Adios, au revoir, aufwiedersehen, ta ta

This will be my last entry for a while. I am going off-line to concentrate on a story I want to write, without distraction so ‘Adios’ for a while, and enjoy your summer. Before I go, I want to tell you something. I read today another article on the sorry state of affairs relating to authors’ incomes and it got me thinking – again – about the notion of being a writer and what that means.

The article here states that authors’ earnings are falling dramatically and that publishers are not taking chances with new voices. This message is nothing new. Then on the other side of the coin is the other story, that self-published authors can potentially make six figure incomes if they just follow simple (read complicated) marketing strategies that will launch their beloved series into the stratosphere.

Again, there is nothing new about this story. I’ve heard it so often it just makes me yawn; not out of cynicism really but out of boredom with the whole message; self-publish, get rich, traditionally publish, and stay poor.

But what does being a writer really mean? Does being a writer mean that you make a living out of your writing? Yes and no.

Writing is an art-form, it requires intense practice and experience. So making a living out of being a writer might just mean you’re a whizz kid internet marketeer and that your novels/stories suck. So, in essence you’re not a writer, you’re just good and absorbing and applying the billions of pieces of information on internet marketing out there in the cyber-world, maybe you’ve got more money than you know what to do with and you can afford to enter the psychedelic world that is self-publishing.

Maybe you think your murder mystery or your detective series will be the next big thing and that your writing will keep people turning the page and buying.

If any things apply to you, I say all the best to you. You have my admiration. 

But for me, writing is about something else. Writing for me is about telling a story YOU SIMPLY HAVE TO TELL. It’s not about churning out formulaic genre-pieces quickly, then jumping on the marketing wheel like some sort of mental patient, foaming at the mouth.

For me, writing is about the passion to tell a story, to go down to the subterranean depths of a story and take your readers there, living in that world. It’s about knowing that it doesn’t matter who reads your story or if anyone gives a shit, that story must come out, must be told, because the world needs that story, and you’re the one to write it.

I’ve said this many times; that writing a story is 70 per cent thinking and note-taking, 20 per cent writing, and 10 per cent editing, redrafting, many times over. If you have the time to do your internet marketing successfully, how do you have the time to create the best story you can write, the story that must be told? Perhaps this is the difference between mass market fiction and literary fiction, I don’t know. 

That might sound arrogant, but it isn’t really. Writing the story that simply must be told is nothing to do with wanting to make money from writing, it’s simply about writing a story that must be told, a story of humanity.

I don’t make any money from my writing at the moment, so does that mean I am not a writer? Probably. So what am I? How I make my money is not so glamorous, it’s a pain actually, but there you have it. In writing, I just want to take a story that the world must hear and tell it in the written form.

The marketing and the brain-screw of internet marketing is actually not for the writer to do. Now, we have been told, we have to market our work – fair enough – a little bit – but not spend our lives doing it. It’s for someone else, someone who’s skilled in the methods.

People have told me they make money from their writing, enough money to live on. I am doubtful but no one out there is prepared to be honest and bust the lie that I feel exists when it comes to self-publishing. I am always happy to be wrong. I don’t care either way, but I want to start a conversation about quality stories and who writes them, and why artists, creatives, and writers are always the ones who get dumped on. We know who is getting rich out of our content, and it’s not us. I hate to mention names but I will; I once read a Lee Child novel, and I was shocked at how bad the writing was.

His style, sentences with two words, a lame plot, unbelievable characters, this I found incredibly depressing. Lee Child is considered a top writer, successful beyond belief, but can he write? In my opinion, he writes genre fiction, badly. But then that’s just my opinion and my opinion does not matter. I suppose it’s about taste. Writing well takes talent and experience, and it’s not something that can be conjured up overnight or even over a few weeks with the help of that god-awful piece of software Grammerly to help you with your sentence structure.

Were writers ever supposed to make money and be rich? Probably not, and if it came to them, it often did so very late in their lives. Perhaps that is OK, or perhaps that’s the way it has always been. Look at history, George Orwell (Eric Blair), Virginia Woolf, D.H Lawrence, Anais Nin, to name a few and you’ll find the truth of the above.

Take care. Sending love. Jo x


The shouting factory that is the internet is destroying me


This isn’t hard to admit, because I have had to face this fact for a very long time; I totally SUCK at social media. I get a big resounding FAIL in that department. You have to be good at SM these days in order to market your novel and your work to the world, but I have never managed to figure it out, despite trying. 

I like to think I can turn my hand to many things. Here’s a small list of things I can do:-

I can sew, cook, drive, organise events, read Latin, Spanish, Catalan, bits of Italian, I can walk long distances and climb up steep hills, I can swim, change a fuse, bake cakes, ski, snorkel and translate French into English. I can speak French pretty fluently and understand most of it, I get Economics and could probably change a tyre if I had to, BUT…….I simply DON’T KNOW HOW TO ‘DO’ SOCIAL MEDIA. 

I DON’T KNOW HOW TO SELL MY BOOKS ONLINE! I don’t know how to sell anything online, and it’s making me miserable, truly miserable. 

I don’t know what I am doing wrong. I don’t understand why – with my reasonable normal set of skills and my fairly decent intelligence level, I can’t make my social media work for me. I want to sell my novels online but haven’t been able to do it. I don’t sell my books, no one buys them. Amazon did a decent job for me when I was with them. They sold 35,000 copies for me approximately. 

Back in the old days, that would have been a vast sum, and enough to make agents and other literary presses come running, but not anymore. I am not ‘Out There’. I feel like a failure. 

Anything, anyone? 









My creativity will cost you!

Girls are always having to justify their existence. From the moment we are born we’re told to ‘shut up’. Being told to ‘shut up’ constantly goes through to your being and becomes part of the fabric of your life. In the fifth decade of my life I am used to it but that doesn’t mean I accept it.

Which leads to being a creative. The message to women is ‘shut up and work for free’. This can mean many things; work overtime for nothing, work in low pay which basically translates as no pay after all living costs have been deducted, do favours for people all the freaking time and do projects for people for nothing because – the line goes – it will help you build your presence, enable you to support other creatives or other charities and you’ll get that warm fuzzy feeling from doing it.

I used to work in Public Relations. I could have gotten very rich from the amount of times people asked me to help them promote their businesses or events – for nothing, based on the fact that a) I am a woman, and b) they thought I was ‘nice’ and c) I could use their project for the purposes of my CV (ha ha). I remember one woman asked me to work for free promoting her art studio and the warm fuzzy feeling I got from telling her – I charge £500 a day for my international PR work (that was true at the time, even though the reality was I was working for one client and I only got two days’ work a month) was priceless. The look on her face said it all. It read: ‘traitor, you want to charge me???  – how dare you?’

Another woman, the boss of a UK language school, roped me into meetings for a PR campaign for her business, then proceeded to tell me she would give me a discount for the language lessons my son was taking there at the time as way of an ‘exchange’. I never spoke to her again after that.

Yet another woman, the CEO of a ‘for profit’ school in the UK that was flying under the radar by masquerading as a ‘charity’, got me in for meetings again to promote her school, and offered me a glass of wine as payment for a campaign. That relationship did not end well. It ended but not well. I was seething.

The same is true of the self-publishing world. It’s great we are able to put our beloved tomes up on Amazon, but the world must pay creatives for their work.

We’re not asking much for the years of hard toil put into novel writing, a few pounds here and there. I hate getting free copies of novels. I always buy them. I also read absolutely everywhere that you simply must give away your novels for free in order to get reviews that will eventually help you sell. Everyone has massive demand on their time and their money these days and not everyone is able to take a risk on a new – read an old writer who’s been writing for twenty years –  by buying their novels, but surely we must not race to the bottom and bury ourselves in FREE.

Creatives must be paid for their work – whatever type of creative you are. We need to celebrate creativity as seriously important for a life well spent, a happy life. People spend money on creative content every day, either by paying for subscription TV, watching films at the cinema or any other means. Writers need to be paid and this FREE mentality in order to build platforms is distressing and outright WRONG.Jo Chumas, author of The Hidden I’ve often thought about whether I should give away all my novels for free as a way of promoting myself, but I just can’t do it. This is a long conversation and the world should be having it. Please connect, comment and share your thoughts. Jo xx