Seasons of a Self-Publishing Journey

Debut author Amber Stokes knows a lot about writing…and self-publication. Curious to learn about either? Read on.
College…a time of big dreams, of crushed dreams,
of readjusted dreams, of surprising dreams. I finished my first inspirational
historical romance manuscript my second year at Corban University – and I
confess I was quite proud of it. It was a story that had been with me for
years, one that took a lot of time and dedication and heart-tears in order to
get to “The End.” So as soon as I was done, I thought for sure I had a winner
on my hands. (Isn’t that how we all feel when we complete a story?)
I started contacting author friends I had met
through blogging, looking for some help to prepare a proper query and, of
course, someone to pat me on the back for a job well done. While I was certainly
blessed by encouragement, I was also introduced to a world both foreign and
terrifying: the world of publishing, of what comes after “The End.” And, to be honest, I didn’t want to face it! My
story was perfect just the way it was, thank you very much, and who wanted to boil
it all down to a cold, unfeeling blurb that may or may not catch an agent or
editor’s eye eventually?
As I’m sure you would agree, that sort of
attitude was a sign I wasn’t ready for the world after “The End.” So I set my
first baby aside and went on to begin a new story. Two years later I came to “The End” of that
second story – the sequel to the first. During those two years I had grown in
my thinking (courtesy of a well-rounded education), developed a platform with
my blog, graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in English, and returned home (who
knew that publishers don’t just beg for you to come work for them after you
graduate?). And you know something? Everything was different the second time
around.
From friends and connections I had made online,
to witnessing self-publishing success, to having reached a point where the
world after “The End” looked promising instead of insurmountable – this time, I
felt ready to prepare and share my story. Here’s a different look at the journey, told through
the titles of my stories:
Forget Me Not (the title of my 1st
book, soon-to-be-self-published prequel) ~ There’s an initial idea, a first
love, that shouldn’t be forgotten. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out the way you
expect it to, but it’s a part of the journey all the same. We need those times
of excitement, of optimism, of being thrilled with that first step without the
burden of worrying about the steps to come. This is the magic of the first
draft.
Bleeding Heart (the title of my 2nd
book, recently self-published) ~ No matter what publishing route you take,
there’s a time of hardship. It doesn’t have to be all grim, certainly! But it
does involve struggle on some level. For traditional publishing, this might be
the waiting – the waiting for an agent to respond, the waiting for a publisher
to accept your story, the waiting for a book to go through all the hoops before
it can be truly published. There’re also the edits, which should hopefully be a
part of any publishing journey. For self-publishing, the struggles are a little
different. There’s the editing, yes – and finding the right editor(s) to hire.
There’s the investment needed to hire a good editor, a good cover designer, and
possibly a good publicist (even bartering services involves an investment, of
time instead of money). There’re the formatting woes, the craziness of
marketing, the research, the wading through opinions of what works and what
doesn’t, the precarious balance between overload and underachieving. Your heart
bleeds and your brain bleeds…and yet you love it all (when all is said and
done).
Morning Glory (the tentative title of
my 3rd book, yet-to-be-written sequel) ~ Then light starts to stream
through the windows of your soul… It starts out with thin rays reaching hesitant
fingers through, then blooms into a full-out burst of sunshine. The little
moments that add up to a big blessing: the encouraging tweets, the people who
come alongside you to answer your questions, the reviewers who word their
thoughts so eloquently, the celebrations, the day your first paperback arrives,
the joy that comes with knowing your characters are alive for other people and
their journey can be used to touch more than your own heart.
It’s a hard but rewarding process, no matter
which route you take. And the thing about seasons is…they’re cyclic in nature. The
world after “The End” leads right back to the beginning again, because writers
aren’t generally one-hit wonders. We’re full of stories to explore – and
marketing, developing a readership, and moving forward in the industry all
build off of the promise and potential of more stories.
Each story has a
season. The
world after “The End” can be bright when viewed at the right time and
cultivated in the right season.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to
every purpose under the heaven.”
 ~
Ecclesiastes 3:1
Amber
Stokes

has a Bachelor of Science degree in English and a passion for the written word
– from blogging to writing poetry, short stories, and novels. After her brief
time at college in Oregon, she is now back home among the redwoods of Northern
California, living life one day at a time and pursuing her passion via freelance editing and self-publishing.
You can connect with Amber on her personal blog
(Seasons of Humility), the group blog she
contributes to (The Borrowed Book), Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, Shelfari, and LinkedIn
To learn more about Bleeding Heart, visit www.bleedingheartnovel.blogspot.com.