Why I Decided to Self-Publish My Novel

 

Little Red Hen

I guess there were lots of reasons I decided to self-publish after all these years. I think the #1 reason was that I wrote a novel that I couldn’t bear the idea of not getting published. It’s kind of like the wonderful speech the best man, Steve, gave at our wedding. When my husband was going to propose to me, Steve said he advised him “the thing you have to ask yourself is – can I spend the rest of my life with this woman?” to which Bill replied, “The question is, could I spend the rest of my life without her?”

Is Bill the best or what??

I began asking myself – can I spend the rest of my life without getting this particular novel published?

As a writer whose ultimate goal was to be traditionally published, I’ve written a lot of books that I knew might never see the light of day. I’ve spent months – even years – researching, planning, outlining, writing, rewriting, getting critiqued, rewriting again, perfecting, and polishing books that, quite possibly, no one would ever read. I poured my heart, soul, and every ounce of emotion that I could muster into those tales knowing full well that my stories and my characters might languish on the shelf collecting dust for all eternity. There’s a long list of agents and publishers to query to try to get these novels read and published, but it is a finite list. Sooner or later, I do come to the end of it. When I reach the end of the line and I still have no agent to represent me and no publisher to publish it, it’s all over for that particular novel. There’s just nothing more that I can do for it.

I’ve come close – maddeningly close – to getting an agent, but so far I’m still unagented. Unpublished. But that’s okay.

Or is it?

I was approaching a dubious anniversary. July of 2014 marked my 20th anniversary as a still unagented and unpublished writer. Now to be fair, I was a screenwriter for 15 of those years. This is pretty much an exercise in futility if you live 3000 miles away from an industry that is nearly 100% based on who you know. Still, I did manage to get two screenplays optioned with production companies in Los Angeles. I’ve really only been writing novels since 2009, so it really isn’t that terrible that I still don’t have an agent. I had a New York City agent read one of my novels and tell me that she did want to represent me, but her current caseload wouldn’t allow it. She told me that my novel “has an excellent chance of publication” and that she “enjoyed it immensely”. This may not sound like a big deal, but when you’ve been around as long as I have, you know that agents don’t say that kind of thing unless they really mean it. I was getting closer.

Still. Twenty years is an awfully long time to invest in something that hasn’t exactly panned out yet. For the most part, I’m okay with the wannabe life. It’s hard as hell to get an agent or get published, but I work hard as hell and I’m not giving up. So there you have it.

But yet…

I turned my favorite screenplay – QUEEN HENRY – into my favorite novel of the same name. I’ve always loved the story and the characters. I wrote the novel several years ago and I swear, I still hear Henry’s voice in my head. I’ve written three novels since then, but nothing I’ve written has ever resonated in my head and in my heart the way that story still does. It’s the story of a homophobic, macho, major league baseball player who takes part in a clinical drug trial to treat his asthma and the experimental drug has an unusual side effect: it makes him gay. At first, Henry is horrified to suddenly be attracted to men instead of women. Then he falls in love with a wonderful man and learns the important lesson that love really is love after all.

Believe me, that’s story’s been through a lot of changes over the years.

I got the worst reviews of my life when I first queried with the screenplay version. I mean, just bloody awful, terrible, no-good reviews that absolutely ripped out my heart. But I couldn’t bear to give up on my story. I rewrote the screenplay over and over and over again, working with a respected industry script analyst. I battled my way back and eventually QUEEN HENRY was a finalist in a small but national screenplay contest. They referred to the script as a “fun and uplifting story that combines baseball, homosexuality, and peach schnapps.” This was huge victory for me. Sure, it was a small contest and I was just a finalist, but it truly was an amazing accomplishment considering how bad the story was in the beginning. I loved the story so much that I stuck with it, refusing to give up. In the end, I finally got the story right.

Then, after I wrote the novel, I queried everywhere and got the worst response rate for anything I’d ever written. No one wanted any part of it. Every agent I queried told me that it wouldn’t sell because it’s a gay-themed story. No one even gave it chance. Not even a look. Just a NO when they found out what the story was about. But I found I still couldn’t bear to give up on it.

I had my heart set on traditionally publishing, but that’s just not going to happen with this novel. So, I could just put QUEEN HENRY back on the shelf and watch it gather dust, or…

I’m reminded of the story of the little red hen. She asks and asks and nobody will help her plant, harvest, mill, or bake the grain of wheat into bread. “Then I will do it myself,” said the little red hen.

That’s why I decided that, in July of 2014 on my 20th anniversary of being a wannabe writer, I was going to publish QUEEN HENRY for the following damn good reasons:

1. I want to prove to the world that a “gay-themed” story will sell.

2, I want to donate all of the proceeds to the Harvey milk Foundation.

3. I can’t live without publishing this novel.

No one would help the little red-headed writer write, edit, rewrite, polish, publish, or promote her book.

“Then I will do it myself,” said the little red-headed writer.

And she did.

QUEEN HENRY, now available at the following retailers:

Amazon eBook 

Paperback

Smashwords

Barnes and Noble

 

* All proceeds net of taxes will go to the Harvey Milk Foundation **

**Writers:

Join my WRITERS email list for Writing Tips and Book Recommendations!

**Readers:

Join my READERS email list to receive just the Book Recommendations!

The Scary Part of Writing

Getting reviews is no doubt the scariest part of being a writer, at least for me. The main reason I started this support group for Wannabes is to have other Wannabes share their experiences on the rough road to success, like facing scary reviews of the work that they slaved over.

Sadly, no one is doing this.

The message boards were designed for actors to post about auditions they go on – vent went they don’t go well and celebrate when they do. Musicians could post about their frustrations in not getting good gigs and brag when they finally get a good one. Other writers were supposed to write about their own experiences with getting reviews.

The idea was for me to reach out to other Wannabes to find out I’m not alone in this.

Turns out, I guess I am alone. Of course, there must be thousands of people going through what I’m going through. I just can’t find them. I don’t know where you all are. I’ve gotten hundreds of comments on my blogs so far. ALL of them, save for less than 5, are spam. This is hard for me to accept, because it’s just another form of rejection.

I’m expecting to get one review on my script this week – possibly two. It’s times like this that I really wish I knew someone – anyone –even a stranger – who really, truly understand how hard it is to wait for a review. This review will come from a contest called Script Savvy. This is a script I wrote about two years or so ago. It went through many reviews back then, but I’m sending it for another review now because I plan to write the same story as a novel when I finish the current script I’m working on.

The script – called QUEEN HENRY- is my very favorite. I feel it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. I’ve written about the script on my blog before – it got HORRIBLE reviews at first and I worked on it until it was good enough to be a Finalist in a small contest in 2007. It’s one of the few scripts that makes me feel good every time I go back to read it. I’m proud of it. I just have this gut feeling when I read it – this one is good.

Which is what makes it so hard went it doesn’t get a good review. The most recent draft has gotten mixed reviews – it was a Finalist in one contest. A producer was not impressed, saying it didn’t “dazzle” him. Another contest reviewer said it should have been a drama. It’s gay-themed, and he felt it should be written as a serious issue. He actually said it was not something to make light of.

I’ll repeat that, people. He said I should not make light of the issue of being gay….

Seriously, if it’s one group of people who know how to poke fun of themselves and their own struggle – it’s gay people!! Jewish people, too, for that matter.

Anyway, after not sending the script out for years, I entered it in a contest – reviews to be sent out Tuesday, August 31. Then on Friday, August 27, I get this email from a production company, out of the blue:

“I received a query letter from you a few years ago regarding QUEEN HENRY and for some reason, I couldn’t throw it away. To be fair, I don’t think there’s even a slight chance that I will get the film made, but I’m still interested in reading the screenplay as a writing sample.”

Odd, to say the least. Does he mean he personally does not have the power to make the film because he works in the mailroom? Or does he mean, given the subject matter, he doubts he could get it made? I did once have a producer chastise me for writing something like this because it is no longer “relevant”. He asked if I had a gay son or something, because he said no one cares if you’re gay anymore…

This man probably lives two streets away from San Francisco and has not watched the news for the last decade, given the white-hot button issue of gay marriage and DADT, and the fact that the entire country is split down the middle when it comes to gays…

Sorry for the rant (says the blog writer to the gaping, empty hole in cyberspace…though I will give a shout-out to the two people I know who read the blog – Hi Debbie and Zann!!!), but as you can see, reviews of Queen Henry have been all over the map. It just figures that, after all these years of no reviews on the script, on the one week that I’m expecting a contest review, a production company pops out of the woodwork asking for the damn thing.

This could be an exciting week or a hell of a downer. Either way, I will tell you the truth about the reviews. Stay tuned.