Indie Publishing: To Thine Own Self (and Literature) Be True



Yesterday I received an unexpected phone call. It was from a Los Angeles number. I answered suspiciously. “Hello?”

“May I please speak with Selene Castrovilla?”

My mind went to telemarketer. I was terse. “Who’s calling?”

“This is Lin Oliver from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.”

What??? This was like royalty calling. “Hi Lin.” This was odd!!!

“And Steve Mooser is on the line, too!” she added.

“Hi, Selene,” said Steve casually – as though we spoke often. (We are all Facebook friends, but still.)

My mind went to the awful possibilities of why these two giants in the children’s book industry would be calling. Had I forgotten to renew my SCBWI membership?

Lin sensed by discomfort. “Don’t be nervous. This is nothing bad.”

“Okay…” I managed. It was hard to let go of my anxiety. My mind is trained toward worse case scenarios. It was a survival technique in childhood, and it only got worse after Hurricane Sandy.

Then came the THRILLING NEWS:

“We’re calling to let you now that you’ve won the SCBWI SPARK Award!

This was something, alright. Lin and Steve couldn’t know how much this was. Because I’ve been fighting my way into the children’s writing business ever since I joined SCBWI so many yeas ago. Around 2001 0r 2002. There were so many obstacles it was nuts. The only thing I had  was myself. I knew I was a good writer. Actually, Stephen Roxburgh told me I was a great writer.  And he knows writers. Mostly when I went to conferences it was to buoy myself, and to listen to other people’s success stories for reassurance. No one is born published.

And then I was published. Multiple times. And I still am being traditionally published. But I had trouble with certain manuscripts. Actually, the bulk of my manuscripts. I’ll save all this for later. I’m going to be interviewed on the SCBWI blog, and they’ll likely ask me about my journey.

But I do want to say this about indie publishing. It’s an uphill battle for anyone who’s interested in being taken seriously – as a literary writer. People assume you couldn’t be published elsewhere, and that you must suck. But the biggest problem is the amount of people who self-publish things that shouldn’t have been published. I’m not saying that they could never have been published, only that the authors failed to go far enough. (A term borrowed from Patti Lee Gauch – someone else who told me I was a great writer. I paid a lot of money to hear people reassure me!) If all indie publishers held themselves up to high literary standards and hired editors, copy editors and book designers, there would be no more problems. Quality speaks for itself.

In indie publishing, we must recognize the truth within ourselves that we are sharing with the world. Because this is the main hallmark of literature, which normally would be vetted by an acquiring editor and a committee. The story should contain a truth or truths that make us THINK. And for this to happen, the author must think long and hard before publishing. He must also think clearly and objectively.

I’m proud that MELT speaks to its readers. I’m also thrilled that this indie novel of mine is getting more recognition than my two previous “traditional” young adult novels. It’s cool to know that my instincts were right.

When I choked out my thanks on the phone Lin said, “Well, you wrote a great book.”

No matter how much I believe in myself, it was totally wonderful to hear her say that.





Bye for now.

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