Monday 23 November 2015
There is a wonderful Tumblr blog called letterstothrive which has disabled woman write to their younger selves. I decided to send a letter to my fifteen year old self (posted here), as a way to show her, and me, how far I have come and how becoming disabled at nineteen and having what I thought would be my future changed, did not destroy me, or my plans. I may not have known it at the time, but even back then I was doing what would become my career. I decided to share it here in case other indie authors fancy doing something similar, especially if they are also disabled.
Dear fifteen year old Joey,
I'm you, from nearly two decades into the future and I'm writing to tell you things that may not have seemed that important to you, but ended up changing the course of our lives. You're probably reading this while working on chapters for that story. Maybe you're with B and writing the story about the twins. I know one thing is for certain, you are very sure about where your life is going and what comes next in your path. I'm writing to tell you that you're wrong.
Right now, you'll have nearly finished your first GCSE year. Your lungs are getting worse, but you figure it's just the stress and upset of being a teenager. You know that you need to do well on the science exams because you plan to become a doctor - a paediatrician to be exact. You're probably wondering how that went. Well, it's a long story, but I have the time, so here we go.
You do well in your GCSE's, you get the grades you need to go to college and you do just that. You sign up for the A-level classes you need to go to medical school, but then things start to go a little wrong. Your health isn't the best and due to a number of other circumstances you end up dropping out of college. For a long time you feel like you've let your parents down, let yourself down but you hide it by throwing yourself into the working world. Your dream seems to be over before it's even started and for a long time, you struggle to find out exactly what it is you want to do with your life.
Even though you find yourself a good job, you don't stay there long. A year later and with the additional diagnoses of M.E and Fibromyalgia, you find yourself under the heading of "medically retired." I know that for a long time after that you're not really sure what to do with your life. I mean, you have to move out of the room you rented, back in with mum, and then move again. You fight to get the benefits you need to be able to live and for a fair few years you are not stable medically. By the time you hit twenty - five years from now - you'll be using a wheelchair.
It's not all bad, B turns out to be the best friend you always knew she was and together life goes on, but still you ask yourself what can you do with your life? How can you become a "productive member of society"? You are not well enough to go back into the working world, but you have dreams of doing *something*. You're just not sure what. That's when it comes to you, to work on one of the stories you wrote all those years ago. You've gone back to it before, re-writing and hoping that you can make it as good as it can be. You also find you have more ideas, some that have been brewing for almost as long. Remember the coma girl story you told B about on the way to school when we were thirteen? Well, that becomes your focus now. You write it in ten days and suddenly, that feeling of pride that you'd missed came back.
As more stories appeared, you settled into your own routine of writing. You even sent off manuscripts to publishing houses. You are desperate to get published, and you do, at age twenty-three, your first book is released. It's a massive achievement for you, as you've gotten more books written, your health has declined. Now B is taking care of you, and you are an inseparable pair. I'm sorry to say that only one other friend stays in contact with you from your school days, but you find that you have a lot of friends online and although some go, others stay.
I'm writing to you now as thirty-three year old Joey. I, well we, have seven books published, twelve completed and two more on the go. There will be a launch for our eighth book this autumn. You are also very much disabled. The chair started as an only long distance thing, and then you became sicker and it became a constant need for you. I know that you, at the age you are now, may struggle with knowing what this future holds for you, but I can tell you this. You are happy. You love your job, love writing, adore the community of indie authors you're a member of and you are good at what you do. You may not yet be on the best sellers list - maybe the letter from the future for me will arrive any day now saying that is to come - but people do like and cherish the work you do. Your disability is just another part of the identity you have made for yourself, just part of you like the colour of your eyes is part of you. It's not to be feared, but to be embraced.
You may wonder why I'm writing this letter, if the future changes so much from what we thought it would be all that time ago. I'm writing to tell you that even the small decisions you made at fifteen, still influenced who you became. You graduated last year from the Open University with an honours degree in Health & Social Care. It's not medical school, but it's still something you love. I know that at fifteen, life seemed to be just one path, but I'm telling you that it's not. It's a myriad of paths and they all end up in different places. The diagnoses and getting sick led me down this path and I don't look back and see missed opportunities, but highlights of my life that I wouldn't change. While I may never have seen that one day I would be the person I am, I'm telling you that you will be, and you'll be proud of that too.
So, keep writing those stories, some will be buried in my attic for years and never spoken of again, but others become books and they help shape your career even if you don't think so at the time. Don't be scared of getting sicker, it happens and you come through it strong. Be nicer to Mum too, she becomes our biggest supporter in the darker times coming, I know you want to take control of things, but try to remember that she does it not to baby you, but because she cares.
I'll see you soon.
Love and *squishes*
Joey (age 33)
Thursday 12 November 2015
Approaching Blogs For Reviews
As I've talked about before (pieces from here & here), one of the many issues of being published as an indie author is that you do the majority of the work. You should be farming out your editing, proof-reading and other aspects like that, but the rest of it pretty much falls on your shoulders. It's not an easy task, and it's one of the reasons many people chose not to go the indie route, or if they do, they pay for other people to be in charge of the promotional side of things. For some of us, that just isn't an option and so, here my advice about how to approach people for reviews for your work.
Every writer needs reviews. It's a way for people to judge whether or not your work is something they want to read; after all, they are spending money and the general aim of reading is to escape to an imaginary world and people like to know in advance if your world is the one for them. I know that a lot of people in my author circle are constantly on the look-out for reviewers and I am no different. I have contacted so many different people and had wildly different rates of success when asking for a review. It's all about making contacts (a subject I discuss here) and using other resources to make sure that you can get as many reviews and as much feedback as you need to get your name out there and sell some books.
There are numerous websites that you can go to and look for book bloggers who will possibly review your work. I use one mostly for indie authors, which is quite good and has a very full database. It called Indie Book Reviewer and can be found here. They've got a whole bunch of blogs and you're able to browse by genre. I've combed through those and then gone on to fill out a spreadsheet of my own so that I can keep track of which sites I've contacted and their responses. Googling the same will probably bring up some other book blogs. So, now you have the information you need, what do you do when you are ready to contact the blogs themselves?
Simple really, make sure you ALWAYS read the review policy. Some blogs have a full list, or they only accept either paperbacks or e-books. Others will only read certain genres. Others have a specific way for you to contact them, a form to fill out or an email to send and all of them want some kind of information. Some will want you to submit your e-book or a sample along with your enquiry email and not doing so makes you look bad. So, step one, before you even think of opening an email is to read their policy. Make sure you meet their requirements and have all that you need to send them a request.
The second thing is to be polite. I know, right? Like who would be rude to someone when you're the one asking for a favour? I dunno, but it happens, so you need to be sure to ask nicely and say please and thank you and all that other stuff you learnt in primary school. The other thing is to be aware that they probably receive a huge number of requests. There simply isn't enough time for someone to read every book that they get a request for, and there's also the fact that some people just won't like or be interested in your work. That's not saying that it's bad, just that they read the blurb or info and decided it wasn't for them. It happens, move on.
It would also be good to prepare yourself for the fact that due to the volume of their requests, they might not get back to you quickly...or at all. If they've read the email and decided that it's not for them and they have another fifty requests, there also isn't time to shoot you an email saying so. Accept that and move on from them to the next site. Another big thing is to not bombard them with emails until they reply. Make the first contact, and wait. If they get back to you, then yes, you should respond in a timely manner, but if they don't? Keep waiting and/or assume they weren't interested. It's pretty much the way it goes. Always be polite and always keep it professional.
The last thing is just simply that sometimes there will be people who give you low scoring review. Basically a "bad" review. My thoughts on the matter are there are no such things as bad reviews. Yeah, you can get a one star, but as long as it's not directly attacking you, then it's just a fact of life. You can't please everyone and you won't please everyone. What appeals to one person may not appeal to another and a one star review may well be the thing that makes another potential reader say "yes, this is the book for me!" Book bloggers are promoting you for free, in their own time, and you can't demand that they provide you with a five star review just because it's your work. Learn from it, take whatever feedback they have and move on with your writing. Reviews are there to help you, to make you a better writer as well as to guide other people in which books they buy. So, always be polite, and always be professional. If you remember these two rules, then you're on the right track. Your mileage may, of course, vary.
Follow Joey on Facebook or here on her blog to be kept up to date on the latest news regarding Joey and her books.
Monday 2 November 2015
For as long as I've been a writer, I've always been drawn to the month of November and the great NaNoWriMo event that goes on through it. I've never taken part, mostly because I can't write that way. I applaud those who do though, and for a while I've thought about doing something to get myself back into writing consistently. So this year, I decided to do my own version of NaNoWriMo: One page of writing each day for the whole of November.
For those unaware, NaNo stands for National Novel Writing Month. The main idea is to write 50K words in a month and therefore finish a novel. Started in 1999 by a small group of people in San Francisco, it has become a massive world-wide yearly event for all kinds of writers. (More History caan be found here.) Even back before I was published, it was still this big thing that a lot of my friends did online and I always wondered if I ever would. Although I have written a novel in ten days (admittedly, it falls below the 50K word count), I have never been able to repeat that endeavour and even then, it was far from finished. Once it went through the battle to get published, editing and all, it was a good four years before I held the book in my hands. I can understand the attraction of dedicating a whole month to nothing more than getting that long thought-out novel onto the page.
My own writing has become somewhat of a career since I became indie in 2011 and went on to add seven more books to the published list. Once I realised that I wasn't going to be able to work a conventional job, it became easier to dedicate time to writing. For a while it was on the back burner because of my degree course, but having held a BA (Hons) for over a year now, I do wonder why I don't spend more time at my desk pounding out the pictures in my head for the books I'm working on. The argument can be made that given I've had three surgeries this year and am looking at a possible fourth, it's understandable that I've not written more. Yet, I still want to push myself. Even on my worst health days, I still use my tablet, and with my nifty desk and bluetooth keyboard I can easily write a page. So, that's my plan for this month.
My hope is that given we're on November 2nd and I've already written five pages and completed a chapter, I won't be coming back to this blog post in a week and telling you all I managed my set chapters and nothing more. My hope is that by pushing myself just a little to write that one page will mean that some days it's all I write and others, I keep going. It's about getting into the flow of writing and the story, something I've not been doing much of lately. We'll see how it goes! Keep track on my Tsu, Facebook and Twitter pages.
I do have some good news for you, Blackout, Lynne & Hope, Waiting On You, and Dying Thoughts book two and three are all now available in paperback! I'm hoping to have the fourth Dying Thoughts book out soon but there were some issues with the cover and my artist is working hard on fixing those now. I hope it will be by the end of the month, but we'll have to wait and see. As for the remaining two books, those are awaiting cover revamps before being released in paperback. Maybe even by the beginning of 2016!
So, here's to a month of writing!