I have two little kids. This means I end up watching a lot of children’s television and listening to a lot of cds that include multiple versions of The Wheels on the Bus. This is generally painful. However, there is one children’s show I can be found watching even when my kids are off doing other things – The Imagination Movers.
They’re basically the most awesome thing ever: four guys from New Orleans who decided to put their musical skills to use as an “alt rock band for kids and their rockin’ families.” They don’t write “kiddie music,” they write damn good music that just happens to be for kids. And I buy their albums for me and just happen to let my kids listen to them, cause I’m cool like that.
One of my favorite things about the Imagination Movers is their motto: Reach high, think big, work hard, have fun. This motto makes an appearance in several of their songs including the song Brainstorming that appears in every episode and this classic:
So what does this have to do with publishing? I’ve been blessed to be on the self-publishing journey for several years now and I have adopted the Mover’s motto as my own because it encompasses everything I believe about being a self-publisher.
As a self-publisher I have the amazing opportunity to be in control of every single creative process that is a part of producing my book. This means everything from the writing to the editing to the cover design and interior formatting. Now this much responsibility scares and overwhelms some people. I love it. I realize it can be daunting – and I’m not saying you have to excel at each of these fields. A self-publisher is a PUBLISHER and part of that is researching and knowing what you want and then hiring competent people. I firmly believe that the product self-publishers put out can and should be as good or better than that of traditional publishing houses. Sometimes I get raised eyebrows when I say we can be better – “as good” is a high enough goal, I guess. But why shouldn’t it be better? Why shouldn’t we be innovative and fresh and doing what the traditional houses are too stodgy to do? The internet has not only leveled these playing fields, it’s created a platform where indie artists can meet and work with other indie artists in a way that has never before been seen. As good or better is the goal. I now judge the cover design and formatting of traditionally published books by the standard of my own book. Reach high.
The internet. It’s amazing. I said before that it has leveled the playing field and it has in more ways than I can even count. The biggest way for indie publishers is in ebooks. We can put our books on virtual shelves all over the internet alongside books from those big traditional houses. That’s awesome. More importantly, we can reach readers. Lots and lots of readers. Or maybe only a few readers now…but there’s always the potential to reach more. Because unlike a traditionally published paperback that gets a few months (if its lucky) of promo from its publisher, ebooks are forever. They’re always there on the shelf waiting for readers to download and read them. I want to get my books into the hands of as many readers as possible. Am I expecting to make the NY Times Bestseller list next week? No. Do I think that’s an impossible dream for a self-publisher? Heck no! Countless of self-publishers have proven that it’s not. Is it the only measure of “big” success? No. Every self-publisher has their own idea of “making it” and they are as varied and unique as the authors behind those ideas. Whatever my goal as a publisher – I am not going to think small and I’m not going to allow others who think small to influence how I view my work. Think big.
This is the big one, the one that make the first two a reality. I am not going to sugar coat this: Being a writer is hard. Being a publisher is hard. Being both is a crap ton of work. If you’re scared of hard work, if the thought of banging your head against your Kindle at three in the morning wondering why in the hell something won’t format correctly scares you…find another line of work (or pay someone to format your .mobi files for you, ta-da!). It’s not always formatting though, there will always, always be something new you have to learn. And there will always, always be more you could be doing. I’m not saying you have to do everything. There are some things that you will find are just not worth your time and effort. The way you find that out? Effort. Tons of effort. To be great at writing and publishing takes a lot of really hard work. It might be easier if you decided to aim low and think small, but the Movers and I would be disappointed in you. Work hard.
This, you guys. This. Yes, it’s hard, and yes, it’s a lot of work. I can yammer on about quality and art and striving for excellence all day long. Self-publishing should be about all of that. But it’s also about having fun. It’s about taking your words – your stories – and sharing them with readers. It is mind-blowingly awesome when something you’ve written connects with a reader. There’s no rush like it. And it is FUN when a cover designer can connect with your story and produce a work of art that conveys the tone and feeling of your story. If you can’t look at the process of writing and publishing your books and say “that was a ton of work but I wouldn’t trade it for the world” then you shouldn’t be doing it. It’s okay to have fun. In fact, it’s more than okay, it should be a requirement. Have fun.
Of course this motto doesn’t just apply to self-publishers. If you’re a writer of any kind you can identify with it. In fact, it can be applied to specific professions or to life in general. It’s never not true. No matter who we are, we should always reach high, think big, work hard, and have fun. I’m glad the Imagination Movers have summed it up so succinctly for my kids and I’m glad that I get to sing along with them.