From the desk of Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy somewhere in the Ozarks.....
If Will Shakespeare, himself a writer of no small renown, were alive today, he might well rewrite his oft quoted lines from Hamlet, “to be or not to be, that is the question” to read “to e or not e, that is the question.” Whether or not to go with e-publishing is a query that every writer, veteran and newbie, now asks themselves and others.
It’s far from a simple question and like many of the harder quandaries in life, there isn’t one set answer, no one size fit all reply. While it’s true that e-books and e-publishing are fast rising in sales, there are also those who want the traditional feel and read of a book, paperback or hardbound. As an author, it was a question that required an answer and two years ago, I made a choice that I will never regret.
After decades of writing, scribbling stories and more since my teenage years, I determined a few years ago that the time had come to pursue my real dream – writing novels. With toddler twins and a third child soon on the way, I sat down and began my first serious effort at a novel. Some people scoffed that I chose the worst possible time in my life, an existence hectic with the duties of motherhood and home, to attempt a new career. Others cheered me on, impressed with my pluck and my stubborn attitude.
I wrote a novel, one that became a magnum opus with thousands of pages and a story that didn’t want to end. I started again and penned a novel of average length, a romantic suspense story I called Kinfolk. Over the next few years, I graduated from my word processor (which became obsolete in a hurry) to my first computer then another until today I write almost exclusively on my laptop. I wrote more novels, some long, some short. I also knocked off a few articles for a variety of online websites, short destination pieces, how to articles, and more. I sold a few short stories to various venues both on and off line. I managed to nail an ongoing slot as a columnist for the area’s largest regional newspaper and when that ended, I started a new column at the local paper in my small town.
Little by little as I penned my fiction I honed my craft. I also explored the changes that were beginning to sweep the publishing world. Some of my earliest publications after I entered cyber space appeared in online journals. Soon, however, I was finding my way into print anthologies and by the time my bookshelf reserved for “my” work was all but filled, I had my first novel accepted.
In July 2010, Kinfolk, in third draft form, was accepted by Champagne Books. That happened after I spent almost two years sending out queries, partials, and agent requests. I kept track of my queries and submissions in a small file box and the number grew. Sometimes I garnered interest but often I received a form rejection, post haste. I believed in my story and I knew it had merit. I believed that it would appeal to readers if they could just get it in their hands.
On the advice of a cyber writing friend – a friend who now sells thousands of e-book titles each month – I decided to try the electronic book markets. At the time I knew very little about the concept. I had never read an e-book and at that moment, I had not even seen a Kindle, Nook, or any other e-reader. But I considered it, did a little research and saw that this market seemed to be expanding with rapid speed. So, I plunged into it – after all, what did I have to lose, I rationalized, because the worst that could happen was rejection.
Since my skin had grown thicker over the years, I knew I could take a flat “no” and so I embarked into e-publishing. I tried several markets, even some of the larger traditional publishers who now offer e-book imprints but without success. I continued to submit, however, and on a July day in 2010, I opened my e-mail inbox to read an acceptance.
The sweet words that every writer dreams of reading were there “we would like to publish your novel and offer a contract.” I screamed with delight, summoning my children to see what the matter might be. Within days, I had a signed contract and began filling out a cover art sheet. I worked on my “book blurb” and when the publication date was assigned, July 2011, I was elated but also impatient. A year seemed like a long time to wait but I knew that in traditional publishing, the wait would be longer still so I worked at being patient.
As the news spread through my near and dear, I got a lot of positive reaction. With friends in the music business, I was afraid, however, that I might become what is called a “one hit wonder”, someone who manages to produce one popular work and then vanishes quietly into oblivion. In late July, as I talked with my husband’s uncle, Wayne Rigdon, from Texas about my first novel sale, I shared my fear with him.
He scoffed at it in a very polite way and told me that now that I sold one novel, I would sell more. Citing friends he knew who wrote romance novels, he assured me that it works that way and not to worry.
“You’ll sell more,” he assured me and I said, “I hope so.”
Of course I still wrote, daily. The previous fall when my work hours as a substitute school teacher in the local district diminished to almost nothing, I made up my mind to treat my writing like a real job. When I worked outside the house, whether subbing school or in my former radio broadcast career my job was a priority. That meant if I left the breakfast dishes soaking in soapy water, then I did. It meant if a little dust collected on the furniture until Saturday, we lived with it. So I began approaching my writing in a more formal fashion.
Before, I did my chores and errands first but my new style was to sit down, write and then do the other stuff. That seemed to work for me especially when I sold that first novel.
With that year to wait, however, I kept busy and I submitted another short novel to another publisher. They accepted it and in late December 2010, Wolfe’s Lady became my debut novel from Evernight Publishing, an e-book. Now I have twenty nine titles out and at least seven more coming in 2013. I’m also part of the Rebel Ink Press elite team so I’m making progress.
Just before Kinfolk made its’ debut from Champagne Books, Rebel Ink Press brought out my first Rebel release in paperback, adding a crowning moment to my career. At the time, Love Never Fails, a contemporary romance and second chance at love story had been out not quite one month. Kinfolk soon followed suit and is available in trade paperback. And, I fully expect other titles to become available in both electronic and traditional formats.
Now I had a foot in both worlds, the e-publishing and the traditional. After months of endless debates among authors and readers whether or not e-books are “real” books, whether or not e-book authors should lay claim to the title of “author”, I earned both.
Being able to hold a trade paperback title that I wrote, with my name in the byline was heady stuff and since the novel is set in the small town where I live, many local residents who had yet to enter the electronic reader age were delighted. The local library that had long fielded requests for my titles was among the first to order the paperback edition of Love Never Fails.
With my toe hold in the publishing world, from my small niche in the much larger overall picture, I would say that e-publishing and e-books are not just here to stay but that they will continue to command a growing share of the market. Publishing and books as I’ve known them are fast shifting into something new and no one seems to quite know which way this tiger’s tail may switch next.
Unlike some naysayers, I don’t see the e-book revolution as sounding a death knell to reading. On the contrary I think it encourages people to read who may have never been an avid reader before. Judging by the numbers of young people, including teens, that I see with a Kindle or Nook in hand, I think that this e-book explosion is far more than a fad.
For authors, it provides us with a new venue, one less controlled by the big traditional publishers. We’re not as bound by convention to write stories that fit a particular strict guideline like many category print romance novels long have been forced to do.
To Mr. Shakespeare and the question I believe he would ask today, I reply, paraphrasing his own words, “to e-publish, perchance to dream.”
Thanks to the e-book revolution, my dream has come true.