Publishing Announcement – My Book

magic-book

Hello everyone!

It is time for an announcement. I’ve been sitting on this for a while.

Last year I was offered a publishing deal with a small press in Australia to publish my debut middle-grade sci-fi novel. I was jumping for joy and thrilled to have reached such a level of professionalism with my writing that I had been accepted by a traditional publisher! I was also very keen to go down the small press route as I have always had a lot of respect for small business models. I felt that smaller presses often had more heart than bigger ones with their strict money-making priorities. I also thought signing to a smaller press would give me more control over the process of putting the book together. However, as time went on, I began to realise that I wanted more control than the small press would be willing to allow me.

I have since come to the conclusion that for this particular project, self-publishing is the best route. I’m not saying I’d never consider the traditional path in the future, and I’m very grateful to have been offered a deal by a traditional press. But for me, right now, I want to go indie.

My decision is not so much about control as it is about choices. Yes, self-publishing will give me complete creative control, but I will still contract professionals to make sure the book I produce is at the highest standard I can achieve. I want to collaborate with artists and designers and I want the freedom to choose who those people are.

My decision is not all about money either, but it is about investment. Yes, I will own all the rights and royalties, but I’m not expecting to earn big money off my first book. I’m certain it will cost more than I get back. However, I am simply interested in investing in myself.

Ultimately, my decision is about creativity. I love making things and if I go down the traditional path, essentially someone else is making my art for me. Although this scenario may work for other people, it’s not what I want for this book.

I’ve worked the film industry as a freelance sound editor and spent years building my own brand and business, so I know how hard it is forging an independent career in the arts, but I also know it is achievable. I’ve learned the value of collaboration and networking, but I’ve also experienced what it means to be a cog in a machine producing someone else’s art.

It’s time to make my own art.

Working on films is a fantastic experience. As a creative contractor, my job is to help a directors vision come to life. Ideas that the director has been working on for months, years and sometimes decades finally come to fruition and I get to be a part of that. Sound editing and design is the end stage of this long ‘magical’ process. I try to create sounds that will do justice to the hard work everyone else has done, and hopefully enhance the audiences experience. The make-up and wardrobe teams, the art departments and VFX people, the actors and the picture editors, it all comes together with sound and music as the last piece of the puzzle — the icing on the cake. We soundies sometimes get a little neglected when the budget is sometimes spent long before we start working on a film, but we also get to see how excited the director is to see their baby finally born. The director is there, every step of the way through production, advising our creative work so that it fits the mould of their vision.

So my book is my baby. I am the director. I want to have that experience of reviewing work from contractors, making notes and giving them feedback. It seems ridiculous to have worked so hard on writing the book and editing it for years only to hand it on to someone else at this final stage and let them make all the decisions about how it is put together.

I have already begun work with a concept artist. More to come about this later, but it’s all very exciting. Now that I have made that critical decision, I can get to work making up a budget and a timeline and working towards a release date.

My book is finally going to have a birthday.

Come with me, as I embark on this journey as a creative adventurer!

Tell me about your own experience. Are you the director of your own artistic vision?

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Editing…and then some.

It’s been so long since I’ve posted I don’t quite know where to begin, other than to say it’s time to get the words flowing again.

I’ve been writing and re-writing – editing and polishing – draft after draft. My energy has gone into my art, without a scrap to spare for my blog in talking about it. Sad, but there it is.

Plus there is that pesky sound design job I do by day…ROBOT ROBOT ZAP ZAP!

(No really, that’s the sound I’m making in my studio. I’m not suggesting that my life in anyway resembles that of a robot.)

The most awesome thing I’ve been doing lately though, is critiquing work of colleagues. Not only is it making me a better editor, but it’s helping me to see what can be improved in my own work. Plus, as a happy side effect, it’s letting me help out friends by giving them a review of their work.

Though I still have much to learn, and getting feedback continually from my peers constantly educates me on the wily ways of words. (Like never use alliteration…). Also, using parenthesis in narrative text should be avoided like the plague. Its a good idea to remove cliches too. 🙂

So I’d like to offer some advice if you are thinking of writing a book or screenplay, or anything really…get yourself a crit group. They are an absolute necessity. There is no better and faster way to learn anything, than to surround yourself with other people who are on the same mission. So a big thanks to my fellow writers, for finding every single comma missed or word misspelled that my eyes would never have detected. But mostly thanks for helping me to hone my own style. Every day I get more confident with setting words down in print and that is more than I could ever ask for.

 

New Years Writer’s Resolutions

Welcome 2014!

So, the wheels somewhat came off my little writing wagon over the Christmas season, no writing, no blogging, very little reading.  I had a great few weeks though, visiting family and friends back in Sydney. Now I’m back in Wellington I am faced with a list of questions rattling around in my head.

1) What are my goals for this year in terms of writing?

2) What are my goals for this year in terms of production management – transforming my writing projects into published works?

3) What can I do to better prepare myself for marketing challenges once I am ready to publish?

2014 will be a busy year with sound work, perhaps my busiest year yet. So it will certainly be a challenge to find time for my writing, but I must make time and I must start taking it seriously as a business.

Answering the first point should be relatively straightforward (one would hope!). Writing should be the easy part, but I still need to set myself goals and work towards them…more about that later. Point 2 and 3 however, need a lot more consideration. 2013 was a better year for my blog, simply because I actually posted on it, but I have a long way to go before it is of any significant interest to people.

I need to shift my focus. Instead of thinking that I am simply making art for myself I need to concentrate on investing myself into a community of artists and view my work as something that I want to give to others.

I need to start to be more serious and studious about networking. The writers who I read and follow on the internet are the ones who are giving back. Since we’re talking about building networks with colleagues, it is the positivity and enthusiasm of a writer that I’m looking for, not their genre, style or background. I might love a writers style, but unless they have an engaging and optimistic outlook then I wont necessarily think of them as a valuable contact or source of inspiration. I am drawn to the bloggers who have some insight, who have taken the time to do interviews and reviews on other people, writers who offer experiences both positive and negative that they have had. The success of a writer’s marketing strategy can be pinpointed to something so simple that it really can be seen as the mark of success in every aspect of life.

The strategy is simply – generosity.

It is almost unfair to call it a strategy, it is more like a modus operandi. If you are generous, willing to share and open your heart and mind to others, then they will open their hearts and minds to you. It’s not just about buying other writers books and expecting them to buy yours in return, it is about sharing ideas and broadening your online networks by engaging in insightful and honest conversation.As well as getting your name out there by word of mouth. It might just make you a better writer and person too.

So that is my writing goal for this year, to find ways to engage more, start up conversations, read other peoples books and blogs and write reviews, even do interviews. To find ways to make the most out of the exchange between colleagues both here in New Zealand and abroad.

I am also part of the film community here in Wellington. I sometimes take it for granted the network of people and artists that I know here. Even worse, I completely neglect to interact with them sometimes when they are all right here, living in my neighborhood. So, hopefully I can aim to do better here in my own backyard too.

How about you? What are your new year writers resolutions?

Don’t tell me you don’t have any? Look here, I’m not the only one trying to be proactive…

The Writing Resolution You Can Actually Keep

Moving Forward

So, I have decided that upon finishing my latest edit of my book, that it’s really time to get myself out of this eddy that I seem to be stuck churning around in and get the project moving forward. While I want the book to be the best it can be, I also want to move on, to start something new, or at least start on book two in the series. I know I can still keep editing away and refining my book while starting on a new one, but I feel now is the time to get some fresh eyes onto my work.

I have been working with a critique group for a year now and it has been an unbelievably rewarding experience. I’ve learned so much from those 3 individuals and I’m truly thankful for them including me in their group.  I can’t recommend writing groups enough to other authors out there, especially if you think that it is too daunting, the thought of showing your work to others. After all, why else do we write if not to let others read it. I was thinking today about how slow this process of refining the work is. I love belting out the first draft, but then everything slows down, substantially, unless you’re a pro who has already refined your process. But for a first time writer, just the sheer amount of time spent waiting for friends to read it, waiting for editors or agents to get back to you, waiting for your online presence to build – it’s staggering. The months fly by and nothing happens and it can be agony.

Then there is all the research you have to do to get your brain up to date with current markets, publishing houses, agencies and on-line book making services. Researching Amazon, kindle, and their various competitors…trying to weigh up between looking for an agent or approaching smaller publishing houses or going indie – it can be exhausting. Trying to develop your personal brand and working out how to make this convoluted and continually evolving industry work for you is something we all must endure. Its all about ensuring that every decision you make is aimed at get your book out there in the best way to serve your individual needs.

Then there are the days you get lost on the net…wading through pages and lists of names and criteria. You may start to feel that maybe you’re not such an individual. Maybe your book is like a single cell in a greater organism and when you step back from yourself you can’t see how your work fits in anymore. You feel like you are being absorbed into a circuit of promotion and marketing hype that just goes round and round like a mad carnival ride and the only way to get out, is to give up.

But you have to keep on believing right? Because the only thing that really matters is that you do the best job that you can and that you are happy and proud of the product you produce.

If you go to an art gallery, you can drift by a hundred paintings in an hour and absorb a fraction of the effort, labour, passion, pain, love, hatred and intention of all the artists that that poured themselves into their work. But a book, is a much more intense commitment. You are asking someone to read every word, to get hooked on every line and to stay with you until the end. When I buy a book, I like to flick to a random page and read a paragraph to get a sense of the authors intention. Can they maintain that enduring enthusiasm so that every paragraph, every line is strong and worthwhile and something that a reader can believe in. Forging that kind of relationship with a reader is a hard ongoing battle. You can’t predict who will love it and who will hate it till you put it out there.

So now it is my turn to be brave and start really thinking about who I can get to look at this work I have crafted. It’s time to find out what more needs to be done in order to get it out there. My book yearns to hunt for ravenous sets of eyes.

The Morning vs Evening Artists

I recently had a conversation with a friend about artists working at night and the stereotypes of the creative night owl.

Many artists slip into the habit of working at nights to avoid the distractions of the day and all of the annoying, loud and demanding people in it.

I was saying how ‘I’m not a morning person so to speak, but I really hate being a night person.’

I have discovered over the years, that this is not because I don’t think it’s fun to stay up late, weather it’s for the sake of having a good time, or for work, or just being creative. Nor is it simply because I’m getting older or I find it hard to stay up late. On the contrary I think that there is something magical about staying awake through the hours of darkness. It is an enchanting time, a bewitching time, a time when our decision making is not necessarily at its best, but this can often help us to achieve things we never would in the daylight hours. Some of my best and most inspired creations have happened late at night.

But I just cant do it all the time, or I go nuts!

I have discovered that when you develop a creative process that flourishes during the day, you can achieve results that are perhaps more consistent, productive and healthy.

This is what I said to my friend. “I’m finding that I’m a morning person these days just because I’m enjoying being healthy.”

Being creative during the day is something that you really have to just deal with  if you are working on someone else’s project. So when I shifted from being a lazy afternoon working guitar teacher and late night gig performer, to an all day sound editor on films, I really needed to be able to get up early and fly into that creative head space with little prompting other than a hearty coffee (or three).

So, even when I am not working on films now, I feel a compulsion to go flat out all day on my own creative projects.

I like getting up in the morning and getting stuck into my work, creating and achieving a lot before the day is even half over. Once I have already achieved something in the morning, I feel better about the rest of the day.

This goes hand in hand with finding time to exercise. So many colleagues of mine who work in film say that they are too busy to exercise. But I find it is the opposite. I find that taking time to exercise somehow creates more time and makes me more productive. It’s like magic.

As soon as I have gone for a run, or done a work out, all of a sudden, my enthusiasm lifts and I feel that I have so much extra time, simply because I don’t waste time by feeling bad about myself. I feel less like eating bad food to comfort myself.  I feel proud of my achievements and if I do splash out and eat bad food, I don’t feel as much like I need to punish myself because I have already done something positive with my day. So the earlier I get out there and just do it, the better.

At this point in the conversation I told my friend that I want to be a Nike artist. – “Just do it!”

Forget about excuses, forget about image, just get your arse out of bed and go make art!

I know it is harder for musicians, because you have to perform at night, but in all things there must be a balance. As my favourite Greek god Apollo said ‘practice all things in moderation, including moderation.’

So, even though I love my mornings and my days and getting the most out of my creative time, there should always be time for the late night creative burst of inspiration. Or a crazy jam with some creative friends while drinking bunch of fruit cocktails!

I found this article, which suggests that people who are night owls tend to be more intelligent, but more susceptible to addiction and generally less reliable, hence the typical muso stereotype. But is it really that simple? Are people who stay up all night working on crazy schemes really smarter or do they just like to think that they are?

http://theweek.com/article/index/209165/night-owls-vs-morning-people-whos-smarter

Other articles I read, suggested that morning people, ‘Larks,’ are often happier, but I know plenty of people who are  forced to get up in the morning, and they are anything but happy about it.

What do you all think? I’d like to hear your opinions. Especially in relation to your creative habits?

Are you early risers, conditioned to the  9-5? (or in my case the 8:30- 7:30)

Or are you chronic night owls, chugging away in the hours of darkness? Clinging to the romantic fantasy of the manic artist while insisting that you can’t get up in the morning because you’re ‘simply too intelligent for all that nonsense.’

Which ever way you want to go…I say just be Nike about it. – smash that art and enjoy yourself.

JUST DO IT!

 

The Artistic Journey

I am on a journey. Like my characters who are sailing off into space with a collection of misfit aliens on a dangerous and often mismanaged quest.

I am on a journey of my own. A journey of discovery. I’m learning how to take the reigns of my creative project and slay the dragon of resistance.

Self publishing is all about being the creative director of the book, its not about finding an easy way out of traditional publishing paths, it is about taking control. It’s about having choice.

I have always loved art, and Turner was one of my greatest inspirations. The work above is one of his. A painter, like a writer is subject to the styles and tastes of the period he or she is in. Likewise, the state of the artistic ‘market’ will always determine his or her success. However, when an artist paints a picture, do they then submit the work to a bunch of other people, (some of whom are not even artists themselves), to shape it before it goes into a gallery or is put up for sale. At least I don’t think it usually works this way for Artists. Why should writers have to jump through such hoops in order to see their work on the shelf?

I understand that publishing by traditional methods sometimes works great and can be very rewarding. But I also wonder why has it taken so long to accept that if people want to produce written works by themselves, then they should be given the opportunity to.

If you have put the time and the effort to into your work, you should be allowed to TRY and sell it. It seems that in many ways the notion of self-publishing has only just become a viable option for authors. I knew about self publishing about a decade ago, and like many people, I thought it was just something that people did if they really couldn’t get published NORMALLY…i.e. they weren’t that good. Now though, in the last couple of years, we see evidence on the net and in the media, that the stigma associated with not being traditionally published is slowly becoming alleviated. It seems absurd that publishing has taken so long to catch on to this concept.

However, I think it is critical  to realize how important it is to not do it all yourself. Have your writing properly edited by a professional. Get the cover and formatting done by a professional, and take the time to revise things like structure to ensure that the book is the best it can be before it goes out into the world.

This is where the indie-author is not just the creator, but the director of a creative processes. Getting other people involved in the development of the project, editors, designers and revision peers who can give critical feedback, gives the project more strength. More people become invested in the project and their interest in it’s success will propel it forward.

So, this change in my thinking has somewhat alleviated my fear of – “what if I don’t get published?” because I know, that no matter what, I will start to think of myself as an Author – or else! I will publish my books – or else!

Now that I’m not worried about failing, I can focus on writing and write for myself and what I want to read, not for some pigeon hole in a market.

Regardless of how I choose to do it – self publishing – traditional – eBook – audiobook (heck as a sound designer working on films, you bet I’m going to try this out.) My books will take over my world!

Now, if I could just finish that first pesky manuscript.

Everyone’s journey is unique, on the high seas of artistic adventure. There are currents that flow faster than others and their are courses that are easier follow, so I can choose my own path without having to worry about compromising on what I feel is important about my story. Through the internet, it has become even easier to share our journeys with each other and to see what our options are. We can learn from others mistakes and celebrate in their victories. So tell me your story…fellow adventurers. No matter what your vessel is, painting, music, dancing, Kung Fu…whatever! We all have a tale to tell.

‘Once upon a time…’

Happy writing everyone!

Self Doubt and Emotional Roller-Coaster of the Artist

What if I fail? What if I actually stink at my art?

Anyone who is an artist in any vocation will know what the emotional roller-coaster of the creative person feels like.

We switch from thinking – “Man I love this…this is awesome….I can’t believe I created this, it is amazing!” – to – “How can I be so delusional, how can I think that anyone else would like this? I can even afford to buy the things I need to live, why do I persist in believing I can make a living off this rubbish?”

Sometimes this polarization of mood can happen in the space of a day or even an hour! Sometimes we use devices to try and actively switch the mood; stimulations like coffee or relaxants like alcohol.

There is nothing worse than getting stuck in a cycle where you think; “I write my best stuff at 2am after 5 glasses of wine.”(Believe me!)

Then of course there are those moments when we wonder; “Maybe I’m bipolar or something? Maybe my mood swinging is not healthy?”

I think it is.

To love and doubt oneself is completely normal and actually a healthy step in the artistic process. We are evaluating ourselves. We put ourselves temporarily in the shoes of someone who might hate what we do. This is so we can imagine how we might confront such criticism if someone else throws it at us. An important step in being able to confront doubt and criticism from others, is to first rehearsing it with ourselves.

Sometimes we simply take this rehearsal too far. I myself have been guilty of verbally abusing myself in the kitchen over coffee, or while violently preparing a meal.

When you live with another artist, our fragile nature can become really apparent and you both constantly have to prop the other up when the self loathing sets in.

Or if you have collaborators or peers who can help critique and support you, it makes us feel like we are not alone, spinning around in these mad cycles of ecstasy and despair.

I read this article just now and it made me feel better, as it always does, to see other artists struggle with the same self doubt.

How to Flip Your Self-Doubts as a Writer

The author, Suzannah Windsor Freeman, gives some really good examples of how to turn negative thoughts like

  •  “A little voice in my head would always be saying, “You are not a writer. You are a person who says you’re a writer.”

to positive ones like:

  •  “Writers are people who write. That’s all.”

Harboring negativity is inevitable and important for us artists, so we don’t develop an over-inflated ego. It’s important also to be able to see the positive effects of combating real problems and issues in our craft.

For me the hardest part comes when the writing is done and I don’t know what to do next. Learning about the publishing industry and networking platforms is the hardest part. Admitting to people that I’m not just writing for fun, but that I want to take my work seriously…that is also a difficult step.

Having this blog seems to be helping, as I know with every new post, I take a tiny step forwards in thinking of myself as an active professional writer. I know that if it is like any of the other art-forms I have thrown myself into (music, painting, sound, dancing) it simply takes time before it becomes a component of myself; as clear and definable as a personality trait. Some of my personality traits I can identify within myself very strongly, other traits people think of me, depending on how much time I have spent with them. Some people who know me may think I am kind and decent, while others might think me rude or selfish. I really don’t know how other people perceive my personality, but their regard of me can always be attributed to how much effort I have put into each relationship. Art is just the same I think. The more you invest in a creative aspect of yourself, the more honest and comfortable you will feel about sharing it with yourself and others.

Regardless of how good you are at something, if you do it, you become it. Art should be for everyone.

Happy writing everyone!

 

Indie Publishing Offers Creative Independence

I was wondering today if I have writers block. I have time to write, and yet I don’t. I re-read and re-edit my manuscript over and over again. I do endless research on publishing, agents, ebooks, and other writers blogs etc to try and gauge where I am at. But when I really want to just sit down and get the words flowing again and come up with something new, I struggle. Is it because I feel that if I start on the sequal when I don’t know that the first one is finished will I waste work? I started book number 2 last year and 40,000 words into it, decided I needed to seriously rework book no. 1.

Looking back, even though the first book is better now, I could have easily just abandoned it and started with something new. I see a lot of writers, who seem to strike better luck on book no. 2 or 3. But still I really like the story and I think that I’m not done with it. I think it has potential and this leads me back to my initial question…do I have writers block? Why can’t I move on, start something new?

I have come to the conclusion that no…I don’t have writers block. I am constantly writing in my head. At this stage book number 2 is stewing in my cranium and so is the background stories for all the characters and the worlds in which they come from. I’m constantly writing in my journal and drawing diagrams of what my creatures look like and I would love time to do more of this, but I guess it is just a slow process. The story is extremely complex and needs time to evolve.

Now in my research today I had another revelation.

I have been doing a whole lot of reading about e-books and self publishing. At first I was skeptical of this process, simply because of what we all grow up learning. We are told that only a really special and great quality book that is chosen by publishers will make it to publication. It is very hard to get published and it is an extremely competitive industry. I was not daunted by this, since the publishing industry seems similar to the film industry in this regard and I seemed to have cracked into that reasonably well. So I didn’t think too much more about self publishing and thought I would use it as a last resort.

However, after hearing about different people’s experiences with self publishing on Amazon etc, I have decided that the publishing industry and the protocols associated with getting published is also very similar to the music industry and the challenges associated with getting signed to a record label. Now, back when I was an aspiring muso and guitarist, I came to the conclusion that there is no WAY that people working for the record labels could possibly anticipate what is really going to sell any more than they possibly find everyone who has real talent and deserves a career in music. You just have to listen to the top charting musicians to see this. So often I hear people say stuff like ‘that guy I saw playing at the pub last year was way more talented than (insert random famous musician name here)’ etc.

Public opinion is really hard to predict and at the end of the day, the indie label band sometimes has way more street cred/ artistic integrity and soul than a lot of the music being churned out through traditional paths. Now, this is not to say that I think the literary professionals in publishing are churning anything. I think that the level of quality that is maintained in printed work by writers is an essential part of our human history and culture and I hope it never is abandoned.

The only reason I draw a parallel to the music industry is that I made the same realisation that, just because someone has to do it on their own steam and through an independent pathway, doesn’t mean it is a cop out, a lazy option or a last resort AT ALL. In fact, sometimes it is the best option to reach the audience that is looking for the art that a writer has to release. Some work just can’t fit into a predictable mold, or has to remake/ reshape or reinvent old genres to make them work for new ideas. Now is a very exciting time for humanity, there is so much more opportunity than ever before to let people choose, promote, finance and build their own career than ever before.

People like Joanna Penn  make it easy for us to see proof of how this works. She has so many amazing podcasts and video interviews that provide a wealth of information to anyone interested in hearing other peoples success stories as well as letting us learn from their mistakes.

OK, enough watching other people’s work, time for me to get back to my writing.

 

Podcast Joy

So it has been a while since I posted,

I am still getting my head around this blog and what the whole process can do for me. I have been looking at an excellent blog:

Welcome To The Creative Penn

By Joanna Penn.

There is a wealth of information on there with some great tips for new writers. It is great to hear other peoples stories about how they got to where they are and importantly the mistakes they make.

There are some great podcasts on there too of interviews she has done with other writers and people in the industry.

I find myself thinking that this is something I will be doing one day, interviewing people about their books etc. and immersing myself in the industry. However, I know how far away this is. I need to keep writing and writing and reading and researching and then, when I feel ready…I will be able to launch myself in to the public sphere and call myself a real author.

I also got a great idea from her blog, and have come up with an idea for writing a series of short stories linked to my main novel and put them up on my blog page. I can start building my world and bringing it into the public domain.

I can’t wait.