I was still a child when I first discovered my natural talent for writing. I usually enjoy doing the things which I’m good at, so writing became a hobby almost immediately. By the time I was in the fourth grade, I knew what I was going to be when I “grew up.” A writer, of course. I was glad to have figured that out already, so I wouldn’t have to worry about deciding later on.
Fast forward to about the seventh grade. Reality began to sink in and I was fairly disappointed upon realizing my odds of becoming the next Anne Rice or Stephen King. Who was I kidding? I might as well try to become a famous actress, right?
The authors that I enjoyed reading back then were among the few who had managed to make it big, but the reality was that most authors were forced to work day jobs in order to support themselves. Even if they had degrees in English or literature. This realization caused me to become terribly pessimistic about pursuing a career as a writer or author. I tried to shrug it off and told myself that I’d go to college and study something more practical.
As a teenager, I made several attempts at keeping a personal journal. I would start with tons of enthusiasm, jotting down the events of each day. I’d keep at it for a few weeks before eventually abandoning the idea. It simply required more discipline and commitment than I had.
Fast forward another few years. I had just turned eighteen. I’d dropped out of High School a year earlier and decided to leave my grandparent’s home and set out on my own for the first time. I moved from the Oregon Coast up to Portland, a much larger city. It was exciting and I was having the time of my life. I’d rejoined with my mother, who also lived in Portland. We started to party together and get high. Then I found out she was escorting to support her drug habit. I was instantly curious.
It wasn’t long before I decided to give it a try myself, posting my first ad on Craigslist and stretching the truth about my age by about four months. Little white lie. Didn’t want to scare anyone off, after all. Well, it worked. The response was massive.
In spite of all the scatter brained days without sleep that quickly blurred right into weeks, I decided to start keeping a journal once again. I told myself I wouldn’t get all hung up on writing in it every single day, which always seemed to overwhelm me in the past. I’d just write something on the days that I felt like it. Having something was better than having nothing, and I just kept reminding myself of that.
Over the next five years, I would jot down the highlights of my life whenever it struck me. Sometimes I’d write an entry every few days, other times I’d only manage to get a couple of entries in an entire month. But I kept adding to it when I could and when I felt like it.
Then I received an email out of the blue. It was from a total stranger, someone I had never heard of before. He was a non-fiction author from Oregon. Due to the nature of my writing, he asked to remain anonymous. But I checked him out and he was for real. He told me that he thought I should try finding an agent who would help me get my journal published. He said it needed some work, but he thought it was a story which people would find interesting and was sure that my writing had an audience. He even offered to help me with this, for a small percentage of any resulting profits.
I was skeptical at first. I didn’t think my journal was even close to something publishable. I replied to his email and he asked me to work on organizing all the material and to do a bit of editing. At the time, I was busy with other things. I put it off for about a year. Then I went back and put it all in the right order. I sent query letters to a couple dozen literary agents, and only two expressed any interest. One asked for a sample, which I mailed off to New York. They passed on the story. The other agent told me to rework the writing so that it could be a fiction novel.
Then my anonymous author friend suggested another option – self-publishing on Kindle. I hadn’t heard about this concept before, it was totally new to me. I did some research and decided it was much better suited for my particular story and I decided to dive into it head first. I had almost no budget at all, so I spent months learning the ins and outs of self-publishing. I left the journal pretty in-tact and didn’t change much at all.
I ended up publishing “Sex, Drugs & Being an Escort” in November of 2010. Since then, I’ve sold somewhere around 1,400 copies. I originally priced it at $1.99, but raised the price after the first few months (per the advice from my author friend) to $4.99. My best month for sales brought in nearly $500. Even the worst month has brought more than $100. I have only published one eBook on Kindle, so those numbers are fairly decent.
It’s received mixed reviews. Some people have really loved it, others hated it. Especially those people who expected a clear story line and went into it thinking it would be more like a traditional “book,” which it is definitely not. I like to call it “experimental.”
What is truly amazing about all this is one thing: I have never written a book! All I did was keep a very scattered journal and I never intended to publish it in any form, aside from the old blog I posted it on (which my author friend had discovered). I couldn’t imagine actually setting out to write an entire novel. The thought would be too scary for me to ever take on, let alone see through to the end. I have discovered that even telling your own story on your own terms can turn out to be a profitable experiment with self-publishing. So what’s stopping you?
Ashly Lorenzana is a freelance writer, escort, and author of the memoir “Sex, Drugs & Being an Escort.” She lives in the Portland, Oregon area.
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All photos © Ashly Lorenzana 2012 – Used with permission.