Changing the Direction of My Publication Goal by PortiaLily Taylor

“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.” ― Zig Ziglar

Although my professional life involved writing legal documents, policy-based materials, and academic curriculum, I always aspired to write fiction. To support that interest, I took creative writing classes, joined writing groups, and read (too many!) online resources regarding fiction writing.

After years of writing, I fulfilled my desire to write fiction when I completed the manuscripts of two middle grade novels—Sarah Finn, the story of a biracial girl facing challenges in 1963 Oklahoma, and Captain Con & the Red Jacket about a boy who is transported to a world of pirates and sea battles. Then my goal became sharing these novels through publication. 

To that end, I sent queries to several literary agents and publishers that accept unsolicited submissions. I received their feedback. One response came after only a few hours after emailing my submission while others took weeks or months to reply. Unfortunately, they were all rejections.

I’ve read about famed authors who spent years seeking the interest of traditional publishers. William Saroyan was said to receive 7,000 rejection slips before selling his first short story. Sixteen publishers rejected John Grisham’s A Time to Kill before he found an agent who eventually rejected him as well. Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 26 times and Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell had 38 rejections. Find these and other examples at 50 Iconic Writers Who Were Repeatedly Rejected.

Being an “older” writer, I fear I don’t have the time or patience of these renowned authors to wait for my manuscripts to be accepted by an agent or traditional publishing company. Thus, I became my own obstacle to meeting my goal of having my novels published. I was concerned about whether I could ever achieve my goal. Then I thought of the words of author and motivational speaker Zig Zigler. “When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.”

Traditional publishing was the direction to reach my goal of publishing my novels. But the obstacle of not having the time and patience needed to wait for a positive response from agents or publishers made me consider a change in the direction I was following to meet my publication goal. That goal has not changed, but, perhaps, I need to change the direction I am taking to meet this goal. So, instead of seeking traditional publication, I am now considering self-publication. As Ziglar suggested, I am not changing my decision to become published. I am simply thinking about changing the direction I’ll take to get to that goal.

Inventor Alexander Graham Bell once said, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that has opened for us.” I admit I was falling into that trap. I was looking at the “closed door” of traditional publishing so long that I didn’t “see” self-publication as an option to meet my goal of sharing my novels through publication. So, I did some research into that “open door” and found the following information from a 2022 online article by Nicholas Rizzo found at Wordsrated.com.

  • 30-34% of all ebooks sold are self-published
  • 300 million self-published books are sold each year 
  • $1.25 billion worth of self-published books are sold each year
  • Amazon pays $250 million in royalties to self-published authors each year
  • 67% of top-rated, self-published books are written by women compared to just 39% of books that are traditionally published
  • The number of self-published books has increased 264% in the last five years.

The growth of self-published books may be clearly seen in the following graph found at zippia.com..

As these statistics indicate, many authors have chosen to self-publish, and their numbers are growing. Then I wondered if there were many self-published books in the genre of my two novels—children’s, middle grade fiction.

It is difficult to determine the exact number of children’s books that are self-published although it is said to be in the tens of thousands according to information at selfpublishingresources.com.

Since Amazon is the largest seller of self-published books, I turned to its website to see if any self-published books were on the list of middle grade best sellers. The first two books listed were self-published. Since one of my novels is a pirate adventure, I checked the Amazon website for “middle grade pirate books” and found the first three listed were all self-published. As for best sellers of “children’s action/adventure books”in general, two of the first three books were self-published. My second book may be categorized as historical fiction, so I checked Amazon for related middle grade fiction. The first book listed was self-published.

My interest in self-publishing grew with each Amazon search, although I was also aware of challenges for the self-published author. Children’s book author Hannah Holt listed some of those challenges based on her survey of self-published authors in her blog at hannahholt.com.

  • “Self-publishing carries more risk than traditional publishing. [Note:] up to 30% of [self-published children’s authors] SPCA lost money.
  • Most self-published children’s authors (SPCA) sell fewer than 1,000 books per project.
  • The SPCA with the highest incomes were mostly authors with experience publishing books traditionally.
  • Most SPCA struggle with marketing.
  • Distribution to stores and libraries was an obstacle for many SPCA. [Note:] online sales were the predominate method of moving books for SPCA (which is neither good nor bad, just an observation.).”

Author Zoe Winters summarized such difficulties when she wrote, “Whatever you may have heard, self-publishing is not a shortcut to anything. Except maybe insanity. Self-publishing, like every other kind of publishing, is hard work. You don’t wake up one morning good at it. You have to work for that.”

Of course, there are many benefits to self-publishing, such as those described by Hannah Holt including:

  • “Self-published children’s authors (SPCA) can (and usually do) bring books to market more quickly than traditional publishers.
  • SPCA have more control over the finished product.
  • SPCA can cater to niche markets.
  • With careful planning, hard work, and business savvy, SPCA can earn as much or more than some traditionally published authors.
  • Most SPCA were satisfied with their publishing experience.
  • Most met their primary goal in publishing, and often these goals were very personal.
  • Most made a profit.”

The pros and cons of self-publishing children’s books conform to the observation of author Lori Lesko. “The good news about self-publishing is you get to do everything yourself. The bad news about self-publishing is you get to do everything yourself.” Regarding my two, middle grade novels, Sarah Finn and Captain Con & the Red Jacket, I believe the scale weighs more heavily on the side of “doing everything” as good news.

I think again of the words of Zig Ziegler. “When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.” My goal is having my books published. I thought traditional publication would be the direction I’d take to reach that goal, but obstacles arose as to the ability to be traditionally published. Self-publication would be a “change in direction” as to my goal of getting my books published without “changing that decision” as Zig Ziglar recommends.

I am now working on the self-publication process!

© PortiaLily Taylor, 2023

Photo by George Milton on Pexels.com

2 thoughts on “Changing the Direction of My Publication Goal by PortiaLily Taylor”

  1. Zig Ziegler may turn out to be your best friend! All your research into the pros and cons of self-publishing is not only impressive it is encouraging because it allowed you to walk through the forest until you found the light. PRAISE!

    Like

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