The random musings of Kate Grace
Written on 2/22/11 – This evening I withdrew my manuscript, Burden of the Soul, from submission and representation. It’s being released this summer. (Come again?) Here’s the space between:
A couple years ago I doubted just about everything pertaining to myself, really. There was a lot I had done that seemed impressive or I was genuinely proud of, but they were disconnected. I complained to a dear friend about how my ragamuffin resume made no sense. Photography, fine art, creative writing, editorial, proofreading, marketing… juggling? They were all just random dots on a blank page. (And I was lying about the juggling bit.)
I’ve always been someone who follows my instincts, despite how nutty they may seem. And for a long time now I’ve started thinking my instincts were a day late and a dollar short. The running joke has been if ever there’s an industry that should go under, just have Kate go get a degree in it. I studied fine art photography, specifically darkroom printing and chemistry, in undergrad. I graduated, and then came the digital tidal wave (and the Super Dorm… but that’s a whole other bitch session).
I went off and started writing for magazines and working as an editor. Journalism, that was the ticket. I went and got my graduate degree in journalism and soaked up every Hunter S. Thompson book or article I could get my hands on. We had a Career Day just before graduation and it was basically a bust with phrases like “cutbacks” “hard time for journalism” “internship. internship? yes, internship – unPAID internship,” floating around the room.
I complained about it to my friend and told her I felt like my instincts were great – great at running full speed into a burning building. She disagreed, though. She said that all the dots were connected, my life just hadn’t drawn the line yet.
I ignored her and started writing my first fiction novel… in essence, I drew another dot on the blank page.
Fast forward to February 2011: the moment happened while I was staying in Fort Greene, Brooklyn with my literary agent and friend, Bree Ogden. Oddly enough, I don’t remember much about the moment itself, but I think the life changers can be that way – less lightning bolt and more stray seed that lingers secretly until the sun comes out. But I can at least trace the moment down to one particular evening.
It was Wednesday evening and the Knicks were playing. I remember thinking to myself, “Huh… people still cheer for the Knicks.” Christian Kinsler joined Bree and I in the dive bar. We talked about his art and he told us how a coworker of his had been jumped in the men’s bathroom of that bar a couple years ago. The three of us got up and moved to the corner coffee shop next door that didn’t evoke such stories. The barista offered me free bagels and Christian opened his portfolio for us to peruse. Bree left with two of her other clients, and I left with a wonderful addition to my budding art collection.
Somewhere within this mess of moments is THE moment – the seed that planted and grew throughout the month of March. I lectured Christian about how he needed to start a blog or just get his work out there, and he smiled ear to ear suggesting it wasn’t the first time he had heard that, or the first time he was going to ignore it either. Bree asked him why he did it, why he makes the art he makes? I don’t think he or I really understood her question, so she clarified by saying, “If he’s making it for himself, than I get it. He doesn’t need to do anything. It’s about what makes him happy.”
(sidenote: I still think his work needs to get out because it’s beautiful and moving and people outside his family and friends and Brooklyn deserve to see it. Sorry, Chris… I intend to carry this banner for awhile, as annoying to you as it may be.)
“Happy.” Frankly speaking, the word pissed me off. So much of what I was learning about publishing was taking me farther and farther from “Happy.” I argued with myself at each sign of discomfort or disdain. This was the dream! My novel was on submission to editors at some of the largest publishing houses in the world. The day prior I had drinks with one of those editors at a secret bar in the back of a Japanese restaurant with a mural of Japanese Cherubs flying through the sky. Every step I was taking was seemingly taking me closer to “Happy.” (Granted the Japanese Cherubs mural was an unexpected addition to the dream, but warmly welcomed!)
So it was confusing when I felt so “Not. Happy.” There’s a lot I can recognize now as factors, that are just part of the reality of publishing… like Bookscam. OOPS! I meant to say BookSCAN. Silly me.
I don’t remember the exact moment Bree said Chris’ art was about what made him happy, but I know the words stuck and resonated. I thought long and hard about those words when I got back to Michigan from New York. I wrote about it here.
Time jump to today, another defining moment: testing out the keys I had just picked up from the man behind the counter, I opened up the PO Box and looked in. It was empty, but I smiled all the same. Opening a little, Alice-in-Wonderland-sized door with a golden key made me smile because it’s the first physical manifestation of all the ideas, planning, ideating (It’s a real word at the day job) of the past month. It was small, but it was the first door I opened for my small business that I’m creating.
All the fear I’ve felt this past month faded. All the doubt I felt this past month drained out through my feet. And I simply smiled.
Here’s the interesting bit I’ve realized this past month as article after article came through the webosphere about self-published authors being successful, or yesterday’s big story that a New York Times bestselling author turned down a half million $ book deal with a publisher so he could self publish instead. Watching all of this news come through at the same time I was realizing the things I need in order to be happy as a published author made me realize a truth I think a lot of people are missing.
It’s not just Traditional Publishing or Self Publishing anymore. There’s a baby bear option that’s starting to spring up – independent boutique publishing that focuses on digital and print-on-demand distribution. The necessary aspects of publishing (Design, Production, Editing, Marketing, Sales, etc.) are not ignored, they’re just focused on a much smaller scale. Rather than hundreds or thousands of books per year, there’s one. Maybe two (foreshadowing).
I’m not saying any of this will replace Traditional Publishing, just as it won’t replace Self Publishing. And truth be told, this is not for everyone. There will be those who succeed, but there will be more who don’t. This is just a wonderful option for those of us who couldn’t, in either Traditional or Self, find our “Happy.”
I made the decision a few weeks ago, and as if the universe had just been waiting on me all along, things fell into place rapidly. I’m creating the small business and the team for Burden of the Soul is in place and currently hard at work. Also at work is the design and programming team for our company’s web site. The paperwork is being filed and I’m getting a small business baptism by… well, by paper cut. No fires yet (knock on wood!) (No, wait… get rid of the wood! Wood = kindling = bad idea.)!
There will be more news in the coming weeks as I’m able to announce our name, show you the web site, fill you in on the details of Burden. I will make a point to chronicle this part of the journey for those who are watching to see if it works and, more importantly, if it would work for them.
I can promise you this, this is going to be a shit ton of work. But we have an endless amount of support and miraculous resources going into this. We have some things in store that literally excite me! And these are all things I couldn’t have done if I went the Traditional or strictly Self path. In the end, the books that end up out there will match the vision I’ve had, and I’ll be able to recognize them from a distance and feel good about that. I’m either at the tip of the sword, or I’m about to fall on it, but my instincts say I won’t be falling. I know I may be one of the ones who fail, but I won’t be. I also know I may be one of the ones who gets to help create this new option, and I will be.
In the past few weeks, looking at all these different forms that needed to be filed with the state or the federal government and so on, I’ve experienced my first stress migraines and (I think) mini panic attacks. But today, as I turned the gold-tinted key and opened the little door, a calmness spread and I realized something…
…I’m drawing the line that connects the dots. (“Happy.”)
I want to thank Bree Ogden of Martin Literary Management for the endless support she’s shown during this whole process, particularly this past month while I made this difficult decision. You took on this book because you believed in it passionately, and for that I’m forever grateful.