Friday, July 12, 2013

From Changing of the Hats to Changing of the Guard - Part 1

The challenge of becoming a successful author is faced daily by thousands of aspiring writers. Most come from different backgrounds, different jobs, different circumstances. Yet their writing and marketing commonalities provide the basis for sharing models that may inspire others to create their own models for success. Former dance instructor and award-winning choreographer S. K. Randolph, author of two fantasy novels and several “shorts,” shares the ups and downs of her experience, beginning with the early stages, in this two-part guest post.

The long work day was over. My dancers had equated themselves particularly well in their rehearsals for the Spring Dance Concert, and I hummed to myself as I entered the campus post office to pick up my mail. The small, round building, an ice house in its former life, bustled with teenaged students. Their giggling exuberance made me smile. The letter the postman put in my hand made my stomach tighten.

Hurrying across the street to the dorm where I lived in a faculty apartment, I let myself hope. I arrived in my living room, dropped my bag on the couch, shed my director’s hat, and sat down. As had happened twenty-plus times before, its return address made my heart quicken. The contents of the letter made it sink. A single, typed paragraph politely informed me that my manuscript had been rejected. The one unique feature of this letter was an added handwritten postscript telling me that I should not think that self-publishing would get me anywhere. The disappointment was momentary. The challenge was clear.

That was January 2008. Now, five years later, I am an Indie Writer with my own publishing company and website. I have published two novels and five Companion Short Stories that bring depth, dimension, and backstory to my characters. Great, unsolicited reviews are popping up on Amazon. The third book is in process, and three more completed “shorts” await the proper time to upload them. In addition to writing, I do all my own graphics—covers, chapter headings, maps, etc. Samples of chapter headings included here depict characters from The Unfolding series, based on “photoshopped” pictures of former students. (Written parental permissions were obtained.) I also do the book layout in InDesign. Those who work with me will attest that I am a perfectionist; yet even we perfectionists need to
“perfect” our skills, retire most of our hats, and yield to the changing of the guard— delegating essential elements to appropriate professionals. (Depiction on the upper left is Yaro, the Pentharian. On the right is Yugo, the DeoNyte.)

Early in the process, I realized I could not wear all the hats required to write and to publish if I wanted to be a successful author. Too many responsibilities cut sharply into my writing time and interfered with my concentration. It was time to change the guard by bringing in fresh troops to handle vital areas that lay outside my fields of expertise.
• I needed help with the publishing, marketing, website, and social media.
• I needed more eyes than my own on each part of the project.
• In other words, I needed a team—not a big one, but a good one.

My team consists of my editor and writing coach, my CEO/Marketing Manager/IT guy/webmaster, and a group of beta readers who love to be in on the ground floor. I use family and friends and anyone who promises to be critical and straightforward. My editor is paid a fee. No one else is on salary because I don’t have that kind of a budget, but everyone is focused on supporting me and what I'm doing because I am in this for the long haul.

Be sure to watch for Part 2, which addresses tools, talent, and perseverance—required attributes to make it through that long haul, author’s hat firmly in place and the guard marching loyally behind.

What has been your journey to where you are now? Have you mapped future travels down the road of success? If so in either case, please share your experiences.

S.K. Randolph
grew up on the island of Bermuda. Although her mother, a well-known artist, encouraged her and her sisters to try painting, Sharon chose to channel her creative talents into ballet. Her career in dance spanned forty years and took her from performing to teaching, choreographing, and directing. In 2010, after two decades as Director of Dance at Interlochen Center for the Arts in northern Michigan and then at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, she retired to write and to create digital art. To find her books, The DiMensioner's Revenge and The ConDra's Fire and Companion Short Stories that accompany them, visit


  1. Enjoyed meeting you and learning about your journey. You are so right about needing a team, especially fresh eyes on a project. Too often we miss small and even big mistakes in our work and we need a good editor.

  2. Looking forward to reading part two. I'd love to outsource the marketing and have a stand in for the publicity. I love doing the rest. :)

  3. Sounds like you've put together a great support group. I think your post will inspire others to look for people who will help and support them in their writing journey.

  4. Hey, that's great ... I'm intensely jealous about the 'team' thing, but still very happy for you ... seriously.

  5. Maryann: You're so right . . . we miss a bunch as we reread. Our brains already know what is supposed to be there. (posted by Linda Lane for S. K. Randolph)

  6. Helen: I hope it will provide some ideas to try. Self publishing can be overwhelming when you are alone in the boat. (Couldn't help the analogy since I am what Alaskans call a "live aboard.")

  7. Diana: I understand. Next to writing the book, marketing is the most time consuming. Just keeping up with the ever-changing marketplace is a challenge, let alone the actual marketing of the product. (posted by Linda Lane for S. K. Randolph)

  8. Christopher: I'm glad too! I learned a long time ago that turning out a professional product definitely takes a team. (posted by Linda Lane for S. K. Randolph)

  9. Hi S.K., as the resident former dancer/choreographer/dance critic-turned- novelist here at BRP, welcome! I'm sure you've benefitted greatly from your multi-arts perspective; I know I have. My debut novel, coming out through Sourcebooks in January, is literary women's fiction set in the Philadelphia modern dance world, to make use of stricter expectations of women's bodies. I'd love to hear how your dance background exerts itself in your writing, although I understand it's outside the scope of your topic. Will look for you on social media!

  10. What does "equated" mean in the dance world?

  11. Kathyrn, great to meet you! A lifelong association with the arts has definitely impacted my writing and how I approach it. Of all the skills my journey has ingrained in me, choreography is the one that impacts my writing the most. It was in the dance studio that I learned to trust my creative go where a piece takes me without getting in my own way. My choreographic work is layered and often complex. This has carried over into my storytelling. Making smooth connections and transitions and being aware of flow have also come from dance. Would love to connect. You can find me on FaceBook at (posted by Linda Lane for S. K. Randolph)

  12. John, it means they had done well — they had lived up to my expectation. (posted by Linda Lane for S. K. Randolph)

  13. Kathryn, I'd love to read your book! (posted for S. K. Randolph)


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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