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Lessons of an Indie Author

I surprised myself by publishing a book. And at my age I didn’t think I had any surprises left.

Of School and Women was born from my days as an undergrad and bartender. It’s woven together with my infatuation with the clarity of truth in hindsight, mixed in with nostalgia and blended with a dreamy look at a time in life when it had endless possibilities. I vividly remember my twenties: walking the Florida State University campus, the colorful bar customers at the airport lounge, Florida’s capitol and all its landmarks and surrounding verdant nature. Memories, feelings, events, lessons learned, pictures in my mind’s eye pieced together like a giant tapestry. Together, they brought back the late 1980s, a world before smartphones and computers, when information traveled via television, radio, juke boxes, and pay phones. A time when showing up was the only way to make friends and find jobs. The news was filled with the Iran Contra Affair and the War on Drugs. Airports had no Transportation Security Administration (TSA). And college students completed assignments on paper with typewriters.


I missed all the people I knew and loved at that time in my life, so I told their experiences with embellishments. I blended the experiences of multiple real people into two characters. And this is how the protagonists, Lynette and Marie, two badass bold undergrads -- one cautious, one impulsive, both a mix of grit and vulnerability -- came to life. I learned early that life was messy, and I was determined to clean it up by finishing school. I created Lynette and Marie with this in mind. Their affirmations come from Shakespeare and Einstein, prayer and clergy --, they are under the influence of pop culture, nature, and their own snappy catchphrases, just like I was. My favorite phrase, If you can’t be good, be careful, a saying that my grandmother loved.


Freewheeling experiences of mine and my friends are the heart of my near-miss narrative that I hope entertains and sheds light on serious women’s issues, working student issues, and the trials of adulting and finding love. The story is upfront, candid, and intimate, like the in-person lifestyle was during the decade. Risk, friendship, and laughter were in the forefront of my days in the 80s. And all of it taught me that we are all one weak moment away from falling victim to scams or a life-altering mistake. Of School and Women recreates my life lessons and serves them up as an ounce of prevention to my readers.


While all the aforementioned contributed to the inspiration for the story, without the grit and determination, Of School and Women would have never come to be a published book. Truth be told, I never considered writing a book to be an achievable goal. Juggling work, school, and family has always taken precedence for me, but my fascination with the clarity of truth in hindsight has never wavered. Jokingly saying things like, Man, I could write a book about that are words that often come from my mouth as I observe day to day life. But time – time to write -- that’s another matter. I owe having time to write to the pandemic shut down. Like so many other people, my hours were cut at work. My kid Zoom-schooled and I wrote. I believe anyone can write a story, but not everyone has the time.


Of School and Women took a direction I never expected it would. I hear that happens a lot. While I was planning to pitch it as fiction, my editor said it read like nonfiction and I should just admit that it was filled with true stories and that I changed the names and details to protect everyone’s privacy. So, I wrote a foreword telling my readers what I did and dubbed my book nonfiction. I wrote an afterword telling my readers how the Reagan era political climate lived in the periphery of our lives. I had no idea that I was signing up for a triathlon of writing, marketing, and publishing at that time.


I attempted querying agents for six months to no avail before I decided to self-publish. I queried 88 agents from two different writer’s guides: Jeff Herman’s Writer’s Guide and Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market Guide. Honestly, some days I don’t know why I wrote it. And some days I don’t know why I persist with the marketing grind, when I’ve only sold some fifty odd copies in the last sixteen months. I often ponder why I believe that it has a chance. I’ve spent more money than I believe I’ll ever get back from this book. I’ve read online that most indie authors max out at selling at a mere 250 books. The editor alone was a huge splurge. My website has annual fees. Adding a shop to it added to the costs. Then there’s the money spent on advertising on social media and the internet. There are books I’ve given away. Being an author is a hobby that has turned out to be more expensive than skiing. And I haven’t earned enough to qualify as a business. Despite moments of swinging savagely between hope and despair, or maybe even delusion and passion, I wake up every day and plot a movement forward. I figure it must be a labor of love.


Businesses spend money to make money, right? And being an indie author is being an entrepreneur. And indie author entrepreneurs don’t have the resources that traditional publishers have; indie authors do it all themselves. Was it worth it? I guess so, I got my story out there eventually by self-publishing with the help of Booklocker.com, Inc. a self-publishing company. Being an indie author is x amount of time and x amount of money. I understand traditionally published books have upfront costs upwards to 100k. No wonder the Big Five publishing companies only publish a few of the manuscripts that get pitched to them. The book biz is a subjective rat race in a changing landscape.


Because I wear all the hats -- I’m the writer, the publisher, the editor, the marketer, the publicist, the social influencer, the secretary, the sales representative, the speaker, the website builder -- I’m in constant motion trying to level up my book. There’s the social media post creation, the posting, the business cards, the emails, the newsletters, writing articles, blogging, reading, writing book reviews. I must love it. I’m always trying to work an angle to level things up. I was blessed when Florida State University’s Strozier Library and a couple of local public libraries shelved my book in 2022. Recently a new cover edition was released. I’m real pleased with these milestones. I’m especially grateful to have had the help of Professor Rod Kessler (Author of Off in Zimbabwe) with another round of edits. Fall 2022 I revised my website. An author’s work is never done! However, this post almost is.


If you’ve reached this paragraph, thanks for reading. I hope I’ve piqued your interest in

Of School and Women, my rollicking journey of two coeds striving to get ahead and find love in 80s Florida. And if you decide to read the book, know that I’ll be grateful for you and your time and money spent, and that I hope you’ll learn a bit of history and life lessons from your journey through my pages. - D.S. Marquis, Author

 

D.S. Marquis was brought up and educated in the United States. She earned her BS in English Education from Florida State University and is a member of The Authors Guild. Her experiences include work as a property manager, teacher, paralegal, military reservist, a variety of odd jobs, raising a family, and writing and researching her debut, Of School and Women.



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Of School and Women

Enter 80s Florida, a world before smartphones and computers, when information traveled via television, radio, juke boxes, and pay phones. Showing up was the only way to make friends and find jobs. The news was filled with the Iran Contra Affair and the War on Drugs. Airports had no Transportation Security Administration (TSA). And college students completed assignments on paper with typewriters.


This is the world of Lynette and Marie, two badass undergrads -- one cautious, one impulsive, both a mix of grit and vulnerability. They've learned that life is messy, and they're determined to clean it up by finishing school. Whether their affirmations come from Shakespeare and Einstein, or maybe even prayer and clergy, they are under the influence of pop culture, nature, and their own snappy catchphrases. A favorite? If you can't be good, be careful.


Their freewheeling experiences, almost farce but grounded in reality, are the heart of this near-miss narrative that not only entertains, but intimately sheds light on serious women's issues, working student issues, and the trials of adulting and finding love. This book reminds us about the importance of friendship and laughter, and especially about how anyone can be one weak moment away from falling victim to scams or a life-altering mistake.


This story is based on the author's experiences during her early twenties, when she attended Florida State University, and bartended at the Tallahassee Airport.


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