If it looks like a traditionally published book, is formatted like a traditionally published book and reads like a traditionally published book, then why not treat it like a traditionally published book?
I’ve had this post on my mind for a month or so and then bumped into this (excellent) post – It Isn’t (Always) Personal: a Bloggers Take on Not Accepting Self-Published Books – by Kate Tilton which prompted me into action.
As a self-published author, when you’re out there on the internet scouting for book bloggers to review your book you come up against a lot of ‘we don’t accept self-published authors‘. Fine. It’s their blog and I’ve no God given right to be accepted by anyone.
The reasons Kate gives in her article of why (some) book bloggers don’t accept self-published authors are; quantity, quality and professionalism.
I understand all these, especially quality. I remember reading the first chapter of a story on one of those publisher backed platforms, the ‘author’ had managed to describe a woman’s rack as bouncing up and down via the metaphor of being on a trampoline 3 times in the first chapter alone. I never went back. I can only imagine the dire shite some reviewers have had to go through before they finally shut up shop to self-published authors for good.
Quantity could be tamed by stipulating certain milestones such as number of reviews (which BookBub does).
Professionalism may be let down by self-publishers but it’s not their exclusive domain. I don’t quite agree with the argument Kate makes about traditionally published authors having to answer to their publishers if they step out of line. There’s been a few sock puppet authors out there behaving badly who should know better due to their full-time writing status. People can be dicks on the internet, no question. If any writer is being a dick through blogs, Twitter and elsewhere then I’d hope the news would quickly spread and the appropriate levels of ridicule and ostracisation befitting such a dick would soon ensue.
(Although, check out the example I linked to. That earned him national press across ALL the major outlets and I bet it resulted in an upswing of sales. So, unprofessionalism isn’t always going to hit the bottom line in a negative way).
Is there a happy medium? Is it possible for established book reviewers to read an unsolicited, self-published book?
Last month Buzzfeed asked it’s member ‘Tell us how you write, where you write and what keeps you going and you could be featured in a future BuzzFeed post.‘ so I thought I’d note down a couple of comments.
In the end I got carried away and wrote the following;
I’ve written 3 novels. My routine has evolved so that I prefer to write away from home in a coffee shop. My back has to be against a wall though because I’m paranoid of people looking over the shoulder and laughing. I have a laptop with Internet connection, it’s handy for finding quick answers and rewarding myself with some procrastination after finishing a chapter/page/paragraph/really convoluted metaphor. Make sure your laptop is charged or that you have a plug.
I listen to deep house tunes with little to no lyrics, so I’m in the groove but not distracted. I like to write in the afternoon because of work, lie ins and vegging in the evening.
I don’t set myself a word count. My only goal each day is to sit down and write just one sentence. 99% of the time after you’ve written one sentence the rest just flows. I don’t meticulously plan nor fly by the seat of my pants, I’m a ‘structuralist’. I know the beginning and the end, and I only plan an outline 2 or 3 chapters in advance as I go, this gives me a goal but also the flexibility to change if characters and events are leading me elsewhere. I finish when I’m stuck or when I reach the end of a chapter. Momentum for me is key, I don’t believe in the idea of stopping early so that momentum is carried over to the next day. With me, it’s forgotten.
If you’re stuck, sleep on it, go for a run, a walk, go to work, just step away from your laptop. It’s amazing what gets sorted out when you’re not staring at a blank page. I outline in a paper notebook and take notes, especially at the very beginning. Flesh out ideas, characters, plots, sub plots, themes, try to delve a bit deeper than that initial idea. The notebook comes in handy a year later when you’re fresh out ideas and you’ve only got a handful of chapters to go, sitting there will be a scribbled gem you’d cleanly forgotten about.
Write everyday but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t, life gets in the way. If you do 5 days out of 7, you’re doing alright.
The first draft is key; keep going, keep that momentum going, don’t reflect, judge or critique. You have other drafts to do that. Don’t sweat the small things; names, a wide vocabulary, how to dissolve a body, grammar, etc, all the details can be fixed in subsequent drafts just keep moving! Get the first draft finished. Finishing the first draft of your first novel will change your life forever.
Nothing I wrote got chosen to go in the final article ‘19 Writing Tips To Help You Become The Next J.K. Rowling‘ which may explain why I’m not the next JK Rowling but at least it’s a new blog post for here.
Here’s a double post rolled into one.
About this time last year I wrote about – My Writing Goals for 2015 – so here they are along with a quick review on each one;
- Finish 2nd and 3rd draft of Novel 3, ‘Blindsided’ by Easter. – Done.
- Give copies to beta readers for feedback. – Done.
- Write 4th draft of ‘Blindsided’ based on feedback. – Done.
- Get first 3 chapters and synopsis professionally edited and sent off to agents. – Done.
- Get ‘In A Right State’ onto other online retailers. – Done.
- Keep an eye out for marketing opportunities for ‘In A Right State’ and experiment with price. – Done.
- Get 2nd novel, ‘Broken Branches’, professionally critiqued and edited in the 2nd half of 2015 and look to get a self-published version launched early 2016. – Totally failed. ‘Blindsided’ took longer than I expected, eating up most of the year and it’ll be too expensive for me to release ‘Broken Branches’ next year unless a personal financial miracle happens.
- Write more blog posts. – Done.
- Think more about 4th novel (untitled) and make notes. – Half done. I’ve thought about my next project but haven’t made notes yet, see here – Starting all over again, a new ‘Project’.
My writing goals for 2016 are going to be a lot simpler as I’m at the beginning of a project. Here they are;
- Finish the first draft of my new writing project, whatever it is.
- Continue to list ‘In A Right State’ online and as a POD paperback but list the ebook for free to generate downloads and reviews.
- Write more blog posts.
- Continue to submit ‘Blindsided’ to agents.
I think that’s about it. Looks so easy, only four things to do!
Three novels written and now I’m at that beautifully naive stage; the very beginning. Anything is possible.
I was last here about 3 years ago – Novel 3 is Go, Go Go! – so it’s been a while but the feeling overwhelming me the most is not the dread of the blank page but not having anything to work on at the moment.
I’ve titled this post with ‘Project’ rather than ‘Novel’ because 2 of my 3 ideas are not novels. A part of me is tempted to go elsewhere, stretch my legs and test myself with something different.
Plus I’m not exactly showering myself with success writing novels so far.
I have the experience of finishing 3 novels so cold, hard determination to get to the end doesn’t faze me. The day-to-day grind of sitting down to write, wrangling plot holes, giving life to cartoonishly and crudely drawn characters, is something I enjoy. I actually love facing a blank page and turning it into a story.
With this knowledge and experience comes confidence meaning I feel empowered to step into a new arena and challenge myself with something I’ve never done before. A new novel in itself is enough of a challenge so maybe a better way to look at it is; I fancy a bit of a change.
So my 3 choices are;
- Contemporary Novel – I’ve got an idea of a man and woman meeting through one committing a (non-violent) criminal act against the other. Odds = 50%
- Football Film – I fancy writing a football film script, mainly for the reason that, can you name a decent football film? If you can name a fictional film with at least passable (pun intended) passages of play, let me know. Odds = 65%
- Interactive eBook/App – I’ve written some novels, I’ve produced an ebook and I used to be a web developer so it only seems natural to try and create some kind of interactive story. I’ve got a few ideas and I’m currently reading ‘Her Story‘ and I’ve got ‘Black Bar‘ lined up to go next. Odds = 80%
I’ve got my pre-project rituals all set up. There’s only two. A new A4 notebook and a new playlist of deep house tracks collected over the past year. Now to spend some time thinking, making notes and exploring these 3 ideas until one grabs me by the balls and says ‘Create me!’.
I recently got this handsome letter from ‘The British Library‘ informing me the paperback version of ‘In A Right State‘ is now taking up valuable space on their hallowed shelves. Well, it’s deposited, not yet indexed, so it’s probably propping a door open or straightening a wonky table leg.
So how can a self-published slice of speculative fiction end up at The British Library?
Go to – How to deposit printed publications – on The British Library website. Here it gives you a brief description of why and where to send it, there’s more in-depth information on ‘Legal Deposit‘ here. I simply wrote my address on a post-it note (sick of writing cover letters!) and stuck it to the front cover, signed the book and posted it off. No SAE required.
From posting my book off to receiving this receipt took about 2/3 months.
My book was published by Completely Novel so it’s good quality and has an ISBN number. The British Library doesn’t mention either of these points as being a pre-requisite but I doubt they accept stapled pages of A4 paper.
I was featured in last Thursday’s ‘Worthing Herald‘ on the ‘World of Words’ page which features local writers, poets, groups, events, etc.
10 questions to delve deeper into my writing life…leaving a few questions left over.
btw, my girlfriend’s son is not called ‘Hannibal’. The comma and apostrophe’s make it look like her son’s nickname is Hannibal leaving the reader to wonder, rather horrifyingly, “Why in God’s name is this young boy named after a cannibal psychopath?”. He’s not. We play Lego – he then goes to bed – then my girlfriend and I watch the excellent ‘Hannibal‘. Just wanted to clear that up.
I’ve never liked word counts. The pressure if you’re not on your game, grinding out words as you push your story uphill, or, blasting past your target easily but with the nagging feeling that tomorrow might not be such a cake walk so should you stop and save some momentum for tomorrow or carry on?
If you go for a target, how many words do you choose? The internet will provide you with a wide range of targets and reasoning behind it. If it works for you, great.
I hate them because real life gets in the way so you need to be flexible. I’ve just given my third novel to some beta readers to get some feedback and I’ve completed those three novels without a word count target.
I recently spent a weekend in Helsinki and someone I follow on Twitter, Crystal Huff, is involved in the sci-fi community plus she’s Finnish! She gave me some great pointers of where to go and also let me know about Helsinki’s bid to host Worldcon in 2017.
Crystal also tweeted…
— Crystal Huff (@arisiacrystal) April 26, 2015
I’ve never been to a Worldcon or any kind of sci-fi/fantasy/book related conference before (something I should rectify) but I have been to some work related ones so I understand the concept of a conference. Also, I’m just a self-published author of one little sci-fi book so don’t get your hopes up Helsinki but here’s a little blog post about why I think Helsinki would make a great location for Worldcon in 2017.
…read more »
Everyone else is at it so I thought I’d write a post about setting goals too. I was also inspired by Sophie Playle’s post on ‘Writing Goals – What Are They Good For?’ which talks about how to set goals and what goals to set, eg. be flexible and don’t aim for the impossible.
I’ve always had yearly writing goals but this year I’m going to write them down for everyone to check out and ruthlessly measure me against come December 31st 2015.
My writing goals for 2015 are;
- Finish 2nd and 3rd draft of Novel 3, ‘Blindsided’ by Easter.
- Give copies to beta readers for feedback.
- Write 4th draft of ‘Blindsided’ based on feedback.
- Get first 3 chapters and synopsis professionally edited and sent off to agents.
- Get ‘In A Right State’ onto other online retailers.
- Keep an eye out for marketing opportunities for ‘In A Right State’ and experiment with price.
- Get 2nd novel, ‘Broken Branches’, professionally critiqued and edited in the 2nd half of 2015 and look to get a self-published version launched early 2016.
- Write more blog posts.
- Think more about 4th novel (untitled) and make notes.
Plenty to be getting on with this year.
On Tuesday evening I went and saw Will Self at The Ropetackle in Shoreham as part of his book tour for ‘Shark’. I can’t remember how I heard about it but it was sold out when I checked the website at the weekend. I phoned Tuesday afternoon and it was still sold out so I asked if it was worth turning up and waiting to see if any seats remained empty…the woman said, maybe. So I went. The front desk said there were no tickets but the man in front had just asked about a refund on a couple of spares, so I approached him with a friendly smile and a crisp tenner, and bought one. That is what is commonly known in the trade as ‘a right result’.
I really wanted to go because it’s not very common for a top, respected, Man Booker short-listed author to come down to these parts, at least I didn’t think so. Turns out he’s been down here about 10 times, so I haven’t been looking hard enough. I like his journalism and his refreshing point of view on Question Time (not enough authors, too many actors), ‘5mm Barrel’ and I’ve read half of ‘The Book of Dave’. I feel bad. I loved his writing but at one point what I thought was a kind of moped turned out to be a some kind of cow-type animal and I thought, ‘Fuck this. If I can’t tell the difference between a cow and a moped what else have I missed.’ So I gave up. The concept of the novel has always stuck with me along with the writing. It’s so rich, and not just an interesting read but funny too. It’s not an easy read though and I think that’s where I went wrong, trying to read it last thing at night when all my brain and eyes want to do is shutdown.