Ever make a decision that feels SO right, that your whole body feels more settled? I just did that and I’m very glad. I’ve decided NOT to publish the second book I wrote.
I wrote it, I polished it, I polished it some more. It’s 387 pages long. I love the main character – her spirit, her personality. She sparkles. But, I think that when you are your own publisher, when you don’t have that gatekeeper function of an editor, you have a different set of responsibilities.
I have a responsibility not to undermine the achievement of the first book, by putting the second one out there. The main characters are related – they’re cousins. I explored some painful themes. Although I’m caucasian (in appearance, if not in genetic heritage), I have experienced my share of prejudice and unfair recrimination. I have been shouted at in public, for no reason other than that the shouter has anger issues and I somehow served as lightning rod.
In the second book, I was hoping to translate how this felt – to be shouted at in public with an unfair adjective – into something that could help white people to understand racism better. I was exploring emotions – anger, hurt, defiance. But I suspect, on reflection, that there may be people who are so traumatized, that they might take my efforts as somehow hurtful to them. I have no intention of hurting anybody. There have been a few indications that this second novel could be controversial, and maybe even taken as hurtful. So, that seals it.
It feels wonderful to know that just because I wrote it, doesn’t mean that I have to publish. I feels very freeing. Now, I can write without putting obligations on myself to make my work public. I can keep it private – and I shall, in the case of my second novel. It was still a very cathartic exercise to write it, and I’m glad I did. But it shall remain an unpublished work.
Now, on to novel #3, which will be finished soon. I’m very happy with this one. I think it will be a high-quality offering. That was my issue with novel #2 – I just wasn’t sure if the quality is high enough. I only want to put what I feel are good things out there. If I have any doubts, then into the “unpublished” folder it goes.
I guess the spectre of publishing something I’m not thrilled with, was hanging over my head. Because I feel so much better having made this decision. That’s why I know that it’s right.
As for Novel #1, it remains to be seen if I can move it out there. It will require a lot of work. Once the paperback is available, I’ll initiate an advertising campaign, and I’ll order a set of the books to give away. It will cost me some money. But that’s how it works. You have to spend money to make money, and self-publishing is no exception. I might put together a book launch as well, if I think that it’s worthwhile and if I’m able to find some help with that.
If this book is ever a success, this could only happen organically – i.e. because people like the book. I don’t believe that you can force that. You have to honour the reader, in my opinion, by just letting it happen. But by the same token, it will require a real effort to provide the information that the book exists. Otherwise, who will know?