Life As An Indie Author

Easter is a great time for considering renewal. Traditionally, throughout the history of many spiritual practices, the bursting forth of spring energy has been accompanied by personal reflections on, and communal celebrations of, new life, transformation and the possibility of something utterly ground-breaking in its paradigm shift of reality.

Every year, I get to ponder anew on the ridiculous possibility of the tiny seeds in my hand becoming six-foot-tall tomato plants with rich, red fruits hanging in bunches, and the ‘dust’ in my brightly coloured packets turning into cascades of tumbling, cheerful, blue and white lobelia. What a miracle!

This year, the timing of the festival, arriving much later than usual, has coincided unexpectedly with the arrival of my new identity. I am now an author. No longer just a writer – a person with dreams, hopes and ambitions, someone who fills their spare time with scribbling words on a page for fun – now I’m an actual author. This changes things.

For a start, I now find I have to consider the strange and mysterious worlds of publicity and marketing. These are worlds which do not come naturally to me and which present many difficult challenges I had never expected to face. It looks as though I may have to venture into my ‘dark side’ to understand how to negotiate my way.

I read an article somewhere – when I was still in the world of possibilities – that suggested people should not become indie authors because they no longer make good friends. Apparently, they turn into self-proclaiming, money-grabbing bores, who cannot avoid viewing their companions as potential customers and end up constantly regaling everyone they know with requests for reviews, checks on purchases and reminders to pass on book information to others.

I can see how this might happen, but I suspect the writers who go down this route were pretty mercenary to begin with, and I’m not convinced that conventionally-published authors would necessarily be immune to the ‘seller-virus’, anyway.

You might guess that the acquisition of money is not high on my list of priorities for a good life. I have been relatively poor for the vast majority of my time so far, and it has not escaped my notice that my happiest times have usually coincided with less financially prosperous periods. The one segment of my life where I had easy access to plenty of funds was probably my most miserable. Nevertheless, it has taken many years for me to discover the sense of abundance that comes irrelevant of monetary income.

This is the place I find myself in now, but I am conscious, too, that my particular circumstances cannot be sustained beyond another few years without a substantial input of cash. That is, ‘substantial’ for me. Which means that I need to learn to navigate this otherworld of promotion, sales and ranking tables. Yet another unexpected learning curve, I guess – but one which is more deeply challenging for me than understanding formatting and the newest version of Word.

Uploading my book via the internet may have been a huge venture, but I  knew I could rely on my intelligence, my ability to learn and mental characteristics such as perseverance and determination which I have developed steadily over a long period of time.

Deliberately trying to manipulate a marketplace to my benefit is not just a matter of invoking these skills but also involves me in confronting my deepest beliefs about commerce and the financial world. All this, at the same time as maintaining a light touch on my life, so that my very real sense of abundance does not evaporate and my creativity is not squeezed to one side.

I guess like every other vision quest I have engaged in, I need to tie myself securely to the guiding thread, be ready to negotiate with dragons and do my best to follow the path my soul lays out before me.

Does that sound fanciful? Well, that’s the joy of being an indie author!

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What Are We Going To Do Now … ?

Coming to the end of anything entails a grief. No matter how much you want to get to that end – whether it signals the cessation of a painful process or the satisfaction of a major accomplishment (or, I guess, both) – the final act is the final act, and that part of your life is over.

I am, in some ways, fortunate to have had a lot of practice as far as grief goes, so I find myself in the privileged position of understanding both its importance and many of the ways one can live through it without becoming dead oneself.

The Chinese, in their ancient medicine teachings, linked grief with ‘value’. It’s obvious, really. If something holds true value for you, letting go of that will involve grief. The strange thing is that if you don’t let go when life asks that of you, the pain of the grief will destroy you, and therefore, also, any value that you may have experienced.

Learning to live with grief is one of the biggest lessons we get in our human lives. Learning to live past grief is another. I see too many people, damaged for ever by the passing of someone – or something – they loved. And sometimes by something they didn’t, but it held their lives together, in a subtle, unstated way.

I am discovering now that grief is an essential part of writing. It feels rather odd that no sooner has one birthed the ‘baby’, than one has to let it go. If the story one has created is to fulfil its function, it has to be released into the world – where the author has absolutely no control whatsoever over what happens to it! Despite the fact that some of them (authors, that is) would have you believe otherwise.

The journey my book will now undertake is, for me, very similar to the one we shared together as I created it. I never knew from day to day, from chapter to chapter, what was going to happen next. And this was the delight for me. I relinquished control and waited to see, each morning, what arrived on the page. It was so exciting. A roller-coaster ride of discovery, that continually demanded I let go of expectations, pre-planned routes, assumptions, presumptions and – my ‘bete noir’ – conventions. I absolutely loved the process, and that has meant I also love the result.

Now, I have to stand out of the way again, and watch how my baby grows, stepping in where required to aid publicity, addressing when necessary any admin issues, but essentially allowing my creation a life all of its own.

So what does that mean for me? I’ve been reading a bit this week about authors’ reactions to finishing a book. Some of them find they can’t bear to write again for a while. Some discover a huge hole in their lives that they can’t fill and don’t know how to live with. Some just get on with writing something – anything – to fill the gap. Some, of course, have parties. And others finally get to do the housework.

Me? I sit in the middle of the splendid mandala that is now my life. I’ve broken all the rules, as usual. I have three other novels on the go. Book 2 in the McShannon-Pearce series is currently eleven chapters in. I started this last year, just after writing the final chapter of The White And Silver Shore.

Another, different, detective appeared on my pages, unexpectedly, a couple of years ago, when I was writing an exercise. Tessa currently has a good ten or so chapters to her name.

And at Christmas, I tried to read the kind of book I normally eschew – a romance. Despite being listed as a bestseller, it was rubbish. (Sorry, that should have read: ‘I found it wasn’t very good for me, personally’.) I thought – I could do better than that. So I had a go. My romance – Rannoch Moor – is one brand new chapter long.

So I shall be able to continue, as before, dipping in and out of different adventures to see where they will take me, as I carefully and, I hope, honourably, wave goodbye to my first ever novel.

A casual conversation with a fellow writer, a few months back, revealed that I had four novels on the go. They put on a very serious face as they pronounced, ‘I want to suggest that’s three too many’. Well, maybe in their world, it is …

I Did It!

This is to be a blog like no other I’ve written yet. It will not be the usual, rather more thoughtful, sometimes esoteric, often fanciful, considered piece of writing, that I am in the habit of offering up. Instead, as well as landing on a Wednesday, rather than a Tuesday, it will be an unashamedly celebratory, and self-congratulatory, not very literary, collection of photos and paragraphs. Forgive me.

I have finally finished – and loaded onto Amazon – both the CreateSpace paperback, and the KDP e-book, versions of The White And Silver Shore. My first novel!!!! Hurray!

And here is an impromptu publicity session on my kitchen table:

You can just about make out the proof copy, the first live copy, the Kindle version and some publicity leaflets. As you can see, I need to work on my camera skills – one of the new areas of expertise I have delved into over the past few months.

And this is another view of the same thing – a bit like holiday photos, really.

And here you can see the book posing, first on the new computer that allowed me to upload to Kindle, and then on the old one, which didn’t. But it was the old one that stuck with me for the two and half years it took to write the book, and then a further year I needed to type up the manuscript, edit it, format it and turn it into a CreateSpace document. So, although the Dell will be retiring soon, after nearly ten years’ of faithful service, I expect – like Sheldon – I’ll be keeping it around for a while, as a useful extra.

And to finish off –

Here is a not very good photo of the fabulous fibres I treated myself to as a reward. Blue-faced Leicester and silk. Scrummy. I’ll be getting the spinning wheel out shortly …

Thank you to everyone who stuck with me during this amazing enterprise. Do go and check out my Amazon page. Maybe you’ll be tempted. Progress on book 2 to be reported next week.