It all kicked off on social media for a 24-hour period, which turned into outright bullying. It was a witch hunt, and the bandwagon was a disgusting display of how quickly negativity spirals in the digital age. There’s been a lot of it lately. Being new to the Twitter platform, it seems like a source for much of that ‘hate’ energy. Perhaps I’ve just not been exposed to that much (thankfully)! Anyway, I posted my tuppence worth on Facebook and thought I’d share here since it’s topical within book publishing and is unlikely to disappear any time soon.
The advancements in technology are astounding; we can all agree. The changes in my lifetime that have opened doors for global collaborations and distribution of art, music and literature are beyond what we could have imagined only a few decades ago. Technological advances have indeed made as many as it has broken.
From handwriting to typewriters to computers and printers. Pigeons, boats, airmail, fax, email and instant electronic delivery of words and art. And as difficult an adjustment as some changes may be at first, many ultimately embrace them.
We’ve been carving art from rock with stones since man stood upright. How much art and expression have changed is magnificent, and none of the changes takes away from how inspiring those first scratchings of creativity and communication embedded into our history, into the rocks, the bones are and always will be.
I remember turning my nose up at ‘digital cameras’ and ‘digital art’ when they were developed. I admit my attitude then lacked maturity, and there was perhaps a bit of snobbery. Now, I have a digital camera permanently attached to my hand! There’s magic in a dark room and effects that cannot be achieved any other way. You know what, it doesn’t have to be one or the other — I appreciate both art forms. And I like that people can capture crisper ‘memories’ in photos without professional skill. It’s (arguably) more accessible.
Going after AI is like going after anything else that was once ‘new’ before it. No, it’s not the same as paint on canvas or a human digital artist layering and developing elements to create a unique piece. It isn’t supposed to be either!
I don’t think any creative should be threatened by AI technology (at this point).
It seems that folk are so quick (on social media) to jump on the attack. Pitchforks out, ready for the witch hunt, taking it out on someone entirely undeserving. Whatever happened to the old sentiment ‘if you’ve not got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’?
And for all of us working in independent/small press publishing, in whatever role, I wonder what we would be doing without technological advancements. Digital artists would not exist. Self/Independent Publishing would not exist as it does now. Haven’t we each experienced archaic attitudes looking down their noses at our work at one point or another? It seems a somewhat hypocritical thing to go on the attack for.
Have you visited TBM Horror lately? Well, it’s a phenomenal platform created and hosted by a dynamic and passionate creative force, lover of all things horror 💀 and metal 🤘, owner of Disturbing Drawings (you MUST check out her artwork), Mar Garcia!
Mar kindly had me over in her space for a blether, shared on TBM’s YouTube channel.
Scoot over to TBM Horror to check out great (regularly updated) content on Horror in creative industries, from articles, books, movies, bands, video games and art!
If you fancy checking out my natter with Mar, the YouTube links are here:
Updated cover for ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back‘— May 2021.
March 2018, working on and releasing this book was my first time venturing into publishing independently. Being so intimate, I didn’t consider sending proposals to publishers. It could be said that this was my baby for my babies. I’ve always been a writer, but publishing was a way for me to show an example of fearlessness and gratitude to my girls, a lesson that they have taught me, with so many others.
On this, I did everything solo; writing, editing, working with feedback from my very supportive pre-readers, formatting for digital and print, cover design, promotional material and publishing. It’s effortless for those who don’t understand the labour and learning that goes into self-publishing (let alone doing so with something so profoundly personal) to dismiss those who choose that route, like myself, as amateur or playing a vanity game. That could not be further from the truth for many writers who choose to self-publish or join forces with small press’. I touched on this a little recently; https://clanwitch.com/2021/04/06/publishing-which-way/
It’s been three years now since ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back’ was released, and there are a few niggles that I often think about changing.
The first is editing. This was my first time editing something at this length, a piece that was (is) as intimate as a diary, journeying through a very traumatic time when it hadn’t even resigned itself to the ‘past’ yet. My heart and head were still sore. On top of that, I can admit that my skills have developed since this publication — I would love to go back and improve. For now, though, with so many other commitments, the past will have to wait, maybe one day. Truthfully, it’s a place I’m not ready to re-visit.
The second is that I’ve never been fully happy with the cover, which I have re-worked and updated. The image of the dandelion, particularly when seeding, has always been one in nature that I find poignant and inspiring. This image, this flower commonly regarded as a weed, represents so many ideas; resilience, strength, perseverance, endurance, determination, life cycles, and innocence. Pairing this with the rainbow’s significance in parenthood (symbolic of a child born after loss; the joy after the storm).As simple as it may be, I love the intertwining of the seeding dandelion head and rainbow. The fit with ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back‘ feels right.
May has, so far, been a fairly empty month as far as writing is concerned. Consciously so, but I still feel like I should be, even with the lack of time — notes and scattered lines to come back to only.
I have been dipping into a collection that I was (semi) planning to release this summer and designing some cover-art options to help inspire the project and move it along. The collection (if I release it) will consist of previously published short stories, whose rights have reverted back to me, and a few pieces that haven’t been printed before. I’m still undecided on whether to release it or not when it’s complete. That project is still in the compiling stage.
Since my last post, two of my submissions have sold! Very pleased with those. My short stories, Collector’s Edition and Always Time for Tea, will be published this summer. These were both invite-only opportunities. Even with that faith from the publisher(s), the submission nerves are probably a little more pressurised than those from an open-call — so, yes! I am delighted the stories were each received well! One is a horror fairytale twist inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and the other was (mildly) inspired by a documentary I watched a while back blended with the habits of a horror-fan collector. I’ll share more about those when the publishers have made their announcements and we have a release date.
Editing work has had my primary focus in May. This has been a good break from writing projects. Editing flexes a different creative muscle and is no less fun — especially when it’s not my own work! It’s nice to have a canoodle inside other creatives’ brains (words) and is an immense privilege, which I am always grateful to be entrusted with — especially developmental work.
Releasing this month is Mythical Creatures of Asia from INSIGNIA STORIES, in which I have three drabbles featured; To Be Unborn, Beneath the Mangoes and Seasoning Earth. I loved writing these little morsels. This eBook is available to pre-order now, dropping live on 10th May.
Self-Publishing and submitting; what I’ve learned so far, which admittedly, may not be much. It is what it is.
I’ve never considered traditional publishing, potentially because I can be a bit of a control freak (I hate waiting) coupled with a (sometimes stubborn) passion for self-learning and autonomy. In my view, it seems that there’s a lot of faff down the traditional route to wade through; from finding an agent and/or finding publishers that align with your style/genre/concepts. Jumping through many hoops for potential (likely) repeat rejection. Not that rejection is a bad thing, that too can be a very useful, if not utterly essential, learning and evolution tool. Then there’s if you’re accepted, you may have to change your writing significantly to fit into someone else’s ideals and target audience — a form of censorship and creative dilution, absolutely. Of course, I’m sure when (if) you get through the hoops, the potential for higher earnings and being considered a reputable writer because you’ve been approved and accepted by a higher power may well be worth the faff and hoops. Personally, all that feels like an elitist, bureaucratic headache for the most part.
Self-publishing has a lot of stigma thanks to the structure and standards set by publishing powerhouses. It’s a reflection of many of the institutions of life; be approved by the institution to be accepted by the masses, or you’re worthless. Music is like that too right. I don’t buy it, do you? I’ve read my fair share of tripe churned out by traditional publishers (sometimes due to who the author knows more than what they write), I’ve worked with highly educated fools who think their PhD gives them superiority even with a gross lack of real-life or business experience. They got approved, though. Better than you off the bat, right? Nope, I’m not buying that either. It filters right down through parenting as well — inescapable — must tick the boxes. All a despicable institutionalised, ritualised validation process, a façade that ignores the real nitty-gritty and that thing again — autonomy, passion, grit and authentic nurturing, in life as indeed art. Like the paper, age does not always bring wisdom, especially when one is stunted in their sole path and idealised view, selectively dismissing poorer choices. Or indeed highly institutionalised, even when it comes straight from the patriarchy (or matriarchy in some instances).
To self-publish, there are more and more platforms arising to help support and facilitate those with the desire to do this. There’s a load of work involved, even with a decent host. One must consider the writing, first and foremost, then, of course, there is editing, cover design (eBook/audio/paperback/hardback), book design, formatting, layout (yes, there are some basic standards for that, in respect of front-matter, back-matter, copyright declaration and numbering), narrator/producer (if producing audio). Sure some make it appear easy, but it’s far more involved than many may expect – it’s seen as the easy route to publication after all, right? Wrong. All of this takes time, dedication, learning and money. Of course, corners can be trimmed, but that will affect the end product. And we cannot forget attracting readers and reviewers to the work once it is out there — marketing really is another beast in itself. No, self-publishing is not easy by any stretch. Accessible — yes, easy — no.
I started self-publishing to get to know the process, and while I do love it, I’ve found much value to be gained in submitting pieces to small press and indie publishers. Gaining contacts, connecting with different audiences and driving creativity by rising to challenges I may not have considered solely. I’m not driven by pressure, and much prefer to go with the proverbial flow. There’s no cut and dry Pro-forma of right and wrong when it comes to art, creating it, and sharing it. It comes down to trying different things, and seeing which one resonates and fits with your flow best. In dealing with other publishers, I have quickly established in mind traits that I like and those which are huge turn-offs for me as a (submitting) writer. It’s fair to say once you begin submitting, you’d be mad not to have a ‘list’. Here are a few things that have landed publishers on mine after submission, which ultimately boils down to etiquette and communication:
Poor communication. Submission guidelines are not only a way for publishers to outline what they want and specify the format, but it’s also a key component for publishers to manage writer’s expectations upfront. What I find massively disrespectful is publishers who don’t respond to a submission – it doesn’t have to be big; a quick ‘thanks but no thanks’ is better than zilch. That’s just rude.
I don’t like arrogance and indie publishers mimicking traditional publishers – if I wanted that, I’d chase traditional.
When a call says ‘No simultaneous submissions’ but a publisher holds a piece too long, only to reject it, thus removing opportunities for the work to be considered elsewhere. If ‘No simultaneous’ is stipulated – considerations and responses should be swift.
Editorial changes and queries – I’ve had pieces published with errors that were not present when I submitted, and the queries ignored. Again, poor communication adds to the uphill battle many indies (writers and publishers alike) face. Sometimes support is as simple as acknowledging and owning mistakes.
While I can’t speak for traditional from any sort of experience, other than a reader, it is clear that one size does not fit all — in writing, publishing and indeed life. Sometimes one has to stop dreaming and just do it. Leaving expectations at the door. Jump in, flail around a bit, get over the panicked shock of ice-cold and learn to swim — however that looks. Jump back out and watch by the edge for a bit if you have to breathe again.
But don’t be afraid to at least try. As a good friend of mine often says — fuck it!