Month: October 2016

In praise of self-publishing

13592821_1267634033267823_948898492290551321_nSelf-publishing has been an ideal medium for me, and I’m impressed and astonished at Amazon and CreateSpace and how they’ve made it possible to publish work for Kindle and for print.

I’m no fan of the idea of unfathomably huge global corporations who treat their workers badly and don’t pay their dues, but I do see automation as inevitable and Amazon’s self-publishing setup is truly amazing. Anyone can publish anything (within reason – I think they put it through AI to check it for terrorist manuals and other nasty stuff) and people can buy your book, printed on demand and out the door within hours or simply downloaded on Kindle. No need for a garage full of unsold dead trees, no need for mountains of rejection letters from publishers. The only downside is that it won’t appear piled high in Waterstones.

Of course no publisher means no professional input, and that’s going to show. Editing, even proofreading, your own work is always going to be hampered by the fact that you know what you meant to say and that’s what you read when you go back to it.

Thing is, in my own case I don’t want to ‘be a writer’. I do write, but I’m not a writer. I wrote my trilogy as a project to sort out things in my own mind. I didn’t write for an audience and I haven’t done very much to publicise it. I’m working on a spin-off, but there’s no hurry. I’m also working on a non-fiction book, about woodturning. For me, writing is more of a hobby than a profession, because words are something I can do. This lends itself perfectly to self-publishing, because it’s all being done automatically, it isn’t inconveniencing anyone and there’s no unnecessary printing.

I should point out that after costs, the royalties are pretty pitiful – I get 65p for each book sold. If I were to set a higher price I would get more, but I think seven quid is as much as I would pay for a paperback.

I’m told I should use the hashtag #PoweredByIndie because Amazon are celebrating how wonderful they are this month. So I’m an indie author. Well at my age I’m happy to take on new terminology, and indie means independent, in this case independent of professional editors. Not that I kept the manuscript to myself – feedback is essential. I’ve seen at least one self-published book that had clearly not been shown to anyone before it was published.

And Microsoft Word, that entity that writers love or hate, has been a good friend to me, even if it does get its it’s and its muddled up.

Latest feedback – refreshingly honest and eloquent. Can’t be bad.

Fifty Shades of rant

The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy doesn’t take up valuable space on my bookcase. That’s because I got the Kindle version, and I loved it. I read it twice, and then dipped into it again, and again. And (well, I’m weird) I did and still do skip through the sex scenes – just keep an eye on them to see how they’re going but they’re not the meat of the story.

It’s a retelling of every woman’s favourite romance – the ordinary, normal woman we can all relate to meets a damaged (but very rich) man who needs to be rescued. It’s Pride and Prejudice and Pretty Woman. I think that it’s had enough coverage for me to be not too worried about spoilers, but the meat of it is that there is nothing submissive about Ana Steele, (or Vivian Ward or Lizzy Bennet) and that is precisely why Grey (or Lewis or Darcy) falls for her. So when I see a journalist say that someone ‘makes Anastasia Steele look like Boadicea’ I know that he hasn’t read the book. More than one friend of mine has said that she won’t read it because ‘it’s about a submissive woman who meets a dominant man’. It’s not. It’s really uplifting precisely because she doesn’t have a submissive bone in her body.

I don’t know why I feel so strongly about that. Perhaps because I wrote a trilogy of my own, albeit very different on all sorts of levels, but when I’m talking to a friend who hasn’t read Fifty Shades (and who might turn out not to be a friend after all in the end) and she can’t let me finish my sentence when I’m trying to say that the point of the story is (interruption, interruption), I think dammit you really don’t know what I’m going to say, why do people always think they know what I’m going to say when they don’t … the point is that he falls in love for the first time ever! The first time ever in his life! He has never known love. Well, he has, but he hasn’t seen it. His adoptive family loves him, but he’s so far unable to wrap his head around that. So, up to now, he’s dealt with relationships according to the code that a predatory older woman had foisted on him when he was a teenager. That was what Ana Steele walked into. The meat of the story is how she dealt with that.

But if it weren’t for the publicity about the dom-sub business I doubt if the trilogy would have ever had the success that it did. No problem with that – anything that sells a book is great. But, like Python’s ‘Life of Brian’, don’t settle on an opinion until you’ve seen what it’s about.