2011 was a very eventful year for me. I published my first novel, Comet Jack. I tested for and attained the rank of sandan in Aikido. I wrote and illustrated my first picture book, I Like My Dog (True), and published that for Kindle and Nook. I wrote the first Pepperjane Gingersnap book, but alas it will not be published in 2011 (since that would require me doing it in the next few hours). So, while I predicted Pepperjane Gingersnap would be out this year too, it appears I set my sights a bit too high. The possible good news on the Pepperjane Gingersnap delay is that a talented and well-known artist is considering illustrating it. My fingers are crossed. If that comes through, I'll be ecstatic, and I'll be loudly announcing here.
All this pales, of course, to what my family has accomplished. I won't go into details here, because it involves other people, but let's just say my extended family triumphed over adversity this year. As did my immediate family, in large and small ways, over and over. They also started learning the piano and have been kicking butt, which is impressive because I can hear the difference day by day. Working on something every day yields impressive results. There's a painfully obvious message about writing I should take from that.
Back to writing... The three books are all very different, but in some ways very much the same. They fall into specific age-groups:
I've got a picture book for infants and beginning readers, a (forthcoming) short chapter book for intermediate readers, and a novel for, well, everyone. While Comet Jack might officially be a middle-grade novel (or middle-grade/young-adult... is that a category?), I'm very happy that both kids and adults have found Comet Jack entertaining and enjoyable. I was hoping the book would work on many levels and apparently I've achieved some measure of that.
So what's next? Comet Jack #2, naturally. The response to Comet Jack #1 has jazzed me up to roll my sleeves up and continue Jack's story. And while I work on #2, I find Comet Jack #3 is knocking at the door, clamoring to be heard. Also, I've got several first and second drafts of other novels, these decidedly more adult. By this time next year, maybe I'll have two or three Comet Jacks as well as a book or two in the next age category: adult. That'll make at least one Steve Kopka offering for every age group, cradle-to-grave.
Perhaps the biggest change for me in 2011 was my attitude toward writing and publishing. I went from thinking self-publishing was an experiment I'd try to thinking that it may be a primary avenue for being read (and with luck and perseverance, making a living). I'm big on math and it's hard to argue with the math. Instant and more or less free distribution, world-wide--that's hard to argue with. That would be the retail equivalent of having a store on every corner. In every city on the planet. While I'm a needle in the haystack right now, at any moment all eyes in the haystack could focus on my books. My plan? Write the best quality pieces I can publish. I hope more and more readers will find them and enjoy my work.
And when they do, I want them to have more than one or two pieces to read.
So I'm off to write! Please tell anyone and everyone if you've read and enjoyed Comet Jack or the others. Write a review. Tell your mother about them. Give one as a gift to a nephew. Pester your librarian. Ask me to speak at your school. Send me a note: give me feedback so I can make the next one better. Do the same for any author you like. Readers have more power than ever with digital publishing. You have direct access to the author, you have power to get the author read (or not). This new publishing world is not being built top-down, by someone who deems particular works worthy or not. It's being built from the ground up, by everyone, by all of us, readers and writers alike. It's pretty cool.