Tag Archives: books

Doing it for money

Living by creative work is a bit of a gamble, to say the least. Most of my working life I’ve had other jobs on the go as well – often also in publishing, because marketing and editing pay more reliably than writing does.

I spent this last year mostly working on my own stuff, when I wasn’t being horribly ill. Given the many rounds of being horribly ill, it’s as well I wasn’t trying to do much else! But, I gambled on a couple of things and it hasn’t worked out. This happens. Opportunities melt away, or turn out not to be as good as they looked. Currently the entire book industry is being sorely challenged by distribution issues, paper shortages and whatnot, especially in America. Royalty payments are down, because American book sales are really low right now.

What you earn as an author tends to depend on work you’ve done in previous years, and there’s often no knowing how long it will take for the work to lead to money. One of the advantages of self publishing is that you get the work out and sell it. Big publishers move slowly and can take years to make decisions. Graphic novels are slow to make, so the books we’re working on were first drafted ten years ago. With the series complete, that set of books will be more interesting to other publishers, and Sloth may be able to pitch it on – but who knows?

Once upon a time, I wrote a novel in six weeks because someone offered me something like a thousand pounds to do it, and that’s more money than I’d ever made from writing before that point. By the end of it, I had days where I was mostly just shaking and crying – multiple drafts of an 80k novel is a lot to do in six weeks and I didn’t sleep much. I didn’t do another one. I couldn’t have sustained it, although it turned out that my first husband thought I should have done.

I gambled and lost, this year. I lost money on an event where I really needed to come out ahead. Everything has been slower than I needed it to be. Releases are delayed. Various projects have been hit with problems and some things I’ve just had to rethink. Meanwhile energy costs, and food costs are set to rise. I have a safety net, but it’s finite, and shrinking. 

I spent New Year’s eve looking at local employment possibilities. I’ve done all kinds of work along the way, I have no qualms about jumping back in – shelf stacker or dinner lady maybe. My skills aren’t much use for conventional employment outside of publishing, I don’t have a car, and that means I’m pretty much obliged to look at minimum wage jobs if I can’t get the writing based work to pay. At one point a few years ago I was doing half a dozen small jobs to make ends meet, and it was tough. So, I was bracing myself to get back into all of that.

Much to my surprise, I find that instead I’m going to be writing a novel to a tight deadline and for a flat fee. I’ve got three books to read as a matter of some urgency, and I’m going to be flat out for the next eight to ten weeks. So if the blog is a bit brief, or sporadic, this will be why. But it will pay better than being a traffic warden, and I was going to have to lie on that application about how well I handle aggression and conflict situations…


Reading resolutions

I don’t track how many books I read in a year. Often my reading is pretty random, and informed by who wants a review from me. Sometimes I just go to the library and pick up random stuff I know nothing about. However, this last year I’ve been being a little more organised and as a result have come up with some reading goals.

I’m working my way through Jane Austin’s books. So far I’ve read Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion. I’m aiming to get Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park in the coming year. There’s an unfinished novel that I probably won’t explore.

I’m also working my way through the Brontes. I’ve already read Jane Eyre, Shirley, Villette, Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I have The Professor to go.

I’m planning to work my way through EM Forster’s novels. So far I’ve read A Room With A View and A Passage to India, leaving me Where Angels Fear to Tread, The Longest Journey, Howards End, and Maurice.

Last year I read the first part of the Japanese epic-classic – The Tale of Genji – I aim to read the rest of it, although I’m not expecting to manage that next year.

Otherwise my intention is to broaden my reading and pick up more classics in translation. Particularly with an eye to reading more classics that aren’t European in origin.


Book news

I have a number of exciting thnigs going on with books currently – all around the Hopeless Maine project.

Hopeless Maine is now published in America by Outland Entertainment, they’ve just released some prose fiction set on the island.

They’re re-releasing the whole comics series in large, hardbound volumes, and copies of those have started turning up.

We now also have copies of the penultimate book in the graphic novel series – which comes out officially early next year. we’ve started work on the last book in this story, and we do know what happens afterwards…

For those of you not familiar with this project…. Hopeless Maine is a creepy island, lost in time, somewhere off the American coast. It started life as a graphic novel series and has since spawned a role play game, tarot, live performance, prose fiction, poetry, songs, and a film project. It’s a gothic, steampunk sort of a thing, originally the idea of Tom Brown (to whom I am married) but it’s become a large, sprawling international community with all sorts of lovely people getting involved. You can find out more about it over here – https://hopelessvendetta.wordpress.com/


Pagan Dreaming

I’ve written a number of Pagan and Druid books, and of the ones published by Moon Books, Pagan Dreaming has been by far the least successful. It’s been out for years and has just broken through 500 sales. For perspective, the average book sells 3000 copies in its lifetime. Most of publishing does not look anything like those multi-million selling famous authors. For every massive international hit, there are many, many books that don’t even sell a hundred copies. 

Part of the problem is that there are a lot of dream books out there, it’s a really saturated corner of the market. Most dream books are either dictionaries of meaning, or are focused on teaching you how to control your dreams, and these are not things I’m interested in. Much of the motivation for writing the book came from wanting to offer alternatives to the x=y approach to dream symbolism, and the idea that control is the goal.

The trouble with publishing is the assumption that people want more of what they already have. It’s perhaps less of an issue in Pagan publishing because it’s still a new area and we haven’t established hard rules in the way some genres have. Long may it continue so. As a reader I am not even slightly interested in reading books that are just like some other books I’ve read. I want to be surprised. I want something different. This is one of the reasons I read a lot of books from indy authors and small publishing houses. 

Of course I’m not alone in this. Netflix are proving over and over that there is an audience for films and series that are not exactly like everything else. Books that are unusual can and do sell too.

The trouble is, that books, films, etc are all easier to sell if you can go ‘if you liked that other thing you’re going to love this.’ I’ve worked in marketing.  There’s an obvious attraction to things that you can easily see how to pitch and who to pitch to. But that doesn’t get you the best books, or the most original books or the books that could actually sell the most. If no one has done it before, you have no idea if this is the book everyone is waiting for. It could be. It might not be.

Some authors are amazing and brilliant, timely and trendsetting and deserve every success. Some authors are successful because they’re really good at figuring out what people want from them and how to pitch it. Some authors are simply lucky, and catch the zeitgeist in some way. Some authors keep churning out the same thing and get enough marketing support and sell far more copies than perhaps they deserve to. It’s not a meritocracy. 

I prefer to take risks, write things that interest me and hope for the best. I’ve tried to be commercially oriented, and frankly I don’t do that well. There are enough people who like what I do for it to feel worth doing. That’s enough. 

If you’re the sort of person who is interested in your dream life, but also heartily sick of dream dictionaries and you don’t see lucid dreaming as the goal of your dream life… I may have a book for you and you can find out more about it over here… https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/moon-books/our-books/pagan-dreaming


Books and blogs

As well as writing this blog, I also write books. Most of the Pagan ones are published by Moon Books, with the exception of Druidry and the Future, which is over on ko-fi – https://ko-fi.com/s/6f6d37772a

You may be wondering what the relationship between the books and the blog is. If you read the blog, is there any point reading the books, especially given that most of them are for sale (Druidry and the Future is free).

There are bits of my books on the blog, if you search for excerpts. There are ideas that started here and that I’ve since expanded on and developed. Those are scattered around. There is, for example, a Pagan Pilgrimage category where I occasionally play with ideas around this subject. At some point there may well be a book, but that will come from an assimilation of the experiences I’ve blogged about here, and there will be a lot more to it than these first forays.

At the moment I am writing a Druidry and the Darkness book over on Patreon, with new and otherwise unavailable content each month. https://www.patreon.com/NimueB That’s in the Bards and Dreamers category, which also gives you a poem every month and my singing the wheel of the year content. What goes up there is some of the first draft content, so there will be more in the final book. It’s also an opportunity to engage more in my writing process, get the finished pdf before anyone else (when we get there) make suggestions and the such.

What I don’t do, have never done and will never do is take content from the blog and recycle it into books and then charge for it. The books are written as books, with a considered structure and the kind of oversight and integrity that you can’t have if things are cobbled together in 500 word chunks off the cuff. Blogs are, by their nature a bit limited and superficial, there’s always more to say. A book is the better vehicle for digging in to a subject and exploring it in more depth and breadth. For some readers, an easily digestible thought is much more helpful than a hefty tome, and for others, the digging in is preferable so hopefully this mixed approach works for more people.


Free Books

For some time now, I’ve been giving away pdfs of my self-published work. As many of you have followed the blog since I started doing that, you may not have seen all of these and you might want to get in for them.

At present I have 4 pdfs in my ko-fi store. They’re ‘pay what you like’ and it is totally fine not to pay anything if you are short of money. if you want to drop something in the hat that’s lovely and it helps me stay viable while giving work away, which is a win all round I think.

First Image

Mapping the Contours – poetry with strong landscape themes. https://ko-fi.com/s/8e7caa2cfc

First Image

Druidry and the future – non-fiction https://ko-fi.com/s/6f6d37772a

First Image

How to Unpeel a monster -poetry with themes of identity and being unacceptable https://ko-fi.com/s/6c04e1cb8c

First Image

Wherefore series 1 – daftness, animism, magic, https://ko-fi.com/s/2241a51430


The writing life

Like many writers, I knew from as soon as I could clutch a pencil that writing was a thing I wanted to do. As a child, I wrote poetry and short stories. I fantasised about what it would mean to be an author – I think that’s common too. As I sauntered into my teens, I spent more time thinking about what I wanted to write than thinking about wanting to be an author, and I kept writing the poetry and the short stories.

It may be worth mentioning that I wanted to be a musician, too. I wanted to be Batman, I thought teaching might be interesting, I knew from as far back as I could remember that no one thought ‘author’ was a viable and sensible career path and that I’d need to keep my options open. When I was a kid it was far more feasible to be a full time professional author than it is now.

I wrote my first novel in my teens – I knew it wouldn’t be good or publishable, I just wanted the experience of putting down that many words and to get to know what a novel meant from the inside. I studied Literature at Uni, and I kept writing, poetry, short stories, novels. By the time I was in my early twenties I had a rejection slip from every major UK publisher.

At about this time I became bored with writing versions of myself and started paying more attention to other people, and what I could learn about the world. I think this is a really important shift in the life of any fiction author, although it doesn’t happen to everyone. We all start by playing out our personal fantasies, but good books usually require more than that.

I had a lot of fiction published in my twenties – mostly as ebooks in what was then a fledgling industry. I’d have to make an effort to figure out how many novels I’ve written, but, it’s a lot of novels. And of course I had that fantasy that I’d write a novel and it would naturally find its audience and magic things would happen. It isn’t like that, and finding an audience has taken time, and I’m still very small and obscure in the grand scheme of things. Success is a heady blend of luck and persistence, assuming you have something people want to read.

I got into writing non-fiction in my thirties, first with blogging and magazine articles, and then later with Pagan books. That’s been interesting to add to the mix and I enjoy doing it, but fiction remains my main passion. I’ve sauntered into graphic novel writing, game scenarios, and film scripts, and have no real plan for how any of this is supposed to develop.

Like most writers, I don’t earn anything like enough to live in. A reasonably successful author – full time, professional and with a mid-tier contract at a large publishing house, can aspire to make £10k a year. This is not generally considered to be good money in any other context. So I write poetry, and short stories, novels, graphic novels, scripts, and all the rest of it, and I work alongside that to stay afloat. I’m greatly helped by Patreon support (https://www.patreon.com/NimueB ). I’m ok with not being affluent, I’ve never been affluent, I have infamously low standards and limited interest in material culture. But, it makes me cross and unhappy that arts industries are increasingly structured so that only people who are funded by other means can participate – people with good pensions, supportive spouses, inheritance, and the like. It keeps the poorer folk out, it makes it hard for anyone not well enough to work a day job and create as well.  I don’t want creativity to be a hobby for the rich, I want it to be a viable line of work for those with talent and passion.


Druidry and…

Many years ago, when I sat down to write Druidry and Meditation I imagined that I might do a whole series of books that were Druidry and… titles. It seemed a good way in. I went on the write Druidry and the Ancestors, and then lost my nerve and did a couple of books as ‘pagan’ instead.  Druidry is a bit of a niche, and publishing books in an ongoing way rather depends on selling books. It doesn’t help that I’m not a great self-publicist, although I’m trying to do better with that. Hence this blog post and any others like it.

Introductory books tend to get the best sales. I for one, am bored with generic introductions to Paganism and Druidry, I’ve been doing this for far too long. There’s little joy in reading it and there is no amount of money that would make me want to write it. It’s also easier to pitch books that promise people quick and easy solutions to their needs, and that’s never attracted me either. So be it.

This year I wrote Druidry and the Future – I am back to that original Druidry and…. plan and I am happier for making that choice. I have a new Druidry and…. title in mind to start working on in the autumn. I self-pubbed the future one because there’s a nine month and more lead time in publishing with Moon Books and I felt I needed to move with this now. But the next one I will try with my publisher first.

Things have been fairly quiet on the Druid books side in recent years. I’m excited by new work from Andrew Anderson – whose The Ritual of Writing came out this year, and who has another very exciting project in the pipeline. But on the whole, there haven’t been many new Druid books I’m excited about for some time. Until this spring, I hadn’t felt excited about trying to write anything, either.

My gut feeling is that Druidry has needed some quiet time. We’re moving beyond Very Important Druids and big names with big claims. This is good. I think what’s coming next will be a greater diversity of voices, and ideas, with less authority. This may not be the best outcome for book selling, but it is definitely the best outcome for Druidry.

Anyone who wants to talk about getting started as an author, or taking the next step (wherever you are with things) is always welcome to contact me. If I like what you do, then I’ll do what I can to help you navigate the publishing options and I’ll be here to promote your work when it comes out. I may be a lousy self-publicist, but when I’m excited about a book, I am an enthusiastic champion. It’s so much easier to do that with other people’s work!


Out of love with novels

I read novels of course – usually one or more in any given week. I read widely in different genres, historical and contemporary. I’ve read disposable comfort fiction, although most of the time I prefer to be surprised. I’ve read the self-proclaimed literary stuff, although most of the time I prefer the work of thoughtful people who want to entertain their readers. One way and another, I have spent much of my adult life thinking about books, and novels most especially.

Child me wanted to be a novelist and wrote a lot of short stories. Teenage me wanted to be a novelist and started trying to write novels and novellas. Twenty something me got quite a lot of novels written and published as ebooks. Somewhere in my thirties I slowed down. I lost the drive, the passion and the love that had kept me writing and for a long time I wasn’t sure what was wrong. Yes, the industry sucks, and it is nigh on impossible to make enough money to live on. But, suffering for art, and putting your creativity ahead of profitability and doing it for love, and knowing there are at least a few people who appreciate what I write – that should have been enough, surely?

It’s taken me until the last few days to realise a few things. I have not ceased to love books and novels. I have not ceased to love storytelling. I am not out of ideas, and I am not out of creative impulses. I just don’t enjoy writing conventional novels anymore. The form itself no longer speaks to me as a creator. Looking back over my last few projects (stalled and languishing) I can now see what the common thread is. I can see my own resistance to the form, my trying to push for something else and not knowing what it was, much less how to do it.

There is a fledgling form, somewhat akin to the Japanese light novel – a form mixing prose, illustration and sequential art. It’s a young form, there are no hard rules about how it is supposed to work. I’m excited about it. I think it would free me up to find new ways of presenting and exploring stories, worlds and characters. It would allow me to work collaboratively with my husband, and it would mean if we shift to this form, that he isn’t spending 6 months a year full time on graphic novels. We’re going to do the two remaining books in the Hopeless Maine graphic novel arc, and then that may be it for us with big comics projects. We’d have more time, we could tell a story faster and with more depth and breadth than comics allow. We could tell stories with more visual interest and with all the artistic magic a regular novel does not permit. We can have fun with this.

It’s going to be an adventure!

 


Hopeless Victims

A few days ago, copies of Hopeless Maine Victims landed at my door. For those of you who haven’t been following my exploits for long, an explanation… I do a gothic/steampunk graphic novel series called Hopeless Maine. I do most of the writing and I now also colour it. The artist and originator of the island setting is my husband – Tom. We got together through working on this.

I admit I was anxious – this is the second graphic I’ve coloured and the first time I’ve worked on all the art for a Hopeless book. I coloured chapters and two pages spreads in Sinners, but that didn’t quite feel the same. On the whole, I’m pleased with it. There’s an inevitable process whereby you know more at the end of a book than you did at the start, but the only thing to do is accept it – if a person tried to re-write, draw or colour a book the same thing would happen at the revision stage and the book would never be finished… Deciding when a thing is good enough is never a comfortable process.

This book represents a significant chunk of my working life last year. I learned a lot – and not just the experience of colouring. I learned what my hands cannot take. For the next book we will be moving at a slower pace so as to put less pressure on my hands and give me options on music and crafting. I have the willpower and discipline to push a hurting body and keep working, but that doesn’t make it a good idea! Just because I can doesn’t mean I should.

This weekend we had some of the two page spreads from the new book out at an event – the coloured images are definitely stronger for display than the black and white ones – much as I love Tom’s original pencils. I’ve gone from starting early last autumn anxious about messing up his drawings to feeling reasonably confident that I’m adding something good to the mix.

We’ve got two more books to do to complete the story I first created more than a decade ago. (Tom’s been working on this idea for much longer.) It’s been through a lot of developments since then, and the process of evolving work over that time frame has been interesting. What happens after the final book I’m not sure – the project has expanded with more people coming in to explore it, including music, and a role play game. I’m going to be working more on the role play game soon – which I’m very much looking forward to. I don’t know what happens next, and I’m looking forward to discovering that in the company of fellow explorers.

Hopeless is easy to get in the UK – any bookselling site is likely to carry all three titles – The Gathering, Sinners and Victims. You may see copies of Personal Demons and Inheritance – these are both in The Gathering and we don’t get any money if you buy them as separate titles.

If you are outside the UK, your best bet is Book Depository with its free worldwide delivery…

The Gathering 

Sinners

Victims