Indie Publishing: Everyone Has a Story
I was so happy to share my experience with indie publishing at Toronto’s Small Talk 4.4! The theme was writing, in all its forms, alongside journalist John Chidley-Hill and poet Fan Wu.
My talk was about breaking down the barriers to publishing your own story, many of which are internal in this day and age. With the advances in self-publishing platforms, aspiring authors have more options than ever to share their work, and social media allows for a direct, open connection with readers.
I just celebrated my first year as an author. That night I finally hit *publish*? Abject terror.
My chest was gripped in a wave of anxiety as I questioned whether I was crazy to put my little story, The Stowaway Debutante, out into the world. Thankfully, I had friends and family to help me through that first day and all the rest.
I didn’t sell many books that first week, but it wasn’t long before people began clamouring for a print edition. I researched various POD platforms before settling on Createspace, I learned things about Microsoft Word formatting that would shock and appall, and went through the emotional rollercoaster that is seeing your proof copy in your hands for the first time and realizing how much you need to fix. I invited everyone I knew to the three events in Owen Sound, Ottawa and Toronto and had a friend take pictures of me in my steampunk gear for promo.
Finally, a few months later, I was at The Ginger Press bookstore, waiting for people to arrive at my very first book launch. We started the reading about 15 minutes after the start time, when there were about a dozen family and friends in the store. I kept hearing the bells at the door, but I didn’t fully appreciate their significance until I finally looked up from the book…and the bookstore was packed. Standing room only. Wall to wall, with people gently shifting around to make room for more.
It took over an hour to sign everyone’s books, and we very nearly ran out. I had to beg relatives to put off gift copies to the second printing due to the very real concern that I might not be able to get more in time for Ottawa the very next weekend (they arrived the day before. Pro tip: Err on the side of optimism).
I learned a lot about marketing, networking and building your communities this year. But for all the fun of the launch parties, two tri-city book tours later, I’ll always remember that first terrifying moment of putting my work out there.
One of the most brilliant parts, in my opinion, of this new era of publishing is that there are no more gatekeepers. You get to decide if your work is worth sharing with the world. Readers have more power than ever to find, read, share and promote the works they enjoy.
The relationship between authors and publishers is adapting to a more level playing field, and I’m excited to see how that evolution continues. Indie publishing is hard work, and I know for myself I would enjoy sharing that burden some day, distribution and marketing-wise at least. With eBooks, you need to get right into the nitty-gritty details of formatting and design, and it’s so important to build relationships and invest in a good editor and cover designer. But in terms of actually getting your work out there? It’s all you. Whether 2 million people read your words or 200, the opportunity to add your voice is there. And it’s so important that you do.
I spent my author anniversary weekend celebrating. I had a tea party with the Toronto Steampunk Society. I joined a parade and street party for the Blackout Anniversary in Toronto, led by the Lemon Bucket Orkestra. I had sangria on a rooftop patio with friends. And I spent a day out on the Toronto Islands riding a bike for the first time in 15+ years.
Thankfully I had a very good friend on hand for moral support (Gurushabd Khalsa of Lotus Yoga, bff & beta reader extraordinaire). I was, frankly, terrified. I am not the most coordinated person, and I had had a bad cycling accident as a preteen that left some hefty mental and physical scars. But I was determined to do it, and once the Island Bike Rental folks handed me my lilac purple cruiser, I was pretty excited. With lots of encouragement, I got on the bike and started peddling.
It was a bit shaky at first, but soon the two of us were riding along the sunny paths of the Islands, sun on our faces and wind in our hair. It felt really, really good. My favourite part was riding along the boardwalk on the southern edge. Lake Ontario as far as the eye could see, sailboats bobbing gently in the breeze. In spite of all my anxiety and hesitation, cycling was a joyful experience. (Totally getting a bike).
Whatever your equivalent is, you have to face your fears. Do the thing that scares you most, be it publishing your story, riding a bike, or whatever dream you’re chasing. A little courage and a lot of hard work can get you there. Often you’ll find it to be a rewarding experience. Everyone has a story, and I can’t wait to hear yours.
September 3-6 – Fan Expo
Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada
Panel: Words Driven by Steam – 4:15 PM Saturday in Room 703
Booth 4712 with the Toronto Steampunk Society
September 26 – Grand Canadian Steampunk Exposition
Fort George, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, Canada
Reading at 2:00 PM Saturday in “The Monstrosity” Tent
September 27 – Word on the Street
Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
11 AM to 6 PM
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