Today is a big day for me. It’s my first official day as an indie author. Today is the day Hold On Tight re-releases. For the first time, I am my own publisher. And I love it.
In honor of that, I am going to tell you a very special story, the story of how I fell in love with not knowing what the fuck I was doing.
But first, a super quick word from our sponsor:
Hold On Tight is the story of Jake—a guy who comes back from war, broken in body and spirit, to discover that he has a kid he never knew existed and a baby mama he’s been trying really hard to forget. It’s also the story of Mira, a single mom who has been working her butt off to hold all the pieces together, and does not need the complication of being attracted to a man who got her pregnant and disappeared off the face of the earth. Aaand, it’s the story of Sam, who—well, he’s seven, and just trying to figure out how all the pieces fit together, especially in light of the fact that his mom told him that his dad was a sperm donor.
You can find it here:
How I Fell In Love With Not Knowing WTF I Was Doing
This is my story, but it could easily be your story, too, if you’re an author and you think you might like to take the plunge into indie publishing but need a push, or if you’re recently gone indie and feel like you’re in over your head. Like many stories, this one starts waaay before page one with a lot of backstory, which I am going to omit, because no one likes a back story dump. Instead, I am going to start you where the story starts. Like so:
There was an author, and she decided that she wanted to be in control of her own destiny. Declared like that, it sounds like an easy decision, but actually, it was terrifying. She had two kids and a husband and for many years she had centered most of her decisions around them. She focused most of her energy on being there when they needed her in every way possible, even when that meant not spending time or money on her business. She didn’t resent that focus, not at all—it was just a fact of how she did things, and she’d gotten in the habit of thinking of her writing as a little bit more like a hobby than a job. There were some great perks to thinking like that, namely that she could have leisurely weekends and enjoy her vacations without worrying that something might go wrong … plus she got to spend lots and lots of time with her delightful children.
But there were some downsides, too. The main one was invisible to everyone except her. For years she had been telling herself a teeny, tiny lie: namely, that she was a hundred percent okay with this version of her career, and she didn’t have any ambitions for it to be otherwise. She told herself this lie because if she didn’t, she would had to admit to herself that there was another reason she didn’t do anything to make herself more successful. The reason was, She was terrified of screwing it up.
Screwing what up, you might ask? Good question.
She was terrified of screwing everything up. She was terrified of doing any of it less-than-perfectly.
Her husband frequently teased her by saying she wanted to be valedictorian of everything, and–well, he wasn’t far off.
So, let’s return to the moment when our heroine decided she wanted to be in charge of her own destiny. She had some really good reasons to make that decision. Her kids were older, and much more independent. The publisher where she’d found a home for many years was closing the imprint that had nourished her. The romance market was, frankly, kind of a hot mess–and many of the people who seemed to be navigating it with the most grace were the ones who knew it most intimately, from the ground up—indie authors. And she was ready, for a whole variety of other reasons, to make her own decisions and write the stories she loved most.
When she decided to become an indie author, at first, she wanted to be the valedictorian of that, too. But it turns out that it’s really hard to be the valedictorian of that, because everyone does it differently and there’s no one right way. (Also because our heroine, being who she was, decided she wanted to re-release three books in rapid succession, wide (to all the e-retailers), while writing a brand new book, and do as much as she could herself. Semi-pro Tip: If you go indie, you don’t have to do it that way, because everyone does it differently and there’s no one right way.)
But, let’s return to our story. Wait, said the author. Let me get this straight. There’s no instruction manual for this thing?
The next few months were the hardest thing she had ever done. Every time she did something new, she had no idea how to do it. When she asked for help, everyone told her a different way. There were no instructions about what software to use (except for Vellum; freaking everyone agreed about that), what vendors to hire, how to weigh quality against speed, whether to “go wide” or “do KU exclusive” or any of the other options on the table. She listened and took lots of notes, but in the end, no one knew the answers except her (and she still felt like she didn’t).
What’s more, it wasn’t a perfectable process at all. Like most creative things, it was messy. It wasn’t clear when something—a manuscript, a cover, a promotional teaser graphic—was the best it was going to be, and perfect was clearly the enemy of progress.
Our former valedictorian-of-everything was not always gracious about all of this. Sometimes she ranted and swore, like on the day when she discovered (in the middle of about twelve other crises, work and home) that she’d failed to activate the quirky auto-renew on her hosting subscription and her site had been down for only-God-knew-how-long. Sometimes she yelled at no one in her empty kitchen, like when a certain e-retailer told her for the eighth time that the problem would be fixed tomorrow. Sometimes she laughed that scary, about-to-go-over-the-edge laugh, like when that certain e-retailer told her for the ninth time that the problem would be fixed tomorrow. (As it turned out, that time, it was. Go figure.)
She actually said, on more than one occasion—OUT LOUD—I can’t do this.
The first revelation was that it didn’t help to say that. Not at all. What helped was to say, I can do this. So with a monumental effort of willpower, she quit, cold turkey, saying, I can’t do this and started replacing that sentence with I can.
The next revelation was that she could do it even though most of the time she had only the vaguest idea of what she was doing. The trick was to spend most of her time doing whatever she thought the next thing was, and only a small fraction of her time trying to figure out what the big picture was. As she tackled one “next thing” after another, the big picture slowly, slowly, painfully began to come into view.
Every time she tackled what she thought the “next thing” was, it would turn out that she’d skipped several other key steps, and each time she wound back to pick up those missed steps, she’d realize that each one of those items had missed steps, too. (This happened even though she asked lots and lots of amazing and generous people for help and advice, because when people with experience explain things to people without experience, they sometimes (always) leave out steps.) So it often took her ten times as long to do something as she had thought it would. But she started to see how the pieces went together
And one day she had the biggest revelation of all. She liked—not just didn’t hate but actively liked—not knowing what the fuck she was doing. And she was (this was maybe the weirdest moment of all, ever) seriously in love with the process of figuring it the fuck out, even when she screwed stuff up.
As a side note, she did screw stuff up. But she was less and less shaken when it happened, because (shocker) most stuff could be fixed. Or redone. Or done better next time. And the world kept not ending, which was a surprise and a pleasure every time.
Plus, as she began working on re-releasing the second and third books in the series, it became apparent that it was getting easier. A LOT EASIER. So she wasn’t going to not know what she was doing forever. Eventually, she was going to know what she was doing.
That made her a teeny, tiny bit sad.
Luckily for her, if there is one true thing about book publishing, it is that it changes so fast, there is no danger that you will ever suffer from a lack of things to not know what the fuck you are doing about.
So. If you have been telling yourself that you are too much of a perfectionist for indie, too much of a control freak for indie, too easily stressed out for indie, or, well, really anything about how you can’t, I am here to tell you: You are not. And you can.
Anyway, to return to our author, she and her not-knowing are currently living Happily For Now, and the first piece of evidence is Hold On Tight. You can find it here:
Can’t Hold Back will be out (with considerably less swearing behind the scenes) on March 26, To Have and to Hold on April 23, and Holding Out on May 21.