Updates: Number-Crunching & News

I was never one of those kids good at maths, hardly surprising, perhaps. It was humanities all the way for me. English Literature and Language, History and Art. Those were the subjects that kept me coming back for more. Not that I don’t like science, mind; I follow the science columns and feeds with the hungry wonder of a specfic writer; time-travelling particles, interconnected, micro-rhizomatic plants that can communicate with each other, the 5-year mission to Mars… But; I was just never very good at the sciency-bit.

Nonetheless, since self-publishing I have discovered the glory of spreadsheets. Or the necessity of spreadsheets. On this crazy adventure I need a method to track contacts, friendly souls, reviewers, and the like. Here’s my simplified process:

spreadsheetexample

 – I like to have a preferred-name column so I can add in their personal name, “Rich” or “Alice” for example, otherwise it seems a bit rude to just have an address!

– A space for their email – even if I have already saved it into an email contact group, because we all know how easily it is for computers and mail servers to crash!

– Website address if they have one, or want to share it with me.

– Date contacted so I can tell if I’m being lax in my responses.

– The Extra columns are for whatever personal group/list I am running. If it’s a reviewer group I might have headings like “ARC Sent?” with a Yes or No in each. Or maybe if it’s a more friendly group I could put in notes like “doesn’t want PDFs!”

And that’s it! Only time will tell if it’s a system that can work in the long term, but for my small starting-out process it’s all golden.

In other news, I decided to opt for TinyLetter for my newsletter service, purely for aesthetic reasons. I know that MailChimp is much bigger, and integrates directly into WordPress – but I like TinyLetter’s philosophy of free + simple. No costs; I doubt I will get over 2000 subscribers, and I like the minimal, text-centred approach. The only bugbear that I have with TinyLetter is that is DOESN’T send out an automatic “Welcome to the List” email, from what I gather :/

(Of course, I need more than 1 subscriber – otherwise I might just go back to sending personal emails from the author! 🙂 )

Other things, in no particular order that I’ve been up to:

Trying to get my Author Central profile up and running.

Organizing the pre-order for Hand of the Storm.

Contacting other indy fantasy writers to become a part of a guest-blog-post writing effort. (If you’re interested, then I would love to hear from you).

All of that leaves not a lot of time for actual writing, which I am very sore about. I’ve left the Quartermaster Gulbrand and Captain Tremaine in dire straits while I get on with some of the backroom work!

 

Why I’m An Indie Writer

meettheauthortag A few years ago a strange thing started happening in my life. Now, the world of a writer, especially a fantasy writer is always a little strange (you can’t steal fire from the faeries and not expect some comeback). But you learn to live with that sort of weird, you could even say that it is expected.

This was the other sort.

My family started expanding in number. First my sister had kids, and then my brother (or his wife did, anyway); and then they had some more, and now my Christmas list is a whole lot longer than it used to be.

I started thinking, as every disgraceful-writer-uncle does, about what sort of things I am leaving in the world.

I’ve Always Been A Writer.

Whether it was my younger fan out-takes of The Silmarillion, or my “other” official career (hush, no spoilers), writing has been something that I have always been doing. Sometimes I get paid for it, sometimes not.

When thinking about the sorts of things that I want to achieve, and leave in the world before I’m done – my first thought was books. Get that tale written, Iain. Get those characters out there. Share them with the others.

Indie Writing Offers You Control.

As an independent author, you have ultimate control over your story, your cover, your promotions, your release, your formatting (for better or worse!).

Other areas of the publishing world have different requirements – not to say that these are bad – they’re just different. They might be doing print runs in the thousands, they might be competing with some of the biggest named releases every cycle – all factors which mean they have to impose their own direction on the product.

With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility.

Of course, with all of that above artistic freedom comes the caveat: you’ve got to do all the work yourself! Or at least, hire the right people for the job yourself. This means time and money which most of us shoehorn in around our daily working lives – but it’s a chore that is also a labour of love, right? I like learning new things. I like improving my skills – and if that means spending hours, weeks, months learning how to use an image editing programme like Gimp, or html coding, then that’s all good. At the end of the day, you can look back at your book, website, community and go “yeah, I never thought I’d see it – but now it’s here!”

Indie Writing Keeps you Humble.

I remember listening to this little inspirational video once about writers, and the first thing it said was “You might worry that you’re being pretentious. Get over it. You’re a writer.” Which made me laugh out loud. The next thing it said was even more important: “Write a list of your favorite authors, and repeat a mantra every day: I am not Steinbeck. I am not Hemingway. I am not Stephen King. I am not…” you get the idea.

The great thing about indie writing – is that it is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s the story, and that’s it. It aims to please people, entertain them, punch ’em in the gut, or reach out to them in some way. If one person likes your story, or isn’t so bored for an afternoon, or smiles – then you’ve made it.

You’re in Great Company.

I love SF chapbooks. The sorts with lurid covers barely over 200 pages that were churned out in the fifties, sixties, all the way to the eighties. They wouldn’t call them indie writers back then but “pulp” writers (because so many of the books became pulp, and disregarded by the literary establishment), but I think that the modern indie shares a bit of the same DNA as these guys. Phillip K. Dick came up out of that field. Michael Moorcock. H.G. Wells, arguably, Sherlock. On the less masculine side of the fence you have Kate Wilhelm, Joanna Russ…

Community.

Indie authors and indie readers make great friends. Really. Go poke around the blogosphere for a bit and you’ll see what I mean. Now more than ever, the indie author doesn’t have to be starving in a garret, working three jobs and scribbling furiously in their spare time – or they do have to be doing all of that, but with a few clicks you are in touch with a whole community of other hard-working people who know what it’s like, and are willing to throw you high five’s or Vulcan salutes whenever called for.

…That is why I write indie fiction.