Time to Quit...Again
Written by
Annette Drake
June 2014
Written by
Annette Drake
June 2014

It was May, 1984. I was fifteen years old, sitting in a sophomore history class at Brookfield High School in Brookfield, Mo. My history teacher read the daily bulletin. First up in the school announcements were the names of my fellow classmates who would be inducted into the National Honor Society. I held my breath, knowing I would hear my name. My teacher finished the list and then went onto other bits of news. My name was not read.

After the class ended, I approached him and asked, “Are you sure my name wasn’t on the list?” He assured me it was not.

I couldn’t believe it. The only thing I believed I was good at – academics – and my teachers told me I wasn’t. Only students nominated by the faculty would be inducted into NHS. I was not one of them. And then it hit me: I would never, ever be accepted in this school. That was my moment.

I was the nerdy kid who always did her homework. The note taker. The one who actually thought there was something of merit to be learned in high school. I loved learning. I remember one of my classmates teasing me, “Are you going to be a teacher when you grow up?” It surely was the worst insult for one fifteen-year-old to fling at another.

I ran home at lunch and cried. I couldn’t believe it. I finally saw the truth: There would be no scholarships for me. No money from the local rotary club for college. My teachers had sent a clear message: you are not among the honored.

I don’t know what inspired me to do it, but I approached my high school counselor, Rob Harl, and I told him how discouraged I felt. He listened and then reached into his drawer and pulled out a paper application – yes, they were paper in 1984 – to Northeast Missouri State University in Kirkville, Mo. Fill this out, he told me. Mail it in. Let’s see what happens.

I did.

Take the ACT test. You’ll need that to get in, Mr. Harl told me. I did this. My brother, Paul, and his girlfriend drove me to Kirksville. I took the four-hour test, feeling like an imposter among the high school seniors. After the test, they bought me lunch at a local Chinese restaurant. It was the first time I’d ever eaten Chinese food.

Meanwhile, I waited and applied at a local community college. Their answer: You’re not old enough and you don’t have a high school diploma. No.

Then it came: the yes. Northeast Missouri State University not only accepted me, they gave me a $500 scholarship. Today, that sounds like nothing. But in 1984, tuition was $20 a credit hour. This paid for my first semester. I started college in August of 1984. I graduated with my bachelor's in journalism in December, 1987.

The high school attendance staff called my parents a few days after the new school year started to ask if I was returning to high school. I wasn’t there when my mother answered that call, so I’ll never know exactly what she said, but I hope it was something along the lines of, “Why would she do that?”

Now it’s happened again. It’s time to quit.

Last year, I finished writing my middle-grade novel, Bone Girl. I shopped it around at literary agencies and publishers, and all came back with this answer: no. One publisher told me to stay in my genre – romance. Last December, I queried a publisher with my third book, A Year with Geno, and again, rejection.

And then I started reading all of the blogs and newsletters from authors who found amazing success as independents. They publish their own books. They pay professional editors to hone their prose. They hire cover artists, and upload their creations to e-book distributors like Smashwords and Amazon’s Kindle. If these authors want a print version, they hire printers like CreateSpace or Ingram Spark.

These authors are bypassing the gatekeepers – agents and publishers – who tell them “the prose isn’t drawing me in quite strongly enough” or “we don’t feel that your work is right for us at this time” or >>you make up the bullshit<<. The gatekeepers say no. So the independent authors go around them. They quit traditional publishing. And that’s what I’m doing.

In early March, I published Bone Girl. Last Saturday, I published A Year with Geno. I hired an editor who is brutally honest and a cover artist who doesn’t stop until she gets it exactly the way I envisioned. I’m telling my stories my way.

The folks who help indie authors, like Mark Coker of Smashwords, tell us that obscurity is the author’s biggest obstacle. But I think there’s a hurdle that’s higher: walking away from the myth of a cheerleading agent and a benevolent publisher and believing in your story enough to publish it yourself.

For me, that first step was a familiar one, much like the path I chose thirty years ago. But for others I would ask, what’s going to spur you to choose a new road?

P.S. If you read my bio and see where I mention that I dropped out of high school, there’s a reason I include this. I want any reader who stumbles upon my blog and didn’t graduate themselves to know this: You are still a success. Don’t let the bastards define you.

Let's be friends

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  • Patricia Robertson

    If you go to meetup.com you can see if there are any local meetings. There are also wordcamps offered which are one day workshops at incredibly low prices with a variety of topics related to  wordpress. There are a lot more offerings for wordpress.org than wordpress.com. They even have a "happy" zone with people available to help you one on one with computer problems.

  • Annette Drake

    Hi, Patricia.

    I keep thinking that some day, some day, I will find a writer's conference where everything I don't know and struggle with will be fully explained. For example, how to format my manuscript for Ingram. Or how to format my book perfectly for Kindle. But I've not found that magical conference yet.

    As for leaving high school, I've cleaned up the story a bit. I didn't mention my challenging home life or the fact that I was a favorite target for the she-bullies in my school. I think for me, the silly honor society snub was the straw. I live in Washington state now, and there are so many amazing programs for kids like me who don't fit in. There's Running Start, where high school students finish their last two years at a local community college and thus, graduate with high school having earned their associates degrees. Those are great programs, but they didn't exist in 1984.

    I love the idea of a wordpress meet-up. How would I find out if one is offered in my community? Or are those online? Thanks for sharing.

  • Patricia Robertson

    Thanks, Annette. I've been attending a wordpress meet-up. Most of the people are computer geeks using wordpress.org while I fumble with wordpress.com. Have run into limitations with .com but will stick with it for a while yet. My goal is to make enough money on my books to hire someone to do my website! :)

    By the way, I was one of those "above average" kids who made it into honor society, but not exceptional like those of you who quit high school and went straigh to college. Honor society is over-rated!

  • Annette Drake

    Hi, Patricia.

    I would be happy to explain my move. 

    I started my author blog/website with wordpress.com back in February of 2013. I had been happy with it, but after I made a print version of my second book with CreateSpace, I wanted the option of selling that book to the reader directly. My plan was to have the orders come to me, I would autograph the book, then mail it to the customer. Wordpress.com has limited ecommerce tools, unless you are willing to pay $299 and upgrade to a business account. I have shallow pockets. So, I followed the directions and hired a provider, Laughing Squid, and moved my author website to wordpress.org. Correction - tried to move it. Because I lack the computer skills needed to write code. So, one Saturday night, I spent about three hours trying to do this until I acknowledged I don't know what I'm doing. Nor could I afford to pay Wordpress.com the $129 they wanted to move my site. A rep from Laughing Squid moved my website, but there continue to be problems.

    Here's what I learned:

    1) Wordpress.org doesn't offer the statistics that wordpress.com does. So, I needed to add Google analytics.

    2) Wordpress.org doesn't offer the spam filters that wordpress.com does. So, I needed to sign up and pay for askimet.

    3) I have a store now - using Ecwid, although I don't know if it's actually working as I've sold no books yet. My fingers are crossed on that one.

    4) I do have an Amazon store link on my page - the affiliate program. That's seemed to work so far, although only my books are for sale. I can't for the life of my figure out how to show the second category - books by authors that I profile in my weekly Author Spotlight.

    5) Wordpress.com offers good support even if you choose a free blog. But there's little support with wordpress.org. Just a bulletin board you can post questions to. The answers don't always fit. For example, if you click on my blog page, you'll get my message that the page isn't working. I still don't know how to link my blog posts to that page. Frustrating. I've asked for assistance multiple times.

    Here's the broken link to my blog: http://annettedrake.com/annettes-blog/

    Moving your website is a huge step, and if you don't have the computer skills or can't afford to hire IT help, please give it serious thought.

    Would I do it again? I don't know. Maybe not.

    I hope this information helps. Best of luck!

    P.S. If you learn something that makes the move easier, please feel free to share it with me. I know I'm not the sharpest knife in the IT drawer. And unfortunately, until Sandra Bullock buys the film rights to my first novel, I can't afford to hire anyone. Ah, the glamorous life of an indie author...

  • Patricia Robertson

    Annette, would you explain why you changed from wordpress.com to wordpress.org. I currently have wordpress.com.

  • Hi Annette - I'd love some editor names to add to the ones I'm talking with/screening. My email is [email protected]. And no, your blog was edited just fine! I know a lot of other "high school drop outs" that ended up in grad school. I think high school is often disengaging for creative minds. Working on changing that in my local community, but it is slow going. Thanks for your encouragement.

  • Christine Plouvier

    Hmm. Three "early entrants" in one place. I did it back in 1972.

  • Annette Drake

    Hi, Christine. I made the decision to move my website from wordpress.com to wordpress. org. It wouldn't seem like a big deal, but it IS. I still follow your blog and loved the recent post about family trees. Thank you for the congrats.


    Joanna, when I look back on it, it kinda feels like not being valued by my high school teachers wasn't such a big deal. I mean, who cares? Ah, the difference that 30 years can make! If you email me directly, I'll send you the names of a few editors I've queried. Or perhaps you meant that my blog could have used a great editor. To which I would say, yeah, you're probably right. Thank you for posting a comment and good luck on your writing journey!

  • Christine Plouvier

    Aha! Hadn't seen you at WP lately. So, here's where you've been lurking. Congratulations on Geno!

  • I dropped out and went to college too!

    Great blog. I'm right behind you. Could use a great editor 

    Thanks and good luck.