peeps: Rachel Howzell Hall
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Rachel Howzell Hall was always an avid reader and lover of books, getting a B.A. in English and American Literature from the University of California at Santa Cruz. Her professional writing career started at Black Radio Exclusive, an urban weekly music trade magazine, as its executive assistant and copy editor. She was also a freelance music reviewer and “Relationships” columnist for the now-defunct entertainment website, sneeker.com, before it closed up when the e-bubble burst. Rachel is now a writer and assistant development director at City of Hope, a national leader in cancer research and treatment.
How Rachel Got Started Self-Publishing
After the publication of her first novel in 2002, she had difficulty landing another traditional contract writing stories that interested her the most — suspense, mysteries infused with a message. She worked hard on The View from Here with a potential agent until she finally said, “Stop.” She figured that since she was having such a hard time trying to find a home for it in a New York house, she herself would just find that home somewhere else. The new home she found was Amazon and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) in 2010.
“It wasn’t very difficult to use KDP,” she says, “although I couldn’t figure out some of the formatting, and even now, a few paragraphs are wonky. But I did enjoy the freedom — the ability to price as I wanted, the ability to do promotions, and of course, sharing this story with readers. Oh, and I liked getting paid each month.”
Self-Publishing Observations and Tips
From what she has experienced being a hybrid — she does both traditional and self-publishing — Rachel thinks the publishing industry will reflect that approach: a little bit of both. She likes the flexibility of self-publishing, “but I won’t lie,” she says, “I like having a house with editors, publicists, distribution and all the rest.”
More observations and tips:
- “I think both approaches require a lot of work. In both realms, you have to edit the schnitzel out of your story. Just because Amazon is ready to go doesn’t mean that your story should be rushed in developmental editing, copy editing and all of that. That’s not to say there aren’t errors in trad publishing — there are. I’m reading one trad-pubbed book right now riddled with silly mistakes.”
- “I spend as much time on my self-pubbed titles as I have on my trad-pubbed stories because my name is on the cover. I want people to know me as a good storyteller and not as an author who has a lot of books out but each makes you want to take out a red pen.”
- “Most importantly, I think authors should not limit themselves in either direction, do the ‘I only self-publish’ or ‘I only trad-publish’ thing I see nowadays. Authors should not be in the business of knocking other authors on how their stories reach the masses. Choice — it’s a beautiful thing. There’s power in that one word. Authors should do whatever it takes to get their best stories out to the world. And right now, we are lucky that we can choose how to do that. And speaking personally, as an African-American woman, I don’t take kindly to people trying to limit me — I get that enough away from pen and paper, thankyouverymuch.”
Article by Eldon Sarte