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October 20, 2014
By Paige Crutcher
Choosing to self-publish is not always without doubt. It can’t be.

On November 4, my YA novel, The Odyssey of Falling, officially launches into the world. It’s a story about a girl named Odd, who finds the journal of her recently deceased best friend and decides to do the bucket list tucked inside the pages as a form of tribute.

At this stage in the pre-launch process, I feel a bit like I imagine Salvador Dali would have felt if he drank some of the electric Kool-Aid from a certain Tom Wolfe novel. To call this feeling surreal would be a serious understatement.

Being your own publisher means handling all the things, which (so far) there are a lot of. The self-publishing process takes some getting used to, but watching all the pieces of this indie Rubik’s Cube line up together has been rewarding and inspiring.

One of the most gratifying parts so far has been creating -- and revealing in this column -- the final cover for The Odyssey of Falling.

(Click here to see a larger version of the cover.)

Creating the cover was an intense labor of love for my cover designer, Suzanne Dubose, and me. The project, as a whole, was a family affair. The cover model is my husband’s sister, and the cover designer -- Suzanne -- is my step-sister-in-law. The font -- well, the font damn near killed me because I took that task on with the help of a dear friend.

The hardest part of the whole process, however, was choosing the front blurb. The authors who sent in blurbs wrote such lovely and phenomenal words about my work, I wanted to put them all on the cover (and maybe tattoo myself with their quotes). Instead I went back and forth, and forth and back, with my editors, and we made the choice together.

Sailing My Indie Ship

When teaching yoga (I’m a certified Ashtanga instructor), I often end practice with this quote: "I am not afraid of storms, for I am now learning to sail my ship." It’s attributed to Louisa May Alcott, and I find it particularly apt to most adventures in life.

The sea is not always calm. It can’t be.

Choosing to self-publish is not always without doubt. It can’t be.

"What if I was so afraid to fail that I never tried?"
There are too many variables (edits, cover, formatting, font, publicity, print or digital or both, etc), and far too many opinions. Last month, I attended two publishing events: the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Midsouth conference in Tennessee, and Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance show in Virginia. At the conference and show, opinions flowed freely.

During an agent/editor panel at SCBWI, success with self-publishing was referred to as being “over” and attendees were warned that it was not the way to break into traditional publishing. In a different talk, I heard someone slip and call traditionally published books “real” books -- because, I suppose, self-published books are made from ennui and melancholy unicorn tears.

At SIBA, there were quite a few self-published authors talking with booksellers and doing their best to be enthusiastic salespeople. It looked like hard work, wearing all the hats a self-publisher does while hoping to charm booksellers -- and yet most of the authors were happy to be giving it their all, to help their books find readers.

My publicist, Julie Schoerke of JKS Communications, asked me if the book I’m self-publishing was ever formally submitted to agents and editors.

It wasn't. But the book has been through the hands of three editors, one New York Times-bestselling author, three critique partners, and read aloud so many times I think the words are imprinted on the walls of my home.

My publicist thinks my book would sell to an editor at a traditional house in a heartbeat.

The idea gave me a heart-stopping moment of pause. Because what if that panel at SCBWI was right? What if self-publishing is over, and my book isn’t real, and I’m dooming myself by doing all this exhausting hard work and my book’s going to go pop and then fizz like a barely carbonated soda?

What if I was so afraid to fail that I never tried?

Because that’s what doubt is, it’s a heady thing that will con me out of my self-worth if I let it. In fact, it could have prevented me from moving forward. If I had given in to it, I would never have this cover, which I love.

If I had let doubt defeat me, I would have never asked and received blurbs from authors I greatly admire like these:

Ariel Lawhon, author of The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress, calls Odd’s story, "An anthem for every young heart looking to find its way in the world. This novel is tender and hilarious, beautiful and brave." While Myra McEntire (The Hourglass Series) says, "Paige Crutcher's writing turns simple words into delicious bits of alchemy. Her characters are fully drawn, her settings are reach-out-and-touch real, and her voice is honest and vulnerable. Don't miss this one." 

I’ve learned a lot on this indie adventure. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a hybrid author, a traditional author, or a self-published author. One day I hope to have been all three. How lucky am I to have the opportunity to try?

I don’t know how well my book will sell to readers, or where it will go. What I do know is that I believe in this novel more than I’ve ever believed in any other book, and the community around me appears to have enough faith to keep me going when I’m mired in my own doubt.

Doubt won’t go away, maybe not ever, and that’s okay.

Why? Because I’m not afraid of publishing storms, for I am learning how to sail my indie ship.  

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