Today I welcome back my friend Mike Somers. Welcome, Mike! Could you please share your journey as a self-published author with us?
The decision to tell the truth -- that I was a self-published author -- has been a conflicted journey for me.
I work in higher education, where being “traditionally” published is the be-all and end-all, so there’s been an element of shame involved. I imagined my colleagues saying, “What? His book wasn’t good enough to be published by a real publisher?” I imagined the stink of failure wafting from the pages of my book as people I worked with flipped through it, wrinkling their noses.
No, my book was not traditionally published. I wish it had been. I think many authors hope for that. Nine young-adult publishers, both big and medium, passed on STARVED, and most editors had very kind and supportive things to say about the story in their rejections. I knew it wasn’t because I wrote a “bad” book; my agent, Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary understood the book and believed in it strongly enough to shop it around.
For a variety of business-related reasons, mostly that my book is considered midlist and midlist books are finding fewer and fewer slots, STARVED was turned down. I knew the writing was good but I couldn’t find a home for it.
Once all of our best options had been exhausted, Karen suggested I self-publish so my story of Nathan, a teenaged boy with eating disorders, could find some sort of life with readers, which I did in 2012. I won’t go into detail about that here, since I’ve written quite a bit about it on my website, michaelsomers.com, and I encourage you to visit the site to learn more about that part of my book’s journey.
Fast-forward to April 2014 and my email inbox. Writer’s Digest had sent a call for submissions for their 22nd Annual Self-Published Book Award contest. On a lark, I clicked on the link for the rules of entry and before I knew it, or thought too much about it, I had completed the application, paid the fee, and had a copy of STARVED sealed in an envelope. I jumped in my car and drove to the post office, riding a wave of self-empowerment. Yes, I was Rundy Hill Press. Yes, I was self-published. If anything came of this contest, I’d worry about telling the world then.
So I put it out of my mind and honestly, rather forgot about it.
October came and I received an email from Writer’s Digest telling me STARVED had earned Honorable Mention in the Middle Grade/Young Adult category. Sure, I wanted to sweep the category, but hey, Honorable Mention is pretty darn good! I did a little happy dance in my living room, saying, “Omigodomigodomigod” on a loop as I twirled around.
If I hadn’t been encouraged to self-publish by my agent, if I hadn’t been lucky enough to speak to college and high school students about my book, if I hadn’t heard from men and women around the world who recognized themselves or their loved ones in the book thanking me, if I hadn’t simply entered the contest, I likely still wouldn’t be willing to admit I am Rundy Hill Press. Now I have a reason -- a very good reason -- to own it and to own it with pride.
Michael Somers is a teaching writer who lives in mid-Michigan. His award-winning creative nonfiction has appeared in Cardinal Sins and Flashquake, and in November 2013, he was a featured essayist on This I Believe for his essay "The Power of Paying Attention."
His first novel STARVED earned Honorable Mention in the 22nd Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards for the Middle-Grade/Young Adult category.
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Michael’s books are available at