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To Publish or Not to Publish: That is the Question

In 2013, I wrote my first book and entered the wild word of publishing.

Ten years and five books later, authoring remains an ever-exploratory journey. Sending a work out into this world can take myriad routes – each with its own terrain, obstacles, and opportunities.

My adventure began by publishing my first novel Hope Rising through a traditional publishing company. I entered the process like a kid on Christmas Eve – all the wonder of what might be waiting under the tree brimming up inside me. I understood the privilege of the moment; that only four percent of submitted manuscripts were accepted. I was now part of a small group of budding authors whose names would grace the cover of a book, backed by the power of a publisher. I dreamed big dreams.

A diligent worker, I took on all the challenges of being an unknown author. I promoted myself. I built a web site. I accepted speaking engagements. I arranged book signings. I showed up at library talks, sometimes with only three people in the room. I attended author trainings, wrote blogs, and engaged social media.

I also learned quickly that if you aren’t Dr. Phil or Oprah Winfrey, it is unlikely you will make a big name for yourself as a new author. Most of my profits went to the publisher. I made marginal gains. Sometimes, I lost money.

The same company published my second book Chuck and Spark Explore the Park – a fully illustrated children’s story. Soon after, my publisher was shut down and my two precious books went out of print. All that was left was the inventory on my shelf at home. A flurry of calls came from other publishers looking to profit by charging me to re-publish my book. I felt deflated.

Focusing my attention on my primary profession as a non-profit fundraiser, I moved forward. After presenting at a national conference, I was selected to write an industry book Five Strategies to Increase Annual Fund Revenue. This time, I signed with a very reputable publishing company and experienced the joys of working with seasoned professionals. I gained access to the company’s president who mentored me, and to other authors in the group who encouraged and co-promoted one another. It was a joyous experience. Some years later, that publisher also closed his doors.

No matter the process you engage, as authors, we have to toil. Writing a book is an arduous task. Promoting one is another beast entirely. Ten years later, authoring has offered me a business card, so to speak. It has opened myriad doors for paid speaking and consulting I never would have accessed without those credentials after my name.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, I ventured into a new corridor. I self-published for the first time. My fourth book – a novella titled Waking Up Grateful: Turning a Painful Past into a Purposeful Present - is, by far, my favorite work. I wanted to experience self-publishing as part of my author journey. It has exceeded expectations. I learned new tools, rebuilt my web site, learning to create promotional videos, and repurposed blogs. Shortly after, I self-published my poetry book Embla and Eve. Self-publishing proved a fun and exciting learning journey.

I understand today that making a lot of money or garnering a “big name” is of least importance to me. I am a writer. I am compelled to write. Authoring has taken so many turns. Each has grown me as a person. Just as the painter is called, time and again, to the canvas – I am called to write. How I send that finished piece into the world is up to me. I encourage anyone who shares this passion to take the leap. Despite the challenges, it IS a rewarding journey.

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