Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A little (or not so little) about a lot

Today is June 1st. The date is significant to me, but not because it marks an anniversary, or a loved one's birthday. It's important because it brings something in my everyday world to a close ... and is the beginning of another exciting chapter in this wonderful thing called life.

I haven't written about this. I've chosen not to. I just needed a little time. I'm ready now.

In February of 2015, I got a job as an editor and proofreader with Booktrope Publishing. I came across the company quite by accident. I learned about them through another indie author whose books I had enjoyed and then later befriended. She announced the acceptance of her manuscript on her Facebook wall, and then mentioned in passing that I might want to check them out. At the time, I had published both The Color of Thunder and Alabama Skye through Xlibris Publishing, and, while my first go around was fantastic, my second experience had left a bad taste in my mouth. I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do with a third book, but I knew I wouldn't be going through Xlibris again. I thought maybe I'd like to have a go at self-publishing. I'd had a lot of conversations with other authors who had gone that route and been successful. Editing and proofreading for Booktrope, however ... now that sounded like something I wanted to give some serious thought to. 

I wasn't new to this kind of work. I've loved the written word since as far back as I can remember, and I've been reading and writing since I was a small child. I'd worked with two different publishers; one as a jack of all trades who did a little bit of everything that was needed to put together a nationally distributed magazine, and one as a writer of everything homeschooling. I'd been a photographer, a layout designer, an editor, a proofreader, a writer and all around super secretary. I'd taken a long hiatus, but had it in my mind that I might want to start my own editing and proofreading company someday. I hadn't held a paying job since December, 2000, but this, I thought, this was something I could be good at, and it might give me a little more experience before jumping into something on my own.

One of the requirements to apply for a job with Booktrope was to set up a LinkedIn account. I'd had no reason to do so before, but as I was putting my profile together, filling in all the blanks, I realized that I'd actually accomplished quite a bit, considering the fact that I'd been a stay at home/homeschooling mom for two kids for nearly fifteen years. I took a lot of time building that online resume. (It's here if you'd like to take a look.) 

When I started with Booktrope, I had no idea how to do anything. I was a little intimidated, but excited, too, and I jumped right in. The company was based on a team publishing concept. There was the author, a book manager, a project manager, cover designer, editor, proofreader and a marketing director. I went through and read the synopsis' for many books and chose a couple that I was interested in. The first author I got to work with was Allison J. Kennedy, and then I signed on to work with author Jennifer Sivec. It just kind of snowballed from there.

This past February, I celebrated my one year anniversary with Booktrope. By that time I'd jumped into the self-publishing pool with A Skye Full of Stars, the second book in The Gannon Family Series. I didn't really know what I was doing. The formatting of both print and ebook versions were a bit of a nightmare, but I got through it ... and I had decided that I probably wasn't going to try to become a Booktrope author, although I was still enjoying my role with the company as editor and proofreader. I wasn't making much money, but I was gaining a lot more than financial revenue. I had worked on more than a dozen books by then, and become close to a great number of authors and other Booktrope staff. Quitting, or not being a part of Booktrope at that time, was the farthest thing from my mind. I still thought about starting up my own business, but I was being kept busy working for my BT authors. 

The first week of April, I handed over my finished manuscript for Dead Beat Dates & Deities to my beta readers. Book number four! I'd managed to write it in about three months, (wrist injury and all) and I was really excited about it. Once it was in my readers' hands, I took on two more proofreading jobs for Booktrope; Freedom's Treasure by author A.K. Lawrence, and Boys, Dogs & Chaos by Stephanie Kepke. I'd worked with both of these remarkable authors before, and jumped into these projects with enthusiasm. I had just finished work for A.K. Lawrence, and was halfway through Stephanie's manuscript when I saw the announcement on Facebook that Booktrope was closing up shop. That bit of news came on April 30th. It was a Friday, and at the end of the business day when it was revealed.

The first thing I felt was surprise. I wasn't involved, nor did I have any knowledge about the inner workings of Booktrope. I was just happily working with my authors, reading and editing and doing what I love to do. I wasn't sure how the team concept was working, or how successful it was proving to be. I knew I wasn't making much money from it, but I had no idea how the health of the company as a whole was faring. Apparently, not so well. 

It was a really rough weekend. I read countless posts on Facebook from my fellow Tropers, and so many of them were heartbroken and devastated. I do what I always do ... I stayed positive. I was there for them as much as I could be. They were looking at the reality of having their books vanish from Amazon in another four weeks. They were looking at having to self publish, or to find another publisher who would take them and their books on. They were looking at the daunting task of trying to be marketing gurus, managers, layout designers and editors as well as authors, or trying to come up with the money to hire others to provide the services they felt uncomfortable performing on their own. They also had to figure out the legalities of everything. We all sign contracts when a team forms and the process of publishing a book gets underway. Each one of the team members receives a certain percentage ... and those contracts are good for a five year time span. Now those authors were faced with the thought of paying future royalties, buying their covers back from the designers and cutting their way through a bunch of red tape. 

My position was different than theirs. I had just celebrated the cover reveal for Dead Beat Dates & Deities six days before ... and was anticipating a big two-day book launch three weeks later. I'm sure now that I look back on it, that I wasn't really thinking about how the end of Booktrope was going to affect me. I was really thinking about all of my authors, and those other members of the company who I'd grown fond of and close to. I became a co-admin for a new FB group called The Book Lounge in an effort to support and keep morale up, and I absolved every single one of my authors any responsibility for further royalties.

That weekend was also a very productive one. That editing and proofreading business I said I wanted to start? Well, I did it. By Sunday, Wing Family Editing had been born, and it was up and running on May 1st with four jobs in the first week.


As the month of May progressed, I kept busy with homeschooling, the cover reveal, and then the huge release party my insanely wonderful PA, Samantha organized and hosted for me. It wasn't until last week, after deciding I should log onto my profile to pull any necessary files before June 1st and the total shutdown of Booktrope, did the reality of it all hit me. I looked at my grid of projects and there they were ... every one of the sixteen books that I'd worked on, listed one by one next to all of their beautiful covers. That's when I got sad. That's when I cried and mourned the end of a wonderful part of the last fourteen months of my life.

The end of Booktrope gave me the kick in the pants I needed to get Wing Family Editing up and running. (It goes to show what you can accomplish in two days when you really set your mind to it.) I'm happy about that. I'm also incredibly grateful for the experience I got while working for the company ... but most of all, I'm grateful that I got the opportunity to meet and work with and get to know an amazing group of fellow authors who became my friends. Some of them became very good friends, and I will treasure them always. I'd say I gained a whole lot more than I lost.

June 1st means I am now officially self-employed. (Deep, cleansing breath. I'm feeling pretty good about this!) It also marks the end of my self allowed writing break. The official launch date for Dead Beat Dates & Deities was May 21 & 22nd. Break time is over. It's time to jump head first into book number two. Brides, Beasts & Baklava, here I come!