Monday, 26 August 2013

Don't make me unleash the pop-ups...

I have a confession to make...I am an Indie author. I hope you are still reading, and have not immediately decided to Google someone better known, an author who has a reputation for writing good books, a name you can trust. I'm asking you to give Indie authors a chance, hear their stories, make up your own minds on the merit of their work.

In today's blog, I'm telling my story, my experiences of writing. I decided to write children's stories, as I suspected I had the skills...a degree in English Lit., Graphic Design qualification, and a love of drawing. I also have four children at home to provide inspiration, an insight into what children like, and honest feedback from my target audience.

I found the stories quite easy to write once I had my initial ideas, and discovered I had a talent for writing in rhyme, which I enjoy doing. The illustrations were more time consuming, I invested in a Galaxy Note tablet and find the pen very effective for creating computerized images that still look very much hand drawn.

I was very pleased with the results of my work, and like every budding author, suffered the delusions I would see them in print in the very near future. I soon discovered this would be very hard to accomplish. I've written before about poetry being a very unpopular writing technique in the world of publishing. I found this to be true even more so within children's publishing. My list of contactable publishers grew smaller and smaller, as I realised it would be a waste of time and money to send my work to publishers who clearly stated they did not accept poetry. I read that many publishers will not accept unsolicited work, and an agent would be required to act on my behalf. I struggled to find agents who would consider poetry of any kind, my chances were very slim. However, it was a case of "you'll never know unless you try", so I posted out thoughtfully composed covering letters along with my stories. I waited patiently on replies, excited whenever I saw post through the frosted glass...

Sadly, my hopes and dreams of my work soon being in print were deflated time after time, like the yellow balloon behind the door which I had envisioned as a generous publishing contract.

I have to say I really think that publishers are missing a lot of potential best sellers by not accepting rhyme or poetry. Have they never heard of The Gruffalo, or any other of Julia Donaldson's wonderful rhyming tales?  How about The Cat in the Hat, or many other stories by Dr. Seuss? I could be wrong, but I believe these books sold quite well didn't they? I'm pretty sure they would not have been adapted into films if they were not much loved stories.

I decided, reluctantly it must be said, to go the Indie route. I consoled myself by thinking "Indie author" actually sounds quite cool. My first book, Andrew's Fairy Tale was eventually available as an ebook on Amazon. I say eventually, because the formatting process to make the story look good on different tablets, phones etc, was painful. Anyone considering publishing this warned! However, in the end, the book was available for sale on Amazon. I found that very enthusiasm didn't last. I waited patiently for the sales, become addicted to checking KDP Select, which allows you to track each and every sale. I was getting nowhere. My book was, and remains, a tiny grain of sand within an enormous beach of competing books. I am not a celebrity, do not have hundreds of reviews, and am basically invisible to an Amazon customer. There is also the problem of authors offering FREE downloads. Everyone loves a bargain, myself included. I can perfectly understand why people choose the free options, and so I thought I would give it a try...give my book a kick start. The free downloads worked quite well, my sales rank went up, and although I didn't make any money, I was delighted that people were now actually reading my story. I also received two 5 star reviews, and was confident my selling opportunities would have improved when the promotion ended. Unfortunately not, there were a few sales, but nothing like what I had hoped for.

I focused on writing my second story, The Bankrupt Tooth Fairy and made it available for print through Createspace. I feel my book has a lot of potential, it is a very imaginative story, and also encourages kids to look after their teeth. I sent copies of the book to agents and publishers, and played the waiting game again. I was very excited to receive a letter from Austin Macauley saying my book had been passed on to senior editors. I had usually just received a blunt rejection letter. A few weeks later I received a publication contract. I'm sure you can imagine my delight, my dream of my work being recognised as worthy of being published was coming true! However, upon reading more carefully, I became much less enthused. Austin Macauley wanted a substantial amount of money from myself, to help cover costs, since they were taking a chance on an unknown author. I researched the company, and it seems they are a vanity publisher, which is essentially the same as self-publishing. Maybe there are success stories with this company and other authors, but it was not a risk I was willing to take.

I refuse to give up, and still hope to make a success of my writing. Createspace is a good option for self-publishers, but as an author from the UK, the shipping costs are too high for me. I want to take my books to local bookshops, present school workshops etc, and so am planning on printing the books at a local printer myself.

 My journey so far on the route to becoming an established author has definitely had its problems. One area which I am pleased with, however, is my new-found understanding of social media. I enjoy writing my blog, and have built up followers on both Google Plus and Twitter. Considering I was like Billy Crystal in Parental Guidance not so long ago (his character was asked "Do you tweet?" to which he replied "I'll tweet, I'll make any noise you want!"), I have definitely made progress. 

I hope you've enjoyed my blog, and would now consider supporting Indie authors. Genuine reviews are a great way of doing this,  call me old-fashioned, but I don't believe in paying for them. I don't make any money from my blog....please don't make me unleash the pop-ups!

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