A Dream Become Reality (The Self Publishing Success Story of Cory Groshek)
I’d never imagined I’d be a children’s book author—that was, until the spring of 2014 when a strange thought popped into my head. I hadn’t known where it had come from or why it had come to me—all I’d known was that it had felt right. And that thought was of a story about two bunnies growing up in an impoverished village called Rabylon who found themselves inspired to seek out a “carrot paradise” on the other side of a big, green hill.
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I’d found myself compelled to sit down on a lonely park bench at Lake Emily County Park in Portage County, Wisconsin, for days on end, scribbling down what would ultimately become the first (and extremely rough) draft of what has since become my debut children’s book (and actually, my first book, in general)—‘Breaking Away: Book One of the Rabylon Series’, which is available now on Amazon Kindle (or as an e-book, if you will, for those who don’t own a Kindle), as an Audible audio book, and in Paperback.
WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?
Looking back on those days now, I must admit that I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. While I’d loved (and still love) children’s stories such as ‘Rikki-Tikki-Tavi’ of ‘The Jungle Book’ (one of my all-time favorite stories), ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’, ‘The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe’, and ‘The Land Before Time’, I was not a reader of children’s books. Like most children, I’d read books like ‘Where the Red Fern Grows’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ for school, and in my spare time enjoyed ‘Jurassic Park’ quite a lot (as I’ve always loved dinosaurs, hence why I loved ‘The Land Before Time’ so much), but I’d never gone out of my way to find (or read) middle grade fiction (think ‘The Lord of the Rings’‘The Lord of the Rings’, ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’, and the ‘Harry Potter’ series). To this day, it would not be a stretch to say that I’ve learned everything I know about good storytelling not from books but from film and television. So I’m sure you can imagine my shock when it dawned on me (really “out of the blue”) that God (or The Universe—whatever you’d like to call it) had tasked me with the writing of a middle grade fiction/action-adventure fantasy book.
Was God insane, I’d thought? Had the Universe lost its collective mind? Out of all the people He/it could have picked to write a book in the same genre that made J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis household names, why would He/it choose a 31-year-old man working part-time at Lands’ End who was broke, single, and living at home with his then-68-year-old father, let alone one with absolutely zero book-writing experience? What? Was J.K. Rowling busy or something?
As it would turn out, J.K. Rowling was, in fact, busy (as I’m sure she always is these days) and God/the Universe must have seen something in me that I couldn’t see in myself back then, because that strange little thought I’d started with slowly began to grow into something much bigger. While I’d initially envisioned my story as a one-and-done children’s picture book for very young children (think the kind where each page is taken up entirely by an illustration, with just a line or two of text), God/the Universe had a different plan for my book and thus put me in touch with a ghostwriter (someone who is basically paid to write other peoples’ books for them) who suggested I take my tiny little story and expand it into a middle grade fiction series (like the aforementioned ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ or ‘Harry Potter’ series).
THE GHOST OF MY BOOK’S PAST
Now, of course that ghostwriter wanted to write my entire series for me (or at least the first book of it), because that is how she pays her bills, but I wasn’t about to just shell out a load of cash to have someone else write my book for me—I had to be sure that she understood how much my story and my characters meant to me before I ever would have committed to working with her. After a week or so of discussion, she had convinced me that we were on the same page, and so I did something that most middle grade fiction authors would never dream of doing: I paid her $10,000 I had saved up for the purposes of investing in general to ghostwrite my book.
Ultimately, I got what I paid for, which was an approximately 24,000-word middle grade fiction manuscript, but I wasn’t happy with how the manuscript turned out. It’s “voice” didn’t sound like me, the characters’ dialogue was not realistic and the characters were not as believable or relatable as I’d wanted them to be, and it was just not a good book.
Sure, I could’ve said “f— it” and just published the manuscript as it was, but if I’d have done that then I would’ve set myself up for failure and ruined my writing career before it would even have started, as I’d have become the type of “author” I most loathe: The type that only puts out books as “cash grabs”—putting as little valuable information in their “books” as possible, never spending a penny on quality editing or copyediting (because what do they care about typo’s, right? It’s not like it’s going to affect their sales anyway, they mistakenly figure), and disrespecting my prospective readers. Certainly, with some clever marketing (because I do have a degree in Marketing, after all), I could have found a way to sell people on the idea that my shitty ghostwritten book was amazing, and they may even have bought that book, but I knew that as soon as they’d have found out how terrible it was, they’d never buy another book (or anything) from me ever again.
TEN GRAND IN THE HOLE
So there I was…$10,000 (actually, $12,000+, because I spent a little extra to have a Juvenile Submissions Packet created for me as well, by the same ghostwriter) in the hole, thinking that I had gotten nothing but a worthless, 24,000-word manuscript that would have made a better paperweight than a book in return for it. But then I got to thinking…what if I hadn’t actually spent the $10,000 on a manuscript, but rather on a very valuable (albeit very expensive) lesson that I couldn’t have learned any other way?
I stopped to ask myself the question I tell everyone they need to ask themselves in situations such as this: “What message is the Universe sending me right now?” And the answer came back immediately that this had all happened as a means of prompting me to re-write the story, using the ghostwritten version as a skeleton of sorts. But I didn’t want to re-write the story! I can remember thinking—only God knew how long that would take? I’d become very concerned: What if, I’d fretted inside my head, my book would take so long to re-write that I’d never actually get it done? And even if I would get it done, how could it ever be any good? After all, I wasn’t a writer.
Sure, I’d written poems as a child, taken a Journalism class in high school, penned a hell of a lot of lyrics as rapper Arkane/Cory Crush, and even published a short, scary story (known as a creepypasta) for my twin brother’s scary stories website/YouTube channel, but I’d never written a book, let alone a middle grade fiction book. Middle grade fiction, I feared, was the territory of J.R.R Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and J.K. Rowling—some of the greatest, most revered, highly respected, and acclaimed authors of all-time, and who was I to even dream about taking a position beside or amongst them?
But sure enough—that was what was required of me, for if my story was ever going to see the light of day. And that fact scared me as I’ve never been scared before.
FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY
To take that woefully under-developed manuscript I’d paid for (which, honestly, was painful for me to even look at) and develop into something that was salable (or sell-able, if you will), let alone a book that could meet my high expectations of myself (with me being the perfectionist I am) would require not only a Herculean effort on my part, in terms of time and resources, but skills I did not possess at the time. For example, I knew nothing about the basics of proper dialogue structure, the difference between “showing” and “telling”, or how to write a first chapter that was capable of really hooking a reader in and making them want to read the rest of the book. As much as I knew what a good story looked like in the films and the television shows I’d seen, I had no idea what one looked like on paper, and that, I knew, was going to be a huge problem.
After several weeks of going back and forth over what to do, I decided to see that huge “problem” of mine not as a problem at all, but as the thing I tell everyone to see their “problems” as: A huge opportunity; in my case, a huge opportunity to learn and grow and become someone who was “big” enough, skilled enough, and capable enough to not only write a great middle grade fiction book, but would be deserving of the coveted “published author” title.
I knew that most authors who were much better writers than I’d been at that point die with their stories still in them. And of the ones who don’t, and who actually get published (or go the self-publishing route, as I have) next to none of them make any money from their work and die broke (which 95% of non-authors also do). I was determined not to be like those authors. I was determined to do whatever was necessary to take that ugly, black duckling of a manuscript I’d paid for and turn it into a beautiful, snow-white swan of a book that could change the world for the better (which had been the plan all along). And so I embarked on a journey, not just to become a published author, but to become a better person as a result of it. And so I did.
A DREAM BECOME REALITY
By the end of October of 2016, what had once been an under-whelming, 24,000-word manuscript had grown into what I now consider to be a 37,000-word masterpiece (with maybe 15-20 words of the original, ghostwritten manuscript remaining inside of it), quite on par with one of my favorite C.S. Lewis stories of all-time, ‘The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe’, thanks not only to over a year’s worth of my blood, sweat, and tears—of me writing and re-writing and writing some more and somewhere between 30 and 40 revisions total—but also to several very special people (I’m looking at you Ashley, Jared, Kris, Danny, Linda, and Armin) who made time in their busy schedules to read the book while it was still a work-in-progress and provided me valuable feedback that no doubt made the finished book/story one hundred times greater than it would have been, had it not been for them.
Indeed, ‘Breaking Away: Book One of the Rabylon Series’, while ultimately being published by me and me alone, was a team effort. From all of the people I just named to the ghostwriter who got me started, from my illustrators Mike Kunde and LogoMoko to my copyeditor David, I have many people to be thankful to and much, much, much to be grateful for this holiday season. My hope is that as many people as possible (including you who are reading this blog post) will “stumble upon” or check out my wonderful little book and then love it as much as I loved creating it. If you decide to purchase a copy, please do leave me a positive review on Amazon, as good reviews are hard to come by, especially for a young, untested, debut author such as myself, and any such review could make all the difference in the world when it comes to someone else on Amazon wanting to pick up a copy of the book or not.
In conclusion, I wasn’t an author when I sat down on that lonely park bench two and a half years ago, but I can say, with 100% certainty, that I am now. And it’s all because I dared to believe what my two young protagonists in ‘Breaking Away’, Remy and Rhea, come to believe through their own journey, which is that “If you truly believe in something—that is, if you care about enough about it to not just dream about it, but to do something about it—your belief will bring it to you.
Breaking Away: Book One of the Rabylon Series (2016), for ages 9-12, by Cory Groshek: Life is hard in the poverty-stricken village of Rabylon, where rabbits work every day from sun up to sun down, earning just enough carrots to survive—except for Mayor Monty Cottonsworth III, who lives in the lap of luxury as his villagers starve. Twin bunnies Remy and Rhea, fed up with working so long and so hard with nothing to show for it, desperately desire a better life, but don’t know how to achieve it. Just when they are about to give up hope, they are inspired by the story of a mythical carrot paradise that may exist on the other side of a big, green hill outside of their village. Now they face the most difficult decision they’ve ever had to make: Do they “play it safe” by staying in Rabylon and settle for a life of lack, loss, and limitation? Or do they risk it all—up to and including their lives—on the chance that out there somewhere is a life worth dying for?
‘Breaking Away: Book One of the Rabylon Series’ is the first book by ManifestationMachine.com founder and acclaimed anti-hero Cory Groshek. Following in the footsteps of classics like “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” and drawing comparisons to acclaimed novels ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘Watership Down’, this timeless children’s tale is not only highly entertaining, but highly educational as well, with the stated aim of teaching children and parents alike the value of dreaming big, taking risks, trusting their gut, and choosing faith over fear in everything they do.
If you or your child are a fan of action-adventure fantasy series like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter, then you and they will absolutely love the Rabylon series. And it is Cory Groshek’s sincerest hope that, by the time you are finished reading it, you will come to know what he learned through the writing of this enchanting little book, which is that “if you truly believe in something—that is, if you care enough about it to not just dream about it, but to do something about it—your belief will bring it to you”.
Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to be here today! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it!
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