Confessions of an Indie Author

With the, no doubt temporary, spirit of New Year zeal slugging its way through my hardening arteries I thought I’d review my writing progress over the past year. One book published and another on its way – not bad perhaps except for the niggling thought that if I managed my time better I could do more. Now, in an earlier incarnation, I wrote a book called Time for Your Life – all about how to make time to do the things you want to do as well as the things you have to do. It contains pearls of wisdom about how to deal with procrastination and displacement activities (P&D/A)- Time Thieves I called them. Here I’ll let you into a secret it’s a book on the lines ‘do as I say not as I do’. When it comes to the process of writing all my pearls about P&D/A scatter before the swine.

However, one things I am good it is making lists so I thought I’d share with you my top P&D/A activities.

1. Wandering down to the kitchen to make coffee and fossick for a snack. I drink so much coffee that I need to pee regularly hence creating two D/As at once. Smart eh?
2. Read the social media and snarl at all those peppy people who always have something to say for themselves
3. Play on-line solitaire in the belief it will at least keep one part of my brain working whilst the rest is AWOL
4. Check sales figures for my book Close to the Edge hoping that any change will motivate me. When these haven’t changed I resort to 1 above.
5. Do some housework which also helps to work off the few calories added by indulging in 1 above.
6. Look up rude words in my French dictionary so I can swear fluently at the be-pimpled adolescent who cut me up on the bend the other day.
7. Sit in the garden and pretend to think – my favourite when the weather is good.
8. Re-read (it’s called editing I think) for the zillioneth time the hundred words I have written and agonise over commas, full-stops, semi-colons.
9. Light up an illicit cigarette with my head hanging out of the window hoping the shutter won’t fall down and guillotine my outstretched neck.
10. The very last resort – do some unnecessary ironing – like the hems on towels that curl up after I’ve washed and dried them.

So there you have it – confessions of an indie author – all perfectly rational of course. How many of them do you share with me? Even better have you any to add that I could adopt?

Happy New Year everyone.

Mulling in the Maldives

I’ve had a couple of queries about where I got the idea for my book Time for Your Life – though I’m not sure if the question was asked in admiration or disbelief. The answer is the idea came to me on a beach in the Maldives when I was lolling on a swing-seat with a fierce sun piercing an impossible blue sky. I had a large glass of very chilled something-or-other with a kick like a mule when I was struck by the truly original thought “this is the life.”

hammock

All this was back in 2011. I was at a crossroads in my life. My partner and I had split up; I was living in a house I hated and in a town where I had never wanted to be in the first place and running a business that left me little time to do anything else. I was like a demented bluebottle in perpetual motion.

A friend managed to prise me away from the business for a couple of weeks and we went off on a diving/cruising holiday to the Maldives. About five days in I was just sitting on this beach with this idea flitting around in my sun-addled head; an idea about how to do more of what I wanted to do and less of what I have to do whilst not sending my finances to a critical care unit. I knew that if I didn’t do something to change the balance of my life I would end up a dribbling lunatic.(Just hang on whilst I wipe my chin…that’s better). Now where was I? Oh yes. Well this beach must have been covered in fairy dust because I had a second idea that day along the lines – I am a life coach – if I can’t sort my own life out how the devil can I help anyone else.

So, in between snorkling, swimming, sun-bathing, scoffing and swigging I began to map out what was really important to me and what I wanted to do the rest of my life – not quite a bucket list but heading that way. One thing I didn’t want was to find myself five years down the road, doing the same old, same old and regretting lost opportunities.

Back in Blighty I retrieved from my suitcase the paper serviettes, fag packets, coasters and other bits of ephemera on which I’d scribbled my ideas and I started to develop an approach to managing my life that didn’t require an Einsteinian brain or a second mortgage to pay for staff. This approach provided an outline for the book which eventually became Time for Your Life.

That, in a nutshell is how I came to write the book. There were of course many vicissitudes to bear whilst I tested out the principles now enshrined in the book but darlings, you know I’d do anything for my five readers. I’m not quite perfect yet but I have been fitted for a halo. Now, after that confession, I need to have a lie down. Where’s the beach gone?

Signing off for the weekend – so enjoy yours.

seagrass

A Tale of Two Editors

One aspect of the feature and article writing I do is research –not just subject research but also market research. At the moment I don’t receive many commissions so I have to pitch most of my work to an editor, once I think I’ve found the right market for it.

Four months ago I sent out two pitches. One went to a specialist magazine, the other to a more general one with a countryside theme. Both have about the same circulation figures although different reader profiles. I read back copies of each mag; I obtained their writers guidelines, followed them to the letter and even phoned up to make sure I’d got the editor’s name correct – they do seem to change fairly frequently.

Editor no.1 – the generalist replied to my email within a week.
Yes he was interested and could I supply photos?
Yes I could, how did he want them?
Email and at 300dpi minimum.
OK. Good – job done. The proofs came through ten days ago and the article appears next month.

Editor No. 2 – the specialist magazine
When I phoned in to check his name and email I actually spoke to him. He said: ”I’ll look out for your pitch coming through my email.”
Great. Six weeks later not a peep from him. Do I/don’t I send a reminder?
I wait ‘til the eight week mark and then send a polite note –“ hope you got the pitch, wondering if you have been able to make a decision?”
Sixteen weeks later still nothing.

I assume that the guy is not interested – fine. I understand :-
– the pitch might not have suited – either through content or style;
– the editor might need to take all submissions to an editorial panel and that slows down the process;
– the concept of “busy” and “overwhelmed with emails”. When I had a “ proper” job 50 emails a day was not unusual and I’ve had clients who topped the 100 per day but still managed to answer them, however briefly;
– the pitch might not have reached his desk…but did lightning really strike twice?

Truly I do understand all of that but what I can’t get my head round is complete silence. I cannot believe that with the electronic bells and whistles that abound these days, it is impossible to send a quick, automated “thanks but no thanks” email.

The question is what do I do next? Shall I be passive and leave it a while longer – but how long? Or shall I start again, find another potential victim and revamp the outline? Should I send him a free copy of my book Time for Your Life – there’s lots in there about managing emails and other “stuff”?

There is some small irony here, in that this specialist magazine, without naming names, is aimed at newbie writers and is packed full of good advice about what to do and not do when approaching an editor with a pitch. What it doesn’t tell you is what best to do when your pitch appears to have fallen into a deep black hole.

Kindle Revisited

My exclusive 90-day deal with Kindle Prime for Time for Your Life will soon be up and I thought now might be a good time for a bit of reflection.

The original idea for Time for Your Life was to start to build up a library of articles and e-books on my business website http://www.thecoachingcorner.co.uk to support my coaching activities. I never expected to sell many copies – just as well really as it turns out.

The book garnered 3×5* reviews on UK Amazon and 1×5* on Amazon.com (Thank you Gwen Bristol) but I have sold very few copies through Kindle. On the other hand I have negotiated three-year licence agreements with a couple of companies for it to be available to the staff via the company intranets. This alone has more than covered my costs and will keep me in jelly beans for a good few months. Both those agreements came about because I sent free PDF copies to Human Resource Directors and two of them got in touch with me. The next step is for it to be available as a PDF via an on-line training and personal deveopment resource website: http://www.glasstap.com. This will expose the book to a completely different market.

I also had some picture postacards printed with the front cover of the book on one side and message/address space on the other. These I sent out to my past and present individual coaching clients. As far as I know none of those has resulted in any Kindle sales but I have sold PDFs.

So what have I learned?

1. Publishing an e-book takes very little time if you have the tech skills or the right people behind you. However marketing an e-book and getting sales takes a very great deal of time. I haven’t put nearly enough time into marketing. I had a marketing plan but seriously underestimated what time it would need – particularly finding, getting and keeping active on different book forums, blogs etc.

2. Pricing an ebook is a bit of a thorny question for me. I didn’t do enough homework on prices and so, in comparison with other books that appear to be of similar content, Time for Your Life may look pricey. £6.00 as opposed to the £1.99ers. Perception is all here. I have a view that if something is offered for sale at what seems to be a very low price then I have very low expectations of it and am more likely to pass on it. I also hold to the belief that you can always lower a price but if you start low and then try to go up in price, you pretty soon piss off a section of your customer base.Maybe I need to review these beliefs…I’m not sure.

3. I’ve mentioned this in other posts but for non-fiction it still may be better to bite the bullet and go for hardcopy publishing. I’ve been asked so many times for a hard copy or “proper” book as many have called it. I think this is an issue of disposable v for keeps.

4. I’m not totally convinced of any advantage Kindle Prime offers for this type of book other than the % rate. With hindsight I would have preferred to have offered the book from the get-go in as many ways/formats as possible.

So just something to chew on this Friday morning. I’d be more than happy to hear your thoughts/experiences – perhaps between us we should put an ebook out on the definitive way to self-publish.

Anyhoo – signing off for the weekend which is predicted to be warm and sunny – so have a good one.

Oh to be a polymath now that April’s here

Today is a day-job day or rather it’s a get-all-the-office-stuff-sorted day because the end of the financial year is nigh. I love my day job but loathe the pernickity admin that clings to it – in particular THE ACCOUNTS. I haven’t done them since last September and there are little heaps of paper, post-its, bank statements, receipts and parking tickets (all carefully filed not piled please note) at various strategic points in the house. Now I know I’m Mrs Time for Your Life and hence the world-renown expert on taking control of your life and the stuff in it but give me a break – I’m half human after all and entitled to the odd bad fur day.

Anyhoo, today is the day I round up and corrall all this paperwork before converting it into finance speak. Therein lies the rub. When it comes to numbers and maths my head is in a dark place where it was never intended to be. Even the calculator takes on a life of its own as it flashes, blinks and spews up impossible answers.

HOW much tax? That’s half the national debt. It’s no wonder I’m in my very own, truly personal triple-dip recession. The machine is no more helpful when it comes to income either – £0.0012 for a year’s work or did I just press the square root button?

Then I have the dilemma – use an accountant or fill in the forms myself. It’s quite possible the accountant’s fees will exceed my income so I’ve resolved to tackle the beast that is an income tax return myself. I know before I start I’ll be totally befuddled by the multiple choice questions and propositions “if you answered X to question A then go to section 2 and answer question Z. However if you did not answer X…blah blah.”

After that, assuming I survive, there’s another side to my financial world. My measly ISA (that’s a tax free savings account)comes to the end of its special for one year only interest rate. Now I have to trawl the internet to find an ISA that is kind enough to let me access my own dosh when I want to and yet pays me something more than £0.00012 in monthly interest equating to an APR of 0.5%. When it comes to finance – it’s a foreign language.

It’s no good going in person to a bank and asking for help. I’ve tried this and was met by a brightly smiling infant in uniform who told me the so-and-so bank has sooooo many products it’s impossible to tell me the interest rate of their one and only internet-only, instant access ISA. Instead, she tippitoed off to print out a list of all the products. When she returned, limping a little under the weight of the paper, she thrust it into my arms and with another bright smile wished me “have a nice day”.

A well known Anglo Saxon phrase came to mind ending in “off”.

I wish I’d acquired a broader education – if it wasn’t history, french or english literature I didn’t want to know. How much easier life must be for those characters who, like a sponge, absorb all the learning and knowledge thrown at them so that, in real life, they can fill in a tax return without spending the next three months in therapy.

So methinks no literary pearls from me for a day or two but y’all have a nice day now.

To-do or not To-do – that is the question

Yesterday I continued my boxroom de-clutter in preparation for the Big Weekend Decorating Push and now the flotsam and jetsam of my life thus far is destined for the tip, the recycling centre and the charity shop.I’m sure I should write something deep and meaningful about that, about the post-apocalyptic symbolism of a broken relationship…but I don’t do deep and meaningful.

However, during this epic struggle with the evil “I might need it some day” Hydra, that kept subverting my good intentions to clear, clear, clear, my faithful vacuum cleaner snorted up one too many doses of dust, plaster and paperclips and is now moribund, only occasionally emitting an asthmatic wheeze.

I administered the last rites, abandoned it on the landing and trotted off to add ‘purchase new hoover-upper” on my to-do list – but said list was missing. I was desolate. One of my greatest pleasures in life is adding and crossing off items on my to-do list. There’s a technique to it, you see. The new items are added neatly, in standard Marian Richardson style handwriting – clear, open letters, no fancy loops or curlicues. The crossing-off items require different styles according to the degree of detestability of the task. So, really hateful or boring items get the slow, tongue-in-mouth-corner heavy scoring through the offending words. The houseworky-type items get a quick devil-may-care slash , preferably with a red pen and the go and buy myself something nice items disappear from the list with a frivolous wiggly-squiggly line. I could go on, but are you still here anyway?

So where was the errant to-do list. I expected it to be on the corner of my desk (my motto is always have a hard one to hand – sorry let me clarify, I mean hard copy) but all I could see was a pile of scrap paper with scribbles all over it. Closer inspection showed it to be the list, that unseen and unsupervised by me, had spawned little illegitimate to-do’s, overnight.

Oh no! This cannot be. I am the author of the best organise your life book ever (so my friends tell me – but then five ever so tipsy ladies do not make even half a rational critic).

The to-do list – I examined it, turning one limp page after another. Clearly said list was exhausted by the weight of tasks bearing down on it. How did these 2-minuter tasks get on it? Whatever happened to dump, defer or delegate? Who put one of my latest life ambitions on it? For in my world the ideal to-do list is short, relates to the present and near future and is specific. What happened?

It’s blogging wot done it.

You see the first half hour of every day used to be dedicated to the maintenance and updating of my to-do list. Now I spend that half hour composing my blog (yes I do put some thought into these blogs – they are not the ravings of a hermit on hash). I am going to have to give serious consideration as to the re-arrangement of my day.

Can I live in the shadow of an over-long, untidy scribble of a to-do list?
It’s touch and go.

You’ll have to hang on to the cliff and wait for the next bulletin.

The “Real” Book is Dead, Long Live the “Real” Book

A new day and I’m not as grunty as I was yesterday…it’s the artistic temperament dontcha know. I’m still musing over a chat I had yesterday with a group of participants at one of my workshops. It was break time and good for dropping the oh so casual hints about THE book. There was apparent interest – apart from one guy whose eyes had glazed over the moment I started the workshop and who slipped quietly into a state of catalepsy as the session continued. I had to proddle him awake at the end of the afternoon and he had the nerve to tell me he thinks better with his eyes closed. But I digress.

The question most asked was “can we get a copy?” I explained it was an eBook available from Amazon, hastily adding that if they didn’t have a Kindle they could download a reader for free onto their PCs/Laptops. Their disappointment was flattering although I harboured an unworthy suspicion that it might have had something to do with their assessment marks but I like to think not. What this particular group wanted was a hold-in-the-hand, curl-up-by-the-fire “real” book and they wanted it signed. (Note to self – query possible sycophancy?)

Driving home I thought about why I had chosen to be Kindled. Apart from the fact that all the publishers out there seemed to suffer from a distressing form of myopia when it came to my book, the royalties from Amazon do at least offer an author the possibility of bread and dripping rather than one or t’other.

Last night I had a little Google (no scatological or salacious comments please). I found that there are certain genres – fantasy, sci-fi, romance, crime and thrillers that all do well as eBooks but non-fiction and more literary fiction do less well. It seems that many people consider eBooks to be disposable whereas they seem to regard non-fiction to be for keeps.

So which way to go? Do I want to go down the road of hard-copy publishing? Time to put the brain in gear. You know, I definitely think better with my eyes closed.

Book Sales, Telephone Repair Man and Me

At last, normal service is resumed; the world is at my fingertips once more and guess what? It’s been a day of firsts.

I’ve just sold my first copies of my first book; I have my first two 5* reviews for it ( no I haven’t bribed my friend or neighbours) and I’ve got my first commission this year for a magazine article.

Woohoo – I’m on a roll. I’m pleased. No what am I saying… I’m as happy as a church mouse that’s discovered a stash of Double Gloucester in the vestry on the cat’s day off.

However, the idea of someone, a real person buying the book really tickles me. I’ve sold articles and the odd short story but never a book. It feels more personal – an act of faith on the part of the reader. I wonder if it will bore, amuse, irritate or even get read at all? Will they delete it or file it for posterity? Perhaps they’ll say it was all a mistake; that they got their cursor crossed and really wanted “Time for Your Lies – a Beginner’s Guide to Telling Porkies”.

I mentioned the book to Telephone Repair Man this morning. I’d made him a cup of copper-coloured tea after he’d been freezing his whatnots off up a ladder fixing the phone line.
“Have you made any brass from it?” he asked in typical direct Yorkshire fashion.
I had to be honest about the anaemic sales figures.
“Thought not.” He supped his tea.
“Are you famous at all?”
I admitted the path to my door was unbeaten.
“Thought not”.
I bridled inwardly (is that physically possible?)but I’ve picked up the gauntlet along with several dozen bits of snipped off wires. I’ll show him. And this is where I’ll need your help.

All you need to do is click on this link http://tinyurl.com/d2wfbb7 and make the appropriate donation to the Make Sheila Famous and Confound all Telephone Repair Men Fund.

Ta very much.

Me and My Time Personality – 1

Spent the night in an apartment type hotel – a converted 19c railway warehouse. Really cool and, more important, got a huge fix of the internet and caught up with everything. Just need to go thro my presentations for the day and I’m ready-ish.

If I were a different person I would have done things differently; not left everything until the last minute. However I’m not that sort of gal – my time personality is much more wait until the deadline looms and then let pedal and metal meet. When managing my time and organising myself I have a fair few challenges.

The concept of a time personality derives from Jung’s work and built on by the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. It throws up some interesting points for writers.

As you might guess I’m in a hurry this morning but if you’re intrigued or interested or both, in the concept of time personalities I’ll post more on Friday…or, if you’re really smart you’ll get hold of my book Time for Your Life available in Kindle from Amazon.

Ha! Didn’t expect that blatant plug did you?