And so I've really done it. "The Attic" is out there - will be on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc., within weeks, and of course it's already at LuLu, the site I used to publish it.
If you've been considering it, but dismissed it because of some skeptical comments online (including mine!), I urge you to reconsider. Whether or not it sells, whether or not you establish a huge fan base, you will have the enormous satisfaction of holding your book in your hands and knowing it's available to the world. Forever, incidentally, as there will never be print over-runs, and it will never be stacked on a bookstore bargain table. In fact, your book will never be out of print, even when you are.
I've taken the liberty of adding a link to a really good article by Hugh Howey at Salon, about going it alone. This inspired me, and I hope it will have the same effect on you.
It took five proofings to get to this point. Each time you make changes, you must get another copy of the printed book to finally approve it. And that's it. The only cost to me (I even designed my own cover) were those proof copies...under $100 in total. If I had been more careful, no doubt I could have managed with just two copies, but I was so enthusiastic, so excited to be at the final gate, that I missed tiny things. "Patsy" became "Patty" on one page, for instance (and people said no one would have noticed), and there was an odd line break on page two. These could have been picked up much earlier if I had just relaxed and read through page by page, just one more time.
I won't discuss what goes into self-publishing. You must learn this yourself as you go along. But it's not difficult, just extremely exacting. As writers, and - we hope - good proof readers, we can cope with that. But one thing...the beautifully formatted, perfectly proofread manuscript you've been submitting to agents is not the one you'll present for self-publication. You copy it, and then re-format it entirely. Once you've got the hang of the necessary book printer's format, you'll be fine.
However, if you then want to e-publish, that's a whole new formatting project. I nearly tore my hair out over that one, but I got there in the end,
You can do it. Honestly. Be brave.
By all means ask question of me. I'm happy to share what little knowledge I have, or at least point you in the right direction.
I haven't type a word here since July. I have no excuses - there is always time in the day to say something, yet I didn't. I've been in a pensive, non-communicative state for quite a while, but I've emerged, I think.
I published my novel, now simply called "The Attic". This is huge for me. Not in terms of fame, glory, revenues (ha!), but with the incredible feeling of lightness, of relieving myself of a day-in, day-out stress that came when I let go and said, "Enough's enough."
In fact it wasn't as tricky to do as I imagined. Learning how to use the site itself was the hardest, and then it all fell into place.
This post is short and sweet. I only wanted you to know that I'd done it (what bravado!) after offering prickly comments about the self-publishing industry the whole time I've been blogging here. This only goes to show how long that's been, because since my very first blog, the whole attitude to what used to be called a self-aggrandizing practice has changed.
And I have now taken advantage.
It's been over four months since I last posted. During that time, I produced a lot of paintings, but that particular calling is losing its urgency, and I'm slipping back into writing mode with a vengeance.
There are a few agent queries out there, and I pop them off on a whim when I spy a new agent, or an agent who's moved house. In fact, I'm now dealing with an English agent for Place of Dreams, and just as soon as I can afford to do an actual print run of my novels, I'll be going the snail-mail route with others. Those sweet, eccentric Brits. I can say that, because I am one...although Canada and Australia have smoothed out most of the quirkiness.
In the meantime, I wanted to tell you about my book, the one I initially called "Strachan's Attic", but which is now renamed, simply, "The Attic". It's odd, but I see no other current book out there with that title.
I wrote this book for a family member, Pat, who lived through the strange, somewhat surreal years of World War II in England. She was a very young, barely out of high school, truck driver in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, and I grew up hearing of her exploits - many of then funny, considering the circumstances - and conjuring up the images she described. Wartime is unlike ordinary life, of course, and we can feel some of that when we watch the nightly news, trying (if we have the slightest trace of empathy) to imagine how people keep their sanity through all they experience.
Even when I was very small, I always knew I would be a writer. I seem to have been born able to read, although that's impossible, but I certainly don't recall the first time I read something, so I must have been very young. My mother constantly bought books for me, and I still remember the thrill of opening up a new one. Along with a set of paints, and a coloring book, this was all I ever wanted as gifts. Nothing much has changed, except I no longer use coloring books. Needless to say, in the back of my young mind, I longed to put the wartime stories down on paper. Undoubtedly, being so young when I first heard them from my mother or other family members, or directly from the long-retired WAAF herself, they made a deep impact.
And finally I wrote Pat's book. Although much of it is highly-fictionalized, it is as realistic, as hard-hitting, as carefully recorded as I could manage. It is, ultimately, a love story. There were so many of those; senses are heightened and emotions are enhanced in a war zone. I believe I have captured this. Of course, she has read the manuscript, and loved it, but I so wanted to give her an actual book, proof that her life had such a huge influence on me.
So, my friends, hold your breath...I am self-publishing it. In fact, it's all ready to go.
I've regularly more or less scorned the idea of what I saw as vanity press, but in this case, it's necessary. My WAAF is no longer young. And nor am I, for that matter. It's time to do this now.
I haven't decided whether or not to make the book available to the public. I need to consider this carefully. The book was written for her, but the few people who have read it - family, friends, a couple of writing buddies online - all of them enjoyed it, so it's reasonable to assume that others would too, although I'm also realistic enough to acknowledge that my MS readers might not have wanted to be unkind..
Perhaps I'll run through the process of self-publishing in another blog. For now, I'm too much of a novice to speak about it with any authority. But the book looks really good, and I believe I can do no more with it. If I do make it available for sale, I'll need to research the promotional side of it, I suppose. But then I never expected to reap a financial reward from it. All I ever wanted to do was see my sister's face when she held the book in her hands.
I finally heard back from that agent who had a full submission of mine for six months. I nudged her twice before getting her reply. She didn't say the work wasn't for her, but said, "I am not the best agent for this..." A new way of putting things.
So - except for those who will never respond, by my reckoning about a third of all queries sent - I have now closed off the dossier which represents last year's queries. This is tremendously freeing, and I can now concentrate on what's gone out this year. In all things, I don't believe in looking back. That's done and gone, and some of it not related to writing would make interesting reading in itself, but the here and now is what it's all about.
I'm still rather feverishly painting and that's very soothing, and I find I'm not dwelling on the books at all, but thinking up plots (for that's what they are) for my next picture.
Just for fun, I'm including my last painting below (even as I vowed I wouldn't mix up my writing blog with my art blog). Perhaps you can come up with a caption. There's definitely a story here.
I mentioned last week that there were still a couple of chunky submissions out there...well, heard back from one. She was under the impression she had already told me she was declining the opportunity of representing me. Believe me, if such an email had arrived, I would have known about it.
However, that old full submission is still in limbo. Perhaps it's been so long collecting cobwebs on the hard drive that their computer thinks my follow-up was just another poorly-worded query, and dumped it before it reached human eyes. Ah, well...c'est la vie and all that. And of course, the agent could be away at some long, long convention, in some remote place where there is no access to the internet.
In the meantime, I sent off six new queries over the last ten days, spread over all four manuscripts. Three rejections later, early this morning my time, I received a request for a FULL of The Place of Dreams, from the very first query. To say I was stunned is an understatement. My experience has always been (and remember how many queries I've sent out over the last year or so) that a full request comes at about query number 52.
A New York agent, too, which is refreshing. This book is most definitely not set in the US, and I always figured that's why I've struggled so much to get a good response from that city's creme de la creme (really thinking in French today). I'll still approach some British agents -- just as soon as my printer is up and running...really.
What writers want, in fact, need, is contact with folks who say they really liked the bits you've sent them so far. It's totally reassuring. It makes all the work -- and I'm not talking about the actual writing here -- worthwhile. As an aside, with my paintings, if someone wanders into my house -- friend, neighbor -- and spies one of my pictures and says how much they love it, I often give it to them. I'm a total pushover for flattery. Of course, I won't be doing that with my novels. Will I?
I boldly followed up with a couple of New York agents this morning. One has had one hundred pages of Summer Must End for over seven months. The other asked for and received the full Strachan's Attic manuscript five months ago.
Now I know this would seem to imply that neither agent is interested, but when it comes to big partials and full requests I've always been treated very politely, so I've come to expect an eventual response. Heck, I recently received a very nicely worded rejection for an initial query with ten pages that I sent seven months earlier, and it was personal, not the usual auto-response thing. So there are agents out there who do seem to empathize with the lonely writer waiting for human contact.
In the first half of 2012, of 147 queries (involving several partials and fulls, so I know the query letter worked) for 4 different books, I received 80 rejections, about half of them personally worded. 65 - not unexpectedly - did not respond at all. I stopped querying (to spend time licking my wounds) last July.
These days I'm totally immersed in painting, producing a couple a week, and selling here and there (check out the art blog if you don't believe me). The almost instant gratification experienced with painting has been rejuvenating, but I know it won't continue for much longer. For the first time since last July, I've started to feel a small twitch of anticipation at the prospect of agent research again. It's only a small twitch now, but it will grow more demanding. Call me a masochist, if you like, but you have to be in this game. And I'm not jaded, really I'm not.
So I am once again girding my loins, Boadicea-style, to begin the slow slog of snail-mailing queries to those agents who do not accept email queries. Most British agents fall into this category. It's true. I have no idea why. Perhaps someone can tell me. In any case, I've said before that my writing is more suited to the British agents' taste in books judging by my favorite reading, and I feel that I can no longer "hmphh" at their sweet eccentricity.
Do you, my patient writer friends, have anything to add about this business? We have all been so very, very quiet lately when it comes to blog comments (especially me) but I would like to know how joyous you are about approaching agents. Or do you mutter under your breath (using Anglo-Saxon words that are best left off blog pages) as you compose yet another letter?
May your spring and my autumn bring a new determination in this insane struggle we endure for the sake of our need to write.
Notice the date of this post? I feel love...somewhere out there.
I know it's been ages since I've blogged. For those of you who have followed me, it's been a rather long haul, listening to my general frustrations. I hope my basic optimism shone through, all the same. I'd hate to be accused of ending the year with a whimper. On the agent front, I have nothing new to add. The manuscript for my first book, A Place of Dreams, was read in full by a wonderful, to-die-for New York agent, but eventually rejected as "too quiet". Isn't that sad? Sad for me, of course, but also for all those writers out there who still believe there is a place in literature for stories that contain nothing blood-curdling, gruesome, or violent. According to the agent, the writing is remarkable, characters well-formed, plot momentum excellent, but, in the end, not exciting enough. I still have a Full out there for one of my other books, which is in the supernatural genre so beloved by most, but I find it hard to feel much optimism about it. The truth is, as this year closes, I'm not thinking much about my writing at all. I've put everything on the figurative back burner of my brain. In the last week, I've produced six new paintings, and have more in my head ready to go for the New Year. They are amazingly therapeutic. I have no idea what other rejected writers do to heal their wounds (Chocolate? Shopping? Booze? Weed? Sex?), but I wish them nothing but the best for 2013, once the healing is complete. My latest story, which is sitting at about the third chapter, will remain dormant for a while. I found I was thinking about how I could tart it up to make it less quiet, more violent, a little gruesome, and realized that this is a cop-out. I write what I feel, and I don't particularly like writing that other stuff. I certainly don't write what I think will be popular. It's my curse, I guess. In the meantime, let's keep on keeping on, all of us. Our eventual readers are waiting for us. (Such patience!) May you all have a wonderful Yuletide season and rewarding New Year.
I have ended the arrangement with my dear agent. The contract expired months ago, but we hung in there together, despite the fact that she was ill for most of last year and was so far behind with her work.
It was a very hard decision for me. She absolutely loved The Place of Dreams - which title she suggested rather than the original, somewhat cumbersome, Hafan Deg. So I will keep it. It's almost representational of all my writing - for when we write, doesn't it feel like a kind of dreaming?
And I continue to dream about what is possible for all my work, despite the setbacks.
Finding an agent who has fallen in love with your work is a very special thing. I clung to the idea that this was the one, this time we would get somewhere...but it wasn't to be. I didn't want to add more stress to her days with constant emails, didn't want to ask where the manuscript had been. I was so very, very patient, and I truly am not getting any younger.
But on Monday, sending off queries for my other books (which I mentioned I'd started doing in my last post), I suddenly saw how underhanded I was being. It felt a little treacherous, even though I had signed with her for only one book, over eighteen months ago. So I sent off my sad little message, suggesting it was time to find someone new. And it felt just like a 'Dear John' letter - really!
So The Place of Dreams is now out there in the agent-ozone, waiting to be opened, to be read, to get a nice "Interesting!" or "Do-able!" response. Or to join the other books on some kind of digital slush pile.
I'm sort of ok with it now, but I was a bit lost after I fired off that email on Monday. Trooper that she is, a true lady, she was friendly and understanding about my decision. She even agreed that we should remain in touch, shoot the breeze from time to time - my need more than hers, I suspect, as a writer does crave a certain amount of sympathy quite regularly.
And once again I'm back at QueryTracker and Publishers Marketplace, et al, every day, researching, researching, looking for that perfect agent who will fall in love with one of my manuscripts - well, let's be frank - who will fall in love with one of my queries.
Shakespeare wrote "The play's the thing!" as Hamlet tried to "...catch the conscience of the King." But the Query is the most important thing from where I'm sitting, as it tries to catch the eye of an agent. Of course, Shakespeare didn't have to look for an agent - in fact, some say he was the agent for the real playwright of all those works he claimed as his.
Boy, did I get off topic. It's been happening a lot, lately.
This querying business could damage one's mental health. Just saying...
I know I've been very quiet, but I've been working hard. It seems irrelevant to put my word count up on my blog as I used to, because this is something that is meant to inspire me, but could irritate those who are in the doldrums with their own work. So nothing about the new book. Absolutely nothing.
My agent is due to check in with me any day. I am not feeling very optimistic right now, as it's been a long time since she sounded really gung-ho about my book's prospects. So, in the interim, pragmatist that I am, I've started querying agents about my other books, not the one that's presently spoken for. Figured that if I got an offer, I could then decide who I go with.
And what a wild ride it is. I'd completely forgotten the amount of work involved in querying. At least now I have the luxury of deciding which book might suit which agent, and it's rather an enjoyable experience, despite the usual rejections.
Speaking of rejections, does it hurt for an agent to set up a nice, friendly, personal-looking form letter that almost uplifts us? I find the "Not for us, thanks." response totally degrading. Are we not worth just a little bit extra for all the research we do -- all those lovely letters we compose directed to their special preferences, the carefully submitted synopsis and chapters in the body of the email, or as attachments in Word, or submitted via their online forms, no synopsis because they're evil, letter query only, or five pages, ten pages, one chapter, fifty pages, whatever? I am going a little mad here, you'll see... And all of this AFTER we've written the best damned book we were capable of, perfectly proofed, edited again and again, and formatted within an inch of its life.
So (takes deep breath) I sympathize with all of you in this rocky boat. It takes huge courage to decide we are ready to put our work out there. It takes a massive amount of faith and belief in ourselves. I salute all of you for hanging in.
But when we rush to our computers every morning to see what the overnight mail has brought us, it would be so nice, assuming there is yet another rejection, for it to be worded kindly, with empathy. "Not for us, thanks." is like a slap in the face.
Good job we all have thick skin (don't we?) and know we are worthy of far, far more. It will come!
I've been too busy lately (the writing fever is back) to even drop by my own blog, but I thought you'd want to see this.
It's reassuring to see some of my own very special favorites, especially "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" (which convinced me to become a writer) and "To Kill a Mockingbird", and, of course, "The Catcher in the Rye", but nice that they didn't overlook "Silent Spring", which is as relevant today as it was when it was written almost fifty years ago.
I've read most of these books, devouring them during a steep learning curve in my twenties and thirties, but one I will never read is "In Cold Blood." There are some things I'd prefer not to think about.
..at least! Sunny,
8Âº, light S.
We were just commenting
on how quiet the hill was
today when 2 Raven
appeared over the brow
and performed what I
believe was an amazing
courtship display lasting
for around 20...
10Âº, light S.
A drive out this
afternoon for a bit of
light Xmas shopping and a
few birds noted.
A Common Snipeflew over
Cholsey hill and a pale
Buzzardand a Sparrowhawk
seen along the
Wallingford bypass. Now
the leaves ha...
Not been out this week
due to a heavy
.......Yuk. Just birding
from the living room
spotted Woodpecker and a
Treecreeper have been
frequent visitors to the
garden this week and up
to 10 Bla...
A dull day, overcast and
breeze from the north.
The 2 Stonechatstill
present, 1 on Lollingdon
hill and the other near
the Lees and up to 200
Lapwing in the pig fields
along with c200 Lesser
Blackback Gull, 120...
dull, no wind. c200
Thrushes still around the
hill, most were
Fieldfare, with 30+
Redwing, 9 Blackbird and
a Song Thrush, also 50+
Chaffinch flying with
them. Only other species
of note were 2
Heavy rain clearing
around midday then sunny
light to mod SW. After
the rain cleared around
midday I took a walk out
to the Lees area to see
if the other Stonechat
was still present but
unable to find it.
However a couple of ...
light NW, decidedly
colder! A flock of 50+
Lapwingwith the Gulls
& Corvids in the pig
fields to the south west
of Lollingdon hill today,
also a flock of around 80
c50 Golden Ploverstill
Overcast with low
9Âº, and a
very light SW breeze.
Yucky day! Poor
visibility and damp
weather today, the
Stonechat was still
present on the hill today
along the lower fence
line, not as many
thrushes today with c100