Mom and Author Ariella Papa Self-Publishes Her Novels–and Thinks You Should, Too
Ariella Papa is a busy mom who has self-published two books. Most recently, she wrote a great article for XOJane about the icky men who hit on her when she traveled in her 20s. Ariella also explores these real life issues in her newest novel.
“Like some exhausted lactating Rip Van Writer, I emerged from the first three years of motherhood to a whole new world in book publishing. I’d had some success with my first three novels, but then I took a break and focused on my two young children. Some people insist that you must write every single day if you want to be a writer, but having two kids means having no time. Slowly, once I got my kids on a good sleep schedule (and I stopped falling asleep by 8 p.m.), I started writing again.
I have always written about stages in women’s lives and how friendships can support and enhance those times. What struck me about my new identity as a mother was that sitting on a playground bench exposed me to “mom friends” I would never have met in the narrow confines of my own life.
I got to work on a book called Momfriends which was a humorous story celebrating the friendship between three very different women during chaotic moments in their lives. It was probably my best work to date. Unfortunately, my agent refused to read it. It didn’t have enough plot, she claimed. The suggestions she made to hook a Big Six Publisher sounded like gimmicks and not an honest portrayal of the good and bad in parenthood. The truth was that publishing houses, scared by the rise of the eBook market and their financial losses, were not taking risks.
Around me, writers I knew were trying hard to write books that didn’t suit them. Everyone hoped to find the magic formula for a book that “might sell.” But no one—not agents, not publishing companies and especially not me—could figure it out.
For a time, I refused to believe that I couldn’t sell my novel traditionally. I didn’t want to give up. Then, I started to question my choices. Maybe writing could just be something I did in another pre-kid world. Why make life harder? There was enough to do with my family and day job. In my little downtime—why not just sit on the couch and watch HBO? But tempting as this was, I couldn’t accept it. I wish I could tell you why I can’t make myself stop wanting to write, but I can’t. And…I can’t.
I remembered an Audre Lorde quote: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” For me it means to find a new way; the old way is broken. So like many other musicians, filmmakers, artists and authors before me, I went indie. I decided to e-publish. This was a shock to all who know me because I am the least tech-savvy person in the world. My computer crashes if I look at it the
wrong way. At the time, I didn’t own an e-reader and had never read a digital book.
But I wanted my story out there. So I did my research. I read just about everything I could. I got a copy editor, a cover designer, and a book formatter and set it all up.
And then I published Momfriends.
There are so many differences between independently publishing and traditionally publishing. I never see these books on a shelf in the bookstore, and any publicity or marketing comes from me. I’m not the most comfortable trying to sell my author brand, but I have no choice. There are no big budget ads or bookstore readings set up. Yet I felt more connected to this book. The choices about it are mine.
Momfriends came out over two years ago and it has sold steadily. It even picked up steam a year and a half into the release. That doesn’t usually happen in traditional publishing.
And so, I’m doing it again. I am releasing my next novel A Semester Abroad as an indie, too. In 2011, I had to explain indie publishing and sometimes e-books to people. Now almost everyone I know reads on a digital device. For those who don’t there will be a paperback. Indie publishing now includes paperback “hard copies.”
I have come to terms with the fact that I will never stumble upon these books in a
bookstore, but I can’t be stopped. I’ve got my own tools.