…You may have noticed by now that I have a thing about anniversaries.
Well, here I go again.
I have this memory of sitting there, alone in my PJ’s, staring at the “publish” button.
The kids were asleep, and Eitan was off tourguiding for a few days. The morning before, I’d received confirmation from CreateSpace that the interior and cover files had been approved for printing. All that was left was to click that button.
There’s this concept in Kabbalah that the holiest things attract the unholiest “covers.” It is the moment when you’re about to do something very brave that the self-doubt demons scream the loudest. When I got that e-mail, I was overcome with a sort of panic. Maybe I hadn’t had enough people look over it? Maybe I should proofread some more? Maybe I should wait a bit to see if anyone responds to my requests for reviews and endorsements? So I stalled for the next day and a half, paralyzed with fear.
But that afternoon I decided that there is no end to the perfectionism. You have to draw the line somewhere.
So on the night of March 29th, 2016, I clicked the button and sent Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism out into the world.
It’s taken me a while to comprehend the full impact of that little act of courage.
As someone who had quite a bit of experience trying (and at that point–failing) to get published by the traditional publishing industry, you’d think I’d have jumped at the opportunity to publish my own book, now that self-publishing has become so mainstream and affordable. But there were a number of concerns that held me back.
The first, and probably the hardest, was letting go of the need for approval from a “higher authority.”
When you’ve spent so much of your life thinking you needed an editor or an agent, or a piece of paper, to claim to be good at something… it’s not easy to convince yourself that you are actually the highest authority when it comes to your work. I have come to believe that, but it was not an easy paradigm shift.
Then there were practical considerations. Self-publishing can be expensive. It required a whole new set of skills, including some I found particularly daunting. I had to take a loan to pay for the editing–and I was not very happy with the editor’s work, and needed to comb over the manuscript again myself to straighten out inconsistencies, which made it feel like a considerable waste.
And then there was the issue of dealing with feedback and criticism once the thing is out there. You don’t have a publisher or agent to shield you from any of that, or to bolster your reputation with their own reputation. I mentioned in my other blog, The Rejection Survival Guide, that the only person who responded to my attempts to get endorsements or positive reviews said he thought the sample post I sent him was “nothing special.” (I am still fairly stumped by that incident, as he had called previous posts “impressive” months earlier.)
But after years and years of not being good enough for all the agents and editors I’d submitted to… I finally decided I’d had enough of waiting for other people’s approval.
Clicking that “publish” button was a public declaration to the world and to myself: I am good enough.
Even if I didn’t entirely believe it.
I hardly slept that night. I woke up at 4am the next morning and discarded all hope of getting back to sleep, instead going to check the Amazon sites to see if the book was available yet. Later that day, I made the official announcement, together with a little prayer I composed for the occasion.
I’m not organized enough to keep track for sure, but it appears that I did make back at least most of what I spent–which was my primary goal. I sold somewhere in the ballpark of 240 copies in the last year. Which is very respectable for a self-published book, especially considering I didn’t put much effort into marketing the thing.
But I received so, so, so, so much more than just that.
That declaration, I am good enough, resonated through every area of my life, even ones that are only marginally related to LtJ. From the upcoming publication of my debut novel to the fact that I recently revamped my resume and felt proud of it for the first time in my life–I keep discovering new ways that small act of courage set off a chain reaction that made me happier, more successful, and more confident in my abilities as a writer and a human being.
I think that when you start to believe that you are good enough, the universe responds in kind, and it becomes a positive feedback loop.
I am very grateful that I have a publisher for my next book, because I don’t know if I would have had it in me to self-publish that one. I haven’t announced this officially because we don’t have the contract yet, but Kasva Press also plans to re-release LtJ under their imprint–something many self-published authors hope will happen eventually.
Nonetheless, I am so, so grateful that I took the risk and decided to self-publish LtJ. It changed my life in ways I never imagined.
And even if re-releasing it with Kasva means it will have a newer, snazzier book design, I will always treasure that copy that sits on my bookshelf now, the one I designed and published myself, that has a dedication in your handwriting on the first page.
You wrote in there that you are proud of me. I’m proud of me too. Thank you for all your support and encouragement along the way. I’ve said it before, but you really went well beyond the call of duty, and it has meant a great deal to me.