Where am I?

Even though I may seem to have dropped off the blogger-sphere, I am still here … and though I could, without lying, say the school summer break well and truly got the better of me, that’s not the whole picture.

The main reason I haven’t posted is the fact of not having anything useful to share. At the moment, encouraged by positive feedback from readers, my focus is well and truly to write Book Two. I am still doing certain things to promote Book One but have a real sense of being distracted and not  on top of the things I could be doing. For once in my life, however, I’m not beating myself up. A couple of future school visits are in the diary, I have decided to, finally, join ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors) as I way to learn more and become engaged in what is out there, and I will plan a Goodreads giveaway for the upcoming UMA & IMP book birthday in November.

Yes – book birthday! That means it’s been just over a year since I first started the process of producing the physical book-version of UMA & IMP with all the excitement and decisions on illustration, design, paper type, etc. And all of that seems so much longer than a year ago because aside from the awesome-ness of creating the book and hearing from children that have become absorbed in the story, my feelings about the process and about writing have completely changed. More than anything, the benefit of having self-published (and I’m still not recommending it as the best way to go!!) is a sense of perspective and calm that I simply didn’t have before. Self-publishing has allowed me to let go of the angst around finding an agent/publisher, worrying about the success or failure of a book because it will determine my next publishing contract. It’s hard to explain but this experience springs to mind …

… while I was writing draft 486 of UMA & IMP, family-in-law kindly agreed to read the ms with their class of 6th grade kids. The kids loved the story but I was advised not to mention this in submissions to agents because it wasn’t considered to have real value as kids are more likely to say they like a book when they have a connection to the author – even if it is tenuous. I didn’t understand that – not really, because it seemed to me that feedback is feedback, enjoyment is enjoyment. And yet … having published and had “anonymous” feedback from kids unconnected to me in any way, I suddenly “get” the difference. There is a very unique kind of validation that comes from someone you have never met loving your book. And I think that is what has created a real shift in my approach to writing. Well, that and gaining a much deeper understanding of how publishing works and the challenges/realities involved. Finally, my pace has shifted and although before I was saying (and even believing) that I was in it for the long haul, now I really know what that means and also FEEL it in my very being. Not only that but I’m living it too. I have no sense of rush about finishing my next book. I have a goal, of course, that’s sensible, but there is no pressure attached to that goal. Same with sales – I will continue to do what is possible to get UMA & IMP out there and I have lots of goals or ideals on that front too … but, again, no pressure attached to those goals. So really THAT’S where I am …

For now, my commitment to blogging is going to extend only to sharing when I have something of real interest to say. Probably, my next post will be about ALLi and the benefits of joining. So many indie authors rave about the organisation that I’m eager to see what the enthusiasm is about … will get back once I know more!

In the meantime, thanks for reading,

LarisaUma&ImpCover

Advertisements

LBF OMG! Wot I Lurned

As someone who is easily overloaded in new, crowded, high-sensory environments, I was expecting the London Book Fair to be a bit of a ‘mare. Actually, it was a blast.

I went along on two fronts – as a writer and as a translator, so pretty much spent my time heading back and forth between the Author Hub and Literary Translation Centre. Except I have the orientation skills of a novice Girl Scout strapped upside down in a Topple Tower, so think less back and forth, more ricocheting erratically. If you’re wondering how many different stairs you can take on a simple, direct route – it’s a lot. The main ones are colour coded, which should (didn’t) help but there are all kinds of back stairs too. Who knew?

So, here is my random list of Wot I Lurned at the 2015 LBF

– The publishing industry really is chock-a with people who are PASSIONATE about books. This is so inspiring and the buzz of excitement through the LBF halls was amazing. Not only are people passionate, they are also open and happy to reach out. Mind you, that doesn’t mean you will come away with lots of juicy contacts and contracts because, after all, LBF is a business opportunity for the Pros to network and make deals.

– Unless you’ve made appointments ahead of time your only hope of speaking to someone directly is by cornering them after one of the seminars. And there will be lots of other people there trying to do just that, so it’s unlikely to prove useful. As you might expect, it’s tough to pre-arrange meetings unless you have something somebody really wants and, by implication, a Profile!

– Arrive early if you want to try and speak to an exhibitor. The halls were pretty quiet from opening to around 10 or even 10.30.

– Expect to spend £3 for a cup of coffee.

– LBF has a wide range of really awesome seminars to attend, panelled by top industry professionals who are there to share what they know. In writing terms, I attended seminars on Crowdfunding, PR, Selling to Book Retailers, and What Journalists Want. Even if you’re not published (trad or other) it is, in my view, never too soon to start thinking in terms of what is involved in helping get your book out there.

– If you’re self-published watch out for sharks. I got somewhat fleeced by paying to have UMA & IMP on the PubMatch bookshelf. A couple of emails had come round about how the PubMatch bookshelf is organised in conjunction with LBF and is open to trad and non-trad authors to showcase books that are available for Foreign Rights – I figured ‘mad not to get in there’. In fact, PubMatch is used only by self-published authors, and the organisers (handily) have “no figures” on what kind of deals come out of the platform. Call me cynical, but I would be stunned if anyone sold Foreign Rights in this way – after all, the quality of the majority of self-published books is still low and the market is over-flowing with publisher-produced crackers.

– National newspaper reviews are the Holy Grail for ALL authors: whether trad published, self-published, debut or long in the tooth.

– If you have any kind of money for PR, use it on promos run by Goodreads. Not something I’ve looked into yet but it’s on my post-LBF-bloated research list.

– The difference between marketing and PR is that for marketing you actually spend money, for advertising, etc. There are many PR things you can do for yourself, especially with social media, social media, social media.

– Crowdfunding is hard work but has multiple benefits. I will be doing a separate post on this one, maybe next time.

– The following titbit was repeated through all the different book seminars – we all know but sometimes lose sight of this when self-publishing: do NOT underestimate the importance of your book jacket!

– Another one we “all” know is – get your opening chapters right. It was most amusing to hear Cathy Rentzenbrink of The Bookseller tell the story of how she’d set a book aside after failing to get drawn in (and being distracted by the very large pile of still-to-read books), then had a follow-up call from the book’s publicist. When Cathy explained that she’d read as far as Chapter 3 without being taken by the story, the publicist said “oh, but it gets much better after that”. Sorry but, ha ha ha ha plonk.

– In any publishing industry forum you will witness the two, still-evolving camps on the subject of self-publishing. Those who see innovation and a self-determining new market that makes the most of the vast array of tools available to self-publishers … and those who see a burgeoning sea of ‘great unwashed’ polluting the shores of an industry already in flux. Personally, I get both sides. It’s up to every individual self – (or indie) – publisher to decide which ‘camp’ s/he wants to feed.

Back on the UMA & IMP front, April is shaping up to be by far the toughest month so far, with very few sales. I’m putting this mostly down to the Easter break, and a little down to World Book Day hangover. Post Christmas was grim too, which means I have only a few weeks before a mega summer slump … getting those skates out!

Thanks for reading!

Larisa

Waits and Measures

It’s over a year since I kicked off my self-publishing project. Er, yes – even though it can take as little as a few hours to get a book onto a Print-On-Demand platform. Guess it’s safe to assume that ‘Swift’ isn’t my middle name …

So where’s the time gone? “Ha!” says one part of my brain … that’ll be working, finding new work, being a mum, living, breathing – and all squeezed in around a school day/calendar. That aside, in writing terms, over a year has been gobbled by consulting with an (awesome) editor, working on rewrites and doing another round of submitting to agents and … waiting. It’s hard work, that waiting business. Positively exhausting.

And once again, my waiting has come to nought. So here I stand – agentless and publisherless. [CURIOUSITY: my spell check doesn’t recognise the word ‘publisherless’, but is totally fine with ‘agentless’ … make of that what you will!]. Oddly, I’m not that disappointed. Probably because the decision to self-publish has remained firm, ‘if all else fails’, and although I’ve seen plenty of SCBWIs get agents and contracts around me, I know an equal number of talented writers who aren’t getting the breaks.

So here I am, just starting on final, final edits and hoping to get published in October some time. Freaky.

Inevitably, the final move to go-it-alone has lead to a fair dollop of navel-gazing along the lines of: ‘Why bother?’ ‘What’s the point?’ and ‘What am I trying to achieve?’ When the average self-published book sells around 100 copies, it can’t really be touted as a Business Decision. And I’ve moved on from my original “nothing to lose” point of view because even if you discount the money spent on professional editing, there is still an outlay for book cover design, printing a certain amount of copies to hand flog, ISBN registration, etc. As someone who is particularly brassic, the choice to front cash that I might never see again isn’t one taken lightly. Bringing me back to ‘WHY?’

Over the last months I’ve read many different answers to that question, all valid and as different as the author moving into the self-pub market. For me it’s mostly about closing the circle. I have a HUGE attachment to this particular story and simply don’t want to leave it languishing in a virtual drawer.

The other question is: what I am hoping to achieve, and how will I measure success? By book sales? If I sell 100 copies then I’ve done as well as the average. That would be OK. If I sell 300 copies that gets me Associate membership of the Society of Authors, which would be great – a tiny taste of peer recognition. 1,000 copies is a regular first print run for a traditionally published debut author … what is the magic number?

Thing is, my preconceptions aren’t terribly high in terms of book sales. But I do really want to end this experience knowing I gave it my best shot – whatever that amounts to. And I really, really would like to get out there, into schools, interacting with ‘middle grade kids’. Because it will help my writing, inform what I do next and, yes, complete the circle.

Thank you for reading! Self-publishing has got to be the lonely road in what is already the lonely business of writing (imaginary people don’t count, guys!). In lieu of an agent, publisher, editor, marketing people, etc. it’s just great to know that fellow SCBWIs are out there, listening and giving openhearted support.

Larisa x

Writing Process Blog Tour

The wonderfully bodacious Nicky Schmidt (http://absolutevanilla.blogspot.co.uk/) asked whether I would like to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour. Having read and enjoyed other people’s contributions, I thought ‘Yes! Me too join in!’.

Nicky and I have yet to meet. We hooked up through SCBWI e-critique when she patiently talked me through how to join Muddlegraders and later again when she even more patiently helped me with the technical and other aspects of moderating the group. She is warm and engaging – it was easy to hit it off, and our shared Austrian roots, with visions of Apfel Strudel, Sacher Torte and Alpine pastures cemented the connection. Yes, all very ‘raindrops on roses’ …

Nicky lives in South Africa, writes YA fiction and recently finished her first draft of a YA magic realism novel set in South Africa that I really hope to read one day soon. Go, Nicky!

The Writing Process Blog Tour involves answering four writing process related questions, then passing on the baton to three other writers. I’m lagging a little on the last point as I have only two writers to pass on to  (see end of post). So if you’re reading, have a writing-related blog and would like to take part please let me know – I’m sure it wouldn’t matter (?) hugely if the timings slip a little …

Here goes:

1. What am I working on? I’ve been wrestling with the same project for seven years (ok, not seven years straight ‘writing’ but still!). My WIP is a middle grade fantasy adventure that is very, very super close to being finished (no, really). Much as I’ve hit plenty of lows during this process, the characters keep me going and ultimately it is an enormous pleasure to work on.

Last year I side tracked to a short, semi-farcical adventure, which is now resting in a drawer. It’s been ‘seen’ by two agents – although one suggested I keep submitting, I’m not so sure it’s actually ‘done’. Something to revisit in the not too distant future perhaps?

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? My WIP has one (and only one) fantasy character that is central to the story in a way I haven’t seen done elsewhere in the same way. This means I’m struggling to find a one-line pitch. It could be Molly Moon meets Indiana Jones, except that totally leaves out the fantasy character. So I’m now thinking, Molly Moon meets This Book is Secret with a hint of His Dark Materials. Quite the mouthful … and somewhat presumptuous. It may take another seven years to find a one-line pitch!

3. Why do I write what I do? I’m a natural introvert and relate to the world through my writing. It’s how I learn about other people, relationships, society, the bigger picture and, in the process, myself. On the other side of that curve, through writing I aim to reflect my world view and send it ‘out there’ for other people to share.

The things I choose to write about connect to the things that interest or bother me about human existence. Although my WIP is far from profound I come to the story from a place of questioning life, death and self-knowledge. I have to incorporate navel-gazing time into my daily routine otherwise the wheels of my mind sort of come off (yes, my mind has wheels, think Chitty Chitty Bang Bang pre make-over). Did I mention? I’m a natural introvert.

4. How does my writing process work? People have tended to come at this question from the ‘planner’ or ‘pantster’ angle. Going by that, I have to admit to being a total ‘crapped in my pantster’. My writing is so organic that it’s fungal. The seat of my pants frayed and fell apart a long time ago. I don’t see this as a good thing and harbour strong fantasies that next time round I will manage to be more circumspect and organised in my plotting.

My WIP started out with the clear sound of my two MCs voice in dialogue. I could hear, see and sense their relationship and How Things Would Go Forward. Or so I thought. I actually did write a chapter-by-chapter storyline. So ‘planner’ so far? Yep, that’s what I thought too. Only years later, did I realise that there is ‘planning’ and Planning. See Planning involves asking all those important questions: WHAT does your MC want? WHY? HOW is she/he going to get it? HOW do their choices affect what happens next? And so on.

The thing that amazes me about the way things have (laboriously) gone, is that my current (final?) ms is, on the one hand, COMPLETELY DIFFERENT to what I started out with (apart from the two main characters’ relationship/journey), and on the other hand, in its essence, is EXACTLY the same story. So perhaps there is some method in madness?

Thanks for reading! If you’re a writer-blogger and would like to take part in this Writing Process Blog Tour, let me know!

And now, I’m passing on to K. M. Lockwood who will post for the Writing Process Blog Tour next Monday, 21st April.

Larisa x

gea-do-london-05-04-14-close-up

K. M. Lockwood lives by the coast in Sussex, running a writer-friendly B&B and finding sea-glass most days. She is a SCBWI volunteer, belly-dancer and writer – though not usually at the same time. http://kmlockwood.com/

Untitledihrishfpng

Victoria Addis is a farmer’s daughter and one-time goat keeper from Herefordshire. She is currently working on a masters in English Literature alongside her first writing project; a piece of middle grade fiction inspired by her love of medieval history and children’s fantasy literature. http://thecharminghermit.blogspot.co.uk/

Out of the Shadows

I said a report-back would happen in spring and it’s official – March 21st has come and gone, tree buds are popping and longer days are starting to creep out of the shadows. Spring has sprung.

Unfortunately, revisions on my ms. aren’t yet done, though there has been progress. For a start, thanks to editorial support, I actually have a proper, real-live story arc. And that’s a first. You could say I’m almost, very nearly ‘there’. But the last bit is eluding me …

Having set the ms. aside for a couple of weeks, I yesterday had a read-through. Between that and some super-helpful feedback from someone in my SCBWI critique group (Go, Muddlegraders!!) I’m left with the sense that things need to move up a(nother) notch. The end (still) isn’t satisfying enough and one of my main characters needs to work (even) harder. Gnash.

In terms of self-publishing, I’ve totally pulled the brakes. There isn’t too much work to be done on the ms. but I will def. want to go down the agents route once the ink is dry because – who knows? – maybe the work I’ve done is what was needed to get the story from ‘rejected’ to ‘rejoiced’. Maybe? Gotta give it a try – although it is entirely possible that despite everything the story just isn’t ‘stand out’ enough for the market. Even then the self-pub brakes are on because with the research I’ve done so far I’ve realised the following:

1) Unless I stick to ebook but do go to print, then I need to be prepared to lose a certain amount of cash. Not huge bags of wonga, but something because the sums don’t add up into the black. They’re red all over.

2) I need to put in place some kind of sales/marketing strategy before I launch. And that’s going to take time even if I keep it simple, which is my most likely route.

In time-frames talk, I hope to finish revisions in the next very few weeks. Reckon I’ll give it until the Autumn to try and get an agent, at which point, assuming nobody has ‘bitten’, I’ll get down to self-pub nuts and bolts, with the aim to launch in Spring 2015. Yep, a whole year away! I’m sure it can be done more quickly … just not by me, it seems!

Guess there’s only one thing for me to do right now and that’s, yep, you guessed it … crawl back into the shadows …

Thanks for reading!

Larisa x

Hands In The Air

The fact is I don’t multi-task well.

Actually – making dinner while hanging up laundry, talking on the phone and sending a quick text seem to work fine (apart from those times the mobile ends up on a hot cycle) but when it comes to writing, other rules apply.

Now, in case anyone is wondering what this has to do with self-publishing, I’m heading to a nifty back-track … Remember my self-publication goal of September/October time? No? I didn’t think so. But see, now I’ve reminded you and have to ‘fess up. Because that deadline was bold, brash and totally bonkers. Not that it seemed it at the time. Not until I went and did the “responsible” self-publishing thing and got an(other, “one-last-time”) editor … which leads me to the bit where I waffle on, as I seem to have done often before, about how the feedback was good (honest), very positive (really), that only problems I already knew about were pointed out (I knew, I knew), and that it’s really no biggie that it will take weeks (months?) for me to make the edits. No biggie? Well that’s a bit of a lie because much as I love the book and am absolutely committed to getting the best possible version down on paper – really??? I’m not done yet????? Breathe …

Anyway, that’s how I felt before going on holiday … but now I’m back, full of beans and raring to go. And that brings me to the multi-tasking issue, because the fact is I can’t seem to think about self-publishing when I’m thinking about edits. Partly this is a time issue, but mostly it’s to do with brain space. So I’m going to put down the blog, stop doing research and focus on the manuscript.

To anyone who has been reading this with a view to self-publishing themselves, I would say … sorry, it’s going to be a while. How long? I don’t know. My aim is to finish the next draft by the autumn half term (yes, my work and writing life fits around the school calendar). But a sudden rush of paying work may affect this. Let’s see. When it’s done I want to send it back to the editor and then, who knows? Hopefully it won’t take too much longer to get it into its final shape. The important thing is getting it right and I’m not going to rush – thought after seven years the word “rush” really doesn’t come into it …

So, hands up the person that is now thinking publication will be Spring 2014 at best! Er, yes, that’ll be me …

Larisa x

The Wall

Oops. Plans to report back on relative costs of offset printing as opposed to Print On Demand have gone a little awry. It’s a time thing; it’s a child off school thing; probably it’s a summer sun, nearly-going-on-holiday thing  … I promise it’s not a hangover from last week’s blog thing (see “Kerching!”). But if I’m honest, it’s mostly a hitting the wall thing.

I knew it would happen at some stage and in some ways it’s quite incredible that it hasn’t happened sooner, but it’s hit hard and I’ve fallen into that pit of writer-ly despair connected to “why am I doing this?”, “why don’t I just go and have fun instead of trying to write a book and get it published?”.

Can you tell that I’ve started work on editing the manuscript?

Yes, I have. And somehow I’ve hit a major wall of self-doubt and anxiety.

It’ll pass, I know, been here before, got a T-shirt in all the colours including dirty grey, but it doesn’t get any easier with repetition. If anything it seems to get more difficult because more time has gone past and the cycle is still the same.

This time, I’ve become consumed with the idea that I haven’t actually written the book I originally set out to write – in some ways it’s there, but in others it’s … missing. Maybe lost on the cutting-room floor of countless past edits, or maybe I never quite managed to pin it down at all and it’s still buzzing round my head without actually ever having made it onto the computer.

It’ll pass – it does. And mostly I think what I need is a clear day with the manuscript, characters and ideas. I know where it I want to take it, but need to see how it’ll get there.

So – apologies if you logged in expecting some enlightenment on offset printing but I have no light to offer (I’ll take people’s word that it’s at the end of the tunnel).

I’m off on holiday, hoping to have some time to commune with my writing, certainly expecting to rest and breathe. And as I’m heading to Austria, it seems right that I should end by saying … “I’ll be back” …

… in September, likely with a summing up of where things have got to so far …

Larisa x