Imagine you’re a farmer planting seeds in fertile soil. You take tender loving care of your seedlings, constantly weeding, watering, and fertilizing your starts. And then you wait for the first signs of life. And you wait… for five years.
Yes, self-publishing can be a lot like growing bamboo. In my time as president of BookBaby, I’ve gotten lots of letters from authors who are, to sum it up in a word, discouraged. They’ve watered the seeds of their literary career in the same way. They have:
- Self-published their book— in some cases multiple books.
- Sought out and hired professional editingfor their manuscript.
- Hired a professional cover artistto design a great cover.
- Completed numerous book-promotion tasks, including hosting a book launch, using social media, gaining free book reviews, and more.
As the story goes, an inexperienced, would-be bamboo farmer is confronted with a difficult choice: He’s so tired of waiting for the plant to sprout, and he is getting discouraged. If he digs up the plants to check on them — well, he’ll kill the seedlings.
Meanwhile the experienced, successful bamboo farmer continues to care for her seeds — day in and day out — even when she’s discouraged. Even when she suspects it’s futile.
Then, after five years of labour and faith in something she can’t see, she’s rewarded with the miraculous “overnight” growth. Some species of the plant can grow a staggering three feet in a 24-hour period and ultimately reach over 100 feet in height!
To anyone besides the farmer, it’s quite easy to believe the massive growth came out of nowhere and happened in just a few short days. But none of that growth could have happened without the farmer’s faith and consistent action, day after day, to nurture something that was still developing — even though she couldn’t see it.
When we get frustrated and we don’t see the results we want, it’s easy to give up. Like abandoned bamboo seeds, our writing dreams can die in the ground before they ever have a chance to sprout. We think to ourselves, “What’s the difference? My books aren’t selling. I wasn’t making progress anyway.”
But you would be wrong. It’s at this stage of your writing career that you may need to redefine what qualifies as “progress.” Despite a lack of sales — or even notice — the writers who have contacted me have experienced:
Improvement as a writer. It’s inevitable that the second book is better than the first. The third book is better still. As you improve and perfect your craft, the results will follow.
Increased knowledge of the self-publishing world. The hard knocks they’ve experienced have often provided valuable experience to build on.
New connections and friendships. I’m happy to note that the author community is a very giving bunch. There are dozens of forums where authors can exchange tips and ideas including our own Facebook authors group. Even famous authors at the top of the food chain are happy to share their thoughts, opinions, and sales results.
My thanks to Stephen Spatz, president of BookBaby for permission to reproduce part of his excellent blog. More information on self-publishing can found on the home page at www.williamlongbooks.co.uk
Image by Eleonora Albasi