I find that sometimes when the gods close a door, you can run and slide through the crack at the very last second. And even reach back to grab your hat, if you're quick!
This feels like the vibe for all of my home and auto repairs over the past year as well as how I released my novel, and it feels like how I'll need to finish my 2021 Christmas shopping.
Over the summer, my family went through a harrowing adventure in major home repairs and maintenance that suddenly seemed financially possible due to those stimulus payments and that free student loan forbearance.
My husband and I, with the help of my parents, spent the summer and early fall doing most of the work ourselves to demolish and rebuild our kitchen and main bathroom, which had seemed to fall to pieces all at once, just like our furnace and vintage pickup truck did the moment we finished renovations.
Thank goodness for emergency savings and credit cards!
In the Time of Corona, we had to think fast about ordering materials well in advance, locking in prices before they rocketed up, and making quick substitutions and new plans when our original ones became unfeasible. It took hard, ceaseless work over a long period of time as well as massive logistics planning and creative flexibility, and I feel like we got it all done just in the nick of time and exactly within the budget of all available cash in our bank accounts plus maxing out a new credit card. Whew!
I had told myself all along that as soon as the home renovations were done, I would learn about self-publishing, having decided after several years of querying and learning how the sausage is made that I did not want to continue attempting to work with the traditional publishing industry.
I figured I would take my time learning the ropes of self-publishing and laying the groundwork for a successful book launch sometime between this fall and spring 2022.
Then the home renovations extended into October, I heard about paper shortages and possibly long-term logistical problems with printing and distributing books, and I panicked.
I opened an account with IngramSpark, spent a couple weekends uploading files and learning book design via the "sink or swim" method, and surprise-Hail-Mary launched my best novel into the world without the usual months of buzz-building promotional activities, which sound like kind of a drag anyway.
To my heart-stopping astonishment, here is where my book landed:
That's her, Leirah and the Wild Man, on the right side of the upper shelf display, on one of the displays at one of the local bookstores selling my hardcovers. This feels unreal!
She also appears on websites that sell books around the world. And people are asking me who designed it. I am screaming inside.
I designed it myself, hastily, using IngramSpark's free book building tool and public domain images from the Victorian era (fairy tale illustrations by Arthur Rackham). Although I can see what I might do better next time, I am mightily pleased with my return on investment and with the physical quality of the printed book. It is well-crafted with a satisfying weight, good sturdy paper, and a silky cover finish. And I love the overall visual impact of the Rackham illustration and the vibe of the determined girl with the thousand-yard stare and the exotic, sumptuous rags marching barefoot out of the woods and straight off the book cover. Outta my way, her face says. No f***s left, her body language says. I'm on a mission from God.
Yes yes, I know that putting '80s movie GIFs in a blog post is super dorky and dated, and you know what, I don't care. I'm a free witch, baby! I also put an "author photo" in the back of my book that is a cell phone selfie with a cheugy side part, and people are complimenting me on the artful portrait. Ha! I have made no attempts to make my book or myself look like The Next Big Thing, just a good old-fashioned thing, and I am feeling so affirmed by others who are into it.
The best part, for me, is not how well people like the cover but how well the cover reflects the mood and content of the book and how interested people are in what I've written--a heavy Byzantine thriller about the adventures of interracial lesbian serial killers and their friends. That's not even a category on Amazon. I didn't expect many people I know to be interested or appreciate all the work and love I put into this project at all. When you do something creative for yourself and disregard market trends, that is the risk you have to accept.
But the quality of the responses have seriously blown me away. My first-grade teacher sent me a message of congratulations. Oh, my heart! And a shocking number of acquaintances have responded with genuine enthusiasm and warmth and interest in my surprise book release, which I fully expected to be a quiet step toward helping myself to lay an old dream of creative career goals to rest so that I could get on with my life and explore new interests.
But hmmm, maybe not so fast!
After my daughter and her peers get access to the Covid vaccine, and after the hot fever of pandemic spread in Michigan chills out to a reasonable level, I will look into scheduling local author events. As I write this, I am building up the courage to call my fave local library and ask them to order a copy or two. The loving responses to my book release have allowed me to feel like I could actually present myself in the world as a real author when I emerge from my long pandemic hibernation. Seeing my book on store shelves and in excited readers' hands has been a dream come true.
And, I am pivoting to the next, and I hope final, panic project in my life before relaxing to enjoy a low-key (but maybe less Covid-restricted?) holiday season with my family and friends: finishing up Christmas shopping for my daughter before prices and supply chain snags go boom! I hope to be pretty much done by the weekend.
Speaking of which, I must tell you, because it's true, that if you are one of those magical people out there who is interested in enjoying a copy of Leirah and the Wild Man for yourself or giving it as a gift this holiday season, the hardcover edition is available at a minimal price TODAY ONLY. Tomorrow the price goes up to cover an increase in printing costs. You can still get a copy after today, and some vendors will still have copies at a lower price that they ordered before the pricing change, but very soon you might have to pay a few bucks more and wait longer for delivery. (The price increase will not affect the ebook, available starting next Thursday, which you can pre-order now or purchase later for instant gratification.)
There is something thrilling about sliding under a deadline at the last possible second! And if you like stories about impulsive behavior and ridiculous thrills, you might want to nab your copy of Leirah and the Wild Man as soon as possible.