Anita's Haven

books, thoughts, stories, poetry, interviews, writing

Common misconceptions about (indie) authors

Pondered for a while whether I should publish this. So before you begin reading know this – it is not complaining. It is explaining.

Being an independent author has its advantages, as well as disadvantages, just like any other job, I suppose. To be honest, I am not sure if I would have wanted to know about some of the disadvantages before venturing into (self-) publishing. For instance, if I had known how much financing it requires to be able to properly package and promote your work, I would probably have nevet dared to go into it. That would have been a shame, because I would never have met tons of wonderful authors and book supporters, or proven to myself that my books can actually be real books, no matter how many people like them.

As a reader and an author, I have discovered how seriously misguided many people are about authors, especially self-published, independent authors. Let me just share a few I have encountered, and do share your views in the comments, whether you are a reader or writer yourself.

1. People think all authors have a team of people who work with them on fixing errors and making perfect covers. (They don’t, unless they employ them and pay them. Otherwise, it’s all diy. Which doesn’t mean an independent author is like a quack doctor or a shoddy repairman. A self-made entrepreneur cares a lot about how he or she displays their work.)

2. People think authors get every single cent of the money readers pay to buy the book from a bookstore, online or not. (They don’t. Percentages of royalties vary, but you’d probably be sadly disappointed, if not shocked, if you knew the numbers. Not disclosing them here, because of contracts we have with printers and distributors.)

3. People think authors only write. (We don’t. See point no.2. Most of us have day jobs which pay the bills, hopefully also fill our hearts, and help sustain our writing dreams.)

4. People think authors are vastly supported by their families who read their books, buy them by the dozens and walk around promoting our work. (They don’t. If we are lucky, they understand us and support us as best they can – giving us some free time to write, understanding our insomnia and remaining by our side:). If we are lucky, we are able to repay them this kindness.)

5. People think publishing is what it used to be and everyone has an agent and a team to promote their books, lining up interviews and TV appearances for us, as libraries and bookshops fight over who gets more copies of our books. (Hahaha, she grinned with bitterness. I talked to a renowned author a couple of years ago and he admitted that he was lucky to have broken anonimity and gained a good publisher over 20 years ago. He says if he had to fight for it today, he’d probably stick to a day job. My ‘support team’ consists of kindhearted authors and readers who repost my shameless book plugs on social media. I am grateful for any one of my supporters.)

6. People think vanity publishing is just a myth, invented as an excuse for independent authors. (It is not. Vanity publishers are just as much a part of this business as any marketing scheme out there. They prey on your dreams, take your money to publish your book and then leave you to do the promoting yourself. If you need a cover, formatting or editing, it costs extra. I once read a testimony from an author who said it was not true because his vanity publisher was very polite, and he’d actually made £1000 from his books in 5 years through them. When asked how much he’d invested with them, he said £5000 in the first year, and about a £1000 the subsequent years. I may be a creative non-maths kind of person, but I think the numbers speak for themselves.)

7. People think authors are tedious and obsessed when we ask for reviews and promote our books. (We are, and some of us are moderate about it, whereas some are tiring. But see points above to know why. Most of us trust in our stories. Most of us really make an effort to bring out the best we possibly can under the circumstances. The readers have a choice.)

8. People think authors should give their books away for free, especially when they launch, since they get boxes of their books from the publishers, including promo T-shirts, bookmarks, bags etc. (We don’t get anything free except ideas. We work for everything else. We do research for our books, buy our own author copies, we pay for our promo stuff, we pay for packaging and shipment. So if you do get a freebie from an independent author, know that it is not free. Nothing is. We may write fantasy, but we don’t live in it. But also know it means a lot to the authir who has sent it to you. PS: applying for most awards costs a fee too. No guarantee of winning and no money back.)

9. People think authors are only good if they are famous. (Fame and quality may go hand in hand, but not always. Just like everything else. Plus, quality is a matter of personal opinion anyway. You may like a famous book, someone else will hate it. It’s that simple.)

10. People think authors write to make money. (Well then people in pharmacy would be writers too. Bankers as well. Not to mention politicians. Authors write to write. It is not even a matter of choice for most of us.)

Although I am sure there are plenty more misconceptions such as these, I have decided to list the ones I have come into contact with. Questions such as: “You’re an author? Are you famous?” and “So how rich are you?” used to be shocking; now they are just funny and slightly annoying. Especially when they are asked before even inquiring about what I write and where one might read a sample of my book.

Lines such as “You should put your books in bookshops, libraries, schools and give them away.” … well, they make me sad. Why? Apart from all the points above, it takes time to write a book. It takes heart. It takes time to draw illustrations. It takes effort and resources to create a cover.

But most of all, it takes gutts to put your thoughts out there, open for all comments. It takes a dream. You don’t just give that away. Or give it all up.

Would you?

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There are days when you feel proud

Today was the second day of school for my kids – both first graders, one primary, the other one secondary school. Still a long way ahead of us, but my husband and I are proud to have good kids, and all we can do is keep trying to do right by them, provide what they need and hope life, education systems, politics and money do not diminish their beautiful sparks which make them who they are.

Today was also the day I presented a very good friend and highly respected colleague with a paperback of my children’s book Spikes for Hank, after which she sent me a photo of her son reading it. It is the first book in English he is reading by himself, which makes me especially proud seeing as English is his second language. 

Today was one of those days at work which do not really make me happy, which make me wonder why rude and loud people always blackmail their way into getting what they want… one of those days when you either lose it or keep your cool. To be honest, I tried to keep my cool so as not to spread negativity even further. What makes me proud about this ugly part of the work day? I didn’t bring it home. It stayed where it was. 

Some days it works.

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It is.

Sometimes I think I should not even write at all any more. I mean, life seems to be sucking free time out of me anyway. 

Furthermore, so many people have already written, and are still writing, so many phenomenal books (my TBR pile is humongous) that nobody will miss my stories. 

And then an idea comes, or my characters come whispering, or I tell my story to some children… and the spark just won’t be extinguished. I don’t write with an agenda – I write because it has always been a part of me.

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Why authors ♡ their characters – by Paul White

Paul White is a multitasking creative engine of a man whom I had the pleasure of interviewing a while back, concerning his new book Life in the War Zone. His outlook on his favourite character might surprise you, but it is about someone we all admire.

Why I love everyday heroes – by Paul White

My book, Life in the War Zone opens with a short story called ‘Triage’’ It starts thus….

“Jenny is my friend.

Jenny is an average girl.  

She is a little on the dumpy side. She has mousy coloured hair and wears glasses. She is ‘the girl next door’, one you would not look at twice if you passed her on a busy street. 

But Jenny has hundreds of people vying for her attention every day.

Men, women, children, babies, even entire families. They all compete to get Jenny’s attention and they all have one thing in common.

Injuries…”

This ‘Jenny’ is a real person and she is my friend. She is also an unsung hero.

You see Jenny is a triage nurse. She has spent most her twenty-six years of life working with some of the neediest and most vulnerable people on earth, the innocents caught in the maelstrom between warring factions.

Yet Jenny is not alone. The world is full of ordinary, regular, normal people who undertake most extraordinary tasks for the benefit of others with little, if any, thought for themselves.

The man who dives into the river to save a child…or a dog. The woman who scorches her face pulling someone from a burning car. Or simply the person who has cared for a disabled friend for thirty years without complaint. We hear of these deeds, these heroes every day on the television news channels.

We walk amongst the unknown, the true heroes of our world each day, we rub shoulders on the IRT, queue behind them in Starbucks and give them the finger when driving to close! They are about and among us.

True heroes do not shout out aloud for attention. They just do what they do.

They are the ones you will walk past in the street without taking a second glance.

While I was compiling this book, I found many of these heroes, the true heroes. I heard many stories of great courage, of fortitude and resilience of human spirit strewn amongst the detritus of war.

The shame is, whilst the stories in Life in the War Zone are particular to the individuals to whom they belong, they could so easily be told by so many, in so many countries.

‘Jenny’ may be a special person, yet she is far from being unique. You see, I have learnt war gives us more heroes than we shall ever be truly aware of.

Links:

Paperbacks

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=978-1542338707

USA https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=978-1542338707

Ebooks via Paul’s website goo.gl/G9do9k

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Purpose

It is not very often I share someone else’s quotes here, but this one just nails it. This matters, this is what I want our children to grow up to and into.
Purpose. Period. No gender, no race, no divisions. Purpose.#kindness #positivity

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Feelings

These are the feelings
I don’t want to feel:

ANGER
FRUSTRATION
DEPRESSION
RESENTMENT
DESPAIR
VOID
LACK OF WORTH
ARROGANCE
GREED
DISREGARD
SUPERFICIALITY
BEING BLAZEE
SUPERFLOUSNESS
SUPERIORITY
LONELINESS
REGRET
FEAR
GIVING IN
FURY
DULLNESS
BEING MEDIOCRE
APATHY
HELPLESSNESS
CRUELTY
ABUSE

They are also the feelings
I don’t want to inflict.

How?

These are the feelings
I do feel:

A LITTLE BIT OF ALMOST EVERYTHING

Why?

These are the feelings
I want to feel:
JOY
USEFULNESS
APPRECIATION
CLOSENESS
GRATITUDE
PRIDE
CONTROL (well, semi)
CREATIVITY
HAPPINESS
INSPIRATION
MOTIVATION
SATISFACTION
RELIABILITY
SELF-WORTH
RESPONSIBILITY
GENTLENESS
KINDNESS
WISDOM
EXPERIENCE
LOVE

They are also the feelings
I want to inspire.

How?

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(This poem of mine was first featured in the international charity e-book project Inner Giant, aiming to fight bullying and abuse in any and all areas by raising the level of self-esteem. My story Active vs. Passive, featured in the new collection The Twisted Tales, a Readers Avenue Park publication featuring various authors, also deals with the topic of bullying and parenthood.)

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And time goes by…

A day’s work feels like five.
I am so tired, yet still alive.
Struggling to think,
My glasses aren’t pink,
Longing for distance, longing for peace.

Morning will seem fresh,
Then some old, some rehash,
Till evening the mill will work,
Kindness will seem like a perk,
Longing for joy, longing for release.

Just a normal day – such a pity.
Should be more than the nitty-gritty.
Maybe I am not looking right,
Might be I have issues with my sight,
Longing for peace, longing for release.

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This is just me blowing off some tired steam and frustration. No literary value added tax, don’t worry;)

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Serenity of soul

Today has been one of those strange days when everything seems more difficult than normal. You get things done but you just feel so tired and at the end of your energy reserve.

Some very dear people I know have suddenly fallen ill; nothing major (I hope), but so many at once. On top of everything, it’s my husband’s birthday and we should be out celebrating, but even he, a pillar of strength and resilience, is exhausted and resting. I hope it is just a change in the weather, winter battling to preserve its post against the cheeky, lively spring.

Still, I guess we all need more serenity, more time to relax, to be alone or with someone, but in peace, away from the quickening sensation of stress and heaviness. We do count our blessings, but it is no comfort to console yourself by saying there are people worse off than you are, right?

So let me wish you all a tranquil day or night, someone you love and care for breathing calmly next to you, your partner, sibling, friend, child, parent…, in silence or with soothing music. May your souls feast on the beauty of life and feed others with joy!

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WHAT BUGS YOU? – by Elizabeth

Elizabeth Moore, one of my favourite authors, has agreed to be my guest in the What Bugs Me series. She has recently published her new novel, Incurable (see more below). In her own words, when she’s not writing feverishly, you will find her out walking or sightseeing. She’s crazy about coffee, books, good wine, cairn terriers, miniature ponies, historical houses, tapas, and witty people. Sometimes, things do bug her. Here is one of them.

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What Bugs Me

When Anita presented the “What Bugs Me” premise for her blog series, and I agreed to participate, I first came up with some obvious buggy choices: cockroaches, ants, houseflies—the usual suspects of the insect kingdom, those that drive us most crazy and seem to plague us wherever we go. Such pests can be a nuisance to be sure. But, as I pondered the underlying metaphor and considered what truly bugged me, I realized what belonged at the heart of the matter and chose the butterfly.

Of course, butterflies start out as caterpillars. Caterpillars are eating machines. They not only ruin that used-to-be-awesome wool suit in the hall closet, but they also ruin crops and wreak havoc in forests all over the world. I was shocked to learn they aren’t just homely and destructive, they often cause harm to humans.

From Wiki: Caterpillar hairs sometimes have venoms in them and species from approximately 12 families of moths or butterflies worldwide can inflict serious human injuries ranging from urticarial dermatitis and atopic asthma to osteochondritis, consumption coagulopathy, renal failure, and intracerebral hemorrhage. Skin rashes are the most common, but there have been fatalities. Lonomia is a frequent cause of envenomation in Brazil, with 354 cases reported between 1989 and 2005. Lethality ranging up to 20% with death caused most often by intracranial hemorrhage.
Caterpillar hair has also been known to cause kerato-conjunctivitis. The sharp barbs on the end of caterpillar hairs can get lodged in soft tissues and mucous membranes such as the eyes. Once they enter such tissues, they can be difficult to extract, often exacerbating the problem as they migrate across the membrane.

How scary! I remember my little sister’s odd fascination with caterpillars. Once we spent the day at the lake, and she brought two furry black specimens into the car because she wanted to keep them as pets. A few minutes into our drive she broke out in a rash on her hands and arms. Mom screamed for Dad stop the car and out they went! Mom placed her daughter in a warm bath as soon as we got home. But that wasn’t the last time my sister played with caterpillars; she thought they were so cute. I didn’t share her fondness for the furry buggers. I did love butterflies. We had a field in our neighborhood in Eastern Washington State, and I remember how colorful and abundant the butterflies were there.

Some of us recognize elegance in lowly creatures, places, and people. I’m afraid most are attracted to a more obvious beauty. The irony is: without the humble caterpillar there would be no butterfly to admire. So, as I consider the life cycle of the caterpillar/butterfly I reflect on how humans begin life as adorable babies and progress through childhood and adolescence and onto into early adulthood—which in our modern society is considered the prime of life. And, if you believe the proliferation of ads and current sentiment regarding any sign of aging, it can only go downhill from there.

I must admit, aging bugs me. Given the choice, I’d prefer to remain a lovely butterfly forever. I’m not so shallow I don’t see beauty in older faces. I just can’t tolerate an aging face staring back from my mirror.

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Thank you for your time, Elizabeth! Happy writing!

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WHAT BUGS YOU? – by Mark

Mark Fine is another one of amazing authors I met through BGS, one whose life story could be a book in itself. Apart from many issues that bug him, here is a very important one.

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WHAT BUGS ME? MOSQUITO

By Mark Fine

Why Oh why the infernal mosquito? What constructive purpose does this cursed pest play in the checks-and-balances of our fragile ecosystem? I look at its blood-swollen abdomen (my blood!) and its pile-driver proboscis plunged into my flesh (already, I feel the onrush of relentless itches) as I shake my head with frustration (the memory of the mozzie’s incessant buzz, as it closed in on me)—and all I’m left with is questioning the futility of it all.  What is it in the mosquitos’ nature that makes it so compulsively nihilistic? The answer is simple. Blood!

It has no choice but to nourish itself on bloodstream of other living creatures. It has been programmed that way. And in recompense for the generous feeding it receives from an unwilling host, well the mosquito’s generosity knows no bounds; leaving in gratitude a welt, an itch, and a cruel dose of Malaria or West Nile virus.

But the mosquito has an excuse. It is not, by my reckoning, a sentient being.  However, a human has no such excuse.

Alas, there are humans that are equally nihilistic, and significantly more destructive. And they truly bug me. Especially as they should know better, being raised themselves upon the bounty of mother earth.  Their elders in story and song, from the cradle, expressed with great passion the necessity to respect and preserve the fragile balance of our natural world. Yet, like the selfish mosquito these pesky (too kind a word, but the pejoratives I had in mind are not for the civilized) poachers have mooched and preyed upon rhino, and elephant, and zebra, and lion et al.

This rant isn’t intended to be a rationale argument. I’m not interested in debates about medicinal demand from Asia, or the poor pecuniary lot of the poachers. It’s simply wrong!

Now, I feel I must explain myself. I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, with the dust of Africa flowing through my veins. This happy fact has blessed me with an abiding passion—and compassion—for all living creatures. This innate love for nature has remained with me all these years that I’ve been fortunate to live in the United States.

But despite the great geographic distance from the continent of Africa, my soul aches, because I sense the cry of the voiceless. Especially those large mammals: the elephant and the rhino. Triage demands we focus on the rhino immediately as their very survival is in imminent danger. In part due to the economic might of Asia, so the appetite of superstition and libido must be satisfied in an ever growing demand. Also, the needs of terror groups to finance their deadly attacks have grown. But it’s the deadly efficacy of modern instruments of death that have accelerated the rapacious escalation of poaching in the early 21st century; whether it be mass poisoning at a drinking well or hail of fire from a helicopter gunship.

Simply stated, demand is slaughtering supply! And the stream of blood left in its wake is more than enough to satisfy a googolplex of thirsty mosquitos. So, for me the extinction of the rhino and elephant are not an option. Instead, I’d gladly volunteer the bloody mosquito as fair trade—there are certainly enough of those miserable blighters to go around. 

Mark Fine, author of THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE: An Apartheid Love Story. And #RhinoProtector.

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Thank you, Mark, for taking the time to write this post. So many things bug us, but it is important to speak up and act!

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