The following text is the written adaptation of the vlog update enhanced with links to outside content.
Hey everybody! It’s time for another video update on book status and general life updates.
This update starts a little differently than most: I am sad to share on Sunday June 6, 2021, we got a call early in the morning that my Grandpa Pigford was in the hospital, dying suddenly of medical complications following treatment for lymphoma cancer. We immediately hopped in the RV and drove the 8 hours to New York, hoping to see him before he passed away.
(Huge shout out to Josiah, who didn’t hesitate a single second when faced with the possibility of solo twin-toddler-parenting for an undetermined period of time. Also, many thanks to Mom Trumpower and other assistants for sharing the burden with him so that he was not alone 24/7 for an entire week. Two 2-year-olds are NOT A JOKE.)
I am grateful to report we were able to see Grandpa Pigford briefly before he passed away. We remained with the family in New York for half a week, helping plan the funeral. It was a precious time of remembrance, team cooperation, and fellowship.
It was definitely not how I expected that week to start! It was one of the contributing factors that delayed me sharing the final pieces of my writing news, which I teased in a previous vlog update. But now I can share it all, and in a lot of ways, my news is interconnected with Grandpa Pigford’s impact on my life.
As we celebrated his life, I had time to think about some of the ways he and Grandma helped me get where I’m at today: educationally, financially, spiritually, relationally…but also professionally. And the only reason he had this impact is because of the type of person he was.
When someone dies, everyone says “Oh, they were such a good person.” Theological questions aside, this is not very specific. So I’d like to give you a little more color into who he was to me, and how that culminated in the book news I have to share.
Grandpa Pigford was the most selfless person I’d ever met, in competition only with my dad. But I don’t think that counts as competition so much as training, because my dad had to learn it from somewhere! In fact, I think the best testimony to Grandpa’s character is my dad.
Most of you watching this never had the chance to meet Grandpa Pigford, but many of you have met Dad. If you have, you know what I’m talking about when I say anyone who has ever met him is impressed. In 29 years of living, I have heard Dad maybe raise voice twice. (A statistic which is even more impressive to me now that I have children of my own.) His patience, gentleness, and never-flagging selflessness is 100% traceable back to the model Grandpa lived out in his own life. When you blend genuine selflessness and consistent patience, you get a special caliber of person that stands above the rest of us.
In addition to his personal qualities, Grandma and Grandpa as a couple are generous to the individuals in our family and their goals. Several of us are creators (my cousin is designing Galaxy Junkers, an awesome spaceship-themed board game for families, and is close to launching his Kickstarter); others of us are growing our families or finishing our education. They frequently sent generous surprise monetary gifts, just to help us along on whatever goal we were working toward.
You’ve heard me talk many times about the Book Launch Blueprint course I took in April. (All three of my last video updates have been for the purpose of slowly sharing how that class influenced my next steps!)
Grandpa Pigford’s gift is 50% of the reason I even took that class. Now, you need to understand the class only happens once per year. We didn’t have the personal money for it at the time, even though in terms of book timeline and next steps, taking it would be the most strategic choice. I had resigned myself to waiting until next year.
But then, two days before registration closed, a check arrived from Grandpa Pigford, and then another surprise check arrived from my brother-in-law. Neither of these family members knew I needed to take this class, but when the total value of their gift was added together, it was the exact amount down to the dollar that I needed.
So the money showed up, I got in, and you know (or are about to finish learning) the impact that had on me. I majorly regret I never had the chance to share all of this with Grandpa, but during my time in New York, I did get to share with Grandma.
The rest of this update is your version of that conversation. I have a new career plan–born out of the class Grandpa helped me get into–that I am ready to share.
When you want to be an author, there are two main ways to get your book into a reader’s hands. The first is traditional publication. You write a book, you query a bunch of agents and hope someone decides to represent you, then they try to sell the manuscript to an editor at a publishing house.
Alternatively, you can do everything yourself. You hire professionals (such as cover artists or those editors I talked about last time) to contract their pro skills for you as needed. In the end, however, you are responsible for everything: layout, production, marketing, distribution, sales, etc. You are, quite entirely, the captain of your boat. This is the world of indie publishing.
I have never been interested in indie publishing. It’s not bad. I’ve just always wanted to go trad.
I’ll be honest: I want the validation. Not everyone can make it in trad pub. In fact, most don’t. There are gatekeepers and expectations and ridiculous amounts of old-fashioned luck-of-the-draw which you have no control over. These poor odds either eventually scare you away or make you determined to keep fighting.
I’m the latter. I’ve never been scared off by these odds. Not because I think I’m special, or I’m an exception, or publishing owes me anything, or I’m the best thing to happen since Nancy Drew. But just because very simply, I will keep doing this until I either a) die, or b) succeed. That’s not an exaggeration, it’s just a fact.
The problem, as I have recently realized, is that there are a lot of “I”s in those paragraphs.
Book Launch Blueprint asked, “Why do you write? Who do you write for?”
I realized my answer is, “Christian homeschool families.”
Now, my secondary audience is Christian adults, no homeschooling required. Whether we’re talking adult readers or child readers depends on the project, but either way, they are still only secondary. My primary audience is the homeschool family.
Homeschoolers are a subculture all to their own. I know this because I was homeschooled and we intend to homeschool our children. Homeschoolers are my home team.
Knowing your primary audience changes your business strategy. And here’s the other big thing I learned in class: Indie works well for homeschoolers. They have different needs from more mainstream readers, and as an indie author, you are better able to position yourself to address those needs.
(If you want to learn some industry-insider info, here’s some homeschool-strategy specifics from a great episode of Novel Marketing.)
After lots of soul-searching and a fair amount of existential crisis, I realized I needed to make a change in my goals. I like external validation. I want to know I made it as an author.
But that’s not what writing is about. If I’m supposed to serve fellow Christian readers–specifically homeschool family readers–I should bring my best and my professional to them and not worry about earning stamps of approval from gatekeepers.
After all, I was homeschooled and I worked with homeschoolers as a teen librarian. I have seen the kids who desperately want awesome genre fiction that doesn’t only involve the Amish or WW2 airplanes but still aligns with family values. It’s frustrating and unfair and completely unnecessary!
I can fix this problem. I can fill that need. And if I have to give up my pursuit of external validation to serve the people God wants me to serve, that sounds like a pretty good trade off to me.
My New Road
So after much soul searching, I’m moving in the direction of building an indie career. Perhaps not to exclusion of trad pub (more on that below), but my immediate focus is now here.
What does that mean? Some of you know Robin Hood is not my first project. My first public-facing project was Collar Cases, a middle-grade illustrated mystery series for kids ages 8-12. They were illustrated by Michaela Muckelrath, a personal friend who does fantastic art.
During our college years, we did two books. I actually have the third written–it’s been written for years. But my life was changing with getting married and having kids, so I pressed paused on it for a while. And then Robin Hood came along, so I assumed my practice time in the indie world was over. Now it was time to focus on Robin Hood and start pursuing trad pub for real! <crickets>
Well, the joke is on me.
I’m back to indie now, and I’m starting with Collar Cases. During the next several months, I’m going to revise, redesign, and relaunch the books. Book 2 especially contains production flaws that were a testament to my inexperience at the time. It’s time to apply what I’ve learned in the 10 years since and make a better, stronger book that is ready for an actual launch into the homeschool community.
Once the Realm Makers 2021 conference in July is over, my whole world switches to prepping Collar Cases. I hope to relaunch in January 2022. Over the course of the year, I want to hit homeschool conventions, co-ops, and get in front of homeschool families. I want them to know I am here for them, ready to provide books the kids (or the parents, depending on the project) can be excited about.
Robin Hood is not going anywhere. It’s my baby, my passion, my first-born.
I am going to conference. I am still pitching. In fact, my dream trad home for the manuscript is actually run by someone I have the opportunity to pitch to. This book is an adult fantasy, not specifically designed for homeschoolers, so it’s a little more friendly to mainstream audiences. Querying is a long process; if I’m going to give Robin Hood a chance at trad pub, I might as well spend that time working on Collar Cases anyway.
If Robin Hood does find a home with trad pub, it could be up to two years before the book launches. If it doesn’t find a home, I will indie pub it myself after I have Collar Cases settled. I would love for this to be no later than Fall 2022, but frankly, that’s probably not realistic. I have specific goals for the book’s production so that it is on par with any other trad pub fantasy novel. I’d love to spell them out here, but there are too many variables and too little data at this time.
Related to that: A big reason I’m doing Collar Cases first is because Robin Hood will be expensive to indie produce. Once you get over 100k words, the cost of producing a book increases quickly. This thing will not be cheap to make, especially given how I want it to look. My hope is that by focusing on Collar Cases–which is shorter, easier to produce, and already has a background of satisfying readers–I can start serving the homeschool community and also build up the financial capital to bring Robin Hood across the finish line on my own if need be.
Edited to Add: Robin Hood Short Stories
I forgot to mention this in the video. I’m still fulfilling the two Robin Hood expanded universe short stories I talked about here. I’m halfway done drafting the Will Scarlet story. This particular task has been put on pause while I finish prepping for the conference, but it will go back into the priority rotation once I come home.
A New Partnership!
My other news: I’ve had the opportunity to join the team of Katie Trent! Katie is an author, speaker, and leader in the Arizona homeschool community. She has an awesome new book coming out in October, Dishing Up Devotions. It’s part family cooking book, part family devotional. She’s currently contributing to a summer challenge designed to help family’s growth in the fruits of the spirit. Check it out on her website!
That’s all for now. There’s approximately four weeks to go until conference…I can’t wait to share what happens.