Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at whipup.net over the next couple of months. Please welcome…
Ann Shayne’s life-affirming, fully realized page-turner of a novel, Bowling Avenue, is available on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com. Ann and Kay have been blogging at Mason Dixon Knitting since 2003.
Yesterday, a friend showed up at my front door with a box of chocolates and a note attached to the advance proof of my novel I had given her a week ago: “You must have had such fun writing this. And I had such fun reading it.”
Chocolate and a smile: it doesn’t get any better than that. You make something—a sweater, a scarf, a story—and when somebody tells you she likes it, you feel great.
I’ve been thinking about the creative life, and how connecting is such a powerful urge. We all want to connect. Whether you are making jewelry, handknits, music, or pots, there is something intoxicating about the moment when you share something you have made, and somebody likes it.
Intoxicating. Addicting. The fact that words of compulsion come to mind should be a clue about the nature of connecting. That craving for approval, once you get a taste, can quickly become trouble. Excruciating is the next word that comes to mind.
There’s a scene in my upcoming novel, Bowling Avenue, where the main character, Delia, tries to persuade a handsome real estate agent that she does not want him to help her. “This is my house to sell, and I’m going to sell it,” she says stubbornly, quoting the book she has been reading like the Bible, Beverly d’Angeleno’s How to Sell Your House in Two Weeks. After finishing my novel a few months ago, I had a moment when I realized that I didn’t want to go down that long, dusty road of traditional publishing. I was in the kitchen staring at the coffeemaker when I heard Delia say to me: “This is your book to sell, and you’re going to sell it.”
Oh, man. So easy, and so not.
Easy: The mechanics of publishing a book myself. We live in a new, golden age of self-publishing. I could publish a book a day if only I could come up with the words. If you’re considering self-publishing, I say go for it. Trust me: unless you have a very particular sort of book, you will save yourself a lot of time and heartache by publishing it yourself. You may well make more money by publishing yourself. It’s hard to make less, in almost every case.
Hard: Everything but the mechanics of publishing a book myself. In my cooler moments, I tell myself that it’s all good, that it’s slow publishing, that the control I have over my book is worth it. Having not had control over previous books, I think this may be the single most important aspect of my decision. I do, however, miss the publisher’s mojo machine, the validation that comes when a publisher’s vast resources are activated. It’s wonderful to have people who are paid by somebody else to work on my book. The staff at my current publishing conglomerate is slack at best—trust me, I know them all too well. My marketing manager is notorious for spending too much time on Twitter. My publicist is damn lazy about going to the post office. And the webmaster is flat-out unqualified.
It is all quite different from the experience of Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Curious Knitter’s Guide, a book I wrote with my co-bloggette, Kay Gardiner. That book had so much luck tied to it. It was the lead title on a new craft book imprint at the largest publisher in the country. It rode the wave of knitting insanity that was cresting in 2006. And a lot of people worked hard to make that book succeed.
I’m starting to see why writers drink. It’s all sort of unbearable, this connecting stuff. It becomes even trickier when the story I want to share is also the story that I am publishing myself. It would help to have that publicist rattling on about how compelling/engrossing/heart-wrenching/life-affirming my book is. How it’s “fully realized,” whatever that means. Instead, it’s just me, here in my lair, lobbing my book up into the ether and hoping somebody catches it.
Yesterday, after my friend left, I sat down in the kitchen with those chocolates. She said she was bringing back my proof so that someone else could have an early chance to read it. So kind. But as I bit into that truffle, I wondered, insecurity billowing: If she’d really liked it, wouldn’t she have kept it?
There’s a new website for the book, annshayne.com. You can read the first chapter there and order your copy..
And a Note on the Cover
About 30 seconds after deciding to publish BOWLING AVENUE myself, I knew I wanted to see if I could talk Bryce McCloud into doing my cover art. His letterpress shop in Nashville, Isle of Printing, has been on my radar for a while. Bryce’s aesthetic of joy combined with peculiarity is exactly what I aim for in all things, so I was thrilled when he agreed to take on this small project amid his slate of cool, high-profile work.
I didn’t want to write a big block of drippy sell copy, and I didn’t want to give away the story. Because a lot of the sales would be online, it wasn’t necessary to have sell copy on the book anyway. We talked about the idea of a book as a small work of art, and the cover being an integral part of that. We quickly zeroed in on silhouettes, one of his favorite ideas, to introduce the characters on the back of the book. Bryce used a 21st-century laser cutter to create the wood blocks to run on his letterpress–a 15th-century technology. He also used a piece of fabric as a plate for the background. He then scanned all his handmade imagery into his computer and cooked up a cheerfully loony cover that makes me smile every time I see it.
The next three images are courtesy Bryce McCloud from the making of the cover.