On telling the truth

I’m working on a press release for local papers about my Frugal Bookstore reading (using tips from the Duolit ladies, an incredible source of smart, free advice). A lot has changed for me since I published The One-Way Rain—and not in the way I expected. I knew, of course, that an indie author has to promote herself relentlessly, but I didn’t know for sure how hard this would be for me. Yeah, I had an inkling. But I figured I’d cross that bridge when I came to it. And now I’m standing on it.

Even though marketing has become a major worry for me this year, I’ve only mentioned it twice on this blog, and not at all since my book was published. I’m obsessively private about my writing, which I think is mostly due to my strong need to protect each work in progress from outside eyes. (And also to a habit of secrecy I learned young, from a mother who fought cancer largely in silence and alone, probably because she didn’t know how to do it any other way.) This served me well for the nearly twenty years I was an unpublished author working part- or full-time in bookselling and finance. It kept me at the grindstone on a daily basis and saved me from fleeing to distractions—which I clearly have a tendency to do, since I’ve been to Twitter three times since starting this post, itself a distraction from the press release. But it did not serve to strengthen my self-confidence once those projects were exposed to the air (so few of them were). What I’ve experienced since August is an accelerating slide into self-doubt: a most unpleasant if not entirely unanticipated surprise.

I want to say something more about secrecy. It’s connected to shame, right? To the deep feeling of not being okay. In pretty much every aspect of my life apart from my writing, I abhor secrecy. When I was diagnosed with colon cancer some years ago, I told everyone I could, even virtual strangers, in an instinctive bid to save myself from my mother’s condition of permanent hiding. (She tried to hide her illness from me to give me a “normal” childhood. Did it work? Based on my now being what the love of my life recently described as “very, very, very neurotic,” I don’t think so.) Secrecy around my work is part of my process and not something I plan to change. But there’s another kind of secrecy I’m carrying these days, and I think it’s toxic. I feel a strong need to keep it secret that I’m self-published. I believe I can’t get the kind of reviews, press, responses I want if people know Rain is an indie book. And that’s kind of ridiculous, because let’s face it—it is an indie. If it weren’t, it would have been eligible for Kirkus and Publishers Weekly reviews. It would have at least a minimal marketing plan funded by my publisher. I can’t hide the fact that I published Rain myself because there’s no other explanation for its position in the world: a great literary novel with no insitutional backing.

If I stop hiding this, will I be more at peace?

Clarification: I have a wonderful publisher, Letta Neely of Wildheart Press, who has supported me in every possible way except financially. I paid for the design and printing of Rain, and in that respect I am self-published.

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