What authors really want – to sell their books and make money from them!

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



Tripping into the sub-conscious

I’m working on a play at the moment, writing scenes in a free-style that will – hopefully – be incorporated into my play and used as building blocks in the final draft. My play is also a novel. Its themes are the evil of human nature and the final ‘fall down’ of the human species.

Which leads me to focus on one important fact; that writing stories – in my view – is primarily about thought, about thinking, and about going down deep into the ‘other world’ that is the subconcious mind.

OK, so opening the document on which I am going to write various words starts this process of thinking. The document has a name – i.e the play’s working title – and the title inspires thought – deep thought.

This seemingly easy task of creating a new document on which to write a play, a novel, a poem, a drama, seems easy but it’s not; the end result – a play, a novel, a poem, a drama – looms large in the mind and then it starts raining questions which pulls the mind in all sorts of directions; what is this piece about? Who are the characters? Why am I writing this? Why do I care about this piece so much? Care about it enough to write it all down? Care about it enough to think about it on such a deep level?

These questions produce a kind of agony and that agony comes from having to face a certain ‘truth door’, and step through it.

The ‘truth door’ can and does reveal all sorts of nasties, and the nasties come at you the moment you enter this deep place, usually known as the subconscious which happens while you are in the deep thought process.

But the nasties – deep thoughts that deal with personal insecurities, failings, hatreds, phobias, actions motivated by fears etc – are controllable in the thought place that is the author’s personal writing world, and if we face them we start having an enormous amount of fun.

For example, one of my characters is deeply flawed so the question arises- does this represent me? Is it too autobiographical? If the answer is yes – this represents one of the nasties – and it can be hard to face these truths.

But if another of my characters reminds me of a loved one, departed from this world, this soothes the nastiness of facing myself through the truth door, and lets me have fun in the world of deep thought free-writing.

This might be why real life is so difficult for many writers, because in order to write we need to literally live our stories, live inside our characters, live everything they go through.

Real life becomes sub-par; the life of our stories is so much better – for one we can control it, whereas we have no control over ‘real’ life.

Which leads back to the necessity of deep thinking in order to write.

Deep thinking – sub-conscious thinking – in today’s world is very hard, given that we’re bombarded with demands on our attention every waking minute.

But deep thinking is necessary for writers – uninterrupted time, quiet spaces, aloneness, and in huge quantities.

Writers – including me – need to redesign their lives to make that possible. Is it possible? Tell me what you think.

My love letter to David Bowie on May 26th 2016

     One of my childhood heroes was David Bowie. As a small kid I’d gape at him on TV, in awe of his androgyny. I adored him, adored his constant self-reinvention. I was gutted when he died this year, felt personally in pain at his death. When I think of Bowie, I think about art and music and creation and how they celebrate everything that I love and need absolutely to function.
     So in a bit of an ode to Bowie, I’m beyond excited today about working on my new creations, two stories; my young adult novel called ‘Mara’, set in Edinburgh, Scotland, and my short murder mystery novel called ‘The Lake’ set in the Italian Lakes, or ‘All Fall Down’ or another as yet to be developed title.
     Writing to genre is something storytellers struggle with. The need to build a ‘brand’ based on previous story successes and bestsellers is very addictive. There are endless online posts out there extolling the virtues of genre loyalty in order to build fan-bases and project some sort of consistency. That’s all good, but it can become a sort of prison for the mind of a creative.
    My decision to dance the genre two-step has liberated me from creative sadness and despondency. I admit I can be a bit bipolar some days when it comes to my creations; up and down like a rollercoaster, but that’s the life of a creative. That I know.
     This cover of another novella of mine, Honey lemon – not yet published – reminds me of why I do what I do; I write stories because there is always a fresh idea lurking in my mind. Nurturing these stories, then writing them down is like adding a squeeze of lemon to my daily life; it makes life more bearable, a whole lot of fun, and full of joy.
     My motto: squeeze lemon, be happy!


Walking the Catalan Camino to Tamarit

A couple of days ago, I walked from Tarragona or Tarraco near the Costa Daurada  in Catalunya (Catalonia) to the old Romanesque fort at Tamarit.

It was a walk of about 12km from my hotel in Tarragona down to the platja (beach), and up through the pine forests that hug the Mediterranean.

As I walked I was thinking; thinking about urban life versus the country or coastal country.

City life, life in Tarragona, Barcelona, Edinburgh, London, Newcastle, Paris, Madrid or any city is about pretence. It’s about keeping up appearences, about playing a type of game, the game of keeping everything going, always.

When you think about it, life in cities is always about the same thing; paying rent or paying the bank for your house, meeting friends, working or looking for work, or studying, watching the faces of people as they are consumed by their ‘business’, and meeting your own sort of hidden agendas. Life in cities is also about the dangerous game of ‘ego’; dressing the part, keeping up with the latest trends, having enough ‘stuff’ to fill the void of some type of existence. It’s also about protection, the guarding of one’s physical safety against the perpetrators of crime.

You get up, you get dressed in an outfit that will suit the type of day that you are expecting to have, you consume the fuel needed to keep the day going, you plan your meetings, your work, your study, your friendship time, your downtime and your evenings. You don’t hear the birds or admire the contours of the waves (no time), you’re a slave to your phone and your computer and the endless pointless emails that clutter up your inbox. You rush this way and that and you don’t notice that everyone else is doing exactly the same thing as you, wearing similar clothes, clutching similar style smart phones, a stressed, stretched face pinched with thought, tired with responsibility.

All for what.


Now, back on the Camino de Tamarit, there I was, with my soft sports sandals, my skirt and top, my sunscreen and sunglasses, my bottle of water and a little bag, and I was in a pine forest with no one around and the Mediterranean on my right side as I walked. The earth was rugged and soft at the same time, the Mediterranean was rough and noisy. It was saying to me, keep going, just keep walking. And I did. I met no one, which surprised me. I walked on and on for 12km guided on by the patrins – the marks on the rocks which signalled the way.

My thoughts were; this is bliss, this is heaven, this is a non-judgmental space in which to just ‘be’. There is no one here to say – you’re just not good enough, you’re defective, you’re done, you’ve been made redundant, you’re useless, you’re can’t compete in that city world where image and competence is everything.

The scent of the pine forests reminded me of my dad and our holidays in Catalonia in the late 1960s and how he made me feel, safe and accepted, a little girl with absolutely nothing to fear. And now in 2018 in the Spanish pine forests that border the Mediterranean I felt at home, rid of the anxiety of trying to fit in. I felt safe and I made it to Tamarit as a storm broke and it started to rain.