Self Publishing Notebook: My own words come back to haunt me

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The Self Publishing Notebook is getting a reboot and this image is history! - via Wikimedia Commons/CC via Wikimedia Commons/CC
The Self Publishing Notebook is getting a reboot and this image is history!

"If you're a writer worth a damn, you're going to publish (a novel) this year."  —Jonathan Kile, January 2016

Those were the closing words of the first edition of Self Publishing Notebook, over a year and a half ago. This friendly reminder was sent to me the other day by my writer friend, Nathan Van Coops - who, incidentally - has published two books since (for a total of four). He’s obviously worth a damn. He wasn’t necessarily taunting me, but man, it did resonate. 

In January 2016, I was nearly finished with the first draft of my next book, The Napoleon Bloom, getting ready to begin the editing process. My goal was to have it out before spring was over (spring 2016, friends). I was also embarking on my most productive period at my day job as an outside sales rep for an oil distributor (coffee is for closers) and I was coaching Tee Ball (because: awwwwww!). It was a busy time. 

Fast forward 18 months: I'm getting asked, "Where… pray tell… is… The Napoleon Bloom?" (People don’t really ask about oil and Little League.)

The short answer, is I’m still editing. Re-writing sections. Blah blah blah. The long answer is, even as this blog was winning an award, my novel writing was in the slow lane. 

First, I had this little medical thing that almost killed me several times. I was diagnosed with a genetic condition that renders my outside devilishly handsome, but my inside quite delicate, requiring a lot of medical attention and a sedate lifestyle. You should see the looks we get when my wife is manhandling a 50 lb suitcase at the airport, while I stand idly by. I could give you a rant about why it’s important to have good long-term disability insurance, but I think I’ll include it in my memoir (release date 2021 2022).

So instead of spending my days hawking petroleum, writing until midnight, and rushing to self publishing greatness by releasing a book twice a year, I’ve been editing at the pace that my life allows. When illness knocked me off track, and limited what I was allowed to do, I had to take up things I can do lest I go mad. So you’ll find me breaking the gender barrier in the elementary school PTA and sitting outside Hip Tot dance class at the YMCA. Holy smokes, if you thought the PTA was all car washes and bake sales, you’ve never volunteered under a Naval Academy graduate. I could write the remake of Mr. Mom. (editor's note: Ahem. How's that novel coming, Jon?)

Having time to write has made me a more careful writer. Instead of spilling out 2,000 words an hour, I am more precise on the first pass. And I’m more ruthless in my editing — quick to destroy sentences that once would have been cherished only for the time they took to write. And I’m reading even more, paying attention to why I do or don’t like certain things — and applying that to my own writing. I have lunch with my editor once a week, which forces me to produce new work. The deleted second act of my book is a piece of unintentional comedy that gives me a great idea: Novels should have an “outtakes section” at the end. Imagine your favorite literary characters spewing corny banter or missing easy clues. What if Harper Lee had written Atticus Finch as a racist, but never edited him to be one of literature’s great figures. (Wait? What?)

So, while this blog started out documenting my novel's journey to self-publication, it’s also about the experience of being an unknown writer who is doing it on his own. You hear stories of novelists who hit it big over night (50 Shades, The Martian, etc). But more often than not, they’ve got volumes of unsubmitted or unappreciated work that paved the way the the bestseller list. My hard drive is stacked with unused scenes, and an entire unpublished novel about a Wall Street guy who gets tangled up in the mystery surrounding a base jumping accident in the Alps (with a beautiful Canadian and a Latin American dictator mixed in for fun.) Several hundred thousand words later people are reading my first book, The Grandfather Clock, in a small, but steady stream. Every day, 10 or 20 people stumble upon and download my book from Amazon (for free!). Sometimes 100 per week. In fact, in the last 12 months, I’ve done over 27,000 downloads — without spending one second or one cent on marketing. (My last post addresses my promotion strategy.) The way to build the snowball is to write, accumulate work and get it out there. 

It is time to reboot this blog as something else, because the Self Publishing Notebook has at times devolved into a commentary on internet stupidity or the pitfalls of buying your wife lingerie that makes her feel like a green bean from the Fruit-of-the-Loom commercials. It’s these rants that seem to generate the most traffic. In fact, an unscientific study reveals that my most popular articles have included an appearance by my most trusted critic — my well-read, marching on Washington, receiver of mostly-non-carcinogenic sleeping attire — wife. Give readers what they want. Hey, I’m willing to pander. I'll be back soon, with an exciting new name for this blog.   

The ego of a writer can be fragile, so my wife regularly lounges with my book in hand. - Jon Kile
Jon Kile
The ego of a writer can be fragile, so my wife regularly lounges with my book in hand.

When Jonathan Kile isn't using his wife as click-bait, he encourages you to check out his adventure thriller, The Grandfather Clock, which is among the top Free Adventure/Suspense eBooks for Amazon Kindle (and it's actually the whole book, not some phony preview). The sequel, The Napoleon Bloom, will be out in 2017. He promises. Jonathan gets his email at [email protected].

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