Becoming a published author is a monumental achievement, but not everybody can strike gold like J.K. Rowling or John Grisham.
But Airian Eastman of McGraw and Lynn Olcott of Homer have found success outside of the world of major publishers, opting for the self-publishing route that has become more accessible in the past decade.
For both Eastman and Olcott, their love of writing began at an early age, but for very different reasons.
“I began writing at the age of 10 to deal with the trauma of losing my grandmother at a young age,” Eastman said. “She was also a writer … she wrote fiction and poetry. She received a few awards for her work. I have … an incomplete story called Obsession [a thriller about an older married man and a younger woman] and a poem about her father.”
“I have always loved writing stories since I was a child,” Olcott said. “My sister and I had a book of poetry published several years ago. I’ve written professional articles and short stories that have been published.”
Eastman and Olcott have gone different routes to get published. Eastman publishes and sells her works in both physical copies and digital copies on Amazon and Nook.
“Romance was my first self-published work, but I prefer fiction in the genre of fantasy, steampunk and modern dark fantasy,” she said. “I have a creative writing and English background, studying in Albany and TC3 (Tompkins Cortland Community College) before going on to earn a paralegal degree from Herkimer. Even as an online student, I was involved in writing for the college and while not chosen to deliver the speech for graduation, it was featured on the college website.”
Eastman’s best sellers include a nonfiction book about her family’s maple syrup business and a dark fiction novel set in Ithaca titled “Death Unbound,” which she co-wrote with her husband Michael. It is the first book in a planned series of five.
Olcott writes mostly nonfiction. She freelances and has had her works published in publications from small church newsletters to professional journals to magazines like Newsweek. But she is starting to get into self-publishing, as well.
“For several years I wrote a column, ‘Traveling Light,’ that was carried in various church newsletters,” Olcott said. “Just before the pandemic hit, I had polished and gathered the best ones and taken them to Cortland Carbon Copies to see if they could be made into a book. The owner, Betsy Allen, worked with me to get it just right, and I love the result. ‘Traveling Light’ is the only thing I have ever self-published, and it took me years to get up the courage. Now I am thinking of doing the same thing with a collection of my short stories.”
Eastman had some hiccups when she tried publishing her works through a more traditional route.
“In 2013, I opened up my first book to worldwide distribution,” she said. “The book was selling on Amazon for $100 a copy because this type of distribution means you no longer have control over the price and locations your book sells. It can lead to more sales, but I found it prevented people from purchasing my book due to the outrageous amount Amazon had it listed for. I’ve since kept control over physical print books and sell directly through Amazon for eBooks.”
Eastman says there are plenty of resources online for writers to establish their work and build their following.
“Do yourself a favor and copyright your work,” she said. “It’s easy to do and ensures you own the rights. Just in case anything comes of it down the line. Don’t worry so much about branding your image right away, focus more on getting it out to readers. There are tons of groups on Facebook and other social media platforms but a lot of them require authors to do giveaways and you can end up giving away more books than you sell.”
Olcott says self-publishing is a worthwhile endeavor for anyone who wants to try.
“Write that memoir, that mystery, that poetry collection, and get it printed to your satisfaction and give your books to exactly the readers you want to have it,” she said. “We don’t need the permission of publishing companies to share our writing with people we love and other readers.”