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.

A Confident Crisis

“Ok, I’ll go have a shower – perhaps that’ll get me going. “
En route from office to bathroom I stop and address the dust motes swirling around in an early sunbeam:“think I’ll have a coffee first”.

Downstairs, in the kitchen as I faff around, MCV (my critic’s voice) makes itself heard. Didn’t think it would take long before it made an appearance on stage.
“You’ve not written a word; you said you’d do three chapters a week. You’re still on the first. You’ve not written a word.”
“I know I know, but I’m stuck. I can’t think of anything to say – so get off my back. Anyway, I’m just going to iron these few things.”
“You…iron? You don’t know one end from t’other. Can you actually remember where it is? Have you unpacked it yet? You’re only been here two years now. Just how desperate can you get?”
Well pretty desperate actually.

This silent conversation that I have with MCV has been going on now for a few days. I find myself in a pother of procrastination. I have work ahead of me; deadlines to meet; people to see. For once I actually have stuff to write for which people want to pay and I find myself la-la-ing around, titivating, fiddling, fancifying even ironing (in a half-hearted sort of way)…anything to stop myself going up the stairway to hell – aka my office. Even if I do get there I gaze out of the window and the sea twinkling benignly in the sun invites me to cast off a clout or two and go for a paddle. I’m not deceived though. I know from bitter experience that emerging from an icy dousing in the North Sea is not like Venus rising from the waves in her scallop shell. No, it’s more akin to a frozen turkey lugged from the freezer on Christmas Eve. I did wonder at the time why all those kids wore wet-suits whilst I frolicked in a modest swim-skirt…but I digress…again.

I usually have a number of tricks to overcome the occasional slice of procrastination – make a game of it; do 1 minute’s worth and then stop; analyse the “why”; divide and conquer…I could go on but I’d rather you bought my book (see sidebar and sorry about the plug).

Actually this isn’t a dose of the put-offs. It is what my mother called “a phase she’s going through” in response to my rather feeble adolescent rebellion that consisted entirely of teaching my eyebrows the trick of independent suspension so that I could flick just the one to create a quizzical, faintly supercilious effect.It’s a skill I’ve cherished all my life.

Am I having a “forty is the new sixty” life crisis or do I mean “sixty is the new forty” life crisis? Either way it’s a pile of goose-poo. I can tell you with confidence that I’m just having a crisis of confidence and I have had those since I was knee-high. To quote my mother again, this time on the subject of puppy fat, “it’ll disappear when you grow up.”
For the record I’m on my fourth diet this year alone.

However, I have a solution.

Stuck for words? Can’t seem to put pen to paper? Rather do anything, anything at all but write?

You need…A BLOG, probably the most effective displacement activity in the world.

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

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.

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.

So What’s Your Excuse?

I had a hard day yesterday. There’s a big push on to get the bathroom finished and I had to make umpteen mugs of tea and avert my eyes modestly from the bum cleavage on display. I was quite overcome at times and needed to rest quietly. Of course I couldn’t possibly write. I mean, how can a sensitive soul create anything amid the dust, banging and a unique rendition of the Birdie song by the plasterer?

So, as I rested on the sofa, rather like Dido in the ruins of Carthage, I pondered on the difficulties that beset me. Unfortunately an unexpected moment of insight…not to say honesty pierced this balloon…it was all bull. The piece I was working on wasn’t going so well, I had a deadline to meet…so quite clearly the answer was to lollygag on the sofa pretending to be “interesting”. I have yet to figure out why, at times I’ll do anything rather than sit down and write (I use the word anything loosely). To try and fathom this odd kick in my gallop – I won’t dignify it with the words “Writers’ Block” I made a list of some of the excuses I use to avoid writing.

1.I haven’t got time as I snuggle up on the sofa to watch back to back episodes of Andrew Davies’ Pride and Prejudice for the seventeenth time.
2. I’ve a pain in my brain and it hurts when I think and anyway staring out of the window watching the sea is all part of the creative process.
3. The dog’s just pee’d on the handwritten copy of my manuscript; it was the only copy; I’ll never be able to write it all again. (Sobs theatrically).
4.There’s a pile of ironing I absolutely must do. If I don’t get my outfit ironed for tomorrow’s seminar I’ll look like unfinished origami.
5. I’ve got the headache from hell (definitely not the same as 2 above) after a frozen squid fell from the sky and knocked me out. (OK I made that one up but it did happen to somebody).

So now it’s your turn. What excuses do you find? Let me know and I’ll collate and post them all.

Oh Damn…perhaps it’s just me?

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?

Bonus Day

Today is a bonus day. I was supposed to be running a personal effectiveness workshop for a client but they have postponed it. So what shall I do with my bonus day… decisions, decisions? If I were to follow the advice in my book I’d ask the question: what’s the best use of my time today?

I could demolish the ironing pile; put up some shelves that have been waiting for weeks; prepare for the next round of the builders? Nah, it feels like a kick over the traces day.

There’s just the merest whisper of a waft of spring in the air. Last night two lovesick owls sat in the trees outside my bedroom window twitting and twooing to each other. Just a few minutes ago one of them flew past the office window on it’s way to bed…dirty little stop-out. So I think nature and a walk on the beach beckon; then a catch-up with e-mails; possibly a cholesterol-busting fry-up for breakfast and then, just for fun, back to a short story I started last evening. It’s a new departure for me – not quite horror more spooky. I have the beginning and the end but how the heck I get from one to t’other I’ve not the faintest idea. That’s where the beach walk helps – it blows away the rubbish in my head and allows new ideas to germinate. That’ll probably take care of things ’til mid afternoon when my brain starts hurting at which point…well I don’t know, that’s the luxury of a bonus day, I get to choose to do what I want rather than what I must.

We do seem to be leading more and more complicated lives these days, taking on multiple roles and becoming increasingly stressed. That’s why stepping off the merry-go-round of our lives is important, no essential. So today, my bonus day, I’ll be out and about taking time to smell the roses. Actually it won’t be roses I’m smelling because the pig farmer in the village has clearly decided it’s time to clean out his sheds.

Clothes peg anyone?

Reflections on Kindle

I spent most of the weekend working on my marketing platform for The Book – mainly bullying the friends and family category. However, I also invested a little time in thinking about this Kindling experience. Here are four early learning points.

1. Don’t assume that everyone has a Kindle or similar. I lost count of the times I was asked to “show” the book because the f&f member didn’t possess a Kindle. This was also the case when I spoke to a couple of local newspapers and a radio station. So, buy a copy of your book and hawk it around on your own Kindle and you can give people a bit of a taster.

2. I had planned to publish The Book in other digital formats however, if you publish in KDP (Kindle Digital Publishing) you are tied in to an exclusivity clause for 90 days. Check the terms and conditions thoroughly (if you are doing your own “Kindling”) and don’t make commitments that you won’t be able to keep.

3. You can have up to 5 “free” days in any 90 day period so you need to think about how you’re going to use them (if at all). I’ve decided to save mine for around the end of the 90 days when they can help me put a bit of a sales boost on.

4. Was it worth going through a Kindle publisher? For me yes, yes and yes again. I’m not tech-savvy; learning how to Kindle is not a priority for me nor a good use of my time. I think it better to stick to my knitting. The publisher I used (www.kindlepublishmybook.co.uk) had loads of experience and inside knowledge; managed the whole process once I gave him the mss and was affordable. I’m sure you can d.i.y. it but for me it wasn’t worth the potential hassle.

Finally, be prepared for someone (at least one) to say to you: “Oooh! You are a clever thing aren’t you, but it’s not like it’s a proper book, is it?”

AAAGH!!!

Happy Monday.