It’s not about the money.

I was thumbing through an old journal when I came across this interesting entry.

While I still was running Waking Up in December, 2006, a friend of mine suggested that I seek out paid writing work.  I had an abundance of time in the store when no customers were around.  I mentioned that I had begun working on a project.  He asked if it was a paying project and I said no, that it was the novel I’ve always wanted to write.  He quoted someone as saying that every person has a great novel within them, but in most cases, it should stay within them.

I’m glad I didn’t take that advice.

And you shouldn’t take it, either.

Being compensated financially for one’s writing is something that is merited.  If a writer puts in the effort, she should be compensated by her readers who partake in the enjoyment of her work.  However, to me, that is secondary.  Writing to get paid is capitalist rhetoric.  Getting paid for one’s writing is freedom.

For the disadvantages and dangers of the author’s calling are offset by an advantage so great as to make all its difficulties, disappointments, and maybe hardships, unimportant.  It gives him spiritual freedom.  To him life is a tragedy and by his gift of creation he enjoys the catharsis, the purging of pity and terror, which Aristotle tells us it the object of art.  For his sins and his follies, the unhappiness that befalls him, his unrequited love, his physical defects, illness, privation, his hopes abandoned, his griefs, humiliations, everything is transformed by his power into material, and by writing it he can overcome it.  Everything is grist to his mill, from the glimpse of a face in the street to a war that convulses the civilized world, from the scent of a rose to the death of a friend.  Nothing befalls him that he cannot transmute into a stanza, a song, or a story, and having done this be rid of it.  The artist is the only free man.

W. Somerset Maugham The Summing Up

Photograph by Michael Kitchen
Photograph by Michael Kitchen

Declaring my Independence

I met my hero, William Kent Krueger, on Monday.  Maybe hero isn’t the right word.  His work hasn’t influenced me, mainly because I haven’t read his writing.  But he’s lived the writing dream that I seek.

William Kent Krueger at Metro Detroit Book and Author Society luncheon, 5-20-2013.  Photo by Michael Kitchen.
William Kent Krueger at Metro Detroit Book and Author Society luncheon, 5-20-2013. Photo by Michael Kitchen.

Krueger has published 14 novels, many of which feature Cork O’Connor, his mystery series character.  His current novel, Ordinary Grace (Atria Books, 2013) made the Indie Next List in April, 2013.  And he was a speaker at the Metro Detroit Book and Author Society luncheon on Monday, May 20, 2013.

William Kent Krueger at Metro Detroit Book and Author Society luncheon, 5-20-2013.  Photo by Michael Kitchen.
William Kent Krueger at Metro Detroit Book and Author Society luncheon, 5-20-2013. Photo by Michael Kitchen.

He is living my writing dream.

After the event, I purchased Ordinary Grace and approached him with the question of how he started – by submitting to agents or publishers first?  He explained he went through an agent and was able to get his first book sold.  He also talked about how self-publishing “back in the day” (he’s about the same age, maybe a handful of years older than I) was taboo, however that has changed immensely.  I mentioned that self-published books didn’t get into the book stores, and he said that things are opening up, that as the author, I have more control, and that self-publishing is something to consider.


I’ve been attending a number of author events – writer’s conferences, book signings, luncheons, National Writers Series lectures – to bring me up-to-date on how today’s authors are making it in to traditional publishing.  I’ve learned that there seems to be two ways.

1.  Many of the writers have either a) pursued a Masters in Fine Arts, and by doing so have made connections through the programs they’re in, or b) have made similar connections by working in the field of media entertainment.


2.  As Brad Thor, who also spoke at the Metro Detroit Book & Author Society luncheon, did.  He and his wife were spending their honeymoon in Europe and shared a train car with a brother and sister from Atlanta, Georgia.  The woman happened to be a sales rep with Simon & Shuster, and he submitted his first manuscript to her.  He has since published twelve novels at Simon & Shuster.

Brad Thor at Metro Detroit Book and Author Society luncheon, 5-20-2013.  Photo by Michael Kitchen.
Brad Thor at Metro Detroit Book and Author Society luncheon, 5-20-2013. Photo by Michael Kitchen.

These are not the circles I travel in.  I’m still paying off law school student loan debt, so pursuing another degree is not in consideration.  But like in my law practice, I am continuing my writing education by taking seminars, engaging in writer’s groups and studying the craft.  And unless an employee of a major publisher is appointed to me by the Macomb County Circuit Court, it is unlikely I’ll ever fall into a situation where a Brad Thorish personal connection could ever take place.

How long will I continue pursuing that which seems as likely as hitting the lotto?  It’s time to give self-publishing serious consideration.

I have experience at it, through writing and publishing Erma Henderson’s memoirs.  And better, I know a publisher whose business platform is not just to take your money and publish your manuscript (no matter what the quality) and send you on your way.  This publisher will not accept a manuscript that is poorly written, and provides copy editing as a part of its service.  It is also focused on getting its books on the shelves of book stores, not just the ability to order the book.  And the editor has a sincere passion for encouraging and helping writers hone their craft and for book publishing.

I was concerned about publicity, as the commercial publications tend not to review self-published books, and tend not to include them on best-seller lists.  The Indie-Next List that promotes books in independent book stores, covers only books that are traditionally published.  But, I’ve discovered that Shelf Awareness – a source of news for book sellers – includes a best sellers list of self-published books (provided by IndieReader).  The chance to be reviewed in a magazine available in the chain book stores – ForeWords Reviews – also exists (which is published Traverse City – my home away from home).  And I’m probably just scratching the surface of the world of independent and self-publishing.

And, I have William Kent Krueger, living my dream, encouraging a new author like me to seriously consider self-publishing.  Why?  Maybe my dream has a dark side?

There are still a number of agent queries out there for The Y in Life.  I’ll give them the opportunity to respond.  But after the date I have in mind, the novel goes the self-published route and will likely be available before the end of the year.  And the NaNoWriMo novel I wrote in November which is in rough form, I have begun rewriting for definite publication through my independent publisher.

Seriously, when have I ever been “traditional?”