Alexander Pope wrote in his poem, “An Essay on Criticism,” ‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.’ In December of 2016, I rushed to join other writers who live with blindness and low vision and self-published my book, The Misadventures of Mistletoe Mouse. We were assured by a chapter on self-publishing in Getting Your Book Published for Dummies (2000) and articles in issues of the monthly magazine, The Writer, that self-publishing a book can be a very positive and profitable experience. I soon learned that the Create space website did not work with screen-reading software. While using it is free, the services of a graphic designer and editor that are needed to upload a book are expensive. A modest number of books sold to family and friends as I learned that I knew even less about marketing than I knew about book publishing.
In 2016, Local independent bookstores were friendly to authors of self-published books; but in 2017, many owners and managers decided that Amazon was trying to put them out of business. They no longer would rent shelf space for books published by Amazon on consignment or hold events for these books in their stores. Writers in more friendly locations soon learned that they would need to do their own marketing, publicity, and bookkeeping or hire professionals. They also needed to read Guerilla Marketing that is available in audio from Learning Ally to become aware of the social media marketing skills being used by writers and traditional publishers who are fully sighted.
In 2017, local print-on-demand publishers, libraries, and traditionally published writers also started to self-publish books and competed with Amazon Create space. They were demanding reviews for all books from people with credentials such as MFA or ALA affiliations. Competition became so fierce that in 2018, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators provided members with a list of approved publishers. Amazon Create Space was not on that list, and members of the society could not have their Amazon Create Space self-published books considered for awards and other benefits of membership.
The misadventures I have experienced are minor compared to those shared by traditionally published writers in Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living by Manjula Martin (2017). The NLS annotation says, “This book has Thirty-three essays and interviews about making a career and living from writing. Contributors include Cheryl Strayed, Susan Orlean, Alexander Chee, Yiyun Li, Roxane Gay, Malinda Lo, Nick Hornby, Daniel José Older, Jennifer Weiner, and more. Topics cover breaking in, writing fiction and nonfiction, budgeting money, and everyday practicalities.”
What is not mentioned in Scratch is that Santa is not the only one who will be checking to see if they are being naughty or nice. The IRS will send royalty information to case workers at local Department of Human Services’ offices. Low income writers who receive benefits will be required to submit proofs of royalties and expenses that are listed on Schedule C tax forms. More information about how this works can be found in Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor by Virginia Eubanks. (2017)
For over 50 years my poetry and creative nonfiction have been published in magazines, journals, newspapers, anthologies, and online; however, these experiences and a creative writing class that I completed through the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired that is taught by a lecturer at Loyola University did not prepare me for the misadventures I encountered when I self-published The Misadventures of Mistletoe Mouse. There are something’s that we learn only by taking risks and through trial and error. Do I regret self-publishing this book? Of course not. There is nothing more thrilling than seeing a book that you created from cover to cover in print and autographing copies for children. The rewards of the self-publishing experience have outweighed the rejection, humiliation, and public exposure of my failures and weaknesses as the book needed four print-on-demand editions as part of its writing process-the dues some writers have to pay whether they publish their own books or are traditionally published.
Since it was first written over 30 years ago for my children, The Misadventures of Mistletoe Mouse has been my go-to book when life has not gone as I planned. It is a fantasy whose main characters work to make terrible Christmases terrific. The problems I addressed 30 years ago are minor compared to the forest fires, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, government shut-downs, divorces, single parent households, poverty, homelessness, and immigration that children are living with today. In 1865, a realistic book of fiction was written for children, Hans Brinker: or The Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge. Our books give children and their families the tools to face and overcome obstacles while providing a brief escape from them.
For more current information about publishing and self-publishing, read “Write Your Book in 2019” in Writer’s Digest Magazine (January 2019) available in audio on BARD, the National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped website, as the magazine of the month of November 2018. Experience a writers’ retreat in the romantic holiday novel, The Mistletoe Inn by Richard Paul Evans. If you are looking for hope, listen to “Someday at Christmas” performed by its singer and songwriter who lives with blindness, Stevie Wonder.
Merry, Merry Christmas!