Janet Sheridan: Accepting responsibility
September 4, 2014
As usual, I began by wallowing in a quagmire of indecision. For months, I'd busily and happily written new material to combine with past columns for a book. Now I had a choice: attempt to publish my work or let it die an anonymous little death on my computer.
Failure doesn't feel good. When young, it took years for me to recover from strutting to the end of a high dive, then dropping to my hands and knees and scuttling backwards squawking like a chicken. If I gave up on my book, I feared I'd spend my golden years as a hollow-eyed, haunted woman.
So I took a deep breath and tackled the first of many decisions: Should I peddle my manuscript to a traditional publisher or sign up with a self-publishing company? I researched and pondered until my eyeballs spun in one direction and my head in another.
Eventually, I realized that the odds of a mainstream publisher reading my book and offering me a contract were as likely as my eating recommended portions during Thanksgiving dinner. So I decided to self-publish.
Floundering my way to a decision about how to publish paled in comparison to the hell I entered next: technology unleashed. Self-publishing depended on my ability to navigate an unfamiliar website: reading, ordering, confirming, paying, uploading, downloading, proofing, verifying and proving I owned the words I'd written.
I fell into bed exhausted, woke up anxious, forced myself to continue and kept on clicking in all the wrong places. At one point I paid $400 for services I didn't want. My pacemaker nearly gave up from exhaustion before I straightened out that mess.
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But, panic attacks aside, learning the technology was easier than accepting my responsibility as a self-published author. I was the sole decision-maker for every aspect of the book, and in most cases, I had to decide in a fog of ignorance without the advice of experts. I couldn't blame anyone else for my poor decisions, an unfamiliar predicament for Janet-the-Dodger.
Too often, my first instinct has been to deny responsibility for my questionable actions: Bob pulled my braids, so I had to throw a doll at his head. I dropped and broke the platter because my hands were slick from washing the dishes when it wasn't even my turn. It wasn't my fault that I left the hose on and the basement flooded; a telemarketer called, and I couldn't get off the phone.
Then my convoluted claims of innocence fell on the deaf ears of a self-publishing company.
The company's website and emails guaranteed I'd retain total control of my book. My rosy interpretation: I'd buy the package I wanted, then the company's experts would read my manuscript and make recommendations about size, title, formatting, editing and cover design. Next, I'd approve their ideas or suggest changes until we got it right.
Then reality bludgeoned me. Recommendations were not forthcoming; the buck started and stopped with me. I was the originator and decider. End of discussion. Again and again, I had to verify that I'd made a decision, and it was final. "Aha," I thought, "the shrewd company is collecting evidence it can use against me if I'm unhappy with my book and whine."
Eventually, I accepted reality and began issuing stamps of approval willy-nilly.
As a result of my decision to self-publish, technology is no longer a death squad lurking in my head, the finger I used to point at others is no longer exhausted and I have a book that is mine in every sense of the word. As I run my hand across the cover of “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” I think, "I did this, warts and all," and smile.
Sheridan's book, "A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns," is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.