The other day someone who had read my book mentioned me in a tweet. But rather than indicating my Grace & Witherbloom account (@gandwbooks) he sent the message to my personal account. Which, made sense as it’s not as if it was difficult to find and I thought it was a lot of fun to hear back from someone who head read my book. He also kindly left a review on Amazon. Which reminds me – if you’ve read the book, if you can review it on Amazon and/or GoodReads that would be amazing!
But anyway, I digress. I looked at my personal twitter account and realized it was very much “branded” with my role as a graphic designer. And under my picture the description read “Graphic Designer, Illustrator and a few other things besides.” I realized that I was missing something there. So I changed it to read “Author, Graphic Designer, Illustrator and a few other things besides.” Which seems fairly straightforward, I suppose.
But here’s the thing. It was the first time I’d really thought of myself as an author. Or at least, it was the first time I’d ever actually stated I was an author. Oh sure, I’d filled in little blanks on Amazon, Good Reads or elsewhere that were labeled “Author” with my name when I was uploading the books or starting up an author profile page. But this was something different. It was an odd feeling. And I wondered why I hadn’t really thought of myself that way before. What did I think being an author was, anyway if part of me didn’t quite believe I was now?
I suppose part of this stems from the fact that when I was writing these books, I didn’t actually tell a ton of people. And when it did come up, I always felt a bit weird about it. The reaction was generally something along the lines of “Oh, how nice.” In my head, I felt like this was the equivalent of them saying “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Now, this was not a universal reaction, and close friends and family who found out were generally very supportive. And I admit, some of this was probably created in my own head. But I think there are a lot of people who say they are writing books. A lot of them write those books, and then don’t do anything with them. Some write them and publish them. And a greater number simply never finish. So I didn’t feel particularly special writing a book. I felt like just another of the numberless masses who starts writing a book with a head full of ideas and a bunch of good intentions. This was probably somewhat magnified by the fact that there are HUGE gaps between the times I actually was writing the book over the course of three years.
In any case, I think I got a bit stuck in that mode. There are a ton of people that I talk to every day (especially at work) that I have not told. This is partly because it doesn’t come up in the natural course of a conversation, and partly because it seems like a strange thing to spring on someone. But there’s also a part of me that wonders if people will see self-publishing an e-book as REALLY being an author. Maybe I’ve wondered the same thing myself. I have not had to go out and get an agent. I did not go from publisher to publisher trying to get a book deal. I never have even tried any of those things. I had planned to originally, but about a year ago I decided I’d give self-publishing a go. And I haven’t regretted it so far. Intellectually, I really do think I’m an author. I wrote books and now people all over the world are paying to read these books. What else would it take to be an author? It’s just too bad realizing something intellectually doesn’t make a person truly feel it emotionally.
When an author is published through more traditional means, there is an implied legitimacy to it. A series of professionals (agents, publishers, etc.) have read this book (or part of this book) and made the determination that it is both fit for consumption by the public and also possibly desirable by that same group. There is a certain imagined “seal of quality” that comes with this. Of course, in reality terrible books are published every day. So this entire system can be meaningless.
On the other hand, the fact that anyone can upload their book up to Amazon with no financial risk at all means that there is going to be a LOT of terribly written books out there. And it’s only going to get worse. And I say this fully recognizing that there are sure to be people who will lump my book into this category after they’ve read it. It’s inevitable. So I don’t blame people if they eye my books with some suspiciousness. And it’s also why I celebrate the brave people who decided to give it a try anyway. Because there are a lot of good books out there. And taking away the (sometimes capricious) middle-men will likely open doors for people who might have not been able to make it by more traditional means. Not because they weren’t good writers, but because the timing wasn’t quite right or they weren’t as good at marketing themselves as someone else might be. And then there’s the other group of people (like me) who feel their work is good enough to take the more traditional publishing route but simply choose not too.
Now, whether my books really ARE good is not up to me anymore. I think they are, and they are certainly as good as I can make them. And as I read them over again for their last edits before publishing, I have to say I really do enjoy them. And I can be kind of picky. Publishing your own work for the world to see takes a measure of confidence. I really would not bother to sell these books if I did not think they were entertaining. But then there’s that part of me that worries and wonders. Are you like those poor souls on American Idol who have been told by their family and friends that they are great singers, and then they get on a national stage and cant’ carry a tune to save their lives?
Of course, in the end, despite all of these doubts and questions I did put “Author” in that little twitter description. And ever since then, I’ve noticed that more and more I’m actually starting to believe it and be more comfortable with it.