The Story Behind the Neiko Saga Part 4: The Rocky Publishing Climb
When I go off to college in 2001, my life changes quite a bit. Before going, I am able to buy my own computer on a tax free weekend for both college and for me to continue my writing–or at least I had hoped. I never quit brainstorming but my life became so hectic that I didn’t have much of a chance to get in front of the computer to write.
I went to college at Georgia Perimeter in Lawrenceville which was a commute school. The thought of staying on campus anywhere rendered me catatonic due to my anthropophobia and extreme social anxiety. I had to work as well as go to school, but my creative juices kept flowing. My imagination remained stuffed, and I put the ideas down in my writing notebook, but not being able to write was so hard.
Instead of being able to write the adventures I loved, I had to write thesis papers, lab reports (since I was a science major), and literary analysis papers (oh god!). Of course all the course work, reading, labs, driving, and working left me no time for writing.
About 3 years later I find a boyfriend. So then that provided even less time for writing.
There were times that after I had finished my work and had time to kill that I wished I had a laptop with me, so then I could utilize my downtime to write in my stories. The computer lab was insufficient and inconvenient. The potential of work getting lost or something bad happening was too great for my liking.
The next year, my boyfriend gets me a laptop for Christmas! OMG! That was probably one of the greatest surprises of my life. I duplicate all of my writing files and save them onto the laptop. I use my other computer, the desktop, as my back up, and I saved other copies on my floppy disks. That was before USB flash drives were really an option.
So I started by writing when I had the time in between everything, and I would even write late at night if I had nothing going on the next day. I would write on camping trips. Any time I could find. Oh, Hawote and Five Lands, I’ve missed you!
Trying Publishing Again
I graduate college in 2007– it takes me longer due to all the labs and having to work. I transferred to UGA that had a Biology program on the same campus I was attending, so it was a win. If I had a choice between chemistry and biology, I would’ve chosen chemistry. But there were enough chemistry classes to make me happy. I also immensely enjoyed microbiology, too. A couple months after graduation, I start working at a small lab that was more chemistry based. I really liked my coworkers and the environment. The only thing I hated was the drive. It was only about 40 miles, but the Atlanta traffic made a 45 minute drive over an hour. If there was a wreck or something, then it was chaos and gridlock and made it even longer.
During this time I get married to my boyfriend, and I am still writing between everything. Publishing was still in the back of my mind, but I wasn’t really in a hurry to do it. In fact, I dreaded it. I didn’t have the time or the patience to bother with it. I still had a bad taste in my mouth from the last frustrating experience.
I start talking to a few people I know to get my bearings. There was a young lady who had just graduated as an English Major, whom I asked about publishing. She told me it was now even harder to do than it was the last time I had tried it. She went back over some of the details I was fuzzy on about agents and freelance and how publishers behave in each case. Nothing really sounded good; in fact everything about it sucked. I glazed over. For me just getting published felt like I was sacrificing my unborn child and selling my soul to the devil just to MAYBE get a book out. Okay, maybe that’s a liiittle extreme, but that’s the best description of how I was feeling.
Why do I want to do this again? Isn’t there a better way? Am I really that insane?
Sometime later another person I knew talked about a thing called “self publishing”. I had never heard of it before, so I asked her for more information and she gave me a list of companies to check out. I contact some and check out their sites. Some of the ones were like Outskirts, Xlibris, Tate, and Pleasant Word. I grill these companies with the knowledge that I knew as a 28-year-old, and what I wanted. Xlibris seemed to have everything I wanted, and I had some money set aside.
The Great Xlibris Disaster
The joy of being able to publish two books at the same time with everything I wanted eventually turns to sorrow. No, a Nightmare. I have just entered Elm Street and met Freddy Krueger for authors. Instead of rehashing this whole story, I will link to my articles over at Newbieauthorsguide.com below. As and aside: By sharing my story, I have helped quite a few authors completely escape or stop the process, and some have contacted me for help about how to fix the situation. This company and its parent company and its sisters do this to thousands and thousands of authors across the globe. They exploit you on what you don’t know. I have had pingbacks on this site and NAG from authors personally suing them and class action lawsuits against them from which have been settled out of court. They no longer tout themselves as a corporation; now they are an LLC. The service in question I write extensively about, the email marketing campaign, has all but vanished, but I will say that all of their marketing services are grossly overpriced and do not work. In addition to my articles, you can “Google that” to find out more about this crappy company and its cohorts.
Author Solutions: The Evil Galactic Empire of Self Publishing (Featured in The Fine Print of Self Publishing)
After working with a different publisher, Mill City Press, to get a better edition of Neiko’s Five Land Adventure out there, I didn’t have enough money to republish Escape from Ancient Egypt. I pulled it, and it languished for a few years.
Now I was totally lost on how to market. I had no one to talk to. Everything was way too expensive for my nonexistent to meager-on-a-good-day budget. Somehow, someway, I start finding out things, but I don’t get the results I hoped to achieve, and that’s about when the economic downturn happened which made about everything I was trying to do fall apart.
In 2010 I lose my job at the lab. I move away with my husband to where I am living today which doesn’t have anything close by since I live in the middle of nowhere–it’s good in ways, but in others it’s bad. I begin spending lots of time online trying to find out how to market this book and maybe find another job. I hope I can republish Escape from Ancient Egypt. I learn so much on my own, and I make a few connections here and there. I join groups, and I try things, but it’s not enough for me to really make any headway. I am able to win a free ebook package to publish Escape from Ancient Egypt, but it still has to have an edit. So I have to find a way to somehow get enough money to edit it in having no income, so I hold onto the free publishing and work something out with the publisher offering it. I eventually will need a print one, too.
I eventually am able to republish it as well, and I have a better edition of it as well. These are marketable to some extent, and I am able to achieve a bit of successes here, but it’s not enough to be even remotely close to a living, even at the low income level. At least it was a start, but I wasn’t where I needed to be. I still didn’t have any income. I couldn’t get a job anywhere (I tried); no one would even give me a chance. However, there were a few freelance opportunities that came up that brought in a tiny bit of income, but it was sporadic and inconsistent, but it was better than nothing at all. It is not sustainable in any stretch of the imagination. So, I spend my time learning and my time blogging to hopefully keep me from falling into depression and despair. I learn more about how to publish myself, have my own imprint, among other things. I had enough connections and enough knowledge now than I did when I first started out on this publishing adventure which had now derailed into the middle of the wilderness. I feel like I am in the proverbial survival situation, but a book comes out of it and I get another free publishing package. The Newbie Author’s Survival Guide is born. It sells pretty well, but it’s not earning me a living.
A Call from A Friend
One day, a very close friend of mine called me with an idea: starting your own business and your own imprint. “Not only will you achieve your publishing dream, but you will also fulfill the fleeting dream you had when you were a teenager about learning how to make the books yourself and they could be better than the publishers make.” Even though I would hire out the cover design and print book design, but I would be free of the things I didn’t like of both the traditional publishing and the assisted self publishing establishments. I would have the control and the benefits that I always wanted. I know I wouldn’t have been able to handle this as a newbie; I never had anyone to reach out to or no one to talk to or teach me anything. That has always been the way it is for me. If my parents couldn’t teach me something, then I was on my own. Nobody ever thought I was worth their time to mentor. If I wanted to learn how to do something, then I had to learn it myself. Most of everything I had learned outside of a school curriculum or a seminar has been from me teaching myself. I taught myself how to write when I didn’t have ready access to the internet, didn’t I?
My friend’s idea was a great one, but there was one huge problem, where was I going to get the money for this? How do I even start? From the blueprint that he and I made together, we would need two websites–well one was already done, but had to be redone since it had problems. The author website needs to be redone. And we need to republish the books again (sigh!) under the new imprint and do some promotion. Sometime during this time with my friend, the computer I had since college charger connector broke, and the way it was made it had to be soldered to the motherboard. It sounded simple but the repair cost would be as much as a new computer and this was the time Windows XP was going the way of the dodo, and I would need a new computer anyway. The way I had to charge the battery is hokey, but it worked. My husband had a computer that didn’t work that was just like mine, and his charger worked. I would have to take the battery out of mine and put it in his old one to charge it, take it back out, and do what I could do until the battery was low. Repeat. Every freaking day until I could get a new one. Oh, let’s not forget our block of ISBNs for our new imprint! Where was this money going to come from?
As my husband and I struggled to pay off debt, I earned as much money as I could with my freelance work, but it was painfully slow. Slowly but surely as the money came in ever so slowly (like glacier speed), I was able to do this piece by piece. Another freelance opportunity came during the struggle to help begin to alleviate some of the financial strain. My parents gave me a little money and my friend gave me the rest of the money to register the LLC and introduced me to someone he knew that could teach me how to do this. Other things I needed I was able to get at a discount now and then to help my limited budget stretch. Even though I am now making a very small amount of money, which is a vast improvement of the $0 I made years ago, it’s still not enough to make a living, but I do love what I do. I’d rather be making a menial amount doing what I love than making a $1M dollars doing something I despise (not that I would ever be offered that kind of a job anyway). The potential is there for so much more and I still be able to do what I love, but I still hit the solid brick wall that has kept me shut out of everything in life and held me back all of my life: ostracism and complete human apathy.
Where Am I Today?
As I write this I have completed most of the business setup and republication of the two books I started this whole adventure off with, the Survival Guide at its home publisher, and the publication of a short story I wrote years ago which birthed a new series. I have done my own edits for Neiko Book #3 and now waiting on money to send it to the editor, which then I have to wait for more money for the cover, print design, and illustrations. Even if I had the money for the design tomorrow, my designer is in the hospital at the time I write this. I plan on writing two other books this year and publishing them (hopefully). But here again the whole money conundrum. If I am not being tripped up by ostracism, then it’s money. That’s the way it’s been my whole life. If it’s not one, it’s the other. Or both. No marketing stratagem on the planet can cure ostracism. I know because I have tried. No money, then you’re just SOL. I’ve been trying to solve the riddle of how to be successful when you’re broke and just about everybody hates you. Still working on it.
I am caught in vicious maelstrom of a cycle. My business structure pretty much rides on my success as an author. But for me to continue on as an author I have to have money so I can publish, but I can’t/shouldn’t get caught up into sales, but that’s hard to do when there is no money so I can’t publish right, which some would come from sales or from business. The freelance work isn’t quite enough, and I can’t get too much of that or it cuts into my writing time which my calling… To get more sales you have to do marketing, which costs money, but then I still need to get more books out to grow my backlist–maybe I can get Neiko #3 into a book FINALLY after 7 freaking years, and that marketing money cuts into any money I might use for publishing. I don’t have a money tree in the back yard to go to when I need some. Free and super cheap stuff produce nil results, but it’s better than no marketing at all, but then the fact that no one cares puts a damper on things. The seeming cause of everything is because I am still ostracized after 30 years by the world even doing something that I love and feel called to do, which keeps me from doing everything else and adds to the money debacle. I have to stand out in a sea of people when I have never stood out a day in my life except to be bullied and ostracized. Can you see where I am going with this? I soldier on anyway. I love to write, and I am going to publish my work myself even if nobody reads it. I write on my blogs even if nobody reads it or cares what I write. My friend told me, “Why should I care whether or not they care? Live your dream. You’ve cared about what they have thought for far too long, and where has that gotten you?” “Nowhere,” was my reply. Then he said, “Don’t let your dreams die just because no one cares. They will only die if you let them and don’t act on them. No one caring will not kill your dream, but it does make it hard to believe in anything or believe in a something greater than yourself–when no one else believes in you except your friends and relatives. It will make the road lonely and difficult. Even if no one else celebrates with you your next release, then I will.”
At the time of this writing, I am still not making a living. I haven’t made a living in 7 years. Probably not that anyone cares. No one has ever cared that I have been ostracized 30 years, maybe except my parents and my one good friend. Why should they? It’s not their problem. Their lives are fine. As I drown in a sea of people, my voice isn’t heard. It never has been my whole life. I speak up and no one hears me, so I get angry when people tell me to speak up. So why bother? What good is it going to do? There came a time I just stopped talking, and people wondered why I was quiet and never spoke. What I had to say never mattered, so why say anything? If I live my dream–somehow and someway–just for me and my friend, and if that is all I have to look forward to, then I guess the investment is worth it. Even if the world passes by with out so much as a glance. Then at least I’ve lived my dream and can die knowing that–maybe getting some satisfaction from that. Actually living this out is really hard and lonely, but what other option do I have? Live no dream at all? I can’t leave this world THAT way. No one will notice either one, but living no dream is worse than living my dream for me and my friend alone. Will I go down as the antithesis to fame? Living and performing for the audience of one? I guess it’s better than the audience of me.
I am still on the learning curve and learning something new right now as we speak. I’m not the first to do this thing either (joy) but we’ll see. That’s another blog post.
About the Author
AK Taylor is an award winning YA author who has been writing novels since age 16. Beekeeper, outdoor sportsman, avid adventurer, and animal lover. Taylor lives in the backwoods of Middle GA where she continues to write stories.