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

Advertisements

Rebel Yell, a word to my younger self

I’ve always been ‘weird’; that’s what my parents and siblings called me growing up. My father told my mother I would ‘calm down’, that the love of good man would quieten me and calm me and make me OK (meaning more feminine), but none of that has happened. 

If anything I have gotten more rebellious as I have gotten older. I have always loved rebellious people, those who jump outside society’s ‘normality’ boxes, those hard lines that define our lives every minute of every day. 

I meet rebels (whether they be quiet grandfathers, old ladies at bus-stops, secret rebels who clothe themselves in the conventional outfit of ‘normal’ life) and they become instant and life-long friends. 

To my younger self I say, life is a bloody roller-coaster but the rebel is still in you, and you’ve gotta live that type of rebel life until the end. 

That rebel life is saying: no, I am not going to accept this or that, I am not going to stop challenging this or that, I am not going to stop being curious and young at heart and determined to make a difference. 

My nine-year-old self wanted to run away and be a gypsy. Decades on, I still want to run away and be a gypsy, and a laptop and social media is my megaphone to the world, so I’ve gotta get this social media thing down, and quit the overwhelm of it all. 

xx

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

 

 

 

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!