Saturday, July 14, 2012

American Idol for Writers

This week I had the opportunity to observe the American Idol auditions in Chicago. Approximately 10,000 people showed up at the auditions. Of those 10,000, half were registered contestants and the other half were guests of the contestants. Lines starting forming at 4 AM outside the stadium where the auditions were held. By 9 AM when the doors opened, the huge crowd was more than ready to have the auditions begin. It appeared as if the average time afforded each contestant was two minutes, and sometimes less. Friends of mine who were also there remarked on the quality of the competition. There were many fine voices in the crowd, many good musicians. But as expected, most of the competitors were turned away. I don't know how many people were given the chance to go on to a second audition, but I'm betting it was less than a hundred.

While waiting for my ride afterwards, I struck up a conversation with an older gentleman who worked at the stadium. I remarked on the number of contestants who showed up that day, and he said, "They're all following their dream. If I was 30 years younger, I'd have been right there with them."

His remark got me to thinking. How many of us really have the courage to follow our dreams? What excuses do we give for not doing what we really want to do? I recently got an email from an old friend who quit her job and moved to North Carolina to pursue her love of art. What caused her to make the move was a recent cancer scare. After years of working full time as a nurse while painting in every free moment she could find, she decided to give herself the chance to succeed in the field she loved most. I applaud her courage in making a change for the better. I know she'll be happier now and that's what really matters in life.

When I first started writing, I never dreamed I'd be published. I wrote A Deadly Little Christmas (now published as A Merry Little Murder) more as a cathartic exercise than anything else. It was my way of purging the demons that arose with the death of my dad and continued through my mother's and sister's illnesses. It was only after some friends of mine read the manuscript and liked it that I took a chance and sent it off to an editor and then to several agents. I jumped through all the hoops put in place by the publishing establishment and waited, and waited, and waited for good news to arrive. Eventually it did, and the book was published, but not by a major publisher. Still, it received some kind reviews, so I wrote a second book with the same characters. Eventually I had four books in what would become the "Rhodes to Murder" series.

The first two books in the series are still available in print and e-book format from Echelon Press. But the last two books have been out of print for years. My dream was to see them back on the shelves and available to readers. The revolution in publishing has now made that possible. Ten days ago I submitted a revised edition of the third book, To Kill A King, to Amazon for publication as an e-book through their Kindle Direct Publishing program. And tonight I submitted the same book to Barnes & Noble for their Pubit! program for Nook-capable e-books. My next move will be to see it back in a print format for readers who enjoy books they can hold in their hands.

It wasn't all that long ago that writers who self-published their books were frowned upon by the establishment. Today, everybody's doing it, including authors previously, or even still, published by one of the Big Six publishers. More writers are having the courage to follow their dreams, resurrecting back lists and publishing earlier manuscripts that at one time didn't quite fit a publisher's needs. It's all been made easier, thanks to digital publishing companies like KDP and Pubit!

It's a brave new world for the book industry. Smart writers are jumping on the self-publishing bandwagon in ever increasing numbers and often earning a better percentage of royalties than what they got from traditional publishers.

I'm following my dream as a writer. Are you following your dream?


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