Running the self-publishing marathon: 5 small victories

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea (fantasy, really) that the process of self-publishing ends when your book becomes available to consumers. It’s not that I’m so very desperate to be free of Scourge of the Righteous Haddock. It’s just that I’ve got another book to write (and five others after that already outlined in my head). But I have to admit that the little daily victories make the whole marketing challenge a little more palatable. Here are five (small) victories that make me feel a little less like a nitwit running around a dark forest in a tutu, beset by wolves and hyenas and naysayers:

1. The Bronte Blog featured an excerpt from an interview I did with New Times arts editor Anna Weltner. It wasn’t kudos, exactly, but it was sort of a thrill to be included in a site that comprehensively catalogues information about my literary heroines (Charlotte and Emily Bronte).

Screen shot 2013-09-28 at 2.50.03 PM

2. Lauren Kells (which I believe is a pen name), another author in the process of self-publishing a novel, had the following to say on her blog:

Or, for an example from my local community, Ashley Schwellbach, whose book, Scourge of the Righteous Haddock has one of the most beautifully designed covers I’ve seen.

And while I can’t exactly claim credit for Lena Rushing and Mignon Khargie’s talent and genius, I also can’t look at that cover without a surge of pride. I would have loved my progeny even if it was unattractive, but that doesn’t stop me from being thrilled by its beauty.

3. I did my first book reading in conjunction with 100 Thousand Poets for Change yesterday afternoon at the Steynberg Gallery in San Luis Obispo. Given that I’m not particularly fond of being stared at by large groups of people, this was a significant personal victory. Whether I read well, I cannot say. I can say that I rushed the stage, flew through the passages I’d marked in my book, and flew off the stage.

Ashley_Thousand PoetsPHOTO BY COLIN RIGLEY


(The flying off the stage was, of course, my favorite part of the experience.) I will say, there was something thrilling in the idea that people were listening to my story, though I think my appreciation for that victory would have been greater had someone else been reading my story. I could literally feel my legs shaking as I read. Perhaps I looked as though I was having a seizure on stage, but being very brave in the face of my medical dilemma by continuing with the reading. Or maybe no one else noticed that my legs were shaking besides myself. In which case, good, except that I’ve just told the entire world my legs were shaking. But so what? I’ll bet all the world’s great orators experience Jell-O legs from time to time. (I promise to post video of the reading in the next day or two.)

4. As a result of being very, very brave and reading at the delightful Steynberg Gallery, I sold three books. That might not sound very impressive to Oprah or JK Rowling, but I consider every book sold a personal triumph. I’m terribly excited to share my thoughts, opinions, and words with the world at large. How very old-fashioned of me.

5. And the second result of my afternoon of poetry and music and book sales was that I received divine inspiration from the literary gods themselves while staring at the mural on the wall behind the stage at the Steynberg Gallery. It just hit me. An idea for a book. Now, many people have been struck with ideas for books. Discounting those who are high and probably will not remember the idea in a few hours, most people are too lazy to do anything about it beyond talk about it a lot and maybe scrawl some notes onto paper. I don’t say this to dismiss or discount such people; I was one of them the first 27 years of my life. But, after writing Scourge of the Righteous Haddock, I now know how to differentiate stray thoughts from serious ideas. And what I had last night was a serious idea. I know because I could see the entire world in my head. More than that, I desperately wanted to be part of the world, to carefully and joyfully construct said world. I’m beginning to realize I’m meant to be a fantasy writer. Who knew? The only problem is that this idea is not the first new idea I’ve had. I’m currently writing Vestal, but after that I’ve got a novel I’m currently calling The Girl. Then there’s Steinbeck Country, Prime, The Book, and now this new idea. I know it sounds silly to lament an overabundance of inspiration but it’s hard to dispel the feeling that every moment that I’m not writing is wasted time, wasted opportunity. I want, so very badly, to make writing my full-time job, to create new worlds rapidly, all of the time. Instead, I’m left wondering whether I’ll get to touch this new idea in the next three years even.



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