"Writing itself becomes the subject of the writing course..."

 — Michael Carter       

The Value of Individual Difference: Publishing with an Independent Publisher

January 26th, 2018 by

Because I haven’t kept it a secret, most readers of this blog probably know of my story over the last few months. In September, my first novel, Apocalypse TV, was released by a small, independent Christian publisher. Three weeks later, just before I was scheduled to have a book launch/release event for it, my youngest son, who had been depressed for most of the last four years, took his life. He had been struggling for longer than we knew, and though he tried to get help and overcome it, he had finally had enough.

With his loss, my focus changed from being a new author to taking care of my family and myself. Anne Lamott has said that new authors should not expect that publishing a book will change their lives, and she is right. Losing my son, on the other hand, was devastating. I don’t expect to ever be the same again.

Most superficially, losing Michael ended all of my immediate efforts and plans for promoting my novel. It is a given in the current publishing market that promotion for a new book falls mostly on the shoulders of the author. Had I gone with a traditional publisher, they would have expected big sales during those weeks following the loss of my son, when I had withdrawn from the world to mourn. I would have been considered a failure by these standards. I didn’t go that route, however, and over the last month I have realized that this works to my benefit. Publishing my book with an independent publisher might actually fit my story in a positive way and allow me to move forward.

Christian author Ed Cyzewski writes that “a commercial book will typically become successful over the course of its first year if it sells well in the first few weeks” (72). If this is the case, then I should expect to not ever publish again.

But that is not what I have found with my publisher. I might add that my editor has provided encouragement, reminding me of what he said before the book was released: that promoting it is not a sprint but a marathon. He is a runner, and this metaphor is certainly meaningful to him. It has also become more helpful and encouraging to me at this time than it originally was. It certainly supports what Cyzewski has noted is the advantage of working independently, where “authors are removed from the urgent publicity timetable of a commercial author” (73).

This is especially helpful to think about, as my friend and author Joseph Bentz has noted: because my book is a novel, after all, not a quick political tell-all that will be out of date in six months, or a book on a hot, trendy topic that has interest NOW, there is no need to be in a hurry. As a novel, it can have a much longer shelf life to it.

That book launch that was supposed to happen last October and was cancelled has come up again. This coming Wednesday, January 31, I will be getting a second chance to promote my book with fellow author and colleague Sarah Adams, who will be promoting her book, Changeling’s Fall, a work of high fantasy. I hope that some people reading this blog will be able to come to APU to attend it. I am also slowly beginning to seek out other venues where I can read from and talk about my novel. If you have some ideas for me about that, I would welcome them. If you would like to include my novel with your book club or write a review of it, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I should have some questions and group study ideas available soon. I could also be available to come and talk to you, both about my recent story around my novel and the story in it.

I am not done mourning the loss of my son. I expect I never will be. That is the truth. But this sharing of stories is one more way of trying to come to terms with what has happened. I think it is the vocation of many writers.

Work Cited

Cyzewski, Ed. Independent Publishing for Christian Authors. 2017.

Posted in Uncategorized| 5 Comments


Comment by Nancy on January 26, 2018 at 9:40 am

Thank you, Tom, for bringing the big picture together–the life of the author and the life of the novel–and how they meld together so that you can do what you need to do in your grieving process, which has a mind and timeline of its own. I loved your book, and it does have relevancy that will stretch eons beyond a cup of coffee! God bless you in the new opportunities coming your way! — Nancy
P.S. Good insights on having an independent publisher, too!

Comment by Tom on January 26, 2018 at 9:44 am

Thank you, Nancy, for reading. Writing may be one of the vocations we have where we can see integration of all kinds happening. Thank you for your encouraging words about Apocalypse TV.

Comment by Nancy on January 26, 2018 at 9:50 am

Tom, you’re an inspiration for me as I’ve seen you diligently write your book, edit it, publish it, and now move it out into the world and to readers amidst tribulations in your life. It would be an excellent book for a university (or book group) to use in a literature, theology, communications, media, or philosophy course with many opportunities for readers to delve below the surface and wrestle with the larger ideas at its foundation. As always, you have me pondering!

Comment by Tom on January 26, 2018 at 9:54 am

These are really good suggestions. I can see how it might be relevant to comm studies. This helps a great deal.

Comment by Bill on January 29, 2018 at 7:47 am

As always Tom, you speak from the heart. Thank for your honesty and vulnerability. I will see you on Wednesday for the launch event!!

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