Sunday, 31 May 2015

Is Writing a Real Job?



It’s quite alarming how I hear so many authors being told, “well, it’s not like it’s a real job, is it?”
Why? Because we enjoy it?

 
Well firstly, many many many writers have lots of other commitments too. Most of us ‘indies’ seem to have day jobs too. So we actually have “two jobs” plus all the stuff in our home lives.

Secondly, have you tried writing? Yeah, the writing stage is a thrill and a delight mainly. But it can cause us serious brain ache at times too. That dreaded writer’s block? Gargh! You try doing your daily job and suddenly not being able to! Especially if there’s a deadline looming.

At least most people who have ‘real jobs’ have a guaranteed income. Being a writer means baring your soul to the world. You put your cherished work ‘out there’ and pray people see it, buy it and like it. My day job is in admin; if I produce a crap report my boss might be slightly displeased with me and make me redo it. Books don’t really have that option once they’re out there. And if people don’t like it then no income.

So, they scoff, “But you’re only self-published. Anyone can do that and churn out any old muck!” Oh yeah? Put your money where your mouth is. Yes, sadly there are a few indies out there bringing shame to the rest of us, putting out work that’s not been edited. But most of the books I’ve read by indies (which is steadily growing in number) are excellent. I’ve seen worse traditionally published. Just because we want our work to be our own, and not mutated to fit into a publisher’s rigid box, please don’t judge us. It makes our book library far more diverse, which is a good thing. Throw away stale formulae!!

And it’s not all happy happy joy joy writing. The first phase is the writing. Then the gut wrenching, brain hurting editing starts. We pour over the work over and over checking and re-writing until we’re happy.

Then we throw it to the wolves; in come the copy editors, the proof readers etc.

They happily spot the errors that our eyes (too used to our own words) have missed. So we re-edit again. They tell us stuff we don’t want to hear, but if we have any sense we listen regardless as our book babies get criticised.

After final edits that we are now agonising over, we seek a cover. We need to dress our book babies to make them look pretty. I use a pro for mine (Robin Ludwig). My covers look fantastic thanks to Robin’s hard work. Yet even this is agonising. What image do I need to portray. In one picture how do I sum up / convey all I want my book to say? I don’t know, I just spent somewhere around 100 A4 pages saying what I want to say. How the hell does one picture show that? Thanks to Robin’s patience we’ve succeeded so far though.

So, with our hair much thinner than it once was (having proverbially pulled so much out by this stage), we go online and select our selling avenues. And we agonise over the categories to put our books in, the price to set. And the blurbs. Oh the blurbs!! We thought the rest was tough, but how do you right a punchy couple of paragraphs to entice your potential readers without giving away too much plot? This is the bit I struggle with the most. I feel protective over spoilers, and then struggle to give enough info. Gaaaarrrrgh!

So, we finally press the publish button after months (or years) of hard work and worry. Yay, it’s ‘out there’! We do a little happy dance. We go back to our sales figure daily to see if anyone’s noticed our book’s birth yet.

We then start the real work; the publicising. For indie authors this is essential and starts to take up valuable writing time, but we must do it. We need people to notice us. So we set up Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon Author pages etc. etc.etc. We chat, we swap ideas, we plead with people to buy, and we seek precious reviews.

After all this, we may or may not get some meagre sales (with people wanting to either not pay at all, or buy at a really low price).

So, all you judgemental “it’s not like a real job” gits: how many hours do you think have been put into this “little book”? How much do you reckon our hourly rate works out at? Would you work for such a low salary and with such a high risk of little success? No, I didn’t think so!

In conclusion (and as always, inmho); yes, writing is a “real job” and a bloody hard one!

So please, be nice to us. Don’t troll us (we’re sensitive souls!). And just give us a nod once in a while; let us know you’ve seen us in the crowd, leave us a review. Please.

Thank you; you’ve been a wonderful reader. J

 
I saw this today and nicked it, but thought it illustrated this blog post nicely:
 

 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

An Author's Day


A Day In My Life

Firstly, apologies. I said from the beginning I wouldn't blog regularly. However, I had intended to do more than I have. Sorry. I will try to do better.



05:50 – ‘sunrise alarm clock’ starts kicking in

06:15 – alarm now has full sunrise in motion, accompanied by radio kicking in (time to groan and  roll over)

06:20 – gradually drag myself into the land of the living

06:35 – finally admit I cannot stay in bed all day (begrudgingly), and heave arse out of bed

06:50 – valuable reading time done whilst carrying out ablutions (tmi?)

07:00 – having thrown some clothes on, stagger downstairs to make packed lunch & breakfast

07:10 – eat breakfast trying to catch some news on BBC Breakfast

07:20 – shit! Is that the time?? Rush out the door. Get to car. Rush back in for Kindle.

07:50 – phew, made it into the day job OK. Thanks be for quiet traffic.

08:45 – had coffee, which helped me get through meeting first thing

10:00 – been hard at work ‘adminning’ (yes, I made up a new word), but now wondering how many hours are left in the day. Decide it’s too many!

10:30 – coffee number 2. Will this day ever end? Storyline is knocking but I’m trapped here so I can’t do anything about it.

13:00 – managed to be productive, but tummy rumbling means time for cheese & apple lunch. 30 minutes to scoff food and read some other indie authors’ work.

13:30 – back into office. Feel sleepy after food so coffee number 3.

16:30 – yay; I managed to focus on admin work all day (well, I did it, whilst my heart was longing for a farmhouse retreat)

17:05 – get home. Option 1) exercise 2) feed cat 3) collapse on sofa (interchangeable dependent on mood)

17:30 – if not done so already, feed cat (anything to stop the meowing)

17:35 – check in with fb/Twitter/Goodreads/Amazon sales or reviews whilst greeting hubby as he gets home

18:00 – time for feeding! Option 1) hint at hubby until he makes dinner 2) make it myself (usually option 1 wins out here)

18:30 – eat dinner, perhaps whilst still typing replies to people

18:45 – think about blog.

19:00 – brain hurting. Just sit and relax in front of TV

19:05 – get distracted by personal fb

19:10 – write sarcastic comment on hubby’s fb, just so he knows I’ve remembered he’s sitting next to me :-/

19:30 – try to promote existing books and worry I’m not doing enough

20:00 – need a bath (tends to keep flies away). Take opportunity to read.

21:00 – too tired to do anything now. Plan on writing book as soon as I get home tomorrow.

22:00 – Go to bed, exhausted (having actually done PC work most of the evening even in the gaps where I’ve pretended I don’t)

Exciting, huh? Weekends might see a bit more sleep, sometimes a day out or amusing step kids. I occasionally get space and time to write.
This sounds like I’m moaning. I’m really not. Having been made redundant five times I’m grateful to have a job at all. I need to keep a roof over my head somehow. I just wish I was able to ferret myself away when the writing bug grips me, just to get some words down. The writing Mistress is a cruel one; sometimes she comes calling at inappropriate and/or inconvenient times. By the time I manage to get home I’ve forgotten what she was trying to tell me.

But I wouldn’t change it. I love writing. I truly do. And for now at least, I’ll just grab the best opportunities I can to practise my craft.
One day I’ll get that farmhouse. Mind you, I’m sure that naughty writing faery will still wait until I’m with a holistic client before making an appearance ;-P

But here’s the thing; I spend my life feeling exhausted. Sometimes there’s holistic clients and step children to slot in around my hours. I write, re-write, get proof readers, edit, stagger through book cover options, promote with every spare moment. Fine, that’s my choice. But with an increasing number of sites advertising free eBooks, there’s fewer and fewer people willing to pay for all this blood, sweat and tears. It’s not like I’m asking for much; way under what the traditionally published hard copies of yore would’ve done. Just an acknowledgement / a small token of my hard work would be nice. And something which costs nothing; a review once you’re done please.

There are currently around 287,000 romance books in the Kindle book store. If I ever want to climb the rankings I need people to buy my books, but for more people to buy my books they need to know they exist, guess how you can help. Yes, those precious reviews really do help others notice and decide whether or not to buy. So please please do leave reviews for books you’ve read. I personally read every single one, and get thrills of excitement every time. I just love hearing what people think.

And the best thing about the modern way of publishing means that the majority of authors now have some sort of social media presence. You can like fan pages, chat to us etc.
Should you wish to find me, I can be located here:
or: https://twitter.com/TLClarkAuthor

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Body Image


Body Image

 
Oooh, only blog 2 and I’m going to be controversial already! I will state from the outset that I am going to make huge sweeping generalisations here. There are always exceptions, but let’s go with ‘the norm’ for the purposes of this article. Please bear with me.

This weekend has kept highlighting this issue to me…

Firstly, on my Twitter feed I suddenly started to get lots (and I’m talking almost every other Tweet) showing me those ghastly before and after shots, advertising some slimming aid / tablet / diet (#unfollow!!).

Now, (having worked oh so briefly as a model many moons ago), those shoots are often fake. Shock, gasp, horror! What? The diet industry lie to us?? Surely not. Well folks, you’d be surprised what you can do with a change of clothes, a round of exercise to get your blood pumping, some make up (including shading to men’s abs etc.), clever lighting and a better camera angle. It is quite possible to get a dramatic ‘difference’ within an hour or two.  So, I tend to err on the side of not believing that tripe. Besides, if you want to actually lose weight I’m afraid the very boring yet very true old adage must apply ‘eat less, exercise more’. Sounds simple, but oh so tricky to do. I’m mid diet myself at the moment, so I can join the ranks of whingers quite happily.

Secondly, the fashion industry as a whole uses the ‘size zero’ model. This is why my own modelling career was short lived by the way; I was a UK size 8 (6 in the US) back then. How obese!? Now, the current average size of women in the UK is a size 16  (rightly or wrongly). This has gone up from a size 14 in the year 2,000, and that was up from a size 12 in the decade prior to that. I am not going to enter the dangerous debate of judging those sizes at all. There are some healthy people of all sizes, and unhealthy people of all sizes. Plus it is very dependent on your height too. But we all know there comes a point when you are actually obese or severely underweight (both ends of the spectrum are hazardous), and this will start becoming a danger to your health. See, I’m starting to digress already! My point is that the average UK woman at the present time is 5ft 3 in height, weighs 11 stone and wears a (UK) size 16. Now, to the modelling industry this is called a “plus sized model”. Actually, the plus sized model tends to fit in the 12-14 dress size category.

The industry’s own models have to be at least 5ft 8 for a start. But you’d be hard pushed to find one below 5ft 9. Their age tends to range from 16-21. The fashion model measurements mean at largest a size 4 is the ‘ideal’.

Now, is it me, or do a lot of us wonder who these clothes are designed for? What looks good on a very thin, straight up and down figure is not going to look good on a curvy/average sized girl. It’s just not. I’m willing to face the facts. So what hope do we have when we go out into our high street stores to purchase something flattering? There are literally millions on size 16 women in the UK (over half of the female population) trying to find ‘something nice to wear’! Please would someone design clothes for them too?

The good news is that there seems to be a growing pressure to go against this outdated mind-set, and to tiptoe ever closer to a model sized somewhere approaching a ‘normal’ size. So, I’ll leave that bit there.

One should also factor in the magazines and their airbrushed celebrities as well by the way. It’s a wonder we don’t all have eating disorders. Most of us women folk do tend to have an unrealistic body image though. Instead of embracing ourselves for the sacred feminine within us, and celebrating our natural weight (yes we all have one, and deep down we know what it is). Yet we try to squidge ourselves into clothes that are an ‘acceptable size’.

Just out of interest, if you polled 1,000 men how do you think they’d describe their ideal woman? In my experience men (and by that I mean adult males from mid-twenties onwards) like “a woman with curves” and they justify this often with “I don’t want to shag a stick which might snap”. Their words, not mine! So, I call to women folk everywhere to get real. Love yourself!

But let me get down to the real point of this blog. We, as authors…what do we do? Are we contributing to the unachievable goal? I have read many many romance novels. I hate to admit, most actually have the ‘slim’ and beautiful heroine. Those which don’t tend to go to the extreme to prove a point.

I have tried in my own novels to step away from that, but confess I have probably fallen into the trap a bit despite my best efforts. Amanda and Claire in True’s Love are a size 10 and 12 respectively. In my defence, they are young and, well, let’s just say Amanda gets plenty of exercise to achieve this figure. And they’re still not super skinny. Am I allowed to get away with that?

In Rekindled Love Sophie reaches middle age, and I did ‘make a thing’ of her paranoia over her body ‘wobbly bits’ and all. But her man at that point loves every inch of her.

Now, I’m not stupid. People read to escape their everyday lives, and few would actually want to read about older women who are a size 16-18, have skin problems and greasy hair. But perhaps we can meet in the middle somewhere? As authors we have some degree of power. Are we able to shy away from super skinny ‘perfect’ looking women? This is the point up for discussion. Over to you…

Friday, 1 May 2015

Well hello there,

This is my first blog. Having been self-published for two years this is perhaps (certainly) a very late move on my part. But to be completely honest, I’ve been scared of writing one. Here’s why...

I’ve heard many horror stories of the dreaded trolls attacking via this avenue of communication.
But mainly because I feared the general reaction. I don’t claim to be an expert. My thoughts that I will brain dump into my blog posts will only ever be my humble opinion. I invite healthy debate, please don’t get me wrong. I am just making it clear I am not professing to be an authority.

Also, by its nature I want my blog to be spontaneous. It is not indicative of my own books’ standard of work. I will not spend hours editing and getting my scribblings read by proof readers; there will be spelling and grammar mistakes. Naturally, I will try to avoid them, but please forgive my occasional errors. 

I have many demands on my time, so this will not be a daily thing. I will write here as often as I can. But please bear with me; I have a full time job, a holistic therapy practice and my book writing to try to squeeze into my life. Occasionally my long neglected husband gets attention too! 

Also, be prepared for my warped sense of humour. Please do not ever be offended; I will never intentionally cause harm to anyone. It’s not in my nature. 

I promise to try to write about a variety of things (so as not to bore you with ‘oh aren’t my books wonderful, you should buy them’). But you should buy them! ;-) 

I write because I love it. I hope you love my novels as much as I loved writing them. In each of my books I look at love from a slightly different angle; there are so many forms of love I thought it was fun to explore some. I do not write serial books; each one is stand alone so you can pick whichever appeals to you in any given moment. 

I genuinely like to communicate with others, so please do feel free to pop on here and say hi. 

Having decided to take this leap, I’m now looking forward to meeting you all online. 
Please be gentle!