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You’ll shoot your eye out kid
No Christmas in the McDermott household feels complete without watching Jean Parker Shepard’s A Christmas Story. We all know the dialogue by heart, but it never seems stale — great stories well told are timeless.
This year, like Ralphie, I harbored a secret Christmas wish. Not for a Red Rider, 200 shot, Range Model Air Rifle (with a compass in the stock), but for something much more elusive — a gift that could neither be given by a loved one nor delivered by a benevolent Santa. I wanted a readership for my first book.
I thought long and hard before I self-published Deadly Straits last summer. Though the prejudice against self-publishing is melting away as authors deliver quality self-published books, it’s still there in literary circles. As little as six months ago, you didn’t have to look very far to find assertions that self-published authors weren’t “real writers,” or that self-publishing would destroy any chance I had of getting a “real” (i.e. traditional) publishing deal. “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid” adult version.
I shook off the self-doubt, swallowed my fears, and put the book out there, not really knowing what to expect. I had no real sales targets, but instead concentrated on reviews. I distributed review copies widely, hoping for 50 reviews on Amazon prior to Christmas. As Summer moved into Fall, and Christmas approached, good reviews began to mount up, and I hit the magic number 50 on December 21st, my Mom’s birthday. I wish she’d been alive to share that milestone.
Good reviews drove sales, and on Christmas Day, as December sales moved toward the 3,000 mark, I realized that I’d cleared enough money to cover all my development costs — editing, cover design, website development, production, everything. Over 4,500 folks had plunked down hard-earned money to buy something I wrote, and a small but growing number were kind enough to send me nice emails. I was in the black with a growing readership, so apparently I hadn’t shot my eye out after all.
As I sit here on New Year’s Day, it’s a bit like a second Thanksgiving. The family is all well and happy, and 2011 brought fulfillment of a very old dream. I’m thankful to a lot of folks, most of all my wife Andrea, who read every word of every revision (all 13 of them), even the horrible first versions that were 1,100 pages long. I’ll add to that list the numerous beta readers who read and commented. There are far too many to list individually, but you know who you are and know you have my thanks.
I’m grateful also to the following publishing professionals that helped me along the way. Peter Gelfan of The Editorial Department diplomatically pointed out that my ‘final, final draft,’ was still far short of the mark, and showed me how to fix it. If a picture is nominally worth a thousand words, then Jeroen ten Berge’s cover designs are encyclopedic — his wonderful cover for Deadly Straits conveys the feel of the story far better than any blurb I could write. Neal Hock provided much early encouragement, and the final manuscript benefited greatly from his eagle-eyed proofreading, just as the ebook versions benefited from Guido Henkel’s wonderful formatting. On the support front, MaAnna Stephenson of BlogAid designed my website at a price so reasonable I thought it was a billing error.
Established authors also gave help and encouragement. Scott Nicholson, L.C. Fiore, Michael Wallace, Barbara Elsborg, and Debbie Henson were all more than generous with their time and support. New authors (and new friends) Stephen England and Brenda Wallace also were generous in both their support and sharing resources.
Last, but far from least, I’m thankful to those folks that took the chance on an unknown author, and who continue to recommend Deadly Straits to friends and family.
Despite the state of the world, 2011 was (all things considered), a very good year in the McDermott household — full of new challenges, some successes, and new friends. I hope it held some blessings for you as well, and that the coming year holds even more.
In fact, reflecting on it all, it makes me want to burst into song. Click the play button below and sing along!