Why I have chosen to self-publish.
I was blessed to have a very good friend, Kathie Bennet, who read my first manuscript, Swimming with Serpents, and said, "You can write."
She already represented quite a few authors, including
Karen Spears Zacharias whom I invited to Dothan for a Wednesday Lunch fundraiser at the Basketcase. Kathie was a blessing to our Friends of the Library because she had contacts with many fine authors. We learned a lot from those authors. I appreciated their coming to assist us and always arranged a visit on WTVY (Ann Varnum) and WDHN (Ken Curtis) to assist them in publicizing their fine books. Very generous patrons of the Friends also contributed housing for those who needed it.
Karen Spears Zacharias was particularly helpful to me because she knew Marc Jolley and his interest in Creek Indian History. Benjamin Hawkins, Agent to the Creeks, built his agency quite near Macon, Georgia, where Mercer University Press is located.
Karen suggested that I send my manuscript to Marc Jolley. He liked the topic of my book and took a chance on me. I signed a contract pretty much signing everything over to them. I did not realize that other than including my books in their catalogue and paying for me to attend one event all other responsibilities for publicity would be mine. That included housing, transportation, etc. plus the cost of the publicist ($1000 a month). Kathie Bennett (Magic Time Literary Agency) is well worth the money, but unfortunately, I am obviously not a good salesman of my novels. I have been told I talk history rather than story and it is the story that sells the book (that comes with being a history teacher.) Kathie arranged housing and transportation with the Festivals that she booked for me. Fine festivals that were truly an education to me and a wonderful experience at every one. And book stores. Now I truly enjoyed those events, those book store owners and the other authors I met whose friendships I now cherish.
I just did not succeed in selling many books! My fault.
Unfortunately, I have yet to receive a check from Mercer University Press and must pay them to buy back the rights to my books. I will do that eventually because I want to include some genealogies in the first and rewrite a bit of it. You can do that when you self-publish. I am grateful to Mercer for publishing them because that gave me the confidence to continue writing. They are good people. It is totally my fault that the novels they supported and published have not been successful.
My husband did not enjoy travel and it cost us more to travel and sell the books that I had purchased to sell than we made on any event. Perhaps my experience is unique.
But I still like to WRITE BOOKS. I had discovered stories no one else paid attention to. Swimming with Serpents focused on the Creek War and the Massacre at Fort Mims, a topic I was fascinated by because my grandmother lived in Brewton, Alabama. Whenever we passed across the bridge over Burnt Corn Creek and Murder Creek, Muddin told us those stories. When we went to the cemetery she said that was where Weatherford jumped off the cliff. (It wasn't I later discovered, but the image was planted in my brain.)
And then I started doing genealogy and I found out my fourth Great Grandmother, Vashti Vann Jernigan, was Native American (Cherokee). Ironically, her husband was a good friend of Andrew Jackson. (Think of those suppers where Jackson ate at her table!) Later I discovered that Josiah Francis (executed by Jackson) was a distant cousin.
Who were those people? Why were they there? What was the battle all about?
And then I wondered, what happened to the Indians after Horseshoe Bend? I would attend meetings at the Archives in Montgomery and all I heard were stories of Jackson's militia. And that was straight history or genealogy. Yet, I grew up teething on Historical Fiction through the "You Were There" series of children's books. Historical Fiction inspires one to find out more.
That curiosity then led me to follow the Red Sticks who escaped Horseshoe Bend down into Florida, the Seminole War and -- The Negro Fort -- and the novel, IN PURSUIT. Quite a story there!
After the destruction of the Negro Fort on the Apalachicola River and the loss to Jackson in the First Seminole War, where did they all go? This included the Blacks who escaped the Fort and fled to Angola. A story lost until Vickie Oldham and Uzi Baram (New College, Sarasota, Florida) started their archaeological digs.
Until I wrote ON TO ANGOLA: RACE TO FREEDOM. It is our hope this novel will spur an interest in Angola and help Uzi and Vickie reclaim this bit of Black History. I hope they will not forget Talapchopco, Peter McQueen's last refuge. McQueen was Osceola's mentor and uncle. What a story that is! One leads to another, you see!)
In each of these stories I have taken the children rescued by Lyssa Rendel Kincaid to build a story. I research the time, the people famous and unknown during those times and weave a story, telling not only their personal story, but the story of those times. ON TO ANGOLA: RACE TO FREEDOM explains the plight of free Blacks and Escaped Slaves as Jackson as provisional governor in 1821 helps to mold his vision of Manifest Destiny in Florida. Along the way, readers are introduced to early Jewish settlers, pirates who still roamed the Gulf waters, former Red Sticks and future warriors (Osceola, Wildcat, and John Horse).
These are important stories. To the victor belongs the spoils and that includes the writing of history. The books I write are the "rest of the story." Not exactly what we wish it to be. But what it is. "Those who refuse to learn from history are condemned to repeat it."
Now back to the topic, why I chose to self-publish. Why not? If the story is good enough, self-publishing will not inhibit sales. Look at Shades of Grey! (Though On To Angola is more of a young adult novel or even Christian Historical Fiction.) What helps a book to become successful is ALWAYS the reviews on Amazon and one friend recommending the book to another.
Traveling for an event gets more challenging as one gets older. My husband just had brain surgery and family demands to stay home grow greater, believe it or not, as one gets older. Like my mother I have a bad back and just put in a chair lift in our home.
If other publishers require what Mercer needed of me, that is something I cannot do at this time of my life. But the stories keep percolating. And so, the Creek Indian Family saga will probably continue.
As will the Mint Julep Mysteries. Have you read about Dabney, Sophia, Faye Lynne, Ruby, Florence, Berniece, Carrow Dee, and others?
If you haven't you are missing a treat! I go from the serious writing I do on the Creek Indian Family Saga to the humor, mischief and mystery of the Mint Julep Mysteries, women of a certain age with whom so many of you will not be able NOT TO IDENTIFY WITH. I love to read and I love to write.
I choose to self-publish through CREATESPACE, a place that makes the process simple and fun. I hope you choose to read what I write. By the way, though I talk history, the stories in these novels are well worth reading. If I had to judge them they would be GREAT! But then I am the one who lived this history through them and I will guarantee you it was an exciting adventure!
I am grateful to Mr. James McCalister, former Superintendent of Bay County Schools and current President of the Friends of the Library for his encouragement two days after I posted that the novel ON TO ANGOLA: RACE TO FREEDOM was ready to purchase on Kindle:
Congratulations!!! I have just purchased a copy of your new book, "On To Angola." The book is fabulous and it's hard for me to put it down for any length of time. I am gravitated to it like a high power magnet.
James E. McCalister
This was totally unsolicited. Thank you, Mr. Mac! You made my day!
PLUS, IT IS FUN TO SELF-PUBLISH! You get to create everything from research to writing to choosing the cover and then editing. All the errors are mine. For good or bad. And, if I make any money on it, that is simply icing on the cake because I got to share those stories with others! (There are a few folks who share my interest in history.)
Should you choose to purchase one, I hope you enjoy the adventure.
Should you be considering self-publishing and I can help explain the path, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The book is listed with the BISAC Code for Fiction/History/African American but it could just as easily have been listed as Florida History and/or Native American History. Since Angola was the major theme, I listed it as African American History.
On to Angola is available through Create Space, Amazon, or through the Expanded Distribution of Create Space
Swimming with Serpents and In Pursuit are both available through Mercer University Press, Ingram and Amazon.