Thursday, 27 October 2011

On Becoming a Writer...

Guest post By LB Mara.

"The Dawn Herald" is available on Kindle! At last! After five years of writing, rewriting, hair-tearing, nailbiting, absurd hope and crushing disappointment, "The Dawn Herald" is finished. Five years of carefully crafting submission letters and blurbs; formatting text, cold-calling, networking, hoping and praying. Five years of 'it's not for us, though it's very well written' and my favourite *ever* response to a pitch that took six hours to write: 'no thanks'. Five years of not having my work read; of having it returned crumpled and coffee-stained, ripped by too-tight rubber bands, of drawers full of rejection slips. Five years of near-hope as I have the book accepted, only to discover that the publishing house is an out-and-out scam; five years of 'waiting for my life to start' (a sentiment shared by writers and enneagram lovers, particularly Number 4s). And five years of rejecting the self-publishing option due to the all-pervasive snobbery surrounding it: if you 'do it yourself', you're not quite good enough/pandering to your own vanity/doomed to literary failure/won't be taken seriously. I've come to view the last sentiments as absolute rubbish.
The traditional publishing model is dying. Going the same way as vinyl and 8 tracks. Bookshops are becoming coffee shops lined with books. Digital media isn't the way forward: it's the status quo. While there will always be a place for the tangible book as opposed to its virtual cousin - the sumptuous coffee-table art book, the delectable cookbook, the weighty law tome, the lavishly illustrated children's book - people are becoming accustomed to carrying their literature with them in the form of bytes rather than print. It means that you can read what you like, when you like, without a literary snob squinting at the spine of the book you're reading and raising a derisive eyebrow. Accountants can read Harry Potter on the Tube; High Court judges can dive into the murky world of chick lit and Aga Sagas without being rumbled. Digital media is a great leveller, entirely democratic. It's available to all. Everyone can educate or entertain themselves wherever they happen to be for a few pounds. Access to literature is not a closed shop any more (excuse the pun). And today's writers are finding it equally freeing.
The typical publishing model means that a writer is tied into a contract for x-number of years with a whole host of caveats concerning what they can and can't do with their own work. They may have unknowingly sold the rights to their story in a particular format, which means they can't reissue their work in a different format, have it illustrated independently, or distribute it as they wish. If they're not careful, their characters may end up in cereal packets or as a Ready Meal toy or, in a case that incensed book lovers and nostalgia hounds the world round, Paddington Bear in an advertising campaign for Marmite. They have to fork over a hefty 70% of their royalties to the publishing house; advances are drying up; and there's no guarantee that their book won't be edited until it's unrecognisable, marketed in a way they find inappropriate, or illustrated in a way they hate.
Publishing to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple et al turns the publishing model on its head. You keep 70% of the profit. You choose your own artwork - I've used the best illustrators out there: Andy English, who is creating three exquisite woodcuts (one for each part of the novel) and Abi Daker who has produced a delicious map and a series of watercolours to illustrate the whole.You can amend your book whenever you wish, market it freely, and control what happens to it. So, although self-publishing is in one sense an absolute leap in the dark - I feel rather like a mother sending her child off on the first day of school and hoping said child doesn't get kicked or dumped in the litter bin. What if no-one likes it? - it's an awful lot more freeing. I know that I am the creator of my own success; the amount of effort I put into marketing The Dawn Herald will be commensurate with the number of people aware of it. Isn't it a hundred times more satisfying to know that you have earnt the proceeds of your hard labour? As Dale Carnegie said: 'The harder I work, the luckier I get.'



5 comments:

Peter Whale said...

Best of luck with the book. " Bishop hill blog" Andrew Montford I believe self published his book and what a professional job he made of "The Hockey stick Illusion"
I have always enjoyed your writings and comments and look forward to your new venture.

Tom said...

More importantly, would-be young intellectuals can consume serious literature without being beaten up for it by those indoctrinated to the view that self-cultivation is elitist and discriminatory. Good luck.

Single acts of tyranny said...

As someone who knows the pain, I say, publish and be damned. I reckon to have sold about 400 copies of "Single Acts of Tyranny" Hardly JK Rowling but 400 more than would have been the case otherwise.

Where do I buy a copy?

LB Mara said...

Dear Single Acts of Tyranny, so delighted that you want to buy the book! It's available at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dawn-Herald-Three-Worlds-ebook/dp/B005ZSR866/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1319740888&sr=8-1 ...
And to all others; thank you so much for your support.

Lancealittle said...

As I like your blog, I will buy a copy as a kind of pay back. But most first time writers won't have a chance of selling their book at this price point. If you want word of mouth to spread then I wouldn't consider selling it above £2. Lots of self published authors give their first book away for free, hoping that you get the money for the follow on books once peopleare hooked. Good luck anyway though

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