Happiness is a SoupTruck
So some of you may have noticed that I haven’t published anything in awhile. Like ten years. It took several years of therapy to track down the reason: I have a problem with depression. In this, I am not alone; turns out writers are 121% more likely to suffer from depression than the general public. I don’t know if depression makes us turn to making up stuff to survive, or if making up stuff for a living makes us depressed, but I do know that throwing yourself headlong into building a career in publishing would make anybody nuts. And yet I did that for twenty years, and then face planted. I kept writing—you’ve suffered from reading how many unfinished manuscripts in here?—I just couldn’t finish anything.
And then, as you know, I roped Bob Mayer into helping me finish Lavender which became a collaboration, which became a three book series. I still panicked every now and then and Bob would talk me down, but mostly we were just working so fast, the stories came so fast, that I didn’t really have the time to panic often. We sent the three books off to our agent, who is excellent, and started in on the next series with Rocky Start. And I started to clutch again.
Because now we were submitting to editors and getting caught up in the insanity of traditional publishing, and although our agent tried to protect us as much as possible, it’s a jungle out there, even worse than it used to be when it drove me into writer’s block for a decade. Then we got an offer and I really tensed up, but the good news is that it was a lousy offer. And Bob said, “Let’s just self-publish,” and I said, “Oh, god, yes, yes, yes.”
Which is when I realized how bad publishing is for me and why: I have no control. The minute you send a book into the maw of traditional publication, you’re no longer a creative genius who constructs worlds out of nothing, you’re a soup maker, dealing with people who are putting your soup into cans to sell, and their basis for judgement is how they can sell that soup to a lot of people. This is not a criticism of publishing: If you take your story to market, you’re the one who made it soup, so you’re going to have to deal with people wanting more or less salt in your recipe and offering you much less than you feel your soup is worth.
Unless you decide to set up a food truck and sell the soup yourself. You’re still making your story into soup, but now it’s your soup, you get to decide how much salt and how much to charge and when to open the cart and all of a sudden, life gets easier. Not richer, not more successful, but do-able. (Especially when your collaborator is doing all the heavy lifting of self-publishing. Thank you again, Bob Mayer.)
Of course, we’re self-publishing in a summer when we’re both moving and we’re both dealing with health problems, but we’re both so relieved to be doing this ourselves because we can get the books out fast and only a month apart and price them so that people don’t have to sell a kid to afford them, (the print versions are going to cost a lot because of paying for paper and ink, so apologies for that up front), and because neither one of us needed one more damn source of stress right now. (My internet isn’t working right; that’s like taking oxygen from me.) I can’t tell you what a relief it is not to be dealing with contracts and outside revisions and sell-throughs and all the other things we’d have no control over.
Happiness is a soup truck, people. I sincerely hope you all have one.
So how were you happily trucking this week?