Life in the Indie World

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‘Indie Publishing’. How much nicer a term than ‘Vanity Publishing’. Not that it’s the same thing of course. Or so I tell myself – though inevitably there is an element of vanity in paying to see your writing in print. Self-publishing still has a stigma attached but far less than it used to. It’s true there are some very badly written self-published books. But then not all traditionally published books are well-written either.

For years I resisted the idea of ‘doing it myself’. What was the point? I was realistic enough to know I wouldn’t make money from it and what possible kudos could there be in a purely financial transaction that required no vetting of quality; that anyone could enter into if they had the money, regardless of writing talent?

On the other hand, I’d spent over thirty years writing fiction: sweating it out, investing endless time, energy and emotion in the seven novels that still languished unread on my computer, their printed versions gathering dust on my overloaded shelves. I’d also invested money in courses, workshops, retreats, a professional critique… I’d learnt a lot. I’d had enough success as a travel writer and journalist to know I could write. Two earlier novels had almost made it. Yet still the goal of publishing a novel eluded me.

So, early this year, despite my conviction there’d be no pride or satisfaction in paying to be published, I took the plunge. I’ve been surprised and gratified by the response: the positive feedback and enthusiasm, the compliments on both the book itself and the hard work and determination involved in first getting it into print and then getting it noticed. Besides, what can compare with the thrill of actually holding the book in my hand, feeling the weight of it; seeing it on the shelves of a bookshop and listed on Amazon with five stars against it?

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I’ve entered a whole new world I knew nothing about – blogging, social media, organising launches, negotiating with booksellers – they’re all terra incognita. I’ve found a group of supportive, generous and helpful online friends who are sharing the same journey, as self-published authors. Then there are the old friends I’ve sought out and been reunited with at my launches and presentations, a series of great parties in a variety of fabulous venues: an art gallery, a traditional yet lively independent bookshop, the magical gardens of an old carmen… Each one has been different and special.

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Has my personality changed, I wonder? I’ve always been quiet and self-effacing, but confronted with the need to promote myself and sell my book, I’ve had to become dynamic; even a little pushy. I’m not used to being the centre of attention but as star of the launch events, I’ve felt and begun to act like a minor celebrity. I take a step backwards and can’t believe what I see. Me? This collector of rejection letters and unwanted manuscripts – suddenly a star?

Without any conscious intention, I seem to have crossed the fence. In my work as a journalist, I did the interviewing; now I am the one being interviewed. Where previously I was on the receiving end, soaking up advice and knowledge from the experts on courses, at workshops and literary festivals, I now find myself up front, even giving advice to aspiring writers – and with all the confidence of one of those experts. I listen to myself and do a double take. Is this really me autographing books as if I’m a famous person?

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But I do at last feel like a real writer. I’m itching to make headway on the next novel. The big question is, with all this social networking and blogging, when will I ever have time to write it?

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