Guest Post Wednesday!

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Jumping From Cliffs is delighted today to bring you a guest post from the marvellous, magical and magnificent Mr. Andrew Toynbee. You may already be aware of Andrew’s insightful and humorous blog – if not, you most definitely should get acquainted. Soon. On a topic which is insanely relevant to anyone writing in 2013, I asked Mr. T why he decided to self-publish his first novel and here’s what he said…

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asifthebes skys the limit

Why I Chose to Self-Publish rather than doing it the Hard Way.

I appreciate that there is a flavour of irony in the above title – as anyone who has self-published will affirm.

*Pauses for flurry of nods*

The fact is, like many other writers, I once considered self-publishing to be the lowly sibling; the Frank Stallone, the Adam Baldwin, the Brian Murray…well, you get the idea. For nigh on a year, I dismissed the idea of being an indie and religiously (and with growing desperation) submitted query letters to every genre-relevant agency in the country, receiving enough reject notes with which to wallpaper my bathroom.

That’s not something I’m planning to do, by the way.

But, one dark and stormy evening in mid-June (I did say that I lived in England, didn’t I?) as I stared at rejection number 48 of 102 (I only ever received replies from half of the agencies I contacted), it occurred to me that even if the note I was holding had said ‘YES – send us your MS now!!’, it would most likely be a year to eighteen months before my work wriggled out of its chrysalis to flutter its still-damp pages for the first time.

Eighteen months? Sheesh. When I began my novel in early 2010, there was only one other angel romance novel listed on Amazon. One.

I felt the cold chill of time upon my bones. By the time eighteen months had passed, my supernatural romance novel could be as out of date as Homer’s Illiad – or at least find itself swamped by a plethora of similar titles.

I had to act.

That was when I began to pay attention to what other bloggers were saying about self-publishing. Naturally, there were arguments both for and against. One site branded self-publishing ‘the lazy option’; others said it was the new way to go.

In addition to the arguments, a growing set of statistics begged for consideration;

In 2008, 1 million eReaders were sold; in 2009, over 3.6 million shifted. In 2010 that number was expected to triple (it topped between 10 and 12 million, although figures vary). 2011 saw over 27 million sold.* It seemed that we were living in a new age. To continue to embrace the traditional publishing methods, at least at this stage of the game, began to feel like folly.

I know the link below is now out of date (although it was relevant to me at the time), but seeing it again recently helped to remind me exactly why I went down the self-publishing route.

Harper Voyager Announces Global Digital Publishing Opportunity

At the time, the whole process suddenly struck me as archaic; a throwback idea from Dickensian times that was now struggling to compete with the new kid on the block – the eBook.

Now, I mean no disrespect to other bloggers and authors who are still having their work published in this way. I accept the fact that if the opportunity had arisen, I would have done the same – and I would have been happy with it. However, once I’d switched tracks and seriously considered going it alone (Alone? That’s another story!), I was totally committed to the idea of creating an eBook. Although I have pretty much given up on the idea of traditional publishing, it’s still in the back of my mind that one day I may;

  1. pick up where I left off and begin querying all over again or
  2. receive a call from some eager employee of an agency or publisher who has spotted my eBook.

But to be honest, the idea of meeting agents, publishers, booksellers and touring the country to promote my work holds little appeal. I’ve seen what Jenna Burtenshaw has had to do, visiting bookshops on a whistle-stop tour of the UK to promote her books – and as a self-confessed introvert, the idea still fills me with mild dread. I remain happy to churn out words and answer queries from the comparative safety of the WorldWideWeb. Not to mention the fact that I am rarely in my home county, never mind my home town because of my day job.

That said, the thrill of holding an actual bona-fide paper book in one’s hands brings with it a magic that no eBook can match. For those of us who grew up with real books (and it’s sad to think that picture books and bedtime stories may one day be purely electronic), who hasn’t dreamed of seeing their own words slumbering beneath a paper cover, ready to delight, amuse or terrify? But that’s an indulgence for another day. In the late summer of 2012, I was committed to self-publishing. The critic who branded self-publishing as the ‘lazy option’ had obviously never tried it for himself. Considering that traditional publishing comes as a package that includes proofreaders, several editors, a cover artist and a bank of publicists, the self-publisher must rely on their own collection of hats in order to perform all of these duties.

There is also the small stumbling block that the format of the eBook has to be considered and that when one is chosen, it must be converted. True, Smashwords will perform part of that task, but their requirements that the MS must meet certain formatting conditions has dismayed many would-be authors. I won’t go into the virtual nuts and bolts about what is involved with this as many a post has been written already and can be covered again at another time. Suffice to say that the challenge is not insurmountable – but then neither is Everest. That doesn’t mean it isn’t an uphill struggle (gonna wring everything I can out of this metaphor!), but with the right kind of help, summit can be achieved (alright… who groaned?)

As if there weren’t already enough obstacles in the way of producing a good book!

That said, if it was a simple matter for everyone who said, ‘I always thought about writing a book’ to publish, the market would be flooded with half-thought-out drivel that was badly formatted and not worth the ePaper it was electrophoretically printed on. No, only the determined and the dedicated can navigate the ‘lazy option.’ For the moment, that’s a good thing.

If, after reading this, you are still keen on the idea of self-publishing, there are clouds of bloggers (is that a good collective term?) who have been there, done that. All of us have received assistance in some form or another, even if it’s just a pointer (no, not the dog) or inspiration.

It’s a bright new age – embrace it.

My heartfelt thanks to all who have helped me to become part of the ePublishing world.

keep calm

*source; ElectronicsWeekly.com, Geek.com and FT.com

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Famous Authors

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Gratuitous use of Mark Twain

Gratuitous use of Mark Twain

Woosh!

That’s the sound of my world at the moment.

Woosh!

There it goes again.

I’m being notable by my absence and hoping you don’t feel too neglected. I am writing and editing and polishing like a demon at the moment, leaving me zero time for much else. There is a reason for all this activity, which I shall divulge in due course…

But for now, I just wanted to pop by, give you all a wave and share this absolute cracker of a site which I should have discovered way before now. It does exactly what it says on the tin!

It’s about famous authors, nothing more, nothing less and it’s a great spot for a bit of a Friday afternoon perusal. Enjoy!

Woosh!

The Ton-Up Club

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ImageIt’s been a very exciting week here at Jumping From Cliffs.

My little blog officially gained its 100th follower!

What can I say?? Apart from “Woooooooo-hoooooooo!! How terribly splendid!”

100 eh? Goodness. Actually 104 now, as I’ve been a little lax in posting about it – put that down to a birthday, a house falling into the sea, woolly mammoths and a spot of pirating.

Scarce did I imagine when I made my first-ever post on the 23rd of May last year that even one single solitary soul would ever take the time to read it. Now there are over 100 in under a year.

To say that I am highly honoured and flattered would be an understatement of some magnitude.

I’d like to say a gigantic Thank You to each and every one of you. I’d come round to each of your houses in person with a cup of tea and a piece of cake if I could.

Whether you’re a Lurker & Liker who pops in, has a read, nods appreciatively then scampers wordlessly off again, or a Committed Commenter who takes the time to engage with the posts and leaves me encouragement, inspiration and motivation, I love you all.

This journey would have got nowhere near this far without all of your support and I would never have met some of the truly outstanding talents and all-round bloomin’ lovely people that I have.

You lot are ace, you know that?

Give yourselves all a hug from me and, on the count of 3 chant in unison: “We’re splendid!!”

Ready? 1, 2, 3…

The Twilight Zone (or “A Tale Of Weirdness”)

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I met another writer the other evening.

He was a generally affable chap, if somewhat over-fond of the sound of his own voice. Fair enough though, I’m sure most of us are prone to waxing lyrical about our literary endeavours after a glass or two of falling-down juice.

For around half an hour, we had a pleasant (if rather one-sided) and wide-ranging conversation in which we most eruditely expounded upon the great literary topics of our enlightened age.

The obligatory and ubiquitous themes of: “Whither traditional publishing in the age of the ‘indie’ self-publisher?”, “Is a professional editor a necessity?” and “Don’t get me started on Fifty Shades of Mummy-Porn Tosh” were debated, discussed and deliberated.

Then it got weird.

No, that doesn’t quite do it justice.

Then it got WEIRD.

That’s better. Add your own wavery elongated vowels in the middle and it’ll be even closer to the mark.

I chanced to ask the chap’s opinion on eReaders versus lovely papery ink-smelling books with pictures on the front. As usual, I prefaced the question with the fact that, until someone creates an eReader that smells like a book, I’m sticking with books. Nothing against eReaders, you understand, just a personal preference.

In the space of a nano-second, the affable would-be author standing before me transmogrified into a wild-eyed, slavering beast, his unruly hair billowing manically like the unfurled sails of a galleon in a typhoon. He stared at me in horror, as if I had somehow metamorphosed, Gregor Samsa-like, into a 6-foot beetle with the sole intention of devouring his children.

“You cannot,” he bellowed, saliva whirling globbily across the room with the force of his insanity, “be a writer today unless you read on an eReader!!”

I understood the individual words, the syntax and the grammar, but combined in that particular order, they made as much sense as if he had claimed: “You cannot ride a zebra unless you have a goldfish bowl.”

Mopping myself down with a handkerchief, I attempted to clarify matters. Did he, perhaps mean that it is imperative that one releases an eBook version? That I would agree with. Could it be that he was alluding to the necessity of understanding how to technically format a novel for the medium? Again, total agreement on my part.

But no, dear readers, far from it. Once more he raved, equally forcefully and with added twitching.

“You cannot be a writer if you do not read on an eReader!!” His hands furled into fists of rage and a vein in his forehead began to throb in a most alarming manner.

At this point I remembered an entirely fictitious train I was about to miss, made my excuses and left, using the same trying-not-to-run motion employed by anyone walking down a dark alley in the early hours telling themselves that werewolves don’t actually exist.

Is it just me?

As far as I’m concerned, it’s the words that matter. The medium of delivery is secondary, surely? Write them on paper, project them on the wall, scratch them in sand or train starlings to arrange themselves in formation across an azure sky.

The words we use and the world, the emotions, the truths they conjure up in a reader’s imagination is the first, the only, the be-all-and-end-all to a writer’s purpose. To subjugate that to the vehicle used to impart the words is, I would contend, a heinous triumph of form over content.

I would love to know your views. Does he have a point? Am I simply a Luddite? Am I missing something?

Not the thumbscrews!

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Writer meeting agent

Hello gang, remember me?

It’s been almost two months since my last post, due to an unfortunate boatload of Crazy that beached at my door. Not only has it kept me from this fine endeavour, it has also entirely scuppered my New Year’s resolution of writing every day.

Ah well, c’est la vie I suppose. Anyway, back now and I have some exciting news.

Thanks to the wonderful crew at Authoright I have secured a 15-minute slot to pitch my first novel to a literary agent at the London Book Fair!!

I am extremely excited.

And not a little terrified.

A real-life fire-breathing literary agent, with the terrible fangs and horns and everything.

What on Earth am I going to say?? 15 minutes? I can barely talk about the book for 15 seconds without tripping over my own syntax. And that’s when I’m not quaking in fear at the potentially life-changing opportunity sitting before me mopping my fetid sweat off their desk with a fine damask handkerchief.

Being the well-versed bunch that you are, I’m sure you must have some tips to impart on… well… anything about what to say in a pitch! Anyone??

Wait… How Many??

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You mean to say you read the whole thing?

You mean to say you read the whole thing?

I stumbled upon this rather wonderful list today and was slightly shocked by how few I have actually read.

The 100 Greatest Novels Of All Time

My tally is 22.

Well, 21-and-a-half if I’m truthful. I’m ashamed to say I gave up on Moby Dick during one of the more turgid religious tracts. Or was it the 12-page description of the interior of a Massachussets chum-bucket? I forget.

What’s your score dear readers?

The Next Big Thing

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Way back at the start of December (where does the time go??), I was very kindly tagged in the Next Big Thing blog hop by Kristina over at The Bitter Sweet.

I’ve mentioned before that, whilst I’m always hugely honoured to be nominated for blog awards, blog hops and so on, I tend to pick and choose between the ones I take up, simply because many of them are about the blogger as a person rather than their work. I don’t want to use this blog as a forum to chunter on about what style of cravat I favour or the number of times I’ve been mistaken for Margaret Thatcher. It’s about writing, publishing and all that jazz.

That’s why I love TNBT – it’s a series of questions about a writer’s latest work, plus the opportunity to showcase other writers they admire. So here we go…

What is the working title of your book? Originally it was “Dark Energies”, but I feel that mis-represents the story and sounds too sci-fi. So I changed it to “Jumping From Cliffs” and I’m not comfortable with that either. So it’s back to “Dark Energies” as a working title for now.

What genre does your book fall under? It doesn’t really fall neatly into any single genre and, like many ‘new’ writers, I’m wary of getting pigeon-holed and missing out on a part of my potential audience, so I describe it in one of two ways:

A contemporary urban mystery

or

A quantum love story

One day I’ll combine those into a genre which takes less than 45 minutes to elaborate on.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? I wrote a really good one and then sort of lost it somewhere in the Internet. Hang on, I’ll have a rummage… Ah, there it was, down behind the virtual sofa (of course!)

Dan Carver is a man in his mid-thirties, in a relationship that is going nowhere and is looking for something to fill the gap in his existence. When he finds it, in the form of an unexpected contact from a mysterious stranger on a social network, it will prove to tear apart everything he thought he knew about reality…

Technically two sentences thanks to that full stop bang in the middle, but you get the gist.

Where did you get the idea for your book? From real life. Sitting at home one wet, grey, miserable March Monday, I logged into Facebook and hey presto, there was a ‘poke’ from a complete stranger. This was back in the days when you could still friend-surf before FB sorted out its privacy settings. There was just the poke and a profile picture of the most beautiful and intrigue-filled pair of eyes I had ever seen. I decided to reply…

Who or what inspired you to write this book? My muse, also known as the beautiful stranger who Facebooked me on that extraordinary evening almost 5 years ago.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? It took almost four years to reach a full first draft with no gaps. As so many other aspiring authors find, it can be impossible to get enough time to write, what with daily life happening all around you and the need to pay bills while you scribble your thoughts down.

What other books would you compare this story with in your genre? Wow, that’s a good one. I’d love to compare it to the work of Iain Banks (not his Iain M. Banks sci-fi novels, the ‘normal’ ones…) But that would imply I have an over-inflated sense of my own talent and give everyone just cause to point at me and laugh. Still, the mix of real-world characters and situations with an undertone of mystery and darkness is what I’m aspiring to, which is why I draw the comparison.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Oh, I’m so rubbish at knowing who’s who in the film world these days. I’d go with a young Richard E. Grant for Dan, the male lead in the book. Bizarrely, I’d have to choose Nigella Lawson for Kate, the mysterious stranger who leads Dan into a world he never imagined existed. Yes, I know Nigella’s not an actor, but she has the right kind of look and character. And as I said, I am really terribly ignorant of current film stars – I think I get so wrapped up in the story that I just see them as the characters rather than actors. Failing the two above, could I maybe choose Bogart and Bacall??

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? In an ideal world it would be represented by an agency. However, given the current climate and the agony of going the traditional route, probably self-published. My day-job that pays the bills is digital marketing, so I figure if I can market someone else’s products I should be able to market my own book, right?

What else about your book might pique your reader’s interest? It contains a cat who can be in two places at the same time…

And now it’s time to play tag… I’m sure some of these wonderful people will have been tagged already but they inspire, entertain and motivate me on a daily basis, hence their inclusion. And if I haven’t included you, please accept my sincere apologies, I’m only allowed 5!

Andrew Toynbee: Andrew Toynbee’s Very Own Blog
Nicole Bross: Unravelling My Mind
Kisa Whipkey: Nightwolf’s Corner
Kurt R.A. Giambastiani: Seattle Author
Pat Wood: patwoodblogging

I hope you get as much pleasure from their work as I do – the connections I’ve made so far in my journey through the depths of the blogosphere have been of inestimable value to my writing. I look forward to encountering more of you in due course…