It was euphoric to realize we might be closer to the Island than we thought. But I didn’t miss Caleb’s hesitance in joining my celebration. Slightly deflated, I mumbled, “What’s wrong?”
          “Nothing. It’s great, Whit. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before we go back.” He gave me a weak smile.
          I knew then what he was thinking. Going back to the Island also meant seeing Gabriel again, and that was not exactly a pleasant concept in Caleb’s mind—for obvious reasons. Though I had never told Caleb the depth of my relationship with Gabriel (like the stolen kisses), he knew. He had an uncanny way of reading me, and he could see it in my face even when we were still on the Island.
          I sighed and looked deep into his green eyes, wanting to take away the hurt I knew he felt. 

“Things will be different this time, Caleb. I was an idiot before. I’m over…the whole thing.”
-Watercrossing (2012)

Things will be different this time.
Like Whitnee at the start of Watercrossing, that’s what I keep telling myself these days before the newly designed, commercial releases of my Phantom Island books release.

I’m a little different than I was three years ago when I first started stepping out into this world of publishing. I’m a little less idealistic and a little more realistic in my expectations. I do have Dreams – and not even a harsh world can kill those – but I don’t have any unrealistic fantasies about book sales and media attention and acceptance from Other People Who Are Published. I know how hard it is just to sell that first 100 books on your own. And I know the time and effort it takes to get to the seemingly unreachable 1000 Books Sold mark. I know what it feels like to see the fruits of that hard work years later when your story has spread beyond your own influence. 1000 books out there eventually spreads to more…

But even selling a couple thousand books doesn’t sound like much in the grand scheme of the publishing world. To some, it doesn’t matter that each of those books was only sold as a result of traveling to different places, meeting one person at a time, engaging in personal conversations at events, in stores or online, responding to fan email, maintaining status updates about more than just yourself, leaving comments, speaking places for free or minimal amounts of money that don’t even cover the cost of travel, leaving your comfort zone behind to meet others, and just MAKING PERSONAL CONNECTIONS WITH READERS. I’m not complaining and I do not regret all that effort. I just refuse to undermine the accomplishments that have already been achieved in my life. That was all good, honest work with no backing by a major publisher and no agent and nobody speaking on my behalf–other than the honest recommendations of people out there who choose to love me and my work.

There’s no glorifying this industry in my mind. There is still a long way to go and the road ahead is full of HARD WORK and DETERMINATION. And here I am, standing at the beginning again and feeling like I have to start all over… yet hoping that I really don’t. Hoping that some of that momentum will help carry me through this first national release.

I get comments from distant friends or acquaintances all the time that go something like, “I’m so excited for all your success! It looks like your books are just taking off.” And I wonder to myself, how do they measure my success? What exactly are they seeing in my life? Would it shock people to know that I have NEVER taken ANY profit from book sales? That all that money goes back into the costs of production and marketing and merchandise? That I EXHAUST myself and my time for deeper rewards than what is measured in dollar bills? And don’t even ask my mom how much money SHE has put out to get to this point with me… I shudder when I remember. Neither of us has ever done this for money. And there isn’t exactly much fame yet.

So why do it?

The Journey.
The Leap of Faith.
The Thrill of the Unknown.
The Love of Teen Reading and Writing.
The Desire to Challenge Myself.
The Hope of Greater Things.
The Creative Escape.
The Dream.

It does feel good to have a publisher like Tate backing me this time. It does help to have a professional team of people who believe in my work and do what they can to help its success. Already there are new book trailers on the way, TV commercials, a new author website (and blog), new author pictures, new events, new networks of people I am working with, new cover designs, and new books in the series… Things. Are. Changing.

But at the end of the day, it is not a publisher who sells books. It’s the author – be it self-published OR traditional. It’s MY name on that book and nobody is going to sell that thing better than me. There’s no escaping the hard work or shirking the responsibility it takes to see a project like this through to its success.

So will things actually be different this time? 

I guess Whitnee and I will soon find out.