Agent Profunditeur

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This March, I went to the London Book Fair to immerse myself in the world of publishing, hang out at the Author Hub and casually chat about my books thinking someone would say “I love that! Here’s a book deal!”  Being the organisational freak that I am, I went through the list of exhibitors beforehand and noted down literacy agents that dealt with contemporary literary fiction, along with their stand location.  I printed off cover letters, biog, synopsis, first chapters just in case an agent was interested. I planned to work through my list over three days, attend any talks to do with self publishing and collar a representative from Kindle Direct Publishing to kindly inform me how the hell I was supposed to upload my Ebook.

Day 1: Found a map. All the literary agents stand numbers I had were not on it.  Asking a ‘Can I Help?’ person, I was informed that they were all on the upper floor and by appointment only and applications for such were now closed.  They were unsure how far in advance I should have done this and the website gave no indication. Hmm. Suddenly my bag full of agent packs seemed very heavy.  Listened to the talk entitled “Working with and finding an agent.”  Concluded that going with my original plan was absolutely the worst thing to have done.  Agents like personal touches, and their opinion is TOTALLY subjective. Rejections merely mean that one particular person isn’t able to be passionate about your book. Claribel Ortega spoke about her experience as an indie published author and how she got an agent. She made me feel more motivated to have faith in myself and my writing and that I wasn’t actually a complete fraud. I tweeted her and thanked her, grateful to finally have something worth saying on Twitter. KDP Ebook publishing was fully explained with the comforting fact that they do not take any money except from your royalties.  Felt a little better about handing my book over to them, but wondered how much it was worth it.

Day 2: Had questions to ask Neilsen – the keeper of my ISBNs.  Their website confused me and their Title Editor programme was a mystery to me.  Some lovely person managed to answer my questions in a record 10 minute time in between appointments and lunch.  She promised to email me some information and assured me that the website was in the process of an update which is why it was a little confusing.  I felt less stupid than before, but have yet to receive any email. Listened to more self publishing talks and discovered that to make money you have to cut your writing time in half, become an expert in online marketing and that I should perhaps become a member of ALLi (the Alliance of Independent Authors).  Realised that the two books I’ve published are mere projects and that really my next book should be the one to pitch either to an agent or to the world via Amazon.  Hmm again. Wandered around, with my list of printers and companies of interest to me, aware that the majority of stands were for publishers and big business, not a teeny tiny author of two self published, niche books. I returned to the comfort of the Author Hub and had an expensive drink at Harry’s Bar, wishing it was a Bellini.

Day 3: Wanted to ask KDP about doing print versions of my Ebook.  They weren’t the same as Create Space and didn’t give you a sample of the print book before selling it. That’s a no then.  I now had all the information I could glean.  Headed off to find Prestat Chocolate Shop.  Bought three boxes for my mum for Mother’s Day. On the journey home, contemplated the fact that the large display of the yellow brick road at the Book Fair was a true metaphor for my journey as an author.  You find yourself in a strange land, wander its path hoping to find a wizard that will answer all your questions and help you find your way. I thought that wizard would be an agent.  I found out that it could also be the internet. But, like Dorothy, I realised the answer was there all along.  With three clicks of my ruby slippers, I had to find the power within myself. The Emerald City of the London Book Fair was a distant dream.  I had to get home and work out a plan. And write another novel. IMG_3758

 

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This Is How It Feels

In need of rescue...

In need of rescue…

Bewildered and confused is what I am. Over something that memory serves as something that appeared very straightforward and simple.

In 2011, I self published a paperback. I sold it via my website and in person in bookshops and at book fairs. I listed it as ‘out of stock’ on Amazon when it appeared automatically via Neilson the ISBN suppliers, because I wanted all the profits to go to charity and Amazon would’ve taken 35%. I cannot for the life of me, remember how I managed to do this – I have no recollection of setting up an account and Amazon have no knowledge of me as an author when I called the Helpline to find out what on earth I needed to do. They sent me a link to an email to ask further questions, but no telephone contact exists so that means limited and stock answers to my enquiries which basically consist of “I’m confused! Help.”

Now I’m at the stage of getting my next book published as a paperback and as an e-book. I thought it would all be very straightforward since I’ve already done it once, and this time I don’t mind Amazon taking some profit. However, things seem much more complicated this time around. For one thing, Amazon has made many changes since 2011.

My out of stock first book is now for sale on Amazon. All the suppliers listed as selling it, including one in New York, will have to ask Amazon who the distributor is, which is me, and then they will have to email me, should anyone actually want to buy it. I then have to post it, invoice them and they then forward it presumably and pay me whenever they decide to. Anything different (as in listing myself as a supplier) and I have to pay Amazon for the privilege. Getting my book removed from Amazon is long winded and far from simple, although apparently if I tell Neilson (the keepers of ISBNs) in their ‘Title Editor’ facility that I have just registered with, then they could spread the word that it is out of print.

Following so far? Me neither.

Now for e-books. My faithful printing company is doing the format for this. But Amazon do this too and so do others, but in a variety of formats. And each format requires a different ISBN. I have to make sure the format is compatible with Kindle to get it onto Amazon. But Amazon want you to use them for this so will this prove tricky? Let’s see …

To get into bed with Amazon starts with an author registration. But if I want to write some text to go with my book then that involves something else like Vendor Registration, and presumably the more useful, the more the £ signs appear. Yes, yes, nothing is for free but you pay for stuff and sign up for stuff before you know what you are actually getting and whether you’re signing up to the right thing.

To be fair, for an indie author, Amazon provide considerably better royalties than having a publisher/book deal (65% compared to 10%) and once you enter their world of ratings and reviews, you can play a savvy game and get yourself noticed by a publisher who might just take you on, or carry on as an indie, making your own cash and keeping your own rights. Amazon can print your book for you on demand (for a price), they can format and sell, sell, sell (at a price, price, price!) but I would be dealing with an email contact in America, a massive giant of a corporation who have no idea who I am, and this just doesn’t sit well with my indie sensibilities.

I need the indie publishing version of Creation records, of the Rough Trades, the Cherry Reds, the 4ADs, the Fiction and Factory labels of my beloved music. There are, actually, plenty of indie publishers out there but none that have risen to any recognisable ‘name’ that I can immediately identify with. But that’s because it’s early days at the moment in the evolution of indie publishing. Big publishers like Random House and Penguin are only just picking up on the shift toward DIY publishers and are less likely to refer to us as ‘vanity’ publishers as in years past.

It seems there are a thousand ways of doing one thing. And if you pick the right way, you could be onto a winner. If not, you are one of the millions of books rattling around the ether, invisible to all and undetected.

I’m all for doing everything myself but it looks like the phrase ‘making it up as you go along’ is my mantra at the moment. Whatever happens, my book will be available from this website but anything more and within what timescale is anyone’s guess at the moment. My preference for anonymity is certainly guaranteed for the foreseeable. And so I remain, invisibly yours…

 

 

Novella Baby

I was going to enter my soon-to-be-published book As It Is When It Was into a novel writing competition run by Myslexia. But I didn’t, because a novel has to be 40,000 words or over, and mine was a few thousand short. Also it would delay getting the thing self published and I had been working so long getting this story out of my head that a delay was unimaginable. So then I wondered whether it was somehow inadequate, that it wasn’t a proper or complete story? Being under 40,000 words meant it was classified as a novella. I quite liked this term, as it sounds like Nutella, but again I wondered if it was somehow not the work of a successful author (which I would love to be of course).  A novella is defined as a long short story with a compact and pointed plot, often with a moral or satirical point.  Were there any brilliant writers out there that had produced successful novellas?

IMG_2111One of my favourite books, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, is a neat little slimline paperback which was always perfect for slipping into my bag to read whenever I found a spare few minutes during my day.  Apart from being a classic, I would choose it deliberately to be my handbag book on account of its size. So there’s one. Plath was definitely a distinguished author, so writing a novella was nothing to be ashamed of. Then there’s my bath book, La Chamade by Francoise Sagan, dog-eared and water stained, and also the perfect size. In fact her famous Bonjour Tristesse is another novella. As I searched my bookshelves, I realised that most of my faves were all novellas…  Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess ♥ Breakfast At Tiffany’s by Truman Capote ♥ Death In Venice by Thomas Mann ♥ Of Mice & Men by John Steinbeck ♥ The Outsider by Albert Camus… And then I realised they had all been made into films too, including The Bell Jar and my two Sagan faves (and I can watch the beautiful Death In Venice over and over again.) In fact, Camus’ The Outsider (changed to The Stranger as a movie) also inspired The Cure’s song Killing An Arab. And The Fall took their name from his other novella, entitled, well, The Fall.  I realised that most of my favourite music artists were the ones that reference literature in some way, and most of my favourite movies were based on wonderful books. So actually, writing a novella is pretty cool as it turns out.  And it kinda makes sense that my debut fiction book is a novella given my preferences in literature, music and film. And come to think of it, As It Is When It Was would make a great film, especially if Shane Meadows directed it. After all, the soundtrack is already amazing as it is inspired by New Order‘s Power, Corruption & Lies, Low-Life and Brotherhood.