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Rock On Kitty (Adventures in Self Publishing)

It all began with Choose Your Own Death. I was offered a short story commission from a magazine editor that specialised in macabre fairytales and fantastical stories for young readers. I started writing one Saturday morning thinking I’d knock it over by Sunday evening.

By late Saturday, the story had taken on its own life. Characters refused to die. My carefully plotted index cards were scattered across the room. I submitted the story anyway – 5000 words over the word limit. I never did hear back from the publisher.

I was disheartened but not defeated. I’ve never killed any of my stories. Instead, they skulk in the virtual bottom drawer of my hard drive and every so often, usually on a Friday or Saturday night when I’m home alone with a glass of wine, I’ll find the file and plug away at it. That was how Choose Your Own Death was completed, eighteen months after the initial ‘commission’.

What now? I’d read too many blogs from writers about the difficulties in finding an agent, much less a publisher. When the writers finally did get their manuscript accepted, they were elated. Having a publisher accept your work is a childhood dream. I pursued my dream diligently for a few weekends, firing off emails trying to find an agent willing to take it but at 16000 words, it was an odd fit.

I couldn’t keep searching indefinitely. I had a day job where I taught film students the business of animation— a business where emerging filmmakers spend thousands of dollars marketing and self-distributing their short films to film festivals and online. Sure, film producers also tried to engage with distributors and commissioners but the reality is, the online platform provided the most opportunities for emerging filmmakers. Visual artists were also self-distributers. As an art college graduate, I’d never questioned parting with money to pay for a gallery space as part of a group exhibition. This was just part of the culture. No one ever turned up at the opening night of an exhibition and asked whether the gallery chose to curate the exhibition or whether the artists self-published.

The truth is the book publishing industry has kept their privileged gatekeeper mentality long after it had been knocked down in every other creative field. The decision to open my own indie publishing house was easy. I had a lot of transferrable skills from working in screen production and having completed an animation degree. If there’s one degree that teaches you how to teach yourself every software an artist or writer could possibly need, it’s an animation degree. Still, it’s a lot of work balancing being a writer and publisher. Eventually, I’d love to bring on people to help me with the publishing side of things. For now though, I’m content to tread that fine line between making my work and distributing it, like every other artist.


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