Getting Away From it All

 

There’s a quite curious effect writing has had on me lately.

I’ve been busy working on the sequel to a book I wrote last year. While the first book languishes in anonymity awaiting an agent to champion it to publishers, I was so taken by the story, I decided to revisit. Rather than go over and edit it once again, I opted to expand on that little universe, and explore different dimensions. It felt good to return, to revitalise old friends and haunts. It was a good place to be, and while book two is fast becoming my favourite book to have written, I find myself being affected beyond the confines of the keyboard.

My mood is improving. My depression is easing off. I’m sleeping better. I’m brainstorming in the shower far more effectively than I have before.

There are downsides. I was so off-with-the-fairies earlier today I walked out the house without my mobile phone and Opal train ticket card. Today was my day for travelling into the city and visiting medical experts as I frequently do. As I have Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), I use the iPhone to play music which distracts me from the maddening crowds. Without my Opal card, I had to buy single tickets, which are more expensive. I was in such a muddle and with my SAD in overdrive, by the time I arrived back home again I had to fight tooth and nail to avoid having a major anxiety-led breakdown.

Thank goodness for meditation, medication and a calming cup of peppermint tea.

The thing is this world and its peoples I have created for my novel is a place I’d actually prefer to be. It’s like I’ve opened a travel catalogue in my mind, and spotted the ultimate retreat. As weird as it sounds, I’ve fallen in love with a fantasy, and I’m not even sure I want to get it out of my mind. I’m reminded of the movie Brazil (1985). All those terrible things done to poor Sam Lowry and he ends up in a cosy corner of the world … but only in his mind.

“Come back to reality!” is the cry, to which I respond: “What for?”

My time in my little universe will—of course—conclude with the conclusion of writing the story. I’m figuring since I’ve written a sequel it would make sense to write a third novel. Trilogies seem to be mandatory in literature if you’re going to write more than one about the same people. Should it go to four or five? At this stage I have no idea. My main character is an interesting person, and his ongoing development is fascinating to watch, but I’m not sure he and everything going on around him is worth expanding on.

I guess if I ever get book one out and some feedback, I’ll know where to go from there.

Meanwhile, please excuse me.

I think I’m going to spend some more time in my fantasy land.

 

Not Worth It

For the first time in a very long time, this evening I experienced a fleeting sensation of wanting to show off. Not be-centre-of-attention-at-a-party showing off, or streaking-down-the-main-road showing off. This was more celebrating a sense of accomplishment in some work I’d done and wishing to express myself to more than just my pillow like I typically do every time I go to bed of an evening.

Don’t panic—the sensation quickly passed, and I quit the graphics program I was firing up to prepare a panel I could share on social media.

I asked myself: Why bother? Who cares?

The response, swift as ever: don’t bother—nobody cares.

Right there’s the heart of the matter for me.

Self abuse.

I was taught to abuse myself very early in life. I was made to understand I wasn’t as important or significant as … well … literally anyone else. While the rest of the family ate the meat, I was left with the gristle. I was given the dregs of the bottle, the endcrust of the loaf, the cheap clothes a decade or two out of fashion. While my schoolmates scooted off to various exotic destinations during school holidays, I walked up and down our local street by myself (the only other kids around were our neighbours, and they were frickin’ nuts … and cruel).

I told myself I was lonely because I didn’t deserve friends. Everything bad to happen was my fault. I told myself I wasn’t supposed to laugh or be happy because something bad would always come my way to steal the happiness away. Soon enough that really happened—I became a morose child, an “Eeyore” as I was angrily accused of being on more than one occasion.

What eight year old speaks to their inner self like that?

I did. Constantly.

Now, forty years later, it’s so ingrained I can’t fight it.

I’m still not worthy.

I still don’t matter.

I still don’t count.

I will never deserve success/friends/money/happiness … whatever.

Despite this, I still make things. I create. I have the artistic eye, the appreciation for words, so I write and I create art. Beautiful things speak to me. Proportion, symmetry, the golden ratio, compositional balance, the language of colour and light are all close travelling companions on my artistic journey. I write stories of engaging characters in imaginative settings and intriguing plots, dabbling with words as I would a paintbrush on canvas, to create visions of loveliness, an escape or counter to my real-life predicament. Creativity is my passion but it is also my refuge.

I seldom share my work, and only then it’s the stuff I mean to sell. I need to sell because I need money to subsist. Not for me the extravagance of financial success—I dwell below the poverty line, my previous business achievements collapsing around me in a haze of self destruction and complete breakdown. My life is now a ruin, which is only right and proper.

Not for me any business success.

Now I am reduced to a near nothing, creating art and writing books because that’s all I have left within me to do. As is right and proper, all I have ended up with is unsold art and rejection notices for my books being submitted for agent consideration.

I suffer crippling depression quite frequently now. Anxiety, despair, fatigue all make everything slow going. Where once I was keen to achieve great things rapidly, now anything takes an age.

Before? I was a liar. I assured people I was all right, when nothing could be further from the truth, although in fairness, nobody ever asked me if I was indeed all right. Nobody ever came up to me and asked “Are you okay?”. I chose to spare everyone the ugliness of my predicament, because ugliness was my enemy. I only wanted beautiful things, to lead a beautiful life, to put the ugly nastiness and savagery of my past behind me.

Not to be.

After the breakdown, all was ugly nastiness and savagery. My creativity was a beam of light in that darkness, but frequently there are times when it falters and I fall into the abyss.

This is far more than mere writer’s block.

Regrets—I have more than a few, and I revisit them all the freaking time.

So imagine how shocking, how audacious, how bold it was to think that maybe someone out there might like to see something I’d achieved. Of course my normal inner voice didn’t couch it in those terms. No, to the voice it wasn’t audacious, it was arrogant. It wasn’t bold, it was the height of presumptuous selfishness.

So I put the work away with all the others to maintain my humility, to secure my obsequious regret at contemplating the demand for someone to spend their valuable time considering something I’ve made.

I can’t take compliments. I can’t accept support. Cheer squads are an abomination in my world of sensibilities. People mean well, and I understand where they’re coming from, but to me it’s genuinely painful. People want to help. Many people love to help, but I’m so far down this bumpy road, I can’t take it. I can’t accept it. Just thinking about it makes me extremely uncomfortable. The only way I can move forward is to change the frame of reference, and treat everything I do as a way to make money.

Money doesn’t speak to me.

Money doesn’t worry me.

Money doesn’t make my flesh creep.

If I can sell something I’ve made, it means not that someone likes something enough to want to buy it, rather I’ve got something they want and they can have it in return for money.

It might not be the truth, but it’s a system that works for me and my curious little problem.

I write as therapy. Writing this essay wasn’t meant as anything more than therapy, but I’m posting where I am in the faint hope maybe someone out there can gain something from it—perhaps a lesson that can help them grow into something more beautiful.

As my vision fades, my energies wane and the darkness descends, it’s all I have left.

What Self-Publishing Has Taught Me

It’s important to preface this essay with a caveat: I have various mental health issues, and cogent reasoning has been only marginally possible through a thick treacle of fatigue, anxiety, depression and myriad other maladies that have messed with my head for quite some time now. It’s very possible many of the issues and problems outlined below have been the result of normal things perceived through the frosted wobbly haze of my “challenges”, and the process of self-publishing is indeed a profitable breeze for most normal people. I’m afraid without a guide or proxy to assist, I’ve been on my own and had to work my own way through as best I can, which frankly isn’t saying much.

Anyway … to begin…

I wrote a book.

Then I wrote another and another, and before I knew it I had several novels done and dusted. Much of the time the words came easily, especially when I wasn’t battling foggy medication-induced mind-mangling. I learned the specifics of beta reading, editing and proof-reading, and before long I was performing said duties on not just client work but my own projects as well. I had colleagues who read what I wrote, and liked it a lot. Not neighbourly types or family members who humour you with platitudes—genuine dyed-in-the-wool critical eyes who’d point out all the pitfalls and shortcomings I’d missed, and before I knew it I had not just writing, but genuine literature on my hands.

It was therapeutic. It was good.

I felt as if I had accomplished something, which when you’re drifting on a tumultuous dark sea of confusion and illness, is a Really Good Thing™.

I sent one of my manuscripts off to an agent. I just knew they’d love it, love my writing, and one of their ranks would take my work under their wing and champion it to the right publisher, who would make it soar. I felt confidence for the first time in a long time.

Weeks turned into months, and finally there was the rejection slip. Oh well. Next crowd. Rejection slip. A year passed and the rejection slip pile simply grew. I remained confident. The trick was to find that special someone who was searching for a voice like mine. More rejection slips. Enough to dry my frustrated eyes. What were they seeing that I couldn’t? Or what was I seeing they couldn’t? I live off welfare and can’t do much in the way of “normal” work—writing seemed one way I could earn an income. Why were these people failing to see the commercial value of what I was sending them?

Something had to give, so I decided to delve into the challenge of self-publishing. There were plenty of companies advertising services for self-publishers. I researched. Sent emails. Even received phone calls. For the first time, I was grateful I had no money and couldn’t afford the services on offer—what a load of rubbish I came across. So many promises, such spin, execrable amounts of expensive nonsense. I was in this to make money, not spend it (especially seeing as I didn’t have any to spend anyway). So many snake-oil salesmen prowling the wings for unwary prey.

With the prospect of pay from a publisher via an agent rapidly diminishing, I chose to use my background in desktop publishing and go it alone. I created cover art, page layout and design to make my novel work as a printed book, before reformatting it to suit being an eBook. Job done, and uploaded to Smashwords for the eBook and Createspace for the hardcopy

Boom—one of my novels was out there in the big wide world.

publishinggraphic

There’s something special about getting your first ISBN, something quite magical about a barcode assigned just for your creation. I had hoped validation as an author would have come in the form of a contract with an agent, but instead it arrived in the mail as a hardcopy from Createspace. There it was—my creation made manifest. I thought it looked quite handsome, the pages a crisp white and filled with my words designed to shape thoughts, form characters, excite and entertain, so haughtily rejected by myriad would-be agents.

I’m not a salesman. Not for me the straw boater and cane, peddling to the masses. My mental health makes me appallingly shy (I genuinely have Social Anxiety Disorder, which largely condemns me to the house and away from dread “other people”), so rushing up to strangers and extolling the virtues of what I have to offer just isn’t one of my faculties. Nevertheless, in this day and age, the self-publishing author—like the painter or film-maker, or frankly any other creative profession—becomes the salesman. I don’t want to sell books, I want to write them. I’m an author, not a retailer! How does someone stuck at home sell books? I turned to Twitter and Facebook. I promoted. I found people who would spruik on my behalf. Thousands of people were reached. It was amazing. Thanks to Smashwords, my book was in every online retailer of eBooks, from Nook to Apple iBooks, Kobo to Scribd and beyond. Thanks to Createspace, my book was firmly ensconced in the Amazon universe, available in the US and UK and Australia, as well as Japan and Brazil and France, but not in Japanese or Portuguese or French, as I don’t have the kind of resources to afford a translation service. Coverage had been attained (in English anyway), success seemed assured.

Think again.

There are literally millions of new books out there, and it’s inevitable getting lost in the noise. Any author might have a Unique Selling Point (USP) for their novel, but it’s going to remain unheard unless a sales voice also has cut-through. In a sea of clamouring authors and publishers, that kind of cut-through is going to cost the kind of bucks that in many cases just makes it not worth it.

In the months since launch, I’ve spent $95 on paid promotions on both Twitter and Facebook. For that trouble, I’ve earned tens of thousands of “impressions” and $12 cash (after all up less than a dozen sales). I’m behind, and by the looks of things, getting into profit just isn’t going to happen despite continued promoting. Someone might suggest spending a bit more—say, $700—however not only do I not have $700 to piss against the advertising wall, and given everything I’ve researched, I remain unconvinced that kind of spend would return over $700 in revenue anyway. “You’ve got to spend money to make money”—yay, unless you don’t have any money to spend to begin with. Is that it? Is it not enough to slave over creating a book in the first place?

In the world of self-publishing: absolutely not. The book itself is only a minor cog in a much larger machine that still only maybe sees a return at the end.

Not that my book would win any prizes, but it’s not rubbish, either. Yet, I can’t convince folks to part with a measly dollar to read it. Is my writing truly worthless? Are people not interested in the thriller genre any more? I guess all they need for their fix is to turn on the TV news these days. Oh well.

So, I can only conclude it’s my fault (it always is, it seems), and I’ve screwed up somewhere. Maybe I can write good narrative prose of car chases, gunfights and terrorist attacks, only to suck at writing sales copy. It’s probably true—I never wanted to be a copywriter for magazines or newspapers flogging stuff, and attempting to write spin to sell my book seems to be a weakness or blindness on my part. Nobody’s sent me a demand notice ordering me to cease my wilful acts of promoting, so it can’t be that bad, but translating spin into sales just isn’t me.

Here’s the worst part: all this promoting, all this sales hustling, and I’m not writing. Not a word. I started on a sequel, but I’ve been spending all my time online, trying to find people who will buy my book, and my sequel (and other works) remains untouched. Self-publishing has transformed me from capable author into incompetent hustler. I’m not a salesman, I’m an author (I have a barcode and everything to prove it, too). I want to earn money from what I write, to lift me from below the poverty line, off welfare and into the guise of a self-reliant individual. My mental health needs it, and my ability to buy groceries needs it, too.

I need an agent who understands what I am as well as who I am, who believes in what I write and its ability—armed with cut-through in promotions designed by professionals who are sensational at promoting—to sell. Too many agents judge a writer’s ability on a few paragraphs or pages from a single manuscript. What if what I’ve written elsewhere is what’s needed to convince? It’s insane, it’s blinkered and it’s self-defeating. There are some extraordinarily wonderful authors out there who do very well. There are also some atrocious hacks who make good money, not because they’re lucky, but because they’re backed by agents and publishers who know how to sell, even if what they’re selling is really bad. I don’t know how to sell. I’m an author, not a salesman, and selling is not my job. I need a salesman—an agent who can work with a publisher to translate my writing into sales. Even if I’m a hack, surely it isn’t that hard? It’s done all the time. What’s another hack? Am I a hack? I didn’t think I was, and neither did my manuscript assessors, but maybe they’re wrong and I’m wrong and it turns out I’m the hackiest hack who ever hacked. That doesn’t mean what I write is unsellable. In some cases, quite the opposite.

Something else I have learned is to stick with it. Despite the disheartening lack of response, despite the shortcomings when it comes to alternatives to social media promoting (I don’t have mailing lists or any ability to cold-turkey contact bookstores to ask them to stock my book which I’d have to pay money I don’t have to get manufactured and shipped), I’m determined to not give up, either. Stay the course. I have to believe in the fullness of time word will continue to trickle out, and those individuals out there anxious to read something like what I’ve written will finally track my book down, buy it and enjoy it. Maybe some of them will leave reviews, and with those to hand, some of the best kind of cut-through might be achieved. Everyone who has reviewed it so far has been deeply appreciative and impressed, so there’s hope.

Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Just keep going.

My mental health is in such a state at the moment that I can’t write prose fiction even if I wanted to. It’s a kind-of writer’s block, and comes and goes to varying degrees. It’s my particular demon I have to bear. I’d love to get on with the sequel. I have it all mapped out, and reckon it’d be a corker of a read. Then again I thought the first was a corker to read as well, and all I get to see of it is languishing in a too-quiet corner of the world, pining for some love.

I guess the self-publishing route is good if you’re well resourced, well-connected and a natural at selling. For me it has been a route of frustration and expense I can’t afford, and the chances of me trying it again are extremely remote. The frustration has been nothing compared to the Quest for an Agent®, but I remain convinced that special someone is out there. Like readers, it’s about finding them, and helping them to find you.

Whither Writing? Or is that Wither Writing?

The autotelic creator is someone who creates for the sake of creation. The painter who paints without regard for selling. The musician who performs even if there is no-one to listen. The writing who can’t help but pour out their heart and mind onto a page that could remain unread.

Even an autotelic creator needs to eat, so sometimes they dip their oar into the mainstream and turn their hand to something they feel the “market” might like. For many, it’s not a place they either like or feel any sense of belonging, but still respect as a necessary evil so their own existence may be perpetuated or more comprehensive resources afforded.

A fortunate autotelic creator is one whose creations align closely with the commercially attractive. Tragically, there are also those who lived their whole lives creating wonders, only to be “discovered” long after their death (e.g. Vincent van Gogh). The worst are the ones who are never discovered—their anonymity in life continuing after their death.

Now in our own time, the accessibility and ‘democratisation’ of information has arisen, providing new curses (e.g. ‘alternative facts’) as well as new blessings (e.g. online art galleries, self-publishing eBooks and YouTube). Never before have creatives had access to potential audiences as they do now.

The flipside to that accessibility is economics. Never before has there been pressure applied to authors, musicians and artists to provide their creativity free of charge. The perpetual argument is to provide something for free is to raise awareness of that creative amongst a potential market.

Long ago I was told in no uncertain terms to never give anything away, as to do so was to undervalue my own work. A small sample was fine, but an entire work? Never!

I’ve adhered to that principle since, knowing full well there are numerous individuals out there who consider anything other than free as too expensive, and the world owes them a living. They’re welcome to live in that fantasy land if it makes them happy, but going to a restaurant and asking for a free meal is not only a slap in the face for the individuals responsible for cultivating, harvesting, refining, transporting ingredients, and then all the actual preparation, it’s just plain rude. Why should a work of art or writing or music be any different?

Again—free samples are fine, but not an entire work.

I write and I create art. Music and I parted ways a long time ago, but I still listen to it with a passion that frequently rivals my passion for art and writing. I will continue to write and create art. There have been instances where I have been paid by a person for my art and my writing. There is hope. I haven’t earned nearly enough to make a living off that creativity, but I continue my efforts in the hope that goal may one day be realised.

Perhaps my greatest fear is one day my energies will decline and I can no long write or draw or paint. I’ve already gone through horrific dry-spells thanks to depression, anxiety and a raft full of medical problems, and it has only been through tremendous effort I’ve been able to emerge through the other side of those tribulations. The old saying “use it or lose it” only makes me anxious about every time my hand is stayed—I fear the withering effect of demoralisation. Regardless, I will continue to create. My hope is what I create continues to be worth creating.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics!

When I first came to self-publish, I continually came across how-to guides, pretty much unanimously cautioning against developing a habit of checking sales metrics.

“Don’t let sales bother you, just promote, promote, promote while you’re writing your next book!” was the basic message. I thought to myself for morale purposes that was probably sensible, as poor sales (or no sales) can impact momentum or even incentives to continue working. After all, why bother writing a book for the purpose of publishing if no-one is going to read it?

So … I didn’t let metrics worry me. Ever so occasionally someone would pipe up and ask how the book was doing, and I would go to Smashwords dashboard or Amazon Author to see rankings, but despite my author ranking and book ranking being line graphs with a few serious ups and downs and ups again, Nielsen Bookscan data was insisting I hadn’t sold anything, which given a couple of folks have told me they’ve bought my book, alongside the author and sales rankings roller coasters, isn’t actually true. Talk about confused.

Smashwords tells me how many visits I’ve had to the page, how many sales and how many previews there have been downloaded. Not many. I didn’t think there would be – for promotion I’m relying solely on what I can muster for free, except a single paid book promotion that started in mid-November flooding Twitter for a month with links to the book’s page on Amazon, not Smashwords. It was an interesting experiment, especially considering Amazon don’t provide page-view metrics. My author ranking went up, my book ranking went up, but Nielsen Bookscan continued to insist not one book had sold. To this day I have absolutely no idea whether my paid promotions yielded any results. Until that far-flung day arrives when someone breaks down to tell me, I won’t be paying anyone anywhere for more paid promotions. I have far better things to spend money on.

Someone muttered something about Ingram, which I understand is an alternative to Nielsen, but I’m stumped how to find out data from that source. It doesn’t matter anyway, I hark back to that original advice – don’t sweat the metrics. Just write.

I used Smashwords to start with, as they distribute to pretty much every ebook retailer except Amazon Kindle. Ebook sites I’d never heard of before were reportedly stocking my novel and became potential sales sites. Woo! I used Createspace for the hardcopy of my book, as they’re a part of the Amazon empire, and thus handled the hardcopy for Amazon and the ebook version for Kindle. Createspace also have the infrastructure to supply libraries, bookstores and all the rest, though I have no way of telling which bookstores and where. Their reckoning on up to six weeks has passed, and there’s no sign of my book in any bookstore in Australia. Maybe it’s just America, but I have no way of knowing. So there’s the frustration, and the wisdom in that original advice of ignoring the metrics, and just keep writing.

I don’t have the resources to advertise my book the way some people do. If only I could sell something, I’d have the money to promote my book. Hmmm … I wonder what I could be selling? How about some books?

Aargh.

There’s a little voice in the back of my head telling me I’m wasting my time worrying about earning anything from all this – if they’re not going to admit how many they’ve sold then there’s no way to tell how much of potentially my money they’re pocketing for themselves, after all, they’ve got hungry shareholders to feed or some other excuse. It’s tricky to not become cynical, because ultimately it’s about placing one’s trust in a large company, and if anything, large companies are even less trustworthy than gangsters, drug dealers, politicians and others involved in organised crime.

Still … ignore the metrics and just keep on writing. Just keep producing properties. Content is king.

Bollocks – selling is king. Just look at the “music” industry.

It has been a very educational journey, and while agent after agent completely fail to recognise my writing ability, boldly confessing so with every rejection slip they send me, some day someone will “get” my work well enough to want to represent me so I don’t have to worry so much about all this silly “self-selling” nonsense. No folks, my responsibility isn’t to sell, it’s to create. If you’re not up to the selling part and want me to do it, then I don’t want you in my circle, and you can do without the percentages. I want someone who will take my work and make it sing, and they can take a percentage of the resulting sales as their payment. It’s a system that has worked for centuries. It’s not a system that’s broken, so anyone trying to “fix” it is in effect attempting to game it for their own predatory proclivities, by my reckoning.

I check my metrics again. Still nothing. Stop checking metrics! Just keep writing.

Why do I feel I’m like a hamster on a wheel? All effort but going nowhere?

Just keep writing. Just keep running.

Oh well, at least it’s keeping those spectators outside my cage amused.

Broken

I once wrote a story based on observations I made of some friends of mine. The story evolved, and eventually I had something that not even my friends could identify themselves as, which to my mind was best. The story grew and evolved again, and after a while and quite a bit of gestation, I had in my hands a fully formed novel, suited for young readers.

It’s a tale of a kid who’s a very keen sportsman, but is outgrown by his fellow team mates. He looks to what’s around to help his shortcomings. What he discovers helps him enormously, but he inadvertently finds himself the target of bullies.

I was a target of bullies since I was very small, so bullying has become an important part of my being. Being softly spoken, gentle and kind, humble and non-assertive makes me appear weak and vulnerable in the eyes of some, so I become a target very quickly. Writing this story became for me a very cathartic experience, and I’m glad I wrote it. It became far more than just that though, and everyone who went through it, from beta reader to test subject really appreciated it. I reckoned I had something special on my hands.

Kid-lit is a tough nut to crack publishing-wise. Every other parent who’s read something to their youngster at night seems to think they can do better, so numerous publishers are inundated with all manner of works, to the point where their submissions departments will not accept children’s books at all.

Regardless, I sent the manuscript away. First to an agent, who in typical fashion rejected it without explanation or clarification why. Then I sent directly to a publisher who had an opening for this sort of thing. One morning six weeks later, an email arrived from that publisher with an approval to print. There was even a contract attached to the email. I was expecting a rejection slip or nothing at all, and instead an actual bona-fide contract turns up, accompanied by extremely favourable comments about how well it was written and how commercial it was.

The author’s dream. I was thunderstruck.

Throughout the day, I had my regular weekly medical appointments, which are never fun. I had left the contract to read that night, swimming through the day on a genuine high. None of the dire grind of serious specialists around me seemed to matter as much.

Finally I arrived home and settled down to trawl through the contract to make sure everything was in order. Uncharacteristically, I even printed it out. This was serious. I read the document, and then after my addled brain started to ring alarm bells, I read through it again.

There it was in black and white. I’m an unknown. They don’t want to publish my book without my help. They were insisting on a co-operative effort, and that included funding. They had their hand out – an astonishing sum. Far beyond anything I could have even remotely hoped to put my hand on. My high crashed. The contract was useless. This wasn’t “publishing” my book, this was printing it for me. For the same price I could have paid self-publishing site Createspace to print thousands of copies and then made TV ads to air promoting the title and paid for freight to bookshops all over the world.

I went to bed that night broken. Six weeks. Six precious weeks. Did I mention medical specialists? Yup. I’m not going into details, but I don’t have all the time in the world. Far from it. Six weeks is for me an awfully important amount of time. Submitting to someone else now, and not just six more weeks (one publisher was asking for six months!) but add weeks for the holiday season and all sorts of other things, and I wouldn’t hear from anyone until after my medical problems become centre-stage in my life, probably for months, possibly for the rest of my life, in the new year.

To my mind, the opportunity has passed. The story will go untold, quietly put away, my softly-spoken voice made even softer. My, how the publishing world has changed. I had hoped my work would reach those who would benefit from its lessons, mindfully written so as to resist being preachy or didactic, instead being entertaining, insightful, heart-warming and memorable. A publisher was vital, as kid-lit requires specific distribution and marketing expertise unavailable to self-publishing. Instead, my writing falls silent and still, vague glimpses emerging only as blog posts, observations made on social media and the occasional email. My self-published novel Terror in the Ranks isn’t selling despite efforts, my resources too limited to take measures needed to penetrate where needed to secure sales.

Continued approaches to agents go unanswered, even those advertising for new authors. Direct applications to publishers may still go out, but by the time some publishers might find it in themselves to respond, so much more precious time will have passed, and passed right into time I can’t deal with worrying about publishing books. Some publishers choose not to respond at all, as if such discourtesy is an appropriate gesture in any professional relationship.

The lesson learned is it doesn’t matter how good a writer you are, and it doesn’t matter how good your book is, even when it has already been green-lit for publication. If you’re not a hustler – and a wealthy one at that – more than you are a writer, your own book will go nowhere.

I love my creations. They are my children. I will love them always, even when it seems being good enough is still never good enough.

I’m broken.