Dumb, dumb, smart, smart, dumb…….

This is the dance of life, the message given in this brave new world of author-entrepreneurship. Now you have to be an authorpreneur – that hideous buzzword that implies that because the Internet (capital ‘I’) has destroyed the creative world, authors, creatives have to – and I mean HAVE TO promote themselves and be at it TWENTY-FOUR SEVEN.

In my view nothing destroys creativity more than systems and rules and ‘have-to-be’ scenarios. NOTHING is more important to me as a writer than having serious alone-time, thinking-time, where ideas and plots emerge out of the fog of this shout-and-stare world, WITH NO DISTRACTION.

The pressure to be on all the time is making me physically sick. Writers are not supposed to be ‘on’ all the time, and by ‘on’ I mean be ‘social’ and out there promoting themselves.

I am an obsessed reader. I read from the minute I open my eyes in the morning and then throughout the day. I never want to know the author personally or look at their life online or connect with them in any way.

The fact that they have written a book is enough for me. It’s enough of their world. I respect it and them. I read their book and I move on.

I wrote yesterday that I don’t get/understand social media, but the more I dig down into the subject (reluctantly) the more I know that I actually do understand social media; I have just never been able to make it work for me because I am completely overwhelmed by it. And that makes me cry. And the sad thing is I don’t see this pressure to promote yourself going away any time soon.

I am doing an experiment at the moment. I am running an advertising campaign on Amazon – paid for by me – just to see if this quiet method of getting noticed works. I will report back on my findings when my ad campaign is finished.

I have a mailing list but only a few subscribers; I have a Facebook page and hundreds of likes there – but no sales. I try giving away my novels but I can’t give them away, no one downloads them. I have an Instafreebie account and a Bookfunnel account and no downloads. I have asked people to review my books but no one is willing.

I don’t like to Tweet and sell – that’s not my style.

I don’t like the begging bowl that is Patreon, I feel too weird about that platform.

So what is the answer? I have no clue. This is not a whinge, it’s a fact, it’s the truth. Last month I made £4 in royalties from all of my books. Yes, that’s four UK pounds.

I know my books are fine pieces of work because I have been writing for money – journalism – for many, many years. I won the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in the Thriller/Mystery category in 2013, out of 10,000 and got an advance and made a lot of money because Amazon know how to market and sell to their mailing list of squillions.

I am on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Mailchimp, Instafreebie, Bookfunnel, Smashwords, Kobo, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Lulu but no – nothing.

Someone tell me. What am I doing wrong?

x

 

 

 

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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

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

 

 

The explosion of Ego & stroking a cat

I find life exceptionally hard. Now that’s not a negative statement, just a fact. I align this statement with the explosion of Ego (capital ‘e’). Ms. Ego is everywhere. As an introvert, I find this intolerable. I said to a friend yesterday, I feel the only thing I am now capable of – at my time of life – is sitting in the sun somewhere with a cat on my lap, stroking it like a mental patient. This is how hard I find life. But I love life, and love living – more about that later.

I grew up in a family where Ms. Ego had a home and a stage. Ms. Ego had a face, or rather there were two Ms.Egos in my birth family. And their word won out and their voices were the loudest and everyone cowered and agreed with them, and just did what they said we should do.

Ms. Ego – or the Narcissist – finds a home in all my novels. Her presence blots out the sun. In the company of Ms. Ego, my spirit, my soul and the souls and spirits of others withers and shrinks into invisibility. It makes us all feel small and unimportant.

But we are important. Everyone is important. Our lives are worthwhile. We’re all somebody’s daughter, son, sister, brother, auntie, uncle, friend – you name it. You’re heard that truism before.

I recently had a breakdown. Depression engulfed me. It’s still present but getting slightly better. I can’t cope with this modern world and the speed of change. So, I want to sit in the sun and stroke a cat and that’s all I feel I am good for now. After all these decades living, the hundred lives I have lived, I feel that’s all I can cope with. I make no money from my novels. None. Zero. Nobody buys my books anymore. I am an invisible speck in a mega-ocean of creative content. I write because I have stories to tell but no one is interested anymore. I won that bloody Award! Sold over 30,000 copies of that novel, but none of that was/is good enough.

The Mr and Ms Egos out there say they get it right. The Ego authors say they sell millions of books and they are successful, but I don’t believe them. It’s all a façade and this is my life, living in this smoke and mirrors world of Egos. I seek out real, go walking to find people to actually talk to in the flesh. I crave real-ness.

Hence the sunshine and the cat on my lap, two beautiful things that are real.