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

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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? 

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bleach zap the (self) publishing vultures

If you’ve devoted your life to writing stories, novels that provide the pure escapism we all need to function in this increasingly chaotic world, then you’re a very, very special person.

But you’re also a person who’s vulnerable and easy prey; this makes you extra special in so many ways. Your vulnerability allows you to write the stories that need to be told, communicate your vision of the world with readers and share some serious soul healing.

This gives you an extra layer of ‘special’.

Now, take this concept one step further, and peel away all the bravado that’s needed for survival on a day-to-day basis and you’ll find another purer story.

The bravado consists of self-talk that goes something like this;

“It’s okay, I’ll self-publish my novels, I really, really, really want to do this, I want to design the covers, do the editing, step on the 24/7 marketing merry-go-round and walk tall with the knowledge that I am ‘out there’.

It doesn’t matter that my self-published novels will rarely (if ever) make it to bookshops, will not be eligible for literary awards, will not be taken seriously, will not be reviewed in the mainstream print or online media, will not be seen or touted by the industry ‘bigwigs’, and will not offer any sort of financial security on any level; that the offering of my closely guarded content for free seems to be the regular way to go; that before anyone will buy my novels I will have to get many, many excellent reviews, and for that, I have to give away my novel for free and wait many, many months; that there are a few authors who sell hundreds and hundreds of thousands of their novels and why can’t I be one of them. I could if I tried hard enough, I have to try hard enough. Yes, that all it takes. More effort, more determination.”

Now let’s get real and start peeling back the bullshit. Self-publishing is hard graft. Uploading your carefully edited opus to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is touted as easy as sneezing. And it is – all kudos to Amazon and KDP.

It’s the stuff that comes after that, that is crazy-making. Just like in life, some people have endless time on their hands and a nice lump sum of money to keep themselves in food and rent, and no responsibilities to others, so they can plough themselves in to becoming the robot you need to be to be a self-published author.

Others think differently (and get abused for it) preferring the traditional publishing route which makes them no more money (often less) but gives other little gifts in return; a bit of time to think and write, a bit of time to be human, the kudos of being with one of the Big 5 publishers and let’s face it, which author wouldn’t want to be published by one of the Big 5.

It’s our dream, or at least it was, wasn’t it? It doesn’t matter that the media tears down the Big 5 and Amazon Publishing on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter that authors know their royalty rates are total rubbish, and advances are almost a thing of the past, that anecdotes comes in that the Big 5 do zero promotion of novels, that it’s all up to you (us) the authors.

But still……put one thousand authors in a room and I’d bet 90 per cent of them would want at least one of their novels to be published by one of the Big 5, regardless of any crappy contract or lack of promotion. It gives kudos and reputation and in building a non-monetary career based on giving away free content and being paid a pittance if royalties do come your way, I’d bet that a massive majority would plump for a traditional publishing contract from one of the Big 5. I keep saying the Big 5, because I do not consider Amazon Publishing one of the Big 5. It’s not, and I don’t see it ever becoming one. Amazon is good at many things but…….you see where I’m going with this.

Self-publishing success stories rant and rave about how the traditional publishing industry is dying, uses authors and spits them out mercilessly. These ‘success stories’ are judging things on their own success (and I suppose that’s natural) but I have to ask: why do these self-published success stories jump on the first traditional publishing deal that is offered to them. It smacks of hypocrisy.

Here’s the thing: Joe Blogs, who used to run an internet marketing company until recently, decided to become an author last year, and has sold 150,000 copies of his novel ‘Bullshit Bullshit’ and X Publishing Company comes running and offers him a contract. Joe Blogs says in the media splat that he felt honoured to have been approached by X Publishing Company and has signed a contract with them. Why? If he’s that good at self-publishing why go with a mainstream publishing company?

As always, I smell a rotting rat.

And as the stench subsides, I get to thinking, who am I? What do I want to be in this publishing game? This existential fog consumes me. The stakes are the same, in my view. It’s all about which one takes up less of my near-no energy.

The bottom line is our art, our content, our carefully drawn stories that belong to us alone are needed by publishers for their own business survival. No content, no them, but likewise if we’re too exhausted and brain-screwed to write, they’ll be no content for anyone, ever, ever again.

I’m at a crossroads in my writing life (as you probably guessed). No route to publishing is easy and the liars that say otherwise are just that; liars, but I know one thing: when I started out in this game two decades ago, I had a romantic vision of a traditional publisher wanting my novels, publishing them, organising for them to be stocked in lots of bookshops, entering me into literary awards (which I would win), and the whole process repeats itself until death do us part.

This dream speaks to the real me, the one that hates bullshit, that hates pretence, the one that knows I am not an expert in every last little thing (only an expert in one or two things), and that’s the way it has to be.

Am I unlike other writers? I don’t think so. If you ask a novelist what they’d prefer I think most would say they’d prefer to get a traditional publishing deal with one of the Big 5 – for kudos, not for money, but for the reputation it brings. There are so many liars in the fields of indie and traditional Publishing.

I’m advocating being completely true to your creative self and listening to your own voice every single time.

Do a bleach zap of all the publishing bullshit and you’ll find your answer. Email me jochumasauthor@gmail.com if you want to set me straight on anything, if you want to chat or tell me your own experiences.

Much love, Jo xx

This blog was posted in 2016 on my other site and I’ve changed my thinking slightly on things. Want to challenge me on things here? Please do. I actually love being told I am wrong. It makes me think again about myself. Jo xx