Monday, 26 April 2010

This is an Experiment

I recently came across a furore on a forum because one member used another member's private Facebook photo to poke fun at her. She said she had made her photo albums private, so that only friends could view them. And yet this person - who wasn't one of her Facebook friends - had posted this photo on a public forum, and it was clearly visible to everyone, despite being hosted by Facebook.

So, long story short... Can you see the pic in the link below? And are you one of my Facebook friends?

UPDATE: This utterly gorgeous pic was in fact taken by Ms SpiralSkies, whose details you will see in the comments. She is very talented!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

What Flippin' Book?

Some of you will have no clue of what this book is, about which I chunter so endlessly.

The latest is that I have an illustrator and a design team and have now been charged with the frankly-slightly-terrifying job of deciding what kind of thing I want on the cover, so the illustrator can produce a rough sketch. Eek! And ooh! I have a week to make my mind up. I have some ideas though, thank Dog.

Anyway. Here is the blurb. Just in case you were wondering, like.

Dance Your Way to Psychic Sex
by mutter mumble.

It's completely mental.

Or so Leo thinks, and he should know - because Leo is a mentalist.

Henrietta thinks people should stay the hell out of each other’s heads, keep their hands to themselves, and dance with people they know. Not with strangers. Not in public. And especially not psychically. That’s just ridiculous.

Psychic Dancing is a New Age sensation, but is it a trick of the mind? A harmless self-help technique? Or a breakthrough in human consciousness, which will end all pain and disease?

Leo makes money from reading minds, so he knows full well it’s a con. But Leo’s gigs are poorly attended, and Psychic Dancing’s a hit. So when his dead grandad sends an insult from the grave, Leo does something drastic.

Henrietta’s past won’t leave her alone, her neighbour's a Psychic Dancing fanatic and Henrietta’s fallen in love with Belle, who loves Leo, who loves Denzel, who will only love him back if Leo admits he’s gay.

The climax comes in the Albert Hall in the presence of thousands, when something magical happens. Something which shocks them all.

Told with humour, magical know-how and a twisted eye, this book is an energetic and intriguing tale of love, lust and illusion. With a cast of tricksters, worshipers, lovers and bent spoons, it will have you guessing - and believing - to the end.

After all...

We easily believe what we ardently desire to be true.

To Charge or not to Charge?

(background: I've decided to self publish a novel which has been published in Germany but not the UK, and I'm thinking of funding it by asking people to pay in advance)

This is yet another post which started out as a reply to a comment. Somebody suggested that if I try and get people to pay money for the book before it's even been printed, I may end up having to pay it back, which would be tedious and disheartening. An alternative suggestion was that I might ask for promises followed by money. I can see the point of that, but I think it's a bit vague, and would be hard to administer. How awful to be chasing people for money they promised, only to find they didn't really mean it. I think it has to be either promises OR money upfront.

I'll see how it goes. If it's a total disaster I can change it mid-track. But my experience in the past is that people are more likely to be excited by / willing to commit to something if that commitment is tangible. They then become part owners in the whole scheme and are more passionate in its support.

In 1999, my partner and I couldn't decide what to do for The Millennium. It felt as though it would be like any other NYE but to the power of 10, towhit: You're never quite sure what to do or where to go and you can't get your mates to commit to anything definite, so you end up panicking at the last minute and struggling to find a taxi. Or committing in advance to something, only to find that everyone decides to do something else.

So we decided, in July 1999, to sound out all our mates about the possibility of throwing a party at our house. But we had to find a way of making people commit in advance. We didn't want to end up in a half-empty house while all our mates did something more exciting instead. So we produced a leaflet with a simple proposition: If we could get 50 people to pay IN ADVANCE, we would lay on a lavish not-for-profit party at £25 per head. If we didn't have all the money by October, we would cancel the plan and refund those who had paid.

It worked. 50 people paid up, and because they had paid, they felt they owned it. We had a veritable army of willing volunteers to transform our house into a mini night club for the night and then help run the whole thing. We also bought loads of lovely treats in bulk, and there was tons left over for days afterwards. Nobody had to bring any booze, everything was free, and there were no gatecrashers because we were all very clear that only those who had paid could come. And because people had actually paid money, and helped organise it, they were wedded to it and there was never any question of absconding elsewhere. It was the best party we have ever had, by a mile.

Anyway. I think I need to make a bit of A Thing about this book. Get people excited, have some kind of whizzy online counter which clearly indicates how many people have signed up, so we can all will it on to the 50 mark and maybe even 100. It'll be clear that it'll be a limited edition, so anyone who doesn't sign up in advance will potentially lose out. First come first served. After that, the financial sums will dictate what happens. But it would be something along the lines of, "If another 40 people sign up I can afford the next 50-book print run." I doubt I'll ever be able to afford to give away Beautiful Hardbacks as review copies. The review copies will have to be proof copies, just cheap plain Lulu paperbacks, or even manuscripts. Everyone will have to pay for The Real Thing**. But that's just another aspect that makes them properly special.

Of course I can't entirely quell the tiny voice at the back of my head which says, this could really take off. But it's unlikely. I don't have the marketing power. But I'll publicise it wherever I possibly can (which is, come to think of it, a lot of places) and what's really important is that a small number of quality* readers get to finally enjoy my book. And I feel, just a little, like a writer again.

And faint heart never won fair adventure. That millennium party was a great example, I'm glad I thought of it. I've taken loads of risks in my life. I regularly get over-excited and have Great Ideas. Some of them fizzle out. But some of them work, and life is so boring if you don't take risks. Sometimes you just got to close your eyes, shout WAHAAAY! and jump.

*By quality I don't mean posh, or clever, or superior. I just mean that they are people who know something about me, people whose feedback is meaningful to me, people I don't have to insult by appealing to the lowest common denominator and watering everything down as a result.

**I've just realised there'll be people reading this who know eff all about the book itself. Time to dig out that blurb, methinks. Coming up next post.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Forward Movement

I think I mentioned ages ago that I'd foolishly volunteered to help out with a local musical. I was also for a while in charge of the music side of things, which was very daunting. Luckily I was relieved of that responsibility earlier this year, and became instead a General Helper-Outer And Keyboard Player.

Well, we put it on this week, and it was utterly exhausting but very rewarding and I'm both pleased and sad that it's over.

And it's meant that there has only been a small amount of movement on the book front, but there has been some. I now have a vague idea of how I'm going to do it, and am gradually getting involvement from Clever Creative Types who will help me make this book A Beautiful Thing.

I can't write too much until I have a better idea of who's doing what, but I'm aiming to have a cover, blurb, quotes and maybe even reviews ready by the end of June / beginning of July, which is when I will start a massive campaign to get advance orders for the book. The number I get will determine the size of the print run.

I'm hesitating slightly over whether I can ask people to pay upfront. I'm tempted to accept promises rather than actual hard cash... but this is probably foolhardy. And I *think* I could get enough people to do it... or could I?

It's horribly easy to get ahead of yourself with these things. You think to yourself, "Well, I know hundreds of people in this context, and hundreds more in this other one... and thousands of people have read my [previous] blog... so that adds up to a gazillion book sales, right?" WRONG. You can't assume anyone will buy anything. Ever.

But... out of the literally hundreds of people who read and enjoyed my first book, and the hundreds more who have met me since and responded positively to the various writing-related things I've done... I can surely find 50* to commit to buying this book. Friends and family alone ought to cover that. Easily. But will they? And will they be happy to pay up in advance?


Problem is... I don't think I can hedge my bets here, or start on one track and then switch halfway. Either I'm asking people to pay up in advance or I'm just asking them to commit to buying the thing after it's been produced.

But then again... NEVER SHOW DOUBT**. Assume a thing will work, act like there was never any question that it would work... and chances are, it will work.

And anyway. It was published by a major international publisher. It's not a complete punt.


*100 would be better, but 50 is a viable option. I think.

**Ahem. So this post doesn't exist, right? You're not reading it. Yes? Good. Glad we cleared that up.

***That's eek as in "Oh help!" But also as in "Eeee, how exciting!"

Monday, 12 April 2010

On Dreams and Growing up

In this post here I said "Did I spend too much time in the past on impossible wishes? Am I more rooted now, moving towards an achievable future for once? I don't know. I think I might be growing up. Finally.", and Sarsparilla asked: "Do you believe that growing up is a process of losing your dreams, then? What has made you come to believe such a thing?"

...and the whole discussion is salient to my New Plan, so I thought it was worth reproducing my response here:

"Not losing your dreams, but giving up on the impossible ones.

I have new dreams, and they're achievable. Before, I spent a lot of time chasing rainbows.

Now I'm more sensible and realistic, and yes, those feel like attributes one might give to a more mature person.

There's also that thing of having less energy and more responsibility. I'm not the only person I have to look out for now, and my mind and body are slightly more fragile and need protecting - by me - from more of life's dangers.

But this achievable dream thing... it's coincidental I think that you should have arrived here today, the first day in weeks that this blog had fresh content... content which details (see here) my latest dream. This new dream is an example of the less-likely-to-be-possible replaced by the definitely-possible. Not long ago I was a full time writer, chasing after a dream of stardom. Now I've given up on that, which means that instead of panting on the heels of dismissive publishers I can happily announce Fuck All That and publish my own book with impunity.

Self-publishing is inadvisable for a writer trying to get the attention of mainstream publishers. It actively disimpresses them. Getting the attention of these people is something you do if you want to be a "successful" writer, when success is measured by how many books you sell and how many good reviews you get. But there are literally millions of writers and not enough publishing deals to go around... and even if you get published there aren't enough readers either (if you're chasing "success" on publishers' terms), so you have to jump through a million hoops in your efforts to get the attention of publishers and readers... unless you stop, step back, rethink what it's all about. What if what really matters is that you produce a beautiful book? One that you are proud of, that a small number of people can read? People you actually know? People whose opinions matter because you genuinely care what they think, instead of strangers pitching into your meaningless popularity contest? If that's your aim, then self publishing is an entirely reasonable enterprise.

And I think that counts as growing up: working out what will really make you happy, instead of chasing miserably after things which won't make you happy even if you catch them."

... to which I'd like to add that another reason I was chasing mainstream publishers was that I wanted to make a living from novel-writing, which is impossible without massive book sales.

Why did I want to make a living from it? So that I could do it all the time and not have to lose all that lovely writing time on Making Money To Feed The Kids.

But why did I want to write all the time? Because I wanted a life of dreaming, instead of a life trying to make money. But what if the dreams become your means of getting money? Then they stop being dreams, they start being work, they stop being fun, they start to destroy the very soul you were trying to preserve.

I know there are full time novelists who are happy that way and find a route through all this, but I wasn't one of them.

Old Dream, New Dream

I'm always coming up with Grand Plans. I'm also naturally impulsive, so will often jump straight in with both feet*, only to discover later that it's not going to work - for whatever reason. But sometimes I jump in and keep swimming, and there must be some tipping point beyond which there's no return**, because once I really get going, I don't stop until it's done.

Well anyway. This New Plan I'm currently jumping into is actually an Old Plan, and I talked about it in detail here. But this time I'm going a little further, and think I might actually do it. Self-publish, that is.

My life is busy and manic and tiring and the new career is by far the hardest thing I've ever tried to do. It's also very rewarding and I'm glad I'm doing it, but I still get a little sad about Not Being a Writer any more. But there's no time to do any writing. I have a third novel sitting on my hard disk, but it's still only in Second Draft form and needs a good few months of work on it before it's publishable - months I just don't have.

But... what about that second novel? The one that only ever got published in a foreign language? There was a while when I really didn't like it or think it was publishable, but that was as much about self loathing as anything else. It's a good book and I put a lot of work into it. And it's bonkers that it's sitting there, fully edited and ready to go, and yet hardly anybody's ever read it in English. Plenty of people who know me and like my work are interested in reading it. And how lovely would it be to have a brand new book with my name on it, under my control, designed purely as an object of beauty with no marketing departments breathing down my neck? It's already been published by Random House in a major European country, so it's not like it has no merit or is a pure vanity thing.

That said, this IS a vanity project. I'm happy with that. I'm also happy that it won't lead to fame or fortune or a "proper" publishing deal, and the whole project will run at a loss. But it's this or nothing. It's this or the book never gets published in English. Ever. Which would be a shame.

So, I'm speaking to designers and getting quotes for printing costs and thinking about producing a limited run of gorgeous hardback books, which will be a pleasure to hold in your hand, let alone read. I will of course do yet another edit, which is good cos it's now nearly two years since I last edited it and I've got better perspective on it. It's a good book, but the dialogue needs work and I can make the prose flow better.

So, this is my plan: I'm going to contact everyone I can think of who might conceivably be interested. Friends, family, people who enjoyed my first book, people who have enjoyed my various writing/blogging projects. And I'm going to ask them to commit to buying a copy. I'd probably charge a tenner per book. Might have to be more, depends on production costs. But I'm aiming to subsidise the whole thing myself, so it's not about making money. But I do need to know how many people will buy one so that I know how much money I've got (cos I'm not earning much at the mo) and how small a print run I should go for. I'm thinking 100 is probably a good number, but it might be too high.

This is sort of the wrong place to introduce the idea, cos hardly anyone reads this blog or even knows that I'm blogging here, so it won't give me any idea of potential numbers. But it might be a good test for attitude. Am I mad? Would you commit to buying a book under these circumstances?

I think I'm going to do this. I hope I'm going to do this. I have a bit of spare time coming up, and it'd be nice to be a writer again.

* Thinks: How would you jump straight in with only one foot?

** Tipping point? In a swimming pool? Oh, shut up.