FINDING NEW VOICES
DEFINING NEW GENRES
Urbane Publications pursues a collaborative publishing strategy, partnering with authors to work together on shared goals for each project, and combining the best of both a traditional and self-publishing approach. Today Urbane is delighted to host the latest blog from author Sarah Lynch, a prolific self-published author, and asked her to explain why she chooses to self-publish for each of her books.
Why I Self-Publish, by Sarah Lynch
“Are we rich yet?” My husband often says when I mention I’m due some more royalties, and the answer is invariably, “Not yet. Soon…”
More than two years ago, I’d just finished my first novel and sat contemplating what the hell to do with it. At that moment in time, it was April/May 2012 and Fifty Shades was whipping up a storm. A buzz surrounded Indie publishing because that trilogy in particular began life as a print-on-demand venture and the rest is history. Before embarking on this myself I researched other self-published authors and self-publishing in general and found opinions split, the word VANITY still very much attached to the whole notion and tons of people who suddenly thought, “Hey, let’s give it a go.” Nowadays, the lines are more blurred than ever. I’ve read some shocking stuff from the Big Six and some astonishing works from those doing it for themselves. And vice versa, of course.
My sister, she works in a chain hotel, recently told me that a colleague wrote a book and self-published it… apparently the acknowledgements were longer than the actual novel. I’ve met people for whom self-publishing represented a genuine chance of bettering their lives and actually discovered themselves worse off from having taken the plunge, instead encountering a world they didn’t realise can be cruel. It is sad when a writer decides to put their work out there and is bullied off the scene, despite having spent god knows how much money on packaging their hard-fought-for words. Even sadder are the cases of those for whom writing was an escape and through the self-publishing phenomenon, they lucked out—maybe even decided to shelf writing altogether.
The story is simple, for me. I am a writer. I’ve known since I was small that this is what I wanted to do. When I was young I read like a nymphomaniac engages with her vibrator. (Read my books people!) Then I worked in journalism and got no sleep and had no time to read. The few hours sleep I grabbed produced the weirdest dreams however and one dream stuck… produced a novel idea… and a period of maternity leave allowed that to reach fruition. The End…?
Of course not! It was only just the beginning.
I am the pragmatic type of writer. Perhaps shy, even. Sneakily superstitious. So alongside my own writing, I edit other people’s stuff. I feel it is important to sustain some variety in my relationship with words and I knew after the first initial bursts of real creativity, my impetus might wane. So I branched out. My husband remains in that sleepless world so I stepped out, for our family. Nowadays, I run a self-publishing services business.
It might surprise you that I have sat in front of meetings of book clubs, writers groups, library gatherings and with friends thinking about self-publishing—and I’ve been brutally honest with them about the whole process. Tons of writers have spoken with me, expecting me to say, “Oh yeah, it’s amazing, do it,” and actually I’ve turned around and said that if you are going to do it, think hard before you do. Often with the older generation of writers, those who’ve only now started to write in their twilight years, they break out in a sweat at the mere mention of social networking, blogging, formatting, SEO and the chance that you could spend money on self-publishing and not earn yourself a cent back. What I try to warn budding authors is actually, this can be emotionally taxing more than anything. You’d be amazed how much it hurts when someone does not like your baby, for your baby it is. Learning to accept you’ll never please everybody is your ABC.
You cannot appreciate how much work goes into one novel until you’ve produced one yourself. Which is frustrating. Because anyone can write a sentence and click the one-star button on Amazon. There are so many who self-publish thinking it will be their path to riches and they end up garnering the attention of entirely the wrong crowd of people. However, let’s be honest… you may attract trolls whether you chose traditional or self-pub. Or other. Cause the others are sneaking in nowadays aren’t they…
So, around two and a half years ago now… I sat with my first novel in my hands and after pitching to some agents, didn’t feel like it was the type of book that would fit into any of the markets of mainstream publishing. Often when I sat down to write out approach letters, I would describe Beneath the Veil (now The Radical) as grit chick-lit. Something like that. Laughable, I know! It was the strangest thing though… that period of my life. Like I said, writing for magazines is one thing… writing novels entirely another. I’d always had this notion of becoming authorly and the saying, “You can write,” has followed me around like a ghoul. A sneaky little, gnawing reminder if I’m honest. If it wasn’t my teachers, it was later my colleagues. Yet I just viewed that first novel as a story, really, pure and simple. It was the hardest novel I ever wrote—tough emotionally, mentally and not to mention physically exhausting. Still, I was amazed when people began messaging me… even one bloke telling me he had to stay up all night to finish it. I mean eff me! I was just a woman holding a baby, spinning webs.
Why did I self-publish in the first place? Because I’m vain? Maybe I am. At the end of the day, my journey began with one, positive seed of approval. It began with one person telling me, “This book will give people joy.” That sentence right there is why I self-publish and continue to do so. I know my books give people joy, whether because of the way I string words together or because of the plot or the characters that are relatable or damnable. I hope if nothing else, I am realistic about my aims and what I want out of self-publishing, which is a freedom to express and produce work I am happy with that is not necessarily bound for one genre or box or market. To be honest, certain words like formulaic give me the willies.
Self-publishing has given me the chance not only to network and converse with other likeminded people, but the opportunity to experiment. In fact, tons of traditionally published, bestselling authors do self-publish on the side and do just as well with those books too. Sometimes authors go off-grain which seems perfectly acceptable to me. The proof of how much self-publishing has given me is reflected in the work and especially, in A Fine Profession. That book proves how I transformed from a writer who began writing for her own pleasure and eventually grew to realise that writing for others can also be rewarding. Like the mother hen in me who spawned a trilogy (now a quadrilogy, oops! …or is saga more apt…? LOL), I’ve given birth a number of times now. Last year I wrote a little thing called Angel Avenue in the space of two months. I expected absolutely nothing from that book. It was pure joy to write. I still get shivers when I think about THAT BOOK. As a self-published author, I get to do stuff like that—write words that give other people unexpected, joyful pleasure and sometimes gratitude. Most of the time it is enough to have the gift of words. There are authors out there who got the deals and suddenly… didn’t want them anymore… the words lost their gloss.
Most of the people I help get published are like me, writing for pleasure. Just doing it for themselves. There is plenty of snobbery in this world like there is in any other but sometimes stories don’t sell because they had an editor with magical sparkles running out of their fingertips. Sometimes stories don’t even sell because they contain sex. Let’s be frank. There is plenty of that out there now. A good story sells because there is somebody very determined selling that story. They have a bottle of vodka in their hand and a fierce look in their eye as they write that marketing plan. We all hate it!
I like what Orson Welles said when asked how he made Citizen Kane: “Sheer ignorance. There is no confidence to equal it. It’s only when you know something about a profession that you are timid or careful.” Writing is obviously very different to filmmaking yet without an audience, both mediums are screwed. Ultimately, it’s the audience that makes the decisions and the majority can be very changeable. A bit like me.
You can meet Sarah Lynch at her first book signing in Peterborough next year. To find out more, visit http://www.sarahmichellelynch.wordpress.com