that didn’t make it into the HuffPo piece. Back in April I visited a new-to-me independent bookstore and inquired whether they would consider carrying my novel in their Michigan authors section.
“Who’s the publisher?” I was asked.
“Me,” I answered.
I was told, very politely, that they didn’t stock self-published titles.
I’d heard of such across-the-board policies before, but in a year of marketing Sparrow Migrations it was the first time I’d been told directly. I won’t lie, it hurt to be dismissed outright, especially based on an assumption I believe is outdated and overly general. (And a shout-out to the half-dozen indies who eschew that assumption and stock Sparrow.)
But I respected it. Rightfully or wrongfully founded, it was their decision to make. I browsed the cozy store a bit longer. At the cash register, I bought two books and chatted easily with the same person who told me no. I walked out with my head held high.
Last month I was in another new community with an indie bookstore: Snowbound Books in Marquette, Mich.. This time I did have a foot in the door. I’d been invited
to do a presentation at the library across the street. Still, my ego was a bit raw. Mustering up my courage, I went in to Snowbound Books and asked.
This time, I got an assent. Less than two weeks later, I had a check and an order for more books.
So If I’m a role model, I hope it’s mostly for this: For believing in my writing enough to take the risk to ask, and for persevering when told no. It amounts to a literary interpretation of the Serenity Prayer, which hangs on my office wall.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. (Which might be that the first draft, or even the nth draft, isn’t ready to publish.)
The courage to change the things I can. (You can take the time to revise it and make it better.)
And the wisdom to distinguish one from the other. (It’s really hard to be objective enough to be wise about your own work. That’s where editors, beta readers and critique groups come in.)
Fellow authors and aspirants, I wish you serenity, courage and wisdom.