I had been planning to attend ThrillerFest next year mainly so I could attend PitchFest. At PitchFest, I’ll get to pitch my story to as many agents as I want to in just a few hours. I had read all the success stories and thought this would be my chance. This would be my IN to getting an agent, a publisher, and then a real contract with an advance.
I was about to register for the conference (to take advantage of the Early Bird Special) when I tried dreaming about it.
Then all my plans dissolved.
Whenever I want something really bad, I dream about it. I have a vivid imagination. I can picture what I want and see myself getting it. Of course, it doesn’t always work out the way I want it to–sometimes that’s good and sometimes that’s bad–but generally, a big part of manifesting my goals includes dreaming about them.
But the thing is, I couldn’t imagine myself being happy at PitchFest.
I pictured myself getting ready to enter the room and feeling so nervous I could puke. I pictured myself meeting various agents and talking with them. I pictured myself pitching my story. Those parts I could do. But the part I couldn’t picture was AFTER.
I tried seeing myself walking away after PitchFest and feeling great that a bunch of agents had said, “Yes, send me your full manuscript!” I tried to picture myself looking happy and rushing off to call my husband and text all my friends the good news.
But I couldn’t.
Now, again, I have a pretty vivid imagination. You wouldn’t BELIEVE the stuff I’ve pictured in my mind–way wilder and more complicated than PitchFest. So, it seemed like an easy thing to dream about. But I still couldn’t do it.
It wasn’t fear. Fear is always in the back seat of my Corolla. I know what fear looks, feels, tastes, and smells like. This wasn’t it.
I felt blank. I simply could not SEE it. Not because of fear, or a lack of imagination, but because of something else.
The day before, I had looked over the ThrillerFest site and saw the list of authors that were coming to speak. No offense to any of them, but there weren’t any that I was interested in seeing or hearing. Then, I looked at the schedule of workshops from this year since they didn’t have the schedule up for next year yet. Again, very few workshops interested me. But, you can’t register for PitchFest unless you sign up for ThrillerFest or CraftFest.
So then I thought, isn’t it worth it to attend ThrillerFest if it leads to you scoring an agent that wants to sell your book to a publisher? YES. So, though I was lukewarm about the conference, I focused on PitchFest and settled on the couch to do what I’ve always done: daydream about getting the thing I wanted the most.
But I couldn’t do it.
I thought, maybe I’m just tired and I should try again another day? Yeah, that’s it. And off I went about my day.
But that evening, I took a walk.
And that’s when it dawned on me.
You couldn’t dream it because it’s not your dream.
I wanted to be a successful author. I wanted people to love my books. I wanted to make a living from selling my books. I thought having an agent and a reputable publisher would give me all that. But as I walked by the beautiful apple and pear trees in my neighborhood and saw the blue waters of the Puget Sound with the Olympic Mountains in the background, things got crystal clear for me.
I realized that putting my creative work in the hands of others would not guarantee me success.
I wanted to be a successful author, but on my own terms. I wanted full control over my content, my editing, my cover design, my book design, and my pricing.
That’s my dream.
A rush of relief washed over me. Not to sound like a cliche, but it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders right there as I turned down the block that led me home.
I no longer needed to use up precious energy thinking about agents, publishers, queries, and pitches. Instead, I needed to go back to what I knew when I wrote my first blog post back in May 2015.
I don’t need an agent to validate my writing and deem it “sales worthy.”
I don’t need a publisher to buy my manuscript and take it to press.
I can do it myself.
It’s funny how you can know what’s right for you and then wander off from that until you find yourself back where you started.
For the next ten years, I’m going to focus on writing and self publishing the best books that I can. I will have help from my team of beta readers, as well as my editor, proofreader, cover designer, and book designer.
I plan on having ten books in the marketplace in ten years. I’m shooting for about one book a year, though there might be some years where no books are released but two come out the following year.
There’s no guarantee that by self publishing my books will sell. But having a publisher print my books and place them in a bookstore is also no guarantee my books will sell. And by going with a publisher, I will have given up so much of what’s important to me, as well as most of my profits. That’s not what I want.
Ten years. Ten books. All self published.
That’s my path.
Just writing this down makes me happy.
I know I can do it because I can see it, I can feel it, and I can dream it.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel centered on the question, can enemies become friends? She is currently writing another novel that is a re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale set in 1980s Seattle.
Art by Sveta Dorosheva.