Years ago, I tried my hand at writing fiction, and bought just about every book I could find on the subject, including one by Stephen King called “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”.
In it, King says “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right—as right as you can, anyway—it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it.”
I never did manage to finish a novel. But last month I published my nonfiction book, called “This, Their Friendship’s Monument” on Amazon. It’s based on a friendship/autograph album, signed in the 1880s-90s and owned by my great-times-three aunt, Mary Boyd. She lived in a small town in the anthracite coal fields of northeastern Pennsylvania. I’d done some family genealogy research online, and figured that researching the people who signed Mary’s album might be interesting.
It was WAY more than interesting. I, for a time, became a research addict. It felt like being on a treasure hunt, or being a detective searching for clues. I became obsessed with figuring out who the signers were and what happened to them. Every clue I found inspired me to hunt for another. And another. I worked on the research and writing, off and on, for six years.
I finally finished it, formatted it, and published it using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) for Kindle and print-on-demand. My dear hubby made an announcement about my newly-published book on his Facebook page, and I sent a handful of copies to people who helped me along the way. But I figured the book would sit there, hiding in plain sight on Amazon until I did, well, whatever self-published writers are supposed to do to promote their books.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many copies have been bought and touched by the feedback that I’ve received (of course, I worry myself with “But are they just being nice?”) I’ll admit, I was ambivalent about clicking the “publish” button. I couldn’t help but remember King’s words: “it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it.”
I’m also an amateur artist, and I’ve come to realize that I feel the same way about the book as I do when one of my paintings hangs in our local gallery. It, the book or the painting, is something into which I’ve poured my time, effort, and a little piece of myself, such as it is. And now it’s out there for the whole world to see. Yikes.
Probably a good thing there’s no panic/abort-the-mission button on KDP.