A recently sparked debate on another pseudo-famous person’s FB page caused me to decide to ‘come clean’ regarding my stance on being an independently published author. The debate was caused when the pseudo-famous person was so kind as to link back to an article about him that I had posted. I refuse to name names out of respect for someone whom I hope to one day count as a close, personal friend.
With this being said, I would first like to lay some ground work. I did not ‘suddenly’ wake up one morning and decide I wanted to be a writer. What most people do not realize about me is that I have been writing for as long as I have been able to read and write. I remember learning about ‘tall tales’ in the second grade and being absolutely fascinated by the idea that I could not only make up stories (what my family called ‘lies’ because they were uneducated and did not realize that their six-year-old had a very vivid imagination and wanted to share her ideas with her parents), but that it was actually encouraged in language classes. I already loved to read, but the thought that I could write down my own stories was absolutely intriguing.
Being an only child who was incredibly shy and coming from a family who was dirt poor and nearly homeless, my only form of escape and entertainment was within the confines of my own mind. I was already dreaming up my ideal life and living out adventures and other fantasies through the endless stream of books that I had access to through my school’s library. Encouraged by my teachers who thought my imagination was a treasure, I jotted down little stories. By the time I was eight, my ‘stories’ had grown to be thirty or more hand-written pages. Wanting more, I attempted to tackle my first novel-length project before I was nine years old, a little story that never made it past about fifty pages, a little something I called “White Lightning.”
When puberty struck at the age of thirteen, my family had fallen completely apart. My mother had long since left my dad and me for the better part of two years at that point. My father had recently had open-heart surgery, and the stress of realizing his own mortality coupled with downward spiraling Bi-Polar disorder caused a man that I had formerly loved to death to become the evil demon that I was trapped with, fearing at any moment that any little thing I did would send him into another rage-filled attack.
I learned very quickly how to hide the physical wounds, how to lie to the teachers and keep a smile on my face even as the other children called me names and bullied me for having divorced parents and being so poor. An already shy girl retreated more and more into her world of make-believe, living out hopes and dreams through my own creations written down on notebook paper and hidden in a bottom drawer in my dresser. To my family, my grades were everything, so I studied hard and made straight ‘A’s’, but deep down, my love of the written word and creating those people and adventures I saw dancing around in my head meant more to me than anything else. So I wrote, and I kept on writing, hiding my little secret in my dresser, dozens of short stories and poems, until one day, a black-headed fifteen year old male walked into the life of a shy, thirteen year old girl.
His name was Ben, and while I had fallen madly in love with Noely when I was only six years old, I would have to say that Ben was my first real ‘crush.’ I pined over him, thought about him constantly and racked my little-girl brain wondering how I could possibly get him to like me. I conjured up stories of us getting married, of him jumping to my rescue, and when he finally broke my heart, images of him forever painted as the bad guy.
These little scenarios soon brought on another writing project, one called Big Dreams and Nightmares, which would become my first ever full-length novel, hand-written at the age of thirteen. It was nearly two hundred pages long, and despite the more than two decades that have passed since I penned that first novel, I have carried it around with me through a half-dozen moves over the years, through twenty years of marriage and three children. It was this novel that first opened me up to the real world of publishing and how it worked. I studied and researched publishing houses and agents, sending out query letters and copies of my first chapter. By the time I was fourteen, I had racked up rejection letters from nearly every large publishing house in America, and many of the smaller ones as well. I never let that stop me though, and I kept right on writing, soon penning three novels before I had graduated from high school, sending those manuscripts out to publishing houses and agents. I never really did this thinking I would get published. The reason I did it was because every time I got a rejection letter, I also got back constructive criticism, allowing me to take their advice and hone my skills as a creative writer. It was hands-on learning, and because of all those years spent sending out letters and manuscripts, I quickly learned my way around the world of the professional publishing house.
Growing up in the eighties, there was not much need to be able to type. Back then computers still ran off of MS DOS and they were so expensive that the common household, much less the freakishly dirt-poor ones like mine, rarely ever got to see one, much less own one. But being a writer, I knew that I would need to learn to type because publishing companies were to the point where they just about would not look at a manuscript that wasn’t typed, so I took typing classes and later on, computer classes.
By the time I was in ninth grade, I was easily hitting forty words-per-minute in my typing, and I was taking so many advanced English composition and creative writing classes that I had already written two term papers and countless book reports by the time I was fifteen. With the good grades and being known around the school as a budding author, I was soon swarmed with requests to proofread, edit, and type up term papers, book reports, English assignments, and anything else that required something to be neatly organized, comprehensive, and a guaranteed ‘A’ as a final grade. By the time I finished high school, I was the resident copyeditor for the student body, having written, rewritten, proofread, and edited my way through hundreds of projects.
As the years progressed, and I slowly grew up and began to understand the science behind my father’s psychosis and how the world worked, my love of literature never wavered. I continued to devour novels at an alarming rate, sometimes reading as many as a dozen in a single week. But soon a growing family pulled me away from what I really loved, the art of creating images in people’s minds using only the written word. So my writing took a back-burner to raising a family, but I still daydreamed, my mind constantly busy coming up with scenarios, characters, and adventures. Most of it never made it onto paper, but my brain kept track of it all, ideas and plotlines and outlines for dozens of stories and novels, all neatly filed away inside of my head.
About seven years ago, like a huge chunk of the American population, I found myself suddenly unemployed and expecting my third child. My second child, who is disabled, was barely two years old. The cost of daycare for two children was more than what I could bring home in a week, and my daughter’s care was becoming ever trickier as she grew. My husband and I decided it would be best for everyone if I was to stay home with them, and I have never regretted that decision.
It was during this time of my pregnancy that I became involved in several online RP groups. For me, it was like an everyday writing challenge, weaving tales and stretching myself as a writer. Several of us kept up Yahoo! 360 pages based on our characters and the storylines. One thing about RP groups is that you don’t have complete control over how the storyline progresses, and I often used my 360 page to pen ‘the rest of the story’ as they say. It was about that time that I came across an erotic blogger who told me my stories would be even better if I would spice them up with some sex scenes. Since I didn’t RP sex scenes with my fellow RPers, and I knew that a lot of what we wrote about would naturally lead to some really steamy romance scenes, I decided to give it a try. Within months my page had grown to the point to where I had maxed out my friends list, was getting dozens of PMs each day, and sometimes hundreds of comments on posts each day.
At the encouragement of that same friend who first told me I should try my hand at writing erotica, I began researching self-publication. That was in 2005. I spent the next three years researching self-publication, learning the rules of formatting for all the different platforms (ebook, Kindle, print, etc), picking up tricks for marketing, learning how to create great cover art. I honed my skills as a copyeditor, tapped back into the long forgotten art of editing and proofreading from my high school days. In the meantime, after the 360 page went the way of MySpace, I began posting my stories exclusively to XNXX, my stories amassing hundreds of thousands of reads. Before I realized it, I had a dedicated fan base of well over a million readers.
Now, here is the point to this whole blog post. I have had more than my fair share of people call me a ‘wannabe’ writer, many of them saying that I ‘HAD’ to self-publish because my works couldn’t even catch the eye of a small-time publishing company, that my work is not professionally edited, that it would be a complete waste of their time to try to read it because it couldn’t possibly be any good since it was self-published, and that self-publishing will completely destroy your writing career. This, of course, usually comes from people who know absolutely nothing about the publishing business or how it works. So allow me to set the record straight to all the nay-sayers out there.
I did NOT ‘have’ to be an independent author, I CHOSE to be an independent author, and for many reasons, many of which directly contradict the above paragraph.
First, what most people do not realize is that even if you get picked up by a publishing company, you are not suddenly going to become famous. I hate to use Stephanie Meyer as an example because I don’t think she could write her way out of a wet paper sack quite frankly, but since she is a well-known writer of the day, I’ll use her anyway. Her crap languished for more than a DECADE on the shelves of libraries, gathering dust amongst the other THOUSANDS of forgotten, published authors whose books were no longer even offered for sale in bookstores. The simple fact of the matter is that while a publishing company may agree to publish your work, they are not about to spend one single cent promoting you. It is left up to the author to do the marketing, the advertising, set up book signings, and it is the author who has to foot all of the expense. In other words, the author has to prove to the publishing company that he/she is going to make them money before they are willing to fork over any money to get the author’s name out there.
Second, if I am already going to have to do all the work and foot the entire bill myself, why the fuck would I allow someone else tell me what to write about, how to write it, what my characters should look like, how they should behave, and how the storyline should progress? Why would I voluntarily give up my artistic control over every single aspect of MY ideas and creations, right down to the title of the novel and the cover art?
Third, as someone who has been a professional copyeditor and proofreader for decades now, I don’t need a publishing company. My printed novels look like every other novel you pull off the bookshelf. They are put through months of editing and proofreading by both me and a professional editor. With the technology available today, with a bit of time and effort, the independent author no longer needs a brick and mortar publisher. We can do everything they can do and the work will be the same professional grade as you would get from any publisher, and sometimes more. To be honest, most of the time the independent authors have better work than what you will find from a publishing company simply because no one told them what they absolutely had to change in order to get the book published. We no longer have to compromise, resulting in some of the best storylines seen in half a century.
Contrary to what those without a clue about the publishing industry may think, deciding to go independent will not destroy your career. Take the likes of John Locke and Amanda Hocking. They self-published through Kindle, seeing their works sell in the millions of copies. Amanda Hocking was then offered a five book deal through a traditional publishing house. How’s that for the destruction of a career? All authors should be so lucky as to have their careers buried like that.
And finally, my reason for going independent is because I DO NOT compromise when it comes to my writing. I have spent years coming up with characters that I can see as clearly in my head as I see anyone else. These are my creations, they exist inside of me and they are very real and very dear. I absolutely refuse to have them tainted by having some idiot publisher try to tell me how they should act and what they should be doing. Millions of fans already read my creations and they like them just fine the way they are. And to be honest, I like my writing style just fine the way it is. I’m not afraid to ‘be myself’ when it comes to how I write and what I write about. I learned that from a very dear man for which one of my characters is modeled after. And again, I won’t name names, because that is not what this article is about, but if you found this article off the link from that other article, you know who he is. To me, to give up the storyline behind the BEFORE THE SUN RISES series and have it so changed just to see it ‘officially’ published would be a slap in the face. It would be a disgrace and a dishonor to those real people who have inspired the characters in my novel, it would be a dishonor to the millions of readers who have already fallen in love with my series and my characters, and it would be a dishonor to me as a writer who knows what I want and what I want to write about.
I will not bow down and I will not compromise. I will stand up for myself and for the thousands of other independent authors out there and say I fucking CHOSE to be an independently published author, people, so DEAL with it. I took a chance on myself, and I believed in myself, and so I will continue to support myself and all those who tell the publishing industry to go fuck themselves. I am who I am, and I am proud to be known to millions of readers across the globe as Nicola Chey Matthews, Mistress of the Erotic Night.