Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Self Doubt: The emotional roller coaster of publishing
Updated: Feb 5
Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will. -Suzy Kassem
The Story Behind the Story
Writing, the rambling of the mind, is how I entertain and how I escape reality. I create vivid, hackle-raising scenes, but nothing was more horrifying than publishing my first book. I mentioned in my biography, I published Disturbance in The Darkness: A Fated Encounter at the request of Grandpa Taylor. Doctors gave him four months to live; I could no longer write at my leisure. I was still struggling to create a backstory for my protagonist, Jonny. Now, I had the added legwork of finding an editor, a publisher, and creating the cover art. This was the slow start of my internal dissolution.
Mainstream Vs Self-Publishing
I bought a copy of the current Writer's Market and began my research. It was apparent creating fictional entertainment was easier than mainstream publishing. I spent hours flipping through the pages, reading the requirements of every horror, suspense, and thriller publisher listed. Either the companies were not currently accepting my genre, or my manuscript had to meet certain criteria, i.e., must contain erotica, have some type of LGBT reference, or no religion. I found a few publishers I could submit to, but now I needed to create a query letter.
More research: This time, how to create a query letter that gets you noticed. The Writer's Market has a section which touches base on query letters. They drill it in your head: The first sentence is all the publisher is going to read; make it count. I went online and read articles where some authors received ten plus rejection letters before catching a break. Now, their books are featured on The New York Times's Best Seller List, winning awards, and becoming movies. <cough, cough...J. K. Rowling.> Why all the rejections? Even if a miracle happened and I received an acceptance letter first try, I would need to send the publisher an edited copy of my manuscript.
Editing: what a debacle! I was not familiar with the process and like most people, I assumed an editor checks for spelling, grammar, punctuation, everything. There are different stages of editing (editorial assessment, developmental editing, copy editing, proofreading, and fact-checking) and not all editors do every stage. Speaking with other authors, I learned you don't want the same editor doing your copy editing and proofreading. What an eye-opening experience!
Let us dive into the land of fiction and pretend my manuscript is finished, edited, query accepted, the whole shebang. Depending on the publisher, it can take anywhere from three months to a year before my book would sit on a shelf. I knew grandpa did not have the time to wait. I needed a more expeditious approach.
Ahh, the ease of self-publishing. Dedicate a few hours to read the fine print and you are an author in days, not months. Yes, I am talking Amazon publishing. This was perfect. I glazed over the fine print, which I do not encourage, created an account, and skimmed over what is essentially a book application. I still needed to finish my book, create the cover art, and now create a biography.
Creating the Author
In my private life, I am a sarcastic smart-ass, immature, and introverted. Part of being an introvert, I hate talking about myself. Obviously, I have jumped some hurtles to write this blog.
I searched my archives for a professional-ish picture of myself; none existed. I am making silly faces, shoveling food in my pie hole, my eyes are closed, or I am locked and loaded holding Nerf guns. I had neither time nor the money to look for a professional photographer. My sister-in-law, Kissy Reese, loves taking pictures of her kids. To boot, her photos aren't half bad. I asked her to be my photographer and she eagerly agreed.
If I ever thought I had a career as a model, the notion vanished when Kissy and I took photos. I am a tomboy; I have no concept of what's supposed to be, or how I'm supposed to look, cute and pretty. My husband picks out all of my girly-girl clothes, if that tells you anything. I live in Oregon so we (Kissy, Zeus, and myself) drove to Glide, Susan Creek Falls, the fish ladder at Winchester Bridge, and random strangers' yards, taking literally hundreds of photos with her phone. I changed tops with every stop. The best ones were of us goofing off. We did, however, walk away with some good ones. The day trip was a great distraction from the internal tropical storm I hid from everyone.
For your amusement, and curiosity, I provided some photos. I call it, The Good, The Bad, The Hilarious.
Now, I had an image. The next step, give the image a name. Do I use my birth name, or do I go with a pseudonym? In the unlikely event my book attained super-stardom, I wanted to maintain some privacy in my life. I chose to go with a character I created for a book I was writing for my husband.
Author image, check. Author name, check. Author bio...ugh! I abhor talking about myself and now I had to write a biography. I read a few biographies from the books I owned. They were all accomplished authors and outstanding examples of how to introduce myself to the world, but I did not have any significant accomplishments or accolades to boast about: no prior books published, writing contest awards, nada.
Friends and family kept telling me to write about my life growing up. Nobody wants to hear about how poor we were growing up or how dysfunctional my family is. Biographies attempt to raise interest about the author, entice the audience to read the book, and persuade them to keep an eye out for future releases.
I had a lot on my plate and my internal tempest was maturing into a hurricane. I begged my husband to write my biography. I felt awful. He was working full time, going to school full time, and teaching part time. Where would he find the time to squeeze in my request? He did though and in one paragraph, summed up who I was, my writing genre, and the fact it was my first book (Thank you, babe).
The Face of the Book...Pun Intended
I called my older brother, Kenny, to help create the cover art. He is talented when given paper and pen. His depth of field, outstanding. When he was a kid, he told everyone he was going to work for Disney and draw cartoons. Kenny received several art awards in high school and a few of his works were showcased in an art museum in Fort Smith, Arkansas. What better way to get him passionate about art again. In the end, my brother was too busy. My hurricane was picking up in ferocity.
I ultimately tucked tail and returned to my loving husband for help. Fulfilling his grandfather's request was important to him. My husband stopped working on his Senior Project, the one thing that could prevent him from graduating, and spent the afternoon creating what is now the cover of my book.
Before now, writing was a personal hobby. Very few people knew, I wrote. I was one click away from sharing my story with the world, and it wasn't even the best version of itself. That's right, I was submitting a rushed, unedited manuscript.
I stared at the submit button for almost an hour. The emotional struggle of wanting to give grandpa his wish and not wanting to publish an error laden manuscript weighed heavily. It boiled down to one question: Who was I doing this for? Was I publishing of my own volition for the world to enjoy, or was I fulfilling the wish of a dying man? Grandpa's clock was winding down. It would take seventy-two hours before the book would be available for purchase. I would have to order a copy and send it to my mother-in-law in Riverside, California. Then there was the time frame it was going to take for her to read to him. I clicked submit.
Everything you have read happened within a brief time period. To put things into perspective, Doctors gave grandpa four months to live in August 2019 and my husband recorded me clicking submit on October 23, 2019 at 9:45 p.m.
I told myself I would remove my book once my mother-in-law received a copy. Essentially, I fulfilled grandpa's wish and the anxiety of the world reading a rough-drafted book, which read like notes to me, would dissolve. In theory, the scenario was a win-win, but that's not what happened.
My husband told me to log into our Facebook. Friends and family congratulated me on my book stating they had bought it. The overwhelming terror...there are no words. The who, how, why; full on panic set in. If I ever wanted to pursue a career in writing, I ruined it. My husband's attempt to calm my nerves was futile. Like he said, though, I could not change the fact it was out there. He told me to enjoy the journey and take this time to promote the book. Who would promote something so flawed? To this day, I have no idea who leaked it, but that's okay; their intentions were good.
I feigned smiles and excitement when people congratulated me in person. In my mind, I focused on the cancer that gradually metastasized toward my mouth. I could no longer fake my emotions. I began apologizing to people, pointing out the errors and the fact I published quick and dirty. I was doing unnecessary damage.
I mentioned in the first paragraph of this blog, I still had not come up with a backstory for Jonny's character. My notes to myself read "unthinkable, horrible, character refuses to talk about his past". Before I took on the challenge of publishing, I was doing research for a murder mystery and research about sex trafficking and illegal sex clubs. I bastardized the two, creating Jonny's backstory. I never gave it much thought until after I published. This is when the self-doubt trickled into my subconscious. I questioned whether I was too over the top. Did I make his backstory too graphic, too violent? I asked my husband these questions and he replied, "I want you to listen to what I'm about to say, just let it soak in...Game Of Thrones."
The full force of my anxiety, panic attacks, and self-doubt did not come to a head until Richard, my husband's cousin, announced he held a copy in hand. I curled up in a ball and had a complete meltdown. Richard is an English Professor in New York and the author of Open The Doors. If anyone was going to detect the numerous flaws, it was going to be him.
The only witness to the breakdown was my husband. He asked why it mattered so much. Writing started out being a way to cure boredom but developed into something more personal. I never published before because my writing was that one thing people could not take away from me. The joy, the relaxation, the creative escape, the freedom writing brought without the scrutiny. Now, I handed it over to the world without even giving it a good polish.
Ratings & Reviews
Richard informed me one of his students was reading my book. Perfect! I could get an authentic review. I asked him to give his student my personal email address and if they wanted, they could give their honest feedback, positive or negative. We corresponded for a week and their insight was enlightening. They took the story to a depth I hadn't. They noticed the mistakes but found my characters and plot enthralling enough the errors did not take away from the experience.
The first 13 reviews on Amazon and Goodreads posted before I ever had my book edited, and I received 4.88 stars. The reviews were a complete surprise to me. People raved about the suspense and how the characters felt realistic. Nobody pointed out the grammatical errors.
After grandpa passed, I removed the book from Amazon, revised it, and handed it over to the editors. I sincerely want to say thank you, not only to family and friends who bought the unedited version, but to those whom I do not know. I released the revised edition December 2021 adding content I did not have time to implement.
I want to wrap everything up and take some time to talk about the man who catalyzed this adventure, Larry Eber Taylor. Over the years, I had several people encouraging me to publish my work, mostly Annette Matney (who passed in 2002), Jo Ann Ashworth, Cathy Taylor, and my husband (who tried for 18 years). For a year and a half, Grandpa Taylor was relentless but subtle on how he approached the subject. Even after he was given four months to live, he continued his encouragement. "I have little time," he would say. "Have you published it yet?"
I did everything half-assed in order to get published before his passing. It was an emotional roller coaster becoming an indie author and a yearlong learning curve in the world of editing. I don't think I'd change a thing. In order to see the potential grandpa and everyone else saw, I believe I had to ride the roller coaster.
Larry Eber Taylor and his wife, Barbara Joyce Taylor
Larry Taylor was an amazing family man who loved cookies. He was quick-witted and could tell a good joke. He and his wife, Barbara, spent 45 years married before her passing in 2003. Together they had five intelligent and good-looking children. He was a hardworking, fun-loving guy.
He was born in Grants Pass, Oregon, but raised his family in Riverside, California, where he passed. In his youth, he broke horses. He trained as a flight mechanic in the Air Force and later trained pilots in flight simulators. After completing his tour in the Air Force, Grandpa worked in the aerospace industry and eventually opened his own business, Dense-Pac Microsystems, Inc. Later, the government would contract Grandpa to help design the technology which would be used aboard the Voyager II spacecraft.