2014-08-08 17.24.41

On becoming a fully-fledged hybrid author

It’s been a steep learning curve, but I’ve finally arrived – it’s publication day! In this, the last of the five dreams I’ve shared here about my self-publishing journey, I’m looking at the road ahead.

I’ve done a talk about being an author, including the difficulties of getting stocked in bookshops and making enough sales. Not that I’m complaining – I do have enough. As I chat outside with the organisers, they’re waiting for the next author – and it’s a really famous one.

Here she comes in her little yellow car. She’s a friend and I’m delighted to see her, delighted to see the eager anticipation in her young fans’ faces.

As she walks towards us, I notice the little creature I’ve found and been looking after has caught the attention of a crow-like bird. The creature is small and furry, some kind of hybrid, strange and very sweet. And feisty! He isn’t afraid of the crow, although it’s much bigger than him.

I shoo the crow-like bird away and pick up the creature – he isn’t hurt or even shaken. It’s happened before – cats have chased him as well as birds, foxes too – but I think they’re more curious about him, than wanting to eat him.

It’s odd how he’s come into my cave, but I’m glad, because he’s a lovely little thing and I like looking after him. 

It’s been stressful, it’s been full-on, it’s been emotional. I won’t lie. Learning how to self-publish has taken up most of my energies these last six months, one way and another.

If you’ve read my last four posts, you’ll see that having embarked upon it, I soon learnt to love it though. I even came to choose it for the book I’m working on now, When a Writer Isn’t Writing.

I got swept up in the buzz of being free to make my own choices and decisions, and push forward in my own time and at my own pace. I felt like William Blake, inventing his very own printing system to publish his own books, but without even having to be a genius or inventor.

I felt like the child I once was, never happier than when I was writing projects and making them into books, doing all my own binding and illustrations.

In my dream, it felt odd the way this funny little creature had come into my cave. As a technophobe, I would never have had a strong enough desire to learn how to self-publish if I hadn’t had a book I cared so much about that didn’t have anywhere else to go.

I protected my little fledgling hybrid from every attack – crows, cats, foxes; other people’s judgements and my own self-doubts.

But what I also learnt, in the course of self-publishing, was how much traditional publishers do that we authors tend to take for granted.

I discovered how much I still wanted that to be part of my writing career. Looking forward to 2015, I’m delighted to have a book coming out in February with A and C Black, as well my self-published writing book.

This funny, furry little creature was the beginning of my new career as a hybrid author, and I’ve blogged about it in a post called Why I’m a Happy Hybrid for An Awfully Big Blog Adventure, where I lay out my pros and cons of self-publishing vs being traditionally published.

So now it just remains for me to ask you to raise your glasses please to Writing in the House of Dreams. If you buy it and enjoy it, please review it, but if you think it stinks, please don’t!

 

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Are you temperamentally suited to self-publishing?

Dream 4 in the countdown to publication! Last week’s dream highlighted how I felt when I started self-publishing; this week’s showed me why I felt that way. 

I’ve got on a bus to go to London and a few hours later the bus stops in the early morning mist and I see we’ve come to Camborne. Instead of going East, we’ve been going West. I get out and look at the misty hills of the far West, so wild and beautiful, but so much not where I expected to wake up, and I think having got up so early and set out so hopefully, now it’s too late to get to London.

Now I’m writing about an adventure on a train. I see other authors – Liz and Elen and some others – have got together to write adventures on trains, and get publicity, and they’ll sell much better – but the fact is, I prefer to work on my own.

When I finished Writing in the House of Dreams, the first thing I did was ‘go to London.’ I sent it to my agent, she liked it, she sent it out to major mind-body-spirit publishers.

When it didn’t get a contract I realised that where I had been heading all along was home, towards publishing it here, myself, and I experienced a mixture of feelings.

I was disappointed, certainly, having set off so hopefully, believing in the book, armed with wonderful feedback from my expert readers and feeling sure that it would find a publisher.

But I also felt excited about the ‘wild and beautiful’ vista of self-publishing that was opening up in front of me instead.

My dream went on to acknowledge that the mainstream way would certainly give me a higher profile and sales, but going it alone could actually suit me better.

In my career, fame and fortune have never been main drivers; my passion is the writing, and I’ve never sought the kind of success that would take me away from it on things like book tours and festivals.

My career goal, now as ever, is to make enough money from my writing to keep on doing it, without having to worry about the bills or trying to fit all my work into a marketable brand.

Last week, I asked whether you had ever self-published, and how you felt about it once you got started. Not everyone will feel the same; this dream suggests it might just suit my temperament and fit my writing goals.

Next week the countdown ends! Meet me back here to celebrate publication day and hear about dream number 5, which involves a sweet little furry animal and a curious crow.

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Self-publishing – why every author should try it at least once.

‘Writing in the House of Dreams’, the book - dream 3 today on the countdown to publication! This one came when I was working out my publishing schedule. 

Before, you had to take your story and wait for them to see you, like waiting at the doctor’s. Hours, days you might be waiting there, because every story had to be checked and verified, and they might have questions for you.

Now, you can just post your story online, and if they’ve got questions, they can research online, and you don’t even have to go. It feels liberating!

When you’re thinking about trying something new, first you feel excited. Then anxieties flood in, to stop you acting impulsively and make sure your head is in line with your heart on the  adventure.

Once your hopes and fears are all in the mix, you can stir it up and see what rises to the surface. In the post before last, I described how  what was important to me when I was first thinking about self-publishing rose to the surface in a dream.

Weighing up the pros and cons can bring you to the threshold of a new venture, but you don’t know what it will feel like until you actually begin.

Before I decided to commit to self-publishing Writing in the House of Dreams I had viewed it purely as a fall-back if I couldn’t get a traditional publisher.  Although I was glad it was an option, I would not have chosen it.

But as soon as I got started on the work of self-publishing, I felt how different it was from my previous experience as a traditionally-published author, and it was a very positive difference.

Having a manuscript under consideration with traditional publishers you’re full of impatience, helplessness and anticipation about what they’re going to say, just like when you’re waiting to go in and see the doctor.

It usually takes months; it can take longer. One of my books got an offer a year after we started sending it out.

Now suddenly, with self-publishing, there’s no need to wait. You can crack on with it as soon as you want to, and that feels exhilarating.

Research is just data; what fires creativity is emotion, and until I experienced the emotional difference between that doctor’s waiting-room feeling  and that unexpected exhilaration, I would always have thought of self-publishing as second best.

I have no plan to submit my follow-up book When a Writer Isn’t Writing to traditional publishers. Although I still very much hope to go on being traditionally published, it no longer feels like the route of choice for every book, and I want to feel the buzz of doing it myself again.

I think that’s why Orna Ross, who set up the wonderful Alliance of Independent Authors says every author should try self-publishing at least once.

Have you ever tried self-publishing? How did it feel to you?

 

 

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When your to-do list is freaking you out

Five posts to publication, five dreams – here’s the second. It came when I’d made some decisions and started the ball rolling with self-publishing Writing in the House of Dreams, and was worried about the enormity of the task I was taking on.

Sat 8th Feb, 2014

I’m in a cafe with my grown-up son. It’s a formica tables and plastic chairs kind of place, and he looks completely incongruous in a wide-shouldered, pale-coloured overcoat which makes him look like a cross between a fat-cat businessman and a mafia godfather.

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Not funny in real life, but a very amusing look for my son in my dream
I’m talking about Writing in the House of Dreams. ‘There have been times,’ I say, ‘when I would have loved to just give up and, if I hadn’t loved it so much, I would have done.’

He says, ‘What you need to do is pray!’ I see he’s also a preacher of some kind now. Before I can say, ‘I do pray. That’s how I’ve got this far,’ he whips a little music machine out of his pocket, puts on some loud gospel music and yells ‘Halleluyah!’ Everyone in the café jumps up and joins in, dancing, clapping and singing along.

This is one of those dreams that feels like a gift when you’ve gone to bed feeling anxious, because it wakes you up in the morning with a smile on your face. That, in itself, puts your anxieties in perspective, even before you get to the sense of the dream.

As an author who has always been traditionally published, one of the things that surprised me about self-publishing was how challenging it could be to keep up my stamina and confidence without the back-up of a hard-working and confident publisher.

Normally, I don’t have to think about the book once it’s with the publisher – I just get on with writing the next thing. But when you’re self-publishing, you have to go on working with the manuscript long after the decision to publish is made. You have a massive to-do list, and doubts can start to set in.

Have you got enough time and energy to see it through? Is the book actually worth all that time and energy? Are you capable anyway of doing a good enough job?

One way to get past worry is by lifting your focus from every individual problem to the bigger picture; from what you’ve got to do to why you want to do it; from yourself to what is bigger than yourself.

You can call it what you like, it doesn’t have to be God. You can call it Love. Whatever you love is bigger than yourself. It lifts you above selfishness and laziness and bends you to its work. The reason I write is because I love writing. I want to be better for writing. I’m willing to give up other things I’d like to do for the love of writing.

Prayer is perspective. My dream reminded me that I couldn’t give up, because of that love.

Laughter is perspective too. My dream told me not to take it all so seriously. I could only do my best, and the rest was down to luck, or grace, and out of my control. O happy day!

What helps you get a sense of perspective when your to-do list is freaking you out?

 

 

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Self-publishing – what are the actual costs?

Five posts to publication, five dreams – here’s the first, which came at the very start of the process, when I’d done some research but was still feeling anxious about committing .

Weds 5th Feb, 2014

I’m lying on the floor in front of the fire, going through my self-publishing lists for Writing in the House of Dreams. I’m going to make some decisions now… None of it feels overwhelming any more…. None of it feels risky. The actual amounts I’ll have to spend are not that big…

2014-09-16 13.36.42yThis is one of those dreams that highlights what matters when you’re floundering in a sea of new information. The bottom line, when it came to worrying about self-publishing, was the actual costs, and my research had shown me that I could choose how much I wanted to spend, starting at zero if I did it all myself. It didn’t have to feel risky!

I’d looked into buying an inclusive package, but none of them seemed to me to offer good value, and I was leaning towards the idea of finding a professional editor and designer myself, and paying one-off fees rather than upfront costs plus a percentage on sales.

I’d discovered that a full edit for 300 pages would cost about £800 but I could get a line edit for around £500 and I felt that would be sufficient as in all my years as a published author I’d never needed more.

I knew I needed a designer for the layouts, because Writing in the House of Dreams is a complicated text with non-fiction features such as bullets and boxes, and I’d found designers who could produce the layouts for both the ebook and the paperback for about £200-300.

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Too complicated for me to format myself – I know my limits!

Finally, I wanted a professional cover, and that would cost around £150 plus the cost of any images I might use.

That meant the cost of producing my book to the standard I wanted would come in around £1000, tax deductible. I might not earn it back, but I would certainly earn something, so my maximum potential losses would be much smaller.

Experienced self-publisher Diana Kimpton’s advice on finance is ‘Don’t spend more than you could afford to lose’ and that seems sound to me.

My dream told me I wasn’t worried about that level of maximum loss, when weighed against the possibility of going into profit and selling on the longer term.

It told me, ‘I’m going to make some decisions now.’ And I did.

I chose an editor I knew personally and she did an amazing job for me, especially in giving instructions for the designer about such things as heading size, italics and indentations, which I’d got into quite a muddle over.

I chose a designer who was recommended to me by a friend, and she was very patient with me, which I needed, being so inexperienced.

I found an artist whose work I really liked, went on her website and discovered she had several linocuts that would be perfect for Writing in the House of Dreams and my follow-up book, When a Writer Isn’t Writing. She gave me permission to use them for a small fee.

By the time I’d done all the research I needed to do, I hadn’t been able to see the wood for the trees. I’d felt overwhelmed, but my dream got straight to the nitty gritty for me. The bottom line is, how much will it actually cost? Now, does that still feel too risky?

Have you ever had a dream which clarified the issue when you were suffering from information-overload?

Next week I’ll tell you about the funny dream that saved me from a confidence dip once the process was underway.

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I do this every year!

Several people have contacted me recently to say they were missing my posts here in the House of Dreams and ask why I haven’t been blogging. Thank-you, bless you – you know who you are. It’s lovely to be missed :)

I always plan to blog throughout the summer but let’s face it, I go off the radar every year because when it’s fine I want to be at the beach. There are three reasons why this year’s break has been longer than usual.

Swimming selfie in Tiree
Swimming selfie in Tiree
  1. The weather’s been amazing, and I’ve had a total of five glorious weeks out and about with my little tent, mostly with no internet or mobile connection.
  2. Before I set off on my travels, I was working with a branding and marketing consultant to try and create a more unified web presence, instead of having a children’s author site and this completely different area for dreams, workshops and writing books. I was holding off until it was up and running, but that’s taking much longer than I hoped and I’ve been missing blogging, so I’m back!
  3. I’ve been super-busy doing last-minute things for Writing in the House of Dreams such as checking proofs, ordering copies, setting up a  Writing in the House of Dreams – the Book page here on the blog and sorting out some publicity before publication day on October 15th.

Yes, it’s that close – five weeks, and that means five posts to publication. What will be in these countdown posts? Dreams! Because I really do ‘write in the House of Dreams,’ I get guidance in my dream-life for all my work, and I’m going to tell you five dreams that have helped me overcome various anxieties I had about self-publishing and really come to love it.

This post is just to say ‘Hello – I’m back – is anyone there?’ My normal posting day is Wednesday, so come back tomorrow for the first of my five pre-publication posts and read about the dream that helped me focus on the money side of self-publishing.

 

Do antidepressants help or hinder creativity?

A while ago, I stumbled upon an interesting article by the novelist, Alex Preston Does Prozac help artists be creative? and reading it reminded me of my own experience of prescription drugs in my teens and twenties.

In his article, Alex Preston interviews a number of successful writers about their experience of taking anti-depressants and one thing that comes to light is that although the pills might help people to overcome blocks and inhibitions so that they can start writing again, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily producing very good work.

I first experienced depression as a young child and I was receiving treatment by the time I was twelve. Before I started taking the pills I had always thought of my extremes of emotion as being like the weather, some days dark and overcast, some bright and sunny. Sometimes, with a sense of dread, I could feel the storm clouds gathering; other times I could feel the dark clouds lifting away.

Storm clouds gathering
Storm clouds gathering

How I dealt with the darkness was through drawing, painting and writing poems. One time, I designed the cover of a poetry book which I called ‘Poems of the Darkness and the Light,’ and my teacher didn’t believe I had made the title up. As if children could not feel the darkness as well as the light.

My darkness and light were part of my nature, they were my micro-climate, and after I started taking anti-depressants I stopped feeling like me. It felt as if someone else was living my life, but doing a better job of it than I would have done in terms of passing exams and doing the work at university.

I stopped taking anti-depressants some ten years after I started, because when my older sister killed herself with prescription drugs it seemed clear to me that they weren’t any kind of cure at all. The withdrawal was terrible.

But in time, I started to write again. I learnt to flow with my own rhythm of highs and lows. It felt like the difference between trying to find your way in the dark within the narrow beam of a torch, then switching it off and waiting until your eyes acclimatise and gradually the dark is less dark, there are stars and glimmers, a faint smudge of hedges, a pale ribbon of road.

All these years later, I remember what it felt like to be numbed out of my own life on a diet of pills. If I hadn’t been shocked out of it by my sister’s suicide I probably would have stayed like that, and never discovered the fertile darkness, or come home to myself.

Walking in the dark
Walking in the dark

The Uses of Sorrow – by Mary Oliver

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.

My feelings about anti-depressants have come out of my personal experience and I’m sure other people will have very different views and stories. Have you ever taken anti-depressants? Did you feel they helped or hindered your creativity?

Creative dreaming, creative writing

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