Wither? Bloom?

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So, now that the sale and the impending out-of-print-ness of The Complete Grace and Witherbloom has been announced, I thought I’d give a little insight into why I’m taking this step.

The first book of Grace & Witherbloom, the Girl Who Died Backwards, came out in February of 2012. The entirety of the release of the adventures of Helen Grace and Josiah Witherbloom (and, to an extent, the writing of them) has been something of an experiment for me. To start with, although I had written little snippets of things here and there, I had never attempted a sustained narrative of novel length. Once all the separate stories that comprised the book as a whole were complete, I felt much more confident in my ability to complete a book. This was actually a major milestone for me. The hardest part of writing is the actual writing. I worried that I’d be one of those people who always planned to write a book “one day” and I’d certainly been that sort of person for years and years. But now I’d done it! However, there was another fear. Would I be one of those people who wrote one book and then was done? That happens plenty, too.

But that was a bridge to cross another day. After the book was done, I had to decide if I wanted to try to go the more traditional route or self-publish. I chose the latter. There were several reasons for this. On one hand, the idea of cutting out the middle-men and delivering a work directly to the public was appealing, as was the idea of possibly being one of those people who utilized these (relatively) new channels to their advantage. But, there was another, more hidden reason that I kept mostly to (and even from, to start with) myself. Simply, I wasn’t sure I was good enough. I’ve written stories my whole life, but there are plenty of people who have deluded themselves into thinking they were good enough to write for a living who weren’t. I didn’t want to be one of those people. So I definitely wasn’t sure if I was good enough to approach an agent and then a publisher about getting my work out in the world. Although I was largely very proud of my work, I can’t say I was completely confident about it.

It must be said that publishing Grace & Witherbloom on my own has been such a rewarding experience in so many ways. For one thing, it gave me all kinds of confidence. Though the level of interaction with people buying my book never reached what I might have hoped (and certainly the sales were never huge,) the interaction that I have had has been very rewarding. The reviews on Amazon for the individual books and the reviews on GoodReads were all very fair. It was not everyone’s cup of tea, but most people seemed to enjoy them. Each story on GoodReads so far has hovered between four to four-and-a-half stars. Even though the sample is fairly tiny, I was happy that these people were connecting with the book and enjoying it, and I learned a lot about the way people react to and interpret books.

Just doing it also helped me understand how much I wanted to be a writer. But, with this realization came a trade off. I also realized I did not want to spend huge amounts of time marketing my book. I’d much rather spend my time actually writing and getting better at it! Now, promoting yourself is something you have to do a good amount even if you do have an agent an a publisher, but it’s something you must do a ton of as a self-publisher. In fact, to be really successful, I think you’d have to do it non-stop. Making a dent in the book world on your own is a difficult task. I don’t think it’s impossible, as there are plenty of examples of people who have done just that. But when you compare those who have been successful against the piles and piles (good and bad) of self-published work coming out every day, you realize it’s a small percentage. And it’s only going to get harder to stand out in the crowd. There is a thought that the “cream will rise.” But I know enough to know that there are many marvelous books, movies, comics, plays (and so on) that come and go relatively unappreciated, so this statement is not always true.

In the end, I just realized it wasn’t for me. When I released The Complete Grace & WItherbloom, I had intended a new marketing push behind it involving press releases and sending sample copies for review. It would have meant investing a good amount of money, for one thing, and there was certainly no guarantee it’d be successful. I looked out into the future and thought about the amount of effort I’d have to put in to try to get people to pay attention to G&W (not to mention money) and weighed that against the potential pay off.  I believe that for most people, being self-published will only ever be a fun pass-time, hobby, vanity project or (at best) a part-time job. This does not make it a worthy venture, it just means that it’s not for everyone. I realized fairly quickly that I’d really like to be a writer full time. And right now I just don’t see self-publishing as a viable option for myself. Again, I don’t intend that as a grand statement about self-publishing in general, but it’s my experience as of this moment.

So, the last year or so I’ve been working on a new novel. Work has been fairly intermittent on it (October seems to be my best book-writing month, I’ve noticed,) but I’m happy to say that wasn’t because I stopped writing. I was just working on proposals for a few different projects that didn’t go anywhere and one project that may not come to fruition for a while yet. But I picked up work on the new novel with a new fervor, and have just completed the first, very rough draft. As I neared the end of that draft, I realized that this time I wanted to go through more traditional channels and I want my career to be writing. I still have a full-time job as of now, and I doubt that’ll change any time soon. But I’m writing everyday, now. I put my book away for two weeks to give myself some distance, but instead of doing no writing in this “off” time, I took out an old short story and dusted it off and gave it a revision. Then I wrote a poem, and then I wrote a new short story. I became a better writer by writing Grace & Witherbloom, and I think I’ve gotten much better writing my new novel as well. They say the only way to become a better writer is to write. It took me a while to understand this fully, but I do now.

So why, you might ask, does this mean Grace & Witherbloom must go away? For one thing, I know that if (when!) I secure a literary agent and if (when!) my book is published, they are going to want to make it my debut book. To most agents and publishers, self-published works mean little to nothing unless they are a huge success. I’m fine with that, because while I’m still very proud of G&W (it wouldn’t still be on sale if I wasn’t) I’m not quite sure I want it to be my first foot forward to the world. The new novel is still taking shape, but in many ways I think it’s just a better “debut” novel. There are quite a few writers that write a book (or two or three or more!) before they write their “debut.” Mine was just published and shared with some people.

Does this mean the end for G&W forever? Not necessarily. I love the characters, for one thing, and in my head there is a vague notion that I might trot them out again in some form. Maybe with their adventures in graphic novel form? But, my plan right now is that the books will be withdrawn for sale on Amazon December 31, 2013. This site will likely go away in its current form at that time, as well. A month or so after I should have my new book’s final draft complete. At least, that’s the goal right now unless I run into any major problems during the revision stage. At that point, I’ll be actively looking for an agent. In the months ahead, I plan to launch a new author site and a blog to go with it. I’ll post about it here, and if you’ve been following the journey here, I hope you’ll hop over there, too!

So, if you haven’t picked up a copy of the book, be sure to. Who knows, the print book might become a collector’s item some day! Thanks once again to everyone who gave the book a chance. And, a special thanks to my friends and family who supported me during this endeavor! It’s been a blast, and I can’t wait to see where the next step takes me.

With love –
Jon

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