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Going for Broke
But how broke do I want to be?
Five hundred forty-three days.
No, that’s not how long I was pregnant with my last kid, though it sure felt like it.
That’s how long it’s been since I sent my very first submission to an agent.
Pencil to paper (or fingers to keys, as it were), I’ve been working on the book for exactly four years.
And I know you’re on the edge of your seat, fingers crossed, hoping my next words will be, “And It All Paid Off Because Now I Have An Agent And My Dreams Have Come True.”
Sorry, no. But also yes.
There’s that thing about the stars aligning and the universe coming together when the time is right, and that seems to be happening now.
Before I explain, I wanted to extend a huge welcome to those of you who are new here this week. I dip into your inbox every Wednesday with a little of this and a little of that, which hopefully equally entertains you and makes you stop and think. Our little community just keeps growing, and I want to remind you that you can stop by and say hi at our introductions thread. It’s quiet and kinda lonely over there. Maybe you can give a wave?
A brief I-don’t-have-an-agent-but-I’m-getting-okay-with-it timeline:
Summer 2018: An idea seized me. What if there were a way to know what is going on in a person’s body during pregnancy? To be sure everything’s fine, or to detect problems before they occur? → The best way to do that would be to have artificial wombs. → What if we had consumer-grade artificial wombs?
→What if the government mandated the use of these “nursery wombs”?←
October 2018: I outlined the novel.
November 2018: I (made up a title out of thin air and) wrote 50,000 words of the novel as a part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I was sick as a dog (norovirus AND antibiotic-resistant strep) for a good week of this month and on vacation in Disney World for another week. The fact that I made the goal (50,010, to be exact, before I laid back on the bed and disintegrated) was a miracle. TBH, a part of me is still back there in my November 2018 fever-dream. But I did it, and the entire 90,000-word first draft was finished by mid-December.
It was bad. SO BAD. But it’s like an exorcism. Or childbirth? (Honestly not much difference.) Sometimes you just have to get it all out. Then you can hold it in your hands, bend it, stretch it, reshape it, and make it into something incrementally not quite as bad and, eventually, hopefully, good. That’s a lot of commas. I’m sorry for all the commas.
September 2019: I worked on other projects for a while. I was waitlisted for a novel incubator program here in Boston early in the year but then accepted into the Ultimate Novel Writing Course through Jericho Writers. The organization is in the UK, which can be inconvenient time-zone-wise, but I’ve made a handful of great friends and contacts and learned enough to fill a barge full of shipping containers. That knowledge has helped me become a better writer and understand the business of writing & publishing books.
Interlude: I had a baby (43 weeks that felt like 77). COVID happened. A dear family member died, and the fallout consumed my home. The world was upside-down. My course mentor was very kind and patient with me, but she also gave me a deadline, and eventually I finished rewriting the book into something resembling what you might find on a bookstore shelf.
May 2021: I started submitting the book to agents. In the meantime, I’ve done another two or three rounds of edits, mostly on the opening 10,000 words.
I’ve had some interest. A few agents have requested the full manuscript. But no one has offered to represent it, and this summer I started coming to terms with the fact that this book (a) is not going to be an obvious sale (to publishers! Readers can’t wait to get their hands on it) and (b) needs to be out in the world. Even in the best case scenario, a traditional publishing deal would have the book out in late 2024. And that’s if everything went smoothly.
September 2022: I went to the Jericho Writers Festival of Writing in York, England, with a plan. If I didn’t get an agent there, and didn’t have a clear direction to find one, I would (still keep submitting to agents because I’m a glutton for punishment and also) make plans to publish on my own.
October 2022: Screw it. I’m done submitting. I’m finished waiting. Enough people have told me the world needs this book that I believe it. I’m going to put everything in place to self-publish this thing, and it’s going to be soon. Like, shortly-after-the-first-of-the-year soon.
It’s time to make my own dreams come true.
And now that I’ve made this decision, suddenly people want to talk to me.
Agents won’t return my emails. But you know who will?
Independent book publishing service providers
Typesetters & book formatters
Audiobook production companies
And you know why? Because they believe in this book and agree that it needs to be in people’s hands ASAP.
Just kidding. It’s because I’m going to give them money. And not, like, take this project and when it sells or I get an advance I’ll share some of the cash with you. No, self-publishing is a cash-up-front kind of business. Not that it shouldn’t be. All these folks are providing a service that requires knowledge, experience, and expertise, and will (hopefully) make a difference in the sales of my book. They deserve to get paid.
But what I’m learning is that self-publishing, while free, is also very expensive.
One company that I talked to this week told me to expect to spend twelve thousand American dollars for their services. Another was closer to $20k. Who can afford that? Certainly not a writer who has been writing her book without compensation for four years.
So now comes time to make some choices. Luckily the basics aren’t super expensive. I’ll probably spend $1000 or so on the cover design and interior layout so I can get the files uploaded and published. Which, if it translates to sales, will be money well spent. But do I want to fork over - lord, more than I made last year at my day job - for media introductions and the like? Mmm. Probably not this time.
Will this inhibit my ability to become an international bestseller, thereby dashing my hopes and dreams and preventing me from writing and publishing more books in the future? Hope not.
Stay tuned, because next week I’m going to tell you how you can help the whole international bestseller thing happen.
Until next time,
Nicci’s Notes is a reader-supported publication. I don’t have exclusives for paid members just yet, but if you’re the kind of person who likes to support independent creators just because, you can do that here for $5/month or $50/year (or more, if you fancy).