Going into self publishing, I knew what I was getting myself into. Especially with a short story collection. I knew that self-publishing was a tough gig, and that doing it with a story collection would make it even tougher.
The stats and history were both against me. Short stories don’t sell. So I told myself, fine, no problem. I just want to get the book out there, and it will do what it will do.
But in the back of my mind, quite honestly, I expected greatness. I wanted people to love the book and love it so much that they pushed it on their friends like some kind of psychedelic drug that is both viral and addicting.
To be fair, several readers told me they’ve done just that. One reader in particular said he’s read my book five times. I’ve never read ANY book five times.
My bitterness began when I realized that I had spent more money marketing, promoting and selling the book than what I was getting back in return from book sales. Then my bitterness continued as I submitted the book to about a half-dozen award competitions, and — early on — it looked like I wasn’t going to win any of them.
Eventually I won the International Book Award and became a Finalist in two other national indie book competitions. But it wasn’t these awards that pushed me past bitterness.
Actually, it was after the book lost the third award in a row that I felt a blackness consume me that I realized as dangerous. I was seeing other authors as enemies or villains, as though they were stealing something from me. But something clicked in my head. They hadn’t stolen anything. They had EARNED their victories. They had EARNED their sales. But I was still angry. I knew my book was good, but it still wasn’t making a dent anywhere that mattered.
One day I was exchanging emails with editors from DZANC Books when the bitterness just ended, and it wans’t because of good news.
The DZANC editors, regretfully, informed me that Amidst Traffic hadn’t made the final list in their short story competition. The winner would be selected for publishing in 2015. That person wouldn’t be me.
In my mind, I pictured myself standing before a wall. The wall was about to tip over and crush me. I had two options: let it defeat me or step back and survive.
What was there left to do?
Keep writing. That’s all that was left. I was wasting too much time in promoting a book I had written rather than focusing my strength and energy in the writing craft itself. That’s one advantage the traditionally-published author has over the self-published: he has other people worrying about the sales and marketing (for the most part).
If I want to be an author, my job is to write.
That’s what helped me move past the bitterness. I made a cognitive decision to move away the falling wall and go back into writing.
There is no other way.
What about you?
Have you ever found yourself in a place of dark bitterness? What helped you move past it?