self-publishing

Self-Publishing pen name:Introducing A.B.Wells & Housewife with a Half-Life

I’m becoming two people…

 

 

 

 

I’ve been writing consistently since my first son was born 11 years ago but even more seriously in the last number of years since the real baby days of my youngest child, now 4. From my early endeavours I have 1.75 novels in a drawer. In the last number of years I’ve written many short stories, several of them shortlisted, many many flashes, two complete novels and another one on the way.

For any of you familiar with my writing through my #FridayFlash posted here and links to stories, you will know that in the main my writing is slice of life, on the literary side. I’m also partial to writing what Tania Hershman denotes science inspired fiction: fiction which uses as it’s starting point a scientific fact or discovery and creates a story around it. At the moment in fact I’m writing a flash about a Faraday cage and I was excited to write a story for this Higgs Boson Anthology. The story Supersymmetric: Almost but not quite is one of my own favourites.

Science explains the marvels of human life and the natural world and it also through it’s theories, findings and ways of looking at the world provides marvellous metaphors that can be used in literature to present our experiences of being human. Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go presents and alternative or possible future reality where cloning has become commonplace yet it is a work of literature. Many authors such as Margaret Atwood write about alternate realities without calling it science fiction. My literary novel The Book of Remembered Possibilities depicts, as well as the world we live in, a perfect alternate world inhabited by the alternate self of the books main character.

But I’ve gone and written Housewife with a Half-Life. It’s a comedy, it’s got a sprinkle of sci-fi, it’s got slightly scary rotten apple faced creatures called Geezers. It’s got an arch enemy with a cataclysmic convertor called The Spinner. It’s got household appliances that talk and others that are downright dangerous. It’s got a housewife called Susan Strong and an endearing spacemen with luminescent emotions called Fairly Dave. It’s got precocious and cherubic twin boys, Pluto and Rufus, (they aren’t dogs!) with a temporal hopping bunk bed. It’s got downright evil, it’s got peace, love and understanding. It’s got ensuite showers and a woman who can save the world with a clothes peg. And while it’s set in suburbia, in a regular house, the action mostly takes place in other worlds through which the characters travel through all manner of portals, including the Frozen Peas section in the supermarket’s chilled cabinet.

So is it sci-fi? More or less, less of the space opera and more of the human heart. But it’s more on the space and sci-fi side than my literary offerings. In this changing publishing landscape it’s a book that publishers might want to take a risk on but can’t. Those that have read it enjoyed it but didn’t know quite where it would fit. I could, like Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help send it out 60 more times to publishers but I’m also curious to give self-publishing a go, to acquaint myself with all the processes and stages and to do it right. I also very much admire self-published authors such as Marc Nash, Dan Holloway and Catherine Ryan Howard, who for a variety of reasons have got down to the business of getting their work out to people directly and have done so in a professional manner with quality products. I also believe in my book. I’ll talk more in another post about what I’ve done to make it the best I can. But when I read it, I enjoy it, laugh, am moved by it and hope you will be too. I’ll be releasing Housewife with a Half-Life as an e-book and print-on-demand paperback this June available through Amazon, Smashwords and other online outlets.

There are many reasons why we might take on pen names. So why A.B.Wells? Well it’s still me, not far from Alison Wells. Of course it’s got connotations of H.G. Wells, a writer I admire.  It’s my space comedy more sci-fi self and for now it’s my self-publishing self. It’s my Fairly Dave and Susan Strong self and there may be more of those where they came from. It differentiates this material from the literary material that I’m submitting to traditional publishers. I’m hoping that I can take many readers with me who’ve enjoyed this blog and my writing as Alison Wells but that readers who find me as A.B.Wells will enjoy my more sci-fi offerings.

I’ll be blogging more about my self-publishing endeavours and looking specifically for your help in spreading the word about Housewife with a Half-Life. There’ll be a specific post where anyone interested in being involved with a blog tour or mention can sign up. If anyone has any further comments or suggestions please check contacts for my email.

Just over a year ago I was asked to be a resident blogger on the writing.ie website. My blog is called Random Acts of Optimism. A couple of days ago I was lucky enough to see a link on Twitter to this most inspiring and moving talk by Ray Bradbury on writing. In his summation he said that what we want most of all as humans and as writers is for someone to come and tell us that they love us, love what we do. He also said that his life was full of surprise. That he wrote just what came to him and then surprising things happened which resulted in the opportunity to share his work and publish his books. For me, becoming A.B.Wells and self-publishing Housewife with a Half-Life is an act of optimism in a book that is about what I love, what makes me laugh and what I want to share with others.

Writers: ditch your angst

Writers, we’re special, we’re creative, artistic, we tap into the hum of the world that ordinary folk don’t. Hmm? We are struck by ideas, by the muse. We struggle and strain to manifest our gorgeous ideas into words that will astound, entertain, move. We’re reaching for something and sometimes we get there and we send out a story or novel that strikes a chord, is published, enjoyed, rated. At other times we leave stories along the highway of our writing journey, discarded, littering

But that’s just it, sometimes we say the thing and it sounds right, feels right. But get ten people to read it and it might only hit home with one or two. Does it mean that our writing has only limited appeal or is it that it has proportional appeal to similar minded individuals that enjoy the kind of work we produce?

I’m assuming a certain level of quality here, a level the writer has reached where we’ve learned to uncover the grain of truth in cliché without letting the reader know we are doing it. Where we invent the juxtapositions of language, says things differently, are technically competent or have through thousands of hours of practice becoming intrinsically expert at writing without having to think too much about it.

The world is full of opinions and trends, many of them conflicting. Just some of the ideas I’ve heard lately is that flash fiction is a new and exciting genre with the punch of short stories and the fluidity of poetry or, opposingly that flash fiction is not something distinct, it’s just a writing exercise. Some people like reality TV, others the opera, we can’t cater for everyone.

Writers, we’re often subbing. We read the journals and the submission criteria but it’s often not possible to be sure whether our piece will hit the spot for the particular editor or judge. We all have different backgrounds and personalities and sometimes a piece of writing that makes absolute sense to us, will mean nothing to someone else, something that seems innovative and striking to one will be inaccessible and contrived to another. In entering competitions I’m often confused as to what to send in but it’s not always possible to hit on the right answer because of the subjective nature of reading and enjoying various elucidations on life.

I’m subbing a literary novel at the moment. Having finished writing it just a short time ago it’s hard to see whether it’s a solid novel or perhaps is flawed in some fundamental way (of course not!). But I’ve had readers who absolutely got it and loved it, readers who got most of it or preferred one storyline because they identified more with that than the other. We can see that even when a novel is published it may have many different critiques or even if we really like a book, we might still find an element that disappoints or didn’t quite do what we wanted it to do.

I’m also preparing to self-publish (sometime in May) my space/sci-fi comedy book Housewife with a Half-Life under the name A.B.Wells. It’s been out to some publishers who liked some aspects but not so much others, or who couldn’t quite place it in a genre that they were interested in working in. However I know the book has appeal, (and an extremely endearing protagonist, Fairly Dave) and that there are a lot of readers, both men and women, out there who love humour, science, psychology, surreal comedy, geek stuff, Dr. Who, the great themes of life and the meaning of life who will find something to enjoy in the book.

We first need to do all the things we’re supposed to do when getting your work out there: careful research of agents, publishers, journals etc, be professional and produce high quality, beta read, proofread material.

When we have done all that, I think it’s really important  to stop fretting and second guessing and adjusting our material (although be open to feedback and editing once a piece is accepted). We need to stop feeling so much angst about whether we are writing the right stuff for the times, or whether we are good enough to submit. Submit and then move on. Keep writing, write every day you can, write something, improve it, move on, write new things, be new with words and ideas and all the ways that fiction and the way we tell ourselves stories is changing. Get words out into the world and keep going, keep writing more and more again and be hopeful, always, rate yourself, be brave.

The Tuesday Interview: With Catherine Ryan Howard (author of Self-Printed)

Catherine Ryan Howard

Catherine Ryan Howard lives in Cork, Ireland. She has very successfully published a memoir about working in Disney, called Mousetrapped. She has documented the story of her self-printing experience and success in her blog Catherine, Caffinated and just lately released Self-Printed in which she shares the knowledge and expertise she gained from her self-printing experience. 

Having read Self-Printed, the quality and depth of the information shared is astounding. Catherine covers all the specifics on self-printing your manuscript, from cover design and formatting to uploading to the different platforms and troubleshooting. She also tackles the wider areas such as whether to self-publish or not, preparation and design, building a platform, selling and using data and tags to improve sales. Overall it’s a generous, clear, comprehensive book and written in Catherine’s lively and no-nonsense style, it’s a joy to read! Definitely the book to read for anyone considering self-printing.  Catherine’s here today for an interview on Head above Water so let’s find out more about Catherine and Self-Printed.

Let me begin by asking you the most important question of all. How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day?

If I’m at home and working, I stumble to the kitchen in a zombie-like state as soon as I wake up to put the machine on. That makes about three cups, “cup” being the ceramic bucket I bought at Starbucks. (So probably about six cups, technically speaking.) I usually have that drank by lunchtime and it’s a rare day I’d drink any more coffee after that, because the only thing I like more than caffeine is sleep and I need to stop then in order to get any later.

And what’s so good about Cork anyway? (I hail from Cork’s arch rival county Kerry).

I doubt anyone would be able to recall me ever saying anything nice about Cork  – I only like sunny places which pretty much rules out the whole country of Ireland. (The tourist board won’t be hiring me anytime soon…) Cork is a lovely city on a sunny weekend, which hopefully we’ll get here sometime between now and the end of days.  We do have a staggering array of cafés and a big Waterstone’s, which helps. And we’re definitely better than anywhere in Kerry… [Runs and hides]

You’ve become a bit of a (perhaps unintentionally) self-printing guru. Did you plan this or did it fall upon you like Newton’s apple?

I think the whole orchard fell on me. I knew absolutely nothing about self-publishing when I started this whole thing, other than it costing a lot of money and it being only an option for deluded losers (I thought). I still might not know anything about it today if it wasn’t for a friend sending me a link to Lulu.com saying, “I think you might be interested in this.” I’m only a guru if “guru” means “person who can use Google to find the answers to questions as they arise.” So no, this wasn’t planned – this was the opposite of planned!

Are you super rich now?

Oh, yes – disgustingly so. As Chandler Bing would say my wallet’s too small for my fifties and my diamond shoes are too tight…

Eh, no. I am making enough money from self-publishing to not have to do anything else, but I live (for now) with my parents. This year I’ve really starting treating self-publishing like a business I’m starting up, so I’d expect (or hope!) that by the end of next year, I’ll be making a comfortable living from it. And that I won’t be thirty years old and still living with my parental units…

Tell me how you started. Why did you decide to write your first book and then to self-print it?

I’d always wanted to make a living as a novelist. Growing up I thought this might be on the side of something else – I did want to work with the Ebola virus for a while – but eventually I realised that the only way my life could be exactly as I wanted it to be (i.e. dreamed of it being) is if I did it full-time. But then when I was 22 I started working abroad and that lifestyle just didn’t bode well for novel-writing. I forgot about it for a while until I went to Orlando to work in Walt Disney World, and started scribbling down my thoughts on all the rubbish stuff that was happening to me. I got an agent interested in a book about my experience – Mousetrapped – and when, ultimately, I couldn’t get an agent or a publisher to take it or me on, I decided to stop wasting time submitting it and get started on my original goal – writing a novel – instead. Then a friend sent me that link to Lulu and I thought, “Hmm. Wait a minute. Maybe I should throw Mousetrapped up there and see if I can sell a few copies…”

How did you learn about self-printing, it’s methods, pitfalls etc?

Google! I read all the instructions and forum posts and stuff on the websites involved, and if I had a question I couldn’t find the answer to, I googled it. I also found other self-publisher’s blogs and websites helpful and a lot of it was learned through trial and error. It’s no coincidence that I went through five proof copies of Mousetrapped before I could put it on sale, but for Backpacked – the one out next month – there’ll only be two. (Maybe one day I’ll get it down to one…) Self-publishing is just like using computers: you learn by doing. It’s the best way.

Things took off for you. Tell me a bit about the sales of Mousetrapped and when things really got going?

I released Mousetrapped in March 2010, and for the first six months sales were just a trickle. I think I sold just over 500 copies in that period which was great, because that had been my goal (100 copies in first month, 500 copies in six months, 1,000 copies in first year). But between editing costs, cover design, review copies, etc. I hadn’t even broke even. But in December 2010/January 2011, things took off – thanks to the Christmastime boom in e-books, I think. Then in February the Sunday Times here in Ireland did a story on me, and that’s when things went a bit mental. So having sold 500 copies in the first six months of the book’s life, I’m on track to have sold more than 7,000 copies in the twelve months after that.

It’s been a whirlwind couple of years for you in terms of publicity for your book and for you as a self-printing writer, what were the highlights?

Seeing my paperbacks for the first time (when they arrive from CreateSpace) is probably the most exciting thing, which is hilarious considering I could do that without ever selling a single book! I’m ordering proofs of my next two books this week including my first self-published (or anyway published!) novel and I cannot wait to see them. I just LOVE that moment, because I love physical books so much and see mine on Kindle doesn’t have the same effect. I also have to say that getting a security pass with my name and the BBC logo on it when I did a radio interview for BBC Radio Ulster in Belfast was pretty darn cool.

You’ve recently published ‘Self-Printed’ and cleverly also delivered it in bite sized chunks. It’s a very generous book. Why didn’t you want to keep all your secrets to yourself?

Because I’m so nice, of course! (Don’t say anything…) Well for starters, they’re not secrets. I don’t do anything special or claim to have any miraculous knowledge about how to sell books. I think 99% of what I do is just basic common sense and the rest is imagination. The other reason is that I thought there was a gap in the market for a self-publishing guide aimed at the non-deluded. Other guides seem to bloke smoke up the reader’s rear, tell them they’re amazing and encourage them to fire-bomb the offices of traditional publishing houses, whereas I just see self-publishing as a good Plan B. Plus the more people who self-publish well, the better it is for me and all other self-published writers, because as the general impression of self-publishing improves, more people will be willing to buy my self-published book. So if I can stop even a handful of poopy titles making it out into the world – unedited and in Bradley Hand ITC pt18 – my job is done.

With the way publishing is changing, should everyone publish an e-book?

I think e-books are fantastic for giving writers – especially those who are still pursuing traditional publication – a source of income, but no, I don’t think everyone should do it. Once you put something out there you can’t take it back, and sometimes the ignorant bliss of believing that everyone wants to read something you’ve written is better than the stark reality of you having writing out there that no one can be bothered with. It may not sound like it if you’re outside looking in, but selling e-books is hard work. If you have a manuscript that almost made it – maybe a publisher read the full manuscript, liked it but ultimately decided it wasn’t for them, or maybe you had a book published a few years back then didn’t make a splash and is now out of print – then by all means, get it out there. But don’t do it for the sake of it. Do it because you have begun work on your dream of becoming a full-time writer and you are sure the e-book is supposed to be part of the plan.

Why don’t you like people calling publishers ‘gatekeepers?’ What have you got to say about purple unicorns?

I don’t like the whole “gatekeepers” thing because it implies that publishing is an exclusive club that exists to keep people from joining it, as if every editor and agent meets up in a dark, secret room once a month to drink pig’s blood and laugh about how silly the little people are. Everyone in publishing loves books, and they want to publish them. That’s how they keep their business going – and business is the key word. If your book gets rejected, it’s because it wasn’t a product that was going to bring in as much as it was going to cost to put it out there, or bring in enough to make it worthwhile. It’s unromantic, but that’s reality. And it’s not personal. Claiming that it’s all a big conspiracy against unpublished, non-blogging, non-vampire-creating writers who aren’t called James Patterson is just pathetic. And don’t even mention purple unicorns…!

How did you feel about the last Atlantis flight? (Catherine gives a wonderful account of witnessing a space shuttle launch in her book Mousetrapped).

Very, very sad. I always believed the Shuttle was an overly complex machine that was drinking up NASA’s budget at an astonishing rate and they should’ve retired it years ago, but I wanted something else to come in its place. Now we’ve retired the most visible spaceship we had and we’ve nothing to put in its place, and so how are we going to keep children and teenagers interested in space exploration without it? Not to mention the thousands of people in the US space industry who have now lost their jobs. Also, I am going to be forever grateful that I got to see a launch up close, especially now that the world has a finite number of people who can say that.

What are the 3 most important things people need to get right in self-printing?

Your book has to be good, and I don’t mean in your opinion or in your mother’s/husband’s/best friend’s. I mean a professional publishing type – an editor or a manuscript critique service, for example – has to say, “This is a good book.” If you don’t have that, whatever else you do is irrelevant and a complete waste of your time.

Next: the cover. Don’t do it yourself unless you’re a professional book designer and DO NOT use the free “cover creation” software on sites like Lulu and CreateSpace. If your book even whispers “self-published”, you’ve failed  – and you haven’t even started trying to sell it yet.

Finally, pick the right price. Realise that the price-tag is not reflective of how much work, time and talent you put into writing your book. If that was the case, Jonathan Franzen would be charging hundreds for his titles and Katie Price would be paying us to read hers. If you don’t have an established readership, you need to price your book to sell. Readers are more important than money.

What are you up to next? Am I right in saying that Backpacked is just out?

Backpacked: A Reluctant Trip Across Central America is my second travel memoir and a sequel of sorts to Mousetrapped. That’ll was just released in paperback and e-book on September 5th. Then despite me saying on numerous occasions that I’d never self-publish a novel, I’m self-publishing a novel – Results Not Typical – in October. I call it chick-lit meets corporate satire and The Devil Wears Prada meets WeightWatchers. Then I’m going to finish a novel I’m working on that I hope will end up being traditionally published one day, and then I’m going on a very long holiday…

Are you going to have another cup of coffee now?

I’m drinking while I type.

We’re going to catch up with Catherine when she releases Results not Typical. In the meantime check out her publications so far!

Links:

Catherine, Caffinated


Self-Printed

 Backpacked

  Results Not Typical

All the options: One Stop Self-Publishing Conference

I attended the One Stop Self Publishing Conference on Sat Oct 17th at the Fitzpatrick Killiney hotel Dublin. It was organised and facilitated by Vanessa O’ Loughlin of Inkwell and Eoin Purcell of Green Lamp Media. As a fiction writer I was interested in interested in exploring the self-publishing option as one of the many possible avenues in the currently transforming publishing industry. The conference was well attended by people with both a fiction and non-fiction writing background as well as general industry interest.

What was particularly evident in this jam-packed but well sequenced and executed conference, was the calibre of the speakers. The information delivered was relevant, concrete, practical and well presented.

Informative and engaging were John Manning’s overview of Gill and McMillan’s distribution service and David Jones on his books to print business. Freelance designer Claire McVeigh’s talk on cover design and typesetting was eye-opening and useful as was Adrian White on what book sellers want. Benjii Bennett, a self-publisher of children’s picture books was inspiring with regard to motivation. Sarah Franklin and Patricia O’ Reilly gave important insights into the process of editing and self-publishing.

There were several highlights for me. AJ Healy‘s not-to-be-missed talk on how he brought his children’s book Tommy Storm to publication was remarkable and practically comprehensive, from the initial decision to diverge from his agent to self-publish his story out to the business like manner in which he approached publicity and distribution. Sarah Franklin’s excellent case study of a marketing and publicity campaign she undertook with one of her authors on his Joyce inspired novel emphasized how self publishing writers need to plan and time their media engagements and have a clear idea of their own story as well as their book’s key message. Catherine Ryan Howard’s presentation on Social Media and Online Marketing was well delivered and revelationary for much of the audience. Ryan Howard self-published her non-fiction book Mousetrapped using the online service CreateSpace. She has successfully used online media and strategies such as contests and Amazon Associates to generate sales and revenue. Her e-book version has been highly successful. Of particular interest to me and great practical value was Eoin Purcell’s presentation on Digital self-publishing. He discussed digital formats, digital publishing options like Amazon’s Digital Text Publishing and Smashwords and useful digital publishing tools such as Storyist.

As a writer looking to inform herself of the various publishing options available this excellent conference far exceeded my expectations. For those with a particular self-publishing project in mind it was invaluable. If you are serious about writing and publishing, put next year’s conference in your diary now.

#Fridayflash Adam, Eve and the Indie Author

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God. What on Earth does that mean? What the hell? Earth, hell, heaven, they were good concepts. He took a rib out of Adam and began to write with it.

Eve gave Adam the apple, knowing. Adam took it at face value. As men do. But Eve  knew all along, so did Snow White. She wanted to eat the apple. She wasn’t green, she knew red constituted passion. But that’s another story.

In the beginning and forever after God wrote. He heard that you can write a novel in a week if you really want to. He stayed up all day and night. In the early days he spent a lot of time on world building. He wanted to make sure people really believed in the one he created. Although he was a bit of a sci-fi buff he didn’t want to pigeonhole himself but he was not yet ready for literary fiction. He heard that men enjoyed action/adventure.

At the garden of Eden the squad cars arrived, squealed up to the gate. The cops jumped out. Keystone. Cornerstone. They did a recce, they were too late – the gates were wide open. Adam had fled and the snake had escaped the zoo. Eve was still there but they didn’t want her for questioning or anything. She was now dressed in army combats, blended in.

‘No, no, that’s not right’ God said and crossed it out.

He thought he should perhaps write more from Eve’s perspective but he hadn’t yet figured out how to write the woman’s voice convincingly.

‘Conflict’ he said, ‘we need conflict’ so he created Cain and Abel. Tribes, wars, kings, journeys – the story of the world had a blockbuster feeling to it. He considered writing a screenplay. The working title was Apocalypse Now. He decided against it for the time being.

He could have done with some tuition but he felt his way as he went along. Practise – that was all he needed. He realised eventually that he was committing the cardinal sin of narcissistic writing – all the characters were aspects of himself. He concentrated for a while on character sketches; he wanted to get a feel for the nuances of what he called humanity.

He revisited earlier themes with postmodern irony. In his new work it was summer. The apples were ripening on the trees but they weren’t ready yet. The globally warm weather was perfect for barbeques. The protagonists were enjoying barbeque ribs.

If it had been horror or surrealism Eve would have butchered Adam and the ribs would have been his, albeit that they were done in a honey and chilli marinade. The juice dripped down her chin and all that. But this was more a cozy domestic drama or a slice of life:

Adam and Eve had realised the moment they met on the floor of Mark’s living room in between the cider and the crisps that if they chose each other that they would really have to be serious about it. I mean ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’, Wey hey. But the feeling of lips, hips and skin has no name. The sticks and stones of life, job insecurity, Adam’s intransigence, Eve’s infidelities, 2.4 children and ailing elderly parents might have ushered them out of Eden’s Gate (a newly built deluxe housing estate which had fallen foul of the property boom and of which half was unsold) and broke their backbone but their names, being what they were had never hurt them.

In fairness the ribs were delicious. Adam knew how to barbeque. He’d invited a few of his mates from the golf club and the drugs squad. They really knew how to let their hair down. The cider was gone in seconds.

More apples…

They ate quickly. The bulldozers were coming and the packing boxes were lined along the living room wall. They were levelling the estate house by house so they could sell off the land to set against the developer’s insolvency.

God liked that element of modern verisimilitude. He developed in his writing – particularly in much of the African and Asian stuff – a gritty realism. He dabbled in triumph over adversity stories (and hadn’t his treatment for the reality show Black Death meets Noah’s Ark been of his best?) He went back to the novel.

‘I was watching that pop star scientist on the telly’ the other day said Richard, an IT developer from Oracle.. There’s this mad theory that says that the universe made itself the way it did because some quantum physicists thought about it. At least I think that’s what he said. ‘Another rib?’ asked Eve, waving round the plate. ‘Don’t mind if I do’ said Richard. Eve looked at him, he had rugby shoulders and just out of bed hair. The bulldozers were coming. They would soon be out of here. She fingered the strap of her vest top, revealing a line of pale skin. Later she would be naked with Adam in a fevered twist of limbs and sheets, euphoric yawps, hooted pleasure. But when she looked at Richard, all was still possibility.

He crossed the last bit out; it needed some more work, some more delicacy perhaps. Novels were hard going, they were relentless really. He had progressed to a laptop, the sun made it hard to see. Should he rewrite it dimmer? He chewed the rest of the barbeque rib dry, sucked it and tossed it into some metaphorical bushes. Not burning ones.

Pop star scientists eh? Quantum physicists making it up as they went along? The world needed a lighter touch with only the odd catastrophe. He was tired of creating epics and intergenerational sagas. Flash fiction was the thing.

He went digital. He discovered that ‘Choose your own adventure books’ were now available as an I-phone app. This suited his requirements perfectly.

Needless to say, God never stopped writing and even when he wasn’t producing, stories were writing themselves in his head. Once, when awakening from a power nap, he came up with a self-referential six word story: God saw. And it was good. But like every writer, while the writing was the thing, he needed to get out there, see his characters come to life.

But how? Get an agent? He decided against. It wasn’t his style. God was essentially an indie author. After some careful consideration he self-published. The downloads were free.

Writing and Publishing: Who makes the rules anyway?

In the world of writing there are many rules; almost as many rules as there are for parenting. There are rules for grammar, structure, plot, point of view, narrative, character, use of adverbs, length, genre. There are rules for writing regimes, how often and when. There are rules for raising your profile, gaining an audience, social networking. There are submission rules, how to find an agent rules, how to find a publisher rules and how to be commercial rules.

Rules are good. Rules are helpful. Rules are there for a reason. They stabilize society. They streamline processes, they make books marketable, they help you make the most effective use of your time, they help you to become a better writer.

Rule-consciousness is one of Cattell’s sixteen traits of his personality trait theory. How rule bound you are is sometimes measured on personality tests determining your suitability for certain kinds of employment. You may be the kind of person that is susceptible to social or peer pressures. Or as an artist – are you a free thinker, an experimentalist, a subvertor of convention, a mould breaker?

As a parent, as a writer, I want to fit in. I want my children to be accepted among their peers. As a writer I want my books at some point to be read and enjoyed, to make sense to people. But also I don’t want to be caught in the river of the done thing. I don’t want to spend a fortune on my child’s birthday party because every one else is doing it. I want to write from my gut first and foremost, dare to say no to convention and create something that will inspire.

The rules are changing in publishing. E-books and self-publishing, blog posting fiction are now a way of reaching an audience, not just an alternative to conventional publishing. This may lead to greater democracy, rule bending, the breaking down of categories, where the reader now rules. This may be the time when we can be the writers we want to be, using the rules to guide but not dictate, to give coherence but not stifle, to ensure quality but provide freedom.