The Publishing Road Less Taken by Heather Day Gilbert
Following God's leading isn't always easy. I'm finding that, for a writer, you have to be in tune with God's nudges and follow them, no matter how crazy and off-the-wall it might look to others.
I could share several instances when I've done what I knew was the right thing, even if it didn't make sense. But the one I'm going to focus on today is my decision to self-publish my Viking historical novel, God's Daughter.
Most people who know me know I've been pursuing traditional publication in the Christian Book Association for some time. A bit over five years now, to be exact.
To be honest, God had to push me to even consider self-publication. And yet once I did decide to become a hybrid author (meaning I have an agent and a book out on submission with traditional publishers, while in the meantime I am self-pubbing another novel), the responses varied.
Most authors want the best for other authors. We usually try to build each other up, because we know we're all going to get rejected at some point or another. And rejection stinks. But let's admit it—it's easy for jealousy or misunderstanding to cloud our vision, so we make blanket statements that might not apply to every writer. I'm sure I've done that myself. It's good to remind ourselves that not everyone will have the same path to publication we did, or encounter the same obstacles.
So once I announced my hybridization, if you will, I was glad God had made it very clear that was the right route for my historical. Because as comments trickled in from other authors, so did my doubts.
For example, some thought it was the easy way out. I know that's not true, given how long I was out on submission with said historical. I can honestly say I tried every avenue I was willing to go down with this novel before deciding to self-pub.
Some thought I should wait for traditional publication first. I also understand this reasoning—I mean, then you have a built-in reader platform, right? But I knew I had to get this book out while Vikings were trending in the media--various movies and TV shows release around the same time I'm releasing this novel. That was not an accident—I deliberately wanted a media overlap. Nothing like hashtagging #Vikings when it's not a football team people are tweeting about!
In the end, when God tells you to do something, you do it. You can't count the cost. There were so many times I could've said, "This time period isn't marketable because the publishers have said so. I should give up." Or "I can't self-publish because I haven't hired an editor for the entire manuscript." Or "I have no idea how to market this." There are so many excuses...and believe me, I did entertain them. But then I came back to this:
"If God be for us, who can be against us?"
If God was in this venture, as I knew He was, no doubts could stop me. I had to move in response to His leading.
I don't know yet how God's Daughter will do, though I'm thankful that early reader feedback has been positive. But I can say I gave it 110 percent. I built my platform and marketed and edited and learned more than I ever wanted to know about formatting. I stuck with this dream until God decided how it would come to fruition—and it wasn't anything like what I had planned.
It was, in fact, bigger and better than anything I could've concocted.
Stick with it, author friends. In due time, you will reap if you faint not! Blessings to you all. And thank you so much for having me, Elaine. I always enjoy your blog!
Questions for Heather:
Did a certain inspirational song, Bible passage, or one of those wake-in-in-the-morning-ah-ha moments help you to listen to God more in your decision making about how to publish your Viking novel?
Ooh, very good question! I would say that talking with my crit partner and author friends, as well as my husband, helped open my mind to taking this step. Also, it seemed like something God had been bringing to mind for a little while, but I'd dismissed it because I didn't feel ready. It was just one of those things where you give up your dream (traditional publication) to the Lord, and trust Him to do with it what HE wants and get your book out to the right people. As for a specific verse—not one that really hit me, but quite often what I read in the Bible tends to line up with sermons and things my Christian friends tell me.
Did you receive any helpful advice from any publishing professionals during the process of self-publishing?
Another great question! Actually, mostly I talked to author friends who have gone down this path. One professional resource I love is Joanna Penn's blog, thecreativepenn.com. She has self-pubbed and has all sorts of up-to-date resources on self-pubbing.
Have you been devouring self-promotion information? What unique options are you trying?
I have read some excellent posts on it, but what I've done is go with my gut and targeted the media outlets I tend to use as a reader. I figure my target audience probably utilizes those outlets, as well (Pinterest, FB, and Goodreads factor in heavily). I've had some hits and misses, but all in all, you can't get discouraged. You just keep trying and seeing what people respond to.
I loved author Jessica Dotta's idea of an online FB "tea party" with people sending in photos of themselves and teacups. I did another take on that by having people send in photos of themselves and their favorite Bibles. I haven't gotten as many photos as she has, but the ones I have gotten are just stellar. I wanted to increase our appreciation for the abundance of Bibles we have, because my Viking main character didn't have one.
Have you learned any lessons from the self-publishing route that you want to use for your more traditional publications?
I guess I've learned that I'll keep writing what I want to write, whether traditional publishers pick it up or not. I no longer feel the crunch to fit my stories into "what's trending" in the CBA. I can just write for my readers...and that's exactly what I was setting out to do when I started writing!
Also, I feel I can have confidence with traditional publishers on the "platform" front. I will already have a reader base in place for any book they want to pick up. Even if the genre is different, my writing style and my use of married main characters will still be the same. Unless I branch into YA at some point...grin.
What’s on tap for Heather next?
Wow. Good question—I'm wondering that myself! I have a paranormal novel I've wanted to edit for a while now and get out to readers. However, I figure I'll be working on the second Viking novel next, unless a publisher picks up my mystery—then the mystery would take precedence. But it takes longer to write my historicals—more like six to nine months as opposed to two to three.
Heather's Ah-hahs To Tweet:
Meet author Heather Day Gilbert, hybrid author & thankful about it. (Tweet This)
Author Heather Day Gilbert on Everyone’s Story: following God’s path for her Viking novel. (Tweet This)
Everyone has a story: Heather Day Gilbert shares her different road to publication. (Tweet This)
Heather enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Sixteen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as ten years spent homeschooling her three children. Heather is the ACFW West Virginia Area Coordinator.
You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert--Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads. Look for her Viking novel, God's Daughter, coming to Amazon November 1, 2013!