Category Archives: introspection

Enough

Just pulled my books off Smashwords.

Indie writing? You can shove it where the sun don’t shine. And anywhere it does, I’m not fussy. I’m going to start actively looking for an agent the moment i get a new book finished for them to look at. Not the Polo series, that’s going to have to wait – nobody will touch a book previously self-published. Not unless your current book sells, of course, then they suddenly get very interested.

A bit of a relief, really. So tired of struggling to promote them singlehandedly, with Smashwords not helping. They made it hard for anyone to find my work unless i managed to catch someone’s attention on Twitter and give them a direct link.

I foolishly marked my first book Adult (back in 2011) , thinking just that it wasn’t a children’s book, so the first 10 weeks my first book was published, Smashwords literally made it invisible unless someone opted in to ‘Adult’ which to them meant “hardcore erotica”. Continue reading


The End of My Brilliant Career

In 2009 I started on Twitter. I was already writing, and had gleaned from the interwebs (those i first experienced back in about ’88, and wanted to play with, but didn’t get my chance until about 1998) that a social media presence was required. So i started this blog, and tweeting, and met some interesting folk.

Experienced as an editor, i wanted to self-publish, and didn’t even send the manuscript to any agents to look at. I decided Amazon wasn’t for me – for a start, they needed you to have bank account in either US, EU, Japan or Brazil, and i didn’t have one. (This has changed quite recently.)

Finally, in 2011 i published one book on Smashwords – and my dream since my teens (’73-79) was complete. I was a publisher! I hung onto that thought through a series of disasters and awful choice in friends, as it took me until 2017 to release the follow up to that book, and its companions. A quartet. Very proud. Released them literally on Thanksgiving (not a holiday in Australia!) As usual, my marketing is flawed. But still, i was in publishing.

I worked in actual big money publishing, so doing it myself felt wonderful. Once i’d got the books selling on Smashwords (and various distributors) I’d start with Ingram Spark and their Publishing On Demand packages, and put out paper versions of the books. I couldn’t wait.

Meanwhile, i found typos, edited those and put up new versions, and that was pretty much 2017 gone. And so i started really pushing my books, as the mistakes i’d clocked were fixed and they were fit for reading. I was selling. Selling well enough off the back of the good ratings for the first two books (which are free) that i could see the first paper versions, could even smell and feel them.

I was top of the ‘best reviewed’ charts, and that was the only reason i was selling. People go with the crowd. They don’t scroll through to page 120 to see who rated very poorly in case there’s a hidden gem. However i was nearly on the front pages of various most-downloaded and best sellers’ lists too, so i could see a glorious future, one with paper in it.

Then someone gave me a non-5 star review. And then another book got one too. They didn’t seem to dislike the books, they said they liked them, but still, 4 stars. Then another. And my books disappeared off the top of the charts. Not just down a bit, they went to page 120 or worse.

When i found my books, i saw that other people with even more 5 star reviews than me also had been nobbled by one 4 star review and were on page 120 too.

My sales dried up as my books moved off the front pages. Then they stopped.

I tried talking to Smashwords, even to Mark Coker (the CEO) and they were nice about the facts – which were – Smashwords rating system is unfair. It’s also open to abuse. I can go on there now, give the top rated people 4 star reviews, and they will disappear FOREVER. Unless you page through to page 120. They will be behind the guy whose mum gave him 1 glowing 5 star review. Yep – one 5 star review outweighs 20 of them if you get just one 4 star or lower review.

I have written about this before, but i figure you probably can’t be bothered paging back then coming back here again, so trying to sum it up. So Smashwords said they weren’t planning to do something about it in 2018, but they’d consider it for their 2019 list.

Since February 2018, i’ve been looking for some way to fix this. I tried Patreon (it’s supposed to be ‘be a patron to the arts’ but it seems to turn out ‘lots of artists begging and a tiny number get lucky’), discovered it wasn’t really my scene. And a week or so ago, i got Smashwords “Plans for 2019”. You guessed it, no plans to sort out the ratings system.

Which leaves me completely at sea. My entire marketing plans hinged on how well reviewed my books were, which gave them visibility – not just on Smashwords, but on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and in the Apple iBookstore. That visibility gave me sales, gave me more visibility, and so on.

I’m poor, i cannot afford to do more. I’m crippled and ill – i can’t get a better job or save (about $1500 would do it) or the usual tricks. And i’m 58 so even if i was fit, turning tricks is out of the question.

I could remove the books from the site, redo them enough to be plausibly ‘new editions’ then republish, but i’ll still be open to that one spiteful person who decides their books need to sell more than mine do, and gives me 1 bad review. So i won’t.

So this is it. The end. 

I’m going to do more books, i just won’t be bothering to put them out as an self-publisher. It will be the more usual route of Agent followed by (if i’m lucky) Publisher. Seven years of my life (and another two learning how to), i gave it a good shot.

N.B. Having just noticed that Amazon Australia (which opened in December 2017) allows me to publish via Amazon, i might put the books on there – seems better than allowing them to stay rotting in the basement equivalent of Smashwords.

So maybe i’m not at the end, it might be another beginning. Aargh, not again!


copyright 2018 https://stinginthetail.wordpress.com




Did I Miss Something?

It’s still 2018? Phew. Thought i’d zoned out for an entire year. I turned 58 eleven days ago – so anything’s possible. I remember freaking at idea of turning 25, ‘omg so OLD!’ and then when i was 30 being shocked to discover i had survived my 20’s, which was unexpected.

I carefully worked out that in the year 2000 i would be 40 and that was so far in the future i didn’t really bother doing any more projections.

Now i’m approaching what in the UK would be bus-pass age (though like in the UK, pension age keeps being moved here in Oz) and not just shocked. I’m completely stunned. I see 20-30 year olds going on about bucket lists (usually pathetically low-aiming like “drive a v8” or “see band x in concert” or “go to some place when a million other people are going there too”) and wonder what happened to life? I mean, having a good one?

When did a good life come down to ‘well i saw the Doobie Bros at the WACA circa 1977 so i can die happy”? Or “the year before that, I saw Elton John, so i’m so fkn fulfilled i could cark it with the knowledge my life was perfect”? Cos i’m telling you, that seems like cold comfort from here.

Places visited, bands seen, supercars driven (a Rolls can do 140mph/225kphh on the London to Brighton motorway – hey, it was pre-motorway camera days and we were lucky over no cops – but stopping 3 tons of beast isn’t as easy), all don’t add up to happiness and fulfilment.

In fact, to me it’s just shallowness-of-being, no lightness to it. If it does mean you can die happy, then we have a problem – because somehow happiness and fulfilment have been reduced to simply ‘it was fun/scary as fk’. No work, no real effort, just some artificial fear and hey presto. It was a good life. Really? Balls.

Climbing Kilimanjaro, bungee jumping off a bit of New Zealand (it seems to have bungee jumps almost everywhere there’s a gap in the landscape), is actually just distracting yourself from your life. Yes it can be fun. But it’s not a recipe for a good life. Or even for fun that lasts more than 10 seconds.

I decided to google bucket list and discovered most of them were just lists of ‘outdoor activities’ like out of doors means ‘On my deathbed i’ll be like, smirking and y’all be jelly because when i was 17 i went on a jetski’.. I don’t fkn think so.

And if that IS all that makes a person feel their life was well-spent? Gawd. Life may be wasted on the young, but there’s a fair few older ones who could punch their ticket now and we’d all just have less in the queue for the bungee jump.

The Urban Dictionary (which has sadly not managed the gravitas that Wikipedia now claims) says a bucket list is “A list of things you’d like to do before you die, like visiting the Grand Canyon, falling in love or falling into the Grand Canyon.” They haven’t lost their sense of humour, though they have in many places been invaded by the same women-hating bigots that infest a lot of the net.

As i suspected, most people seem to use bucket list items as excuses for living – after all, if you’re too busy following the herd up Kilimanjaro or to Iceland to swim in a volcano (i know, not exactly accurate, but if you told a lot of people it was a bucket list thing, they’d be adding it as an item on theirs, a Darwinian moment of triumph) you might not notice bucket lists aren’t just for stuff that scares you a bit or is outdoors.

We all know the type – they shout (usually to camera, because these days, everyone’s a mockumentary) “Skydiving makes me feel ALIVE” as they jump out of a plane, and then die horribly as their parachute fails to open. What they actually mean, is “My emotions are completely shut down, and now – like a man who learned to masturbate with sandpaper – i can’t feel anything without first going through massive amounts of fear.”

They laugh and say yeah, i’m an adrenalin junkie. Nah, mate, what you are is an emotional cripple. Learning to have a relationship with themselves that doesn’t involve running away and jumping off a building wearing the parachutic equivalent of a small umbrella (and calling it base jumping to make out like, this is totes a sport, yanno?) would be something to really achieve, worthy of bucket list inclusion. Overcoming their fear of intimacy with another human could also go there.

So, to sum up – if you want to get through your life and not be horrified at the results when you’re 58 (or 30 or 40 or 100), look a bit deeper than the surface gloss. Yes, it’s good to travel – and easier when you’re young and cheap digs or sleeping on the actual floor can be tolerated. But take the time to learn a little.

Choose happiness, (not just ticking off items on a list that covers up the unacknowledged misery you feel inside), and life might be different. I’m glad i did – doesn’t stop the depression, but it does remind me that there’s an end to it. Depression is (for me) like waves on an beach. No matter how bad the storm, eventually they drop down.

And i get to ride a horse along the water’s edge, hooves flinging up divots of sand and spray, the light dazzling and the day about perfect.

copyright 2018 https://stinginthetail.wordpress.com

 


All the leaves are green

Oops. So this year so far that’s three blog posts. Well, three counting this one. Yes, as usual, there have been distractions. Nazis? Well, of course, they’ve all slid out from under their rocks, now Trump has made them out to be nice guys, mostly, with the fact that they are in favour of killing Jews, Muslims, women who have abortions, women who vote, People of any Colour, and anyone who says “whoa!” not enough to stop him promoting them from the Oval Office.

Then there were the distractions that distracted me from the distractions and then…. yes, more distractions. I ended up banning myself from Twitter most of the time. Thanks to LeechBlock (simple and free, stops you wasting time on sites like Facebook or Twitter except in allowed times/days) i only visit about 1-2 times a day, no more than 30 minutes in any 6 hour block. It’s freeing, I enjoy my time more, and i no longer ‘come to’ four hours after i logged onto Twitter ‘just to say hello’. Most of the time, i only pop in every few days.

So here we are. Nearly October. Which is Spring in the Southern hemisphere, for the climatically-challenged among you.

Another year in Queensland. I know, i wanted to come back here, anything to get away from New South Wales and 9 months a year of crucifying humidity.

Turns out Queensland and 6 months a year of crucifying humidity with a much higher average temperature is about as hard to deal with. When i first lived here nearly 20 years ago, i had a pool.

Now i have an un-insulated house in an area so prone to mosquitoes, sandflies and midgies, i can’t go outside without spraying myself every few hours with insecticide. Especially hard to deal with are overnight highs of 25-30 (80’s to 90’s F) with 100% humidity – not just once, but for months on end.

I’m thinking of the South Pole next. Penguins, no mosquitoes, and less humidity? I’m in.

****

Meanwhile, my books are selling. Not a lot, but just. I phone Centrelink, report my monthly income, they laugh, so at least someone’s getting a kick out of my sales.

I’m working on other books – mostly stuff i’ve already written that i’m taking the bones from, rewriting and once-filleted, hopefully ready for publication. I’m also working on a follow up to the first set of four (first 2 are free, here) because i’m fond of Polo and want to see what happens to him now. Guilt, i’m guessing.

I’ve also dug out all my writing from the early 80’s on, filed it and scanned a lot of it, and finally have all my poetry (most of it) on the computer. Yes, that’s how long i’ve been writing, i have lots of stuff that was TYPEWRITTEN!

Some was even *drumroll* hand-written. In script. Which these days, would be as safe as a spy’s code, because nobody under 50 can read it. Of course, nobody under fifty (and a fair number of those over it) can write script any more, so my communication options would be limited.

The depression i’ve been struggling with this year/last year/most of my life is still biting, but i’m fighting. The main trick with depression? Remember, it lies. You’re not really hopeless, useless, or better off dead. Even if your family don’t understand you, that’s not a reason for suicide. If it was, the entire world would be looking for a cliff to jump off.

Anthony Bourdain’s ungraceful exit saddened me. If someone like him, with all that money, can’t be happy, what hope do i have? And i was reminded. Happiness is. It is not external. It is not money. It’s inside, and achievable simply by relaxing and focusing our gaze inwards. Sometimes, sure, we don’t like what we see, but that’s normal.

We can change. That’s what humans do well. Change, mutate, adapt. It’s how we got here.

I for one, intend to keep going. Hope you do too. The calm centre is right there. Right now. I know it. Just because today i am filled with bitterness and tears, it doesn’t make it disappear, or be a fraud. Depression is the fraud. It twists life, even the most beautiful, into an unrecognisable vale of tears.

So, love to you if you need it. Love to me too.

copyright 2018 https://stinginthetail.wordpress.com