There is an image that pops into my mind now and then as I coach people on their careers and reflect on my own. It is that of a dog kept in a cage for a long time. When the door to the cage is wide left open, the dog is so used to the cage that they dare not venture out.
Tracey Garvis Graves, a 45 year-old mother of two, wrote a novel over a period of 18 months. She got up at 5 a.m. to write for a couple of hours before heading to her job in HR at Wells Fargo. She duly sent out the manuscript to literary agents and received 14 form-letter rejections. So last Fall she decided to self-publish the novel titled “On the Island” as an e-book, also making it available for print on-demand. She didn’t expect to sell many copies when it was first listed at $2.99. In fact she sold just 100 copies the first month.
Soon it was selling a couple of thousand a month and by April 2012 the book had racked-up sales of over 140,000 and climbed the e-book best-seller lists at The New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. Sales are now over 360,000 and she has signed with Jane Dystel at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, who has since sold the book in nine more countries. In May, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer optioned the movie rights to the story about a couple of castaways stranded on an island in the Maldives after a seaplane crash.
Other writers have also benefited from the ability to self-publish. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers paid six figures for “Life’s a Witch,” a self-published series by Brittany Geragotelis that has millions of readers on the website Wattpad. Another is fantasy writer Amanda Hocking who sold 1.5 million copies of her self-published books and then received a multi-million dollar deal with St. Martin’s Press.
All of which goes to show that with the tools at our disposal today, the only excuse left for not pursuing one’s passion is sheer inertia. Six-figure deals are not guaranteed, but with the barriers to entry to many things effectively reduced to nil, all kinds of things previously walled-off are now an open gate; one just has to walk through it.