Friday, June 30, 2023

The Tess Take-Over: Publishing an Indie Novel on Off the Wall Friday

I used to think that there was nothing better than a good book—the kind that makes you spend days cocooned in your favorite reading nook, not a care in the world. Turns out, the only thing better than reading a good book is writing one. My name is Tess, and this week I'm taking over my mom's blog to tell you about my debut novel, Kit & Basie (Tales from Long Lily, 1), and how the heck I got to this point. 

My mom can tell you I've been writing stories since before I could accurately spell, but I didn't become serious about being a novelist until adulthood. That was when the Real ideas started to hit me, beautiful worlds filled with complex people, somehow always about love. 

That's what Kit & Basie is: a story about folks who love each other and want to find the place they belong. It's an LGBT, cozy romance that tells the story of an immortal man who falls in love with the fella that moves into his late mother's house. I wrote it as a love letter to the queer folks in my life and all my favorite small towns in Pennsylvania. If this sounds like something that is even remotely up your alley, it is set to release in August 2023. I'm also running a Kickstarter to cover the publishing costs — more on this later! 

My mom asked me to talk about how I landed on this story, this genre. The truth is, sometimes stories are just meant to be told and it's a writer's duty to tell them. I had been wanting to write a collection of interconnected stories about small town people that was just a little magical. I pulled inspiration from The Spoon River Anthology, by Edgar Lee Masters, a collection of poems that narrates the epithets of all the passed residents of Spoon River, Illinois. I also drew lots of inspiration from Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery and even The Raven Cycle, by Maggie Stiefvater. All of these stories feature small-town people that are heavily interconnected with one another. 

Shortly after I conducted all my research, I went to a wedding in Virginia outside the Shenandoah Valley. Driving through Appalachia was a huge source of inspiration. The only downside was, I immediately caught Covid and came back quite ill. Buuut, it meant that I had plenty of time to quarantine and write. 

For the life of me, I don't remember writing the actual words of the first draft. Fever brain will do that to you. But, two months later, BAM! I had a completed manuscript. I recall writing most of it on the back porch, listening to the birdsong, or the soundtrack to the 2003 Pride & Prejudice. I let the novel rest for eight months after it was finished, before making the decision to revise it so that it could be published. Overall, Kit & Basie fell together so perfectly, so differently than I initially imagined, but I believe it's the way it was always supposed to be. 

Now, it must be said, self-publishing is not for the weak of spirit. I am a one-woman publishing house — equal parts author, editor, marketer, publisher, distributor, etc. I've worked with excellent editors and artists who helped me. Some of it was easy! For instance, my best friend is a professional, freelance illustrator. I commissioned her to illustrate the cover. My running draft is pictured below.

But ultimately, despite my collaborators, the end quality of this book is entirely up to me. That has meant editing the book nine million times, developing a social media presence, and planning fundraising. It's a lot on top of working in a library full time and going to grad school, but the hard work has been very worth it. 

For all that self-publishing is a lot of work, time, and money, it was the best choice for me. I knew I could do it. I had enough support from loved ones, artistic connections, and savings to make it happen. The main reason, though, was because the traditional publishing process is very long, tedious, emotionally taxing, and entirely contingent on the state of the book market. I wasn't confident that I'd find an agent or publishing house that would want to publish K&B. It's very short and character driven, and overall not what's on-demand on the book market. Yet, I was confident that the story deserved to be published and read, and I wanted it to be published on my terms. 

The last major undertaking for Kit & Basie's success is the Kickstarter. If you're not familiar with Kickstarter, it's crowdsourcing. Supporters of a project pledge money toward a creative endeavor, and if the creator meets their goal, supporters receive the product and often other goodies too! I decided to launch the Kickstarter as a way to break even on my publishing costs and a way to personally give fun things to the folks who support my journey as an author. My goal is to raise $3,800, and I'm already over 60% of the way there after only 24 hours. Kickstarter is all or nothing, so the only way this project comes to fruition is if it is fully funded. 

If you'd like to support Kit & Basie's publication, you can find the Kickstarter here. Pledging gives you access to the rewards, all designed by either myself or other PA locals. Two of the rewards are pictured below — a keychain I crocheted myself and a tea mix — but there's plenty more to be found on the Kickstarter page linked above! You're able to pledge as much or as little as you'd like, with or without rewards. I promise, every little bit counts. 

Time will only tell about where my journey as an author takes me. My mother is hoping it's more Long Lily stories. I'm hoping it's a fun fantasy story. Whatever it is, I'm excited to find out! Thank you for letting this indie author take over the quilt space today. If you have any questions about the project or even about self-publishing in general, feel free to reach out to

Enough about me!

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