It’s been very quiet in here for a while. Which, given my struggles earlier this year could have been a sign that things were going very badly writerly-wise (yes, I know that’s not a real word, but it should be). Whereas the truth is quite the opposite. I’ve had a very busy summer.
After flitting about on diverse projects for the first half of 2015, I finally found my direction and I’ve been speeding along, hurdling all obstacles – and only knocking a few of them over (the metaphor is ironic as the sports gene is missing from my DNA).
The result? My book The Woman Who Never Did will be published on Amazon on 12th October.
Who delivered the much needed boot up the bottom?
It was my father, which is so bittersweet because he will never hold my book, although he did read most of the stories when they were still roughly hewn.
Last Christmas it became clear that my father’s heart problems were getting worse and it wasn’t long before we realised they were never going to get better. The first few months of 2015 are now a haze of motorways and hospital visits culminating in an intense and emotional week in mid April when my mother, my sister and I took turns by his bedside as he slowly left us.
This isn’t the time to go further into that sad place, instead here is a picture of my father playing with my children on a happier day.
After the tears and the funeral (and more tears which come all of a sudden when I hear Frank Sinatra on the radio or I’m watching Wales play rugby) my head was clearer than it had been for many months. I realise this is a cliché, but the loss of someone so loved, who’s been so fundamental to your life really does ram the message home that nothing is forever. Everybody’s time is finite, and so if there’s something you’re longing to do then you simply have to get up off your bottom and do it.
Why Self Publishing?
I already knew I wanted to publish my collection of short stories, The Woman Who Never Did. There was just the one small problem – how?
It’s widely understood that the publishing business as a whole isn’t very interested in short stories. It’s because they don’t see a profit there (the clue is in the word ‘business’). Many publishers and agents view short stories as an appetiser, only worth sitting down to when there is a main course to follow – i.e. if the author is also working on a novel. But, for me, short stories are much more than that, they are the distillation of a full-sized story into something compact, but intense, something you can consume in one delicious, satisfying mouthful. A literary agent once told me not to ‘sell myself short’ when I pitched the idea of writing a novel as interlocking short stories – she just didn’t get it, and, consequently, didn’t get me.
So it seemed the only realistic route was self publishing. This was something I’d shied away from until I went along to Joanna Penn’s inspiring Guardian Masterclass and she turned my ideas upside down. The internet age is such an exciting time for writers. E-books, print on demand, downloadable audio books – there are so many achievable ways to reach our readers. And so many tools available to help us make a product with a look and feel that’s just as professional as the mainstream. As traditional publishing routes become less and less accessible, the pathways opened up by the internet offer opportunities and freedoms we could hardly have imagined even a decade ago.
I feel like a writer back in the nineteenth century turning out pamphlets on a little printing press in my back room. Only I’m not limited by how many I can afford to print or whether I know someone in the next town who will stock them for me. My book can be available to the whole world and I need very little capital to get it out there. Self publishing doesn’t seem like vanity publishing anymore. This is Pioneer Publishing.
But it’s gonna take time (a whole lot of precious time)
It’s all achievable, but it’s still hard work doing it yourself and it takes up a lot of time. I feel as though I’ve spent most of the summer indoors bent over my laptop (at least the weather wasn’t up to much this year). There’s a lot to learn and some very fiddly software out there. It hasn’t always been easy and I’m not there yet, so I shall save the details for my next post. I need to get on – did I mention I’ve got a book to publish?
Before I go, I will mention one very important thing. Although I’m self publishing, there’s one step I didn’t try to do all alone and that’s editing. I looked on Joanna Penn’s website (click here), a cornucopia of useful information, and found a list of editors including a name I recognised from the Birmingham based Pow-Wow Writers Group (click here). Katharine D’Souza (click here) has been just what I needed, she understood my stories from the offset and has helped me see where they still needed work; her grammar and punctuation are better than mine too! I may have thought I was ready to go, but I wasn’t and Katharine’s input has been more than worth the money as I hope the end result will show.
Before I can sink back down on my bottom, or rest on my laurels as it’s more elegantly termed, I have a frantic couple of weeks ahead. The last touches to my cover, a final round of formatting and uploading, and a scary sortie into the world of marketing, which is such an alien environment that I may need protective clothing! Thankfully, I am armed with this brilliant little book by Debbie Young (click here).
Cross your fingers for me – I’ll be back soon.
Postscript – As well as being wonderful sources of wisdom and information, Joanna Penn, Katharine D’Souza and Debbie Young are also talented authors of fiction. Please check out their author pages on Amazon: