Four years ago, in the midst of self-publishing my first novel, I found my toes teetering on the edge of a steep drop into what could only be described as a total crazypants abyss.
Circling above my head like buzzards were questions, phrases and fears that plagued my attempts to launch my writing career. How should I price my book? Is it OK to use an ISBN from my printer? What the heck is a distribution list and do I need to be on one?
On the verge of a hysterical episode, I did the same thing I always do when facing a mental breakdown – I called my best friend, Toni.
And just like she always does, she talked me off the ledge, into a safe and happy place where I was once again proud of my writing accomplishments and convinced that the future held infinite possibilities for me, my book and my writing career.
Crisis averted, I pressed on.
Neither Toni nor I was aware of it at the time, but that little episode was the start of what would become our first true professional passion: helping out fellow indie authors.
So many footsteps (in so many different directions) brought both of us to this point. We’re here, with you, positioned quite perfectly to make a big splash in the publishing world!
And we couldn’t be more excited about it.
It’s been a long road for us, just as it has been for you.
So many of you have shared their stories with us already, and we’re so thankful! From details of battling through the self-publishing process to evolving plans for a new novel and insightful questions — you’re sharing part of yourself with us, and we love hearing from you more than we can express.
Now, we want to return the favor and share our story with you, to give you a feel for who we are and how we got here. Then, together, our indie author family can become an even more pioneering force in the self-publishing wilderness!
The story begins…
The first time mine and Toni’s paths crossed was in 1992, in the confines of our second grade classroom.
Bonded over a mutual love for FSU football, chapter books and The Weather Channel (we were a little odd, what can I say?) we quickly established a friendship that would transcend our separation at different schools, the changes of adolescence and the challenges of college independence.
I promise you, there are very few people who could share a 12’ x 12’ room with me and not wind up smothering me in my sleep (justifiably, at that). But Toni and I got along like gangbusters in our first college dorm. We listened to Journey every night before bed, never missed an episode of The OC, made grilled cheese with our clothes iron and beat every level of Mario Kart Double Dash (including the bonus mirrored tracks, because we’re just that awesome).
Things went so well that we remained roommates for the next four years as we transitioned through a series of apartments and houses with other friends.
The dynamic duo goes pro!
Our college experience also gave us an opportunity to work together as graphic artists for a national publication company. We traveled all around Tallahassee, meeting with blue-haired ladies in church basements to explain how we would use fancy computer programs to create the church directories they’d previously been publishing with scissors and glue.
Toni’s incredible design skills and artistic eye combined with my (borderline obsessive) organizational skills and Southern gift of gab made us the perfect team for the job.
Though we eventually left the position to take separate jobs as part of our master’s degree pursuits, that work experience made us realize that our well-balanced friendship could easily be parlayed into a well-balanced business.
Following graduation, we both wound up back home in our sunny seaside town of St. Augustine, Florida, again working for the same company – Toni as a designer, me as a project manager. But, unlike our college employment, this job’s depressing windowless cubicle confinement drained our fun, fire and passion every day we stepped through the doors.
By this time (late 2009), I had self-pubbed my first book (twice) with Toni’s artistic, informational and emotional guidance. Though parts of the experience were rough (as evidenced by my near mental breakdown described at the beginning of this story) we both enjoyed learning as much as we could about the industry. Self-publishing was the perfect outlet for authors wanting to take control of their own destinies!
Look out self-publishing world: Duolit is born!
All of this led to a pivotal conversation at Cracker Barrel (that sentence has probably never been said before…no offense, Cracker Barrel). Our depressing day jobs had driven us to seek comfort in the roadside chain’s delicious 24-hour breakfast.
We had begun to take a few freelance marketing and design gigs here and there, but our efforts had little in the way of focus or direction. As best I can recall, our discussion went something like this:
Me: Hey Toni, pass the ketchup.
Toni: Sure. *Chewing* You know, I’ve been thinking about our marketing business thing.
Me: Yeah? *Nom Nom Nom*
Toni: I think we need to focus on a specific niche – like, a group we really care about. *Pause* Are you gonna eat your grits?
Shannon: No, here. *Passes grits, then takes a huge bite of hash brown casserole and talks with her mouth full, like a caveman* I think that’s a good idea. It would give us more focus.
Toni: Exactly! And you know there are a ton of other self-publishing authors out there like you…
Shannon: Except they don’t have an awesome friend who will do their book design for free and help them stay sane when trying to market their book on the internet and that new Twitter thing. Thanks for that, by the way.
Toni: You’re welcome. When you make it big, I want you to buy me a pet penguin, okay? And a golf cart.
Shannon: Done. Can you pass the biscuits?
Toni: Yeah. *Nom, Nom, Nom* So, seriously, I think we should do this. We can offer advice on a blog and then come up with some publishing and marketing services we can provide at low cost for struggling authors.
Shannon: We can share all the stuff we learned when we were researching stuff for my book, so other authors who don’t have the time to sift through everything on the internet could find everything they need in one place.
Toni: Exactly! What do you think we should call it?
Shannon: I don’t know, toss me that packet of strawberry jelly and a napkin; let’s brainstorm.
Fueled by grits and hash browns, we scribbled all kinds of details onto that napkin. But, we still needed a name for our new endeavor. Two minds, both dedicated to the book world, what could would fit?
Suddenly, it came to us: Duo (since we’re so dynamic and all) + Lit (books) = Duolit!
In the two years since then, Duolit has evolved, and it’s all due to our awesome group of indie author friends! Your feedback has helped us adjust our focus to the topics where you need guidance the most.
But, just like y’all, we are still frequently haunted by the demons of distraction, time management and focus. But…
That’s the benefit of having two heads instead of one!
Just like we’ve balanced each other out through 20 years of friendship, we also balance each other out as partners at Duolit. When one of us gets distracted, falls behind, or loses focus, the other one steps in to put us both back on the straight and narrow.
Plus, we’ve got twice the marketing, design and publishing knowledge by virtue of our two (enormous) heads!
And that’s the story of how two longtime best friends came together to form the “little company that could,” known as Duolit.
You’ve heard our story, now we want to hear yours!
Please take a minute to leave us a comment below! We’d love to know: where are you in the publishing process? What’s your ideal self-publishing outcome? What demons are you fighting?
Note: don’t feel pressured to make it long or glamorous — we just want to get a feel for where you are and where you want to go! Don’t feel comfortable sharing your story with the world? Hit ‘reply’ on any of our emails and tell us directly. We WILL read your response and write you back!