I’ve Made a Decision

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For the past few months I’ve had this ball of crisscrossed wires at the pit of my stomach–shocking me every time I tried to take a deep breath, pricking me with metal fingers every time I tried to relax. Like a nudge only much more aggressive. The kind of nudge that says, “I’m not going to let you sleep or think or be until you listen.”

So I started listening.

At first, I had no idea what was wrong. I was making progress on the companion novel to Pen & Xander but it was mostly in fits and bursts. No drafting process is ever smooth so I didn’t suspect that was the source of the tension. I have a Bookbub coming up next week so any stresses about money should have been somewhat alleviated. I can always depend on the longtail to help me make it to my next pub date. I’ve written two new children’s books and am working on two more so I’m not lacking in inspiration.

But this itch was still there, still nagging at me every time I tried to sit down to work and every time I tried to do something else.

Then I looked at my calendar, trying to see the big picture, to figure out what looming event was causing me so much anxiety. I scrolled through page after page of upcoming projects and self-imposed deadlines and I realized…I wasn’t feeling anxious because something was about to happen. I was feeling anxious because nothing was about to happen.

On my calendar, I’ve noted a date when I plan to query my fantasy WIP. That date is ten months from now. In the meantime, I’m working on the companion novel to Pen & Xander, which I had planned to publish sometime in February. That’s six months away.

Then it hit me. I don’t want to wait six months or ten months to take the next necessary step in my publishing journey. I’m not talking about self-publishing the companion novel sooner or moving up my query date for the fantasy WIP. I’m talking about taking a leap. A risk. A giant step into the BIG SCARY UNKNOWN. I’m talking about querying a novel I’ve already written. A novel I already love and believe in.

You may notice that Pen & Xander has been removed from all platforms, including my website. That’s because that nagging feeling that’s been driving me nuts for the past few months was actually my dream of seeing that book on shelves, of getting it into readers hands, of getting it into my students’ hands. That’s who I wrote it for. Nacho’s Tacos isn’t just a fictional restaurant, it’s my classroom. I want those voices out in the world. I want my students to be able to point to something on the shelves and say that’s there because I matter.

Self-publishing has brought me so many amazing blessings. Amazing readers who showed me that the voices of POC writers and characters do matter. Fellow authors who are as generous as they are fearless. And the financial freedom to go back to school and become a teacher.

But I think this book has a different destiny. I think this book needs to be out in the world in a way I can’t do on my own. It’s good enough. I know it is. And I’m no longer afraid to say that it’s important enough too.

So I’m going to query this novel. I’m going to shoot my shot. Because I fear what that nudge will become if I continue to ignore it. I fear what will happen to me if I keep putting off this dream. And it may not work out. It may not find a home with an agent or a traditional publishing house. Or it might change everything. That possibility is good enough to hang a hope on. It’s good enough to try.

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And now for the hard part…

The hard part where I have to beg for reviews and then wait for them to be posted online, inspiring strangers to take a chance on my book. I’d forgotten this was the hard part mostly because it’s been a few years since I put something out that didn’t immediately sell.

That’s right, my new novel, Pen & Xander, has not been a runaway success. It has not sold thousands of copies in its first week. It hasn’t even sold 10. And it kills me to write that. It’s heartbreaking and terrifying and, frankly, quite embarrassing.

I scheduled a blog tour with over 100 blogs committed to posting about the book. I sent a few email blasts to my newsletter subscribers. I’ve been emailing reviewers directly and tweeting about my new book and blogging about my new book and adding excerpts and purchase links to my backlist…and it’s been *crickets*.

I didn’t think I was still invisible. After half a million people have downloaded at least one of my books I was pretty sure I was at least semi-visible. Maybe only to a small fraction of the internet that actually read all four books in my paranormal series and enjoyed them. But that’s still more than 10, right?

Don’t get me wrong, I am still completely and utterly grateful for the success I’ve had so far. This is not a post about me shaming or blaming anyone. This post is about me being really really confused. And therefore worried that this whole writing thing is not going to be as lucrative in the long-term as I thought it was going to be. That scares me because I love this writing thing. On November 1st I started my next book. Another upper YA contemporary romance and now I’m second-guessing every single word like maybe people don’t want contemporary romance from me. Maybe genre-hopping is a bad idea. Maybe I’m letting people down. Maybe I should have queried this MS instead. Or maybe people just don’t care.

Maybe I should come to terms with that. Because I’ve come face to face with this kind of rejection, this kind of failure before. When my first 3 books didn’t find an audience I didn’t let that stop me. I kept writing and what came next changed my life. And even though it feels like I’m back at square one the truth is I’ve come a long way. And if I’ve still got miles to go…in the dark…all alone…I can keep going. I have to. I will.