Anita's Haven

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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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The Little Blue Book for Authors by G. Hausmann – my review


Gisela Hausmann really knows how to write a non-fiction book. Clear, simple, easy to follow, and somewhat non-negotiable, with background research and data evident from the start. 

The Little Blue Book (I love this part of the title) offers an updated summary of advice for authors sick of wasting their precious time and money on trying to promote their books. Being one of them and appreciating the previous books by Ms Hausmann, I read this one through in a couple of hours, making mental notes on things to apply or steer away from. Some I have already discovered for myself, the harder way, but, as G. Hausmann says, nobody ever made it taking the easy route.Whether this book is a reminder for you or clarifies the mess in your head from constantly trying, as we all should, to keep up to date with marketing changes in the busy book promoting world, the advice provided will be useful. I strongly agree with the author in matters of keeping things personal – signings, style of social appearance, treating followers and bloggers. It is the only way to stand out to those who matter to you, personally and profesionally. Creating a book from scratch and then getting it out there to the public is overwhelming and time-consuming enough. Proactive advice like this saves you time and energy.

Another thing to appreciate in this (hand)book – although she retains the best advice from her previous books, Ms Hausmann constantly updates hernwork with comments on marketing changes and suggestions on which routes to take. Like a tough teacher, she will want you to get better at what you do, without delay. Take action – to achieve the best, do your best!

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IS KINDNESS OVERRATED? – guest post by JEAN GILL

Today my guest is the amazing and multitalented Jean Gill. This is her post on the topic of Kindness. Please, check out her biography and links at the bottom of the post. Dear Jean, thank you so much for replying so wonderfully and promptly to my question ‘Is kindness overrated?’

The Milk of Human Kindness

…Yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness
To catch the nearest way…
(Macbeth)

Any gloss will tell you that, in these lines, Lady Macbeth despises her husband’s ‘weakness’ which might prevent him taking the quickest way (murder) to achieving his ambition (to be king).  I taught Shakespeare for several years without fully understanding this image. Then, when I was 29 and my baby was asleep, I watched the news on television.  A presenter described the conditions in a refugee camp , and in the background mothers rocked their starving babies.  Immediately, my body responded to the babies’ cries and started producing milk for them. A spontaneous response to need.

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Years later, a UN worker told me of a real scene where an emaciated refugee arrived with her baby at a camp and one of the mothers already there, a complete stranger, took the baby and began to breast-feed. This is what ‘the milk of human kindness’ means at its simplest and most beautiful.
Shakespeare wants to shock us when Lady Macbeth says she would rather ‘pluck her baby from the nipple’ and ‘dash his brains out’ than be as weak as she thinks her husband. So Macbeth conquers his own kindness, acts ‘like a man’ – and loses his humanity.

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There are still those who equate kindness with weakness and it seems to me that the wealthier people are, the more they expect payment for everything they do. Maybe that’s how they became ‘rich’ I tell myself but I do not value whatever they think they have. The poorest communities in the world never lose their humanity, give hospitality and presents freely, offer kindness to strangers. Yes but what do they get in return? If you have to ask the question, then you are poor. Those of us who have received the kindness of strangers have been given treasure that can never be stolen. Treasure that makes us want to do likewise.

Jean Gill

ABOUT JEAN GILL: (Amazon bio used with author’s permission)

Jean Gill is a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with a big white dog, a scruffy black dog, a Nikon D700 and a man. For many years, she taught English in Wales and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Carmarthenshire. She is mother or stepmother to five children so life was hectic.

Publications are varied, including prize-winning poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training, and a cookery book on goat cheese. With Scottish parents, an English birthplace and French residence, she can usually support the winning team on most sporting occasions.

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Contact Jean at jean.gill@wanadoo.fr with comments or questions. You’ll find a mix of her work, along with fun trivia about books, at http://www.jeangill.com Her photo portfolio is at http://www.istockphoto.com/jeangill and she blogs at http://www.jeangill.blogspot.com

JEAN’S WEBSITE 

JEAN’S BLOG

Twitter @writerjeangill

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