The Sunday Break ...with Anna Belfrage

Striking out on my own
Anna Belfrage

Some years ago, I took the decision to self-publish.
“You think I’ll sell more than 38 books?” I asked my BFF, which was one of those coy questions you ask because you know the other person will snort and tell you not to be an idiot – which BFF obligingly did: “Of course you’ll sell more than 38 books!” 

Seeing as my extended family was good for twenty copies or so, my BFF’s extended family good for another 10, and my hapless colleagues having no choice but to buy some copies, she was quite right: 38 was setting the expectations very, very low.

In the event, I have sold very, very many more copies than 38, albeit that 90% or so are e-book versions. I have no issue with this. In fact, I believe e-books come with multiple benefits, one major one being they are paperless and therefore less of a strain on our environment. 

Despite all these sales, I remain uncertain of myself as an author. Since that first book, I have gone on to publish eight more books, one of which, Revenge and Retribution, was the HNS Indie Award winner 2015. Good for my ego? Absolutely – but rather ephemeral, as come the figurative Monday there I was, back to worrying if my books were good enough.



BFF sighs when I raise the subject. She does that a lot when we discuss my writing. Alternatively, she goes “hmm,” or tells me that absolutely, I should stop writing as no one in their right mind would want to read one of my books – shoddy writing and all that. 
“What?” I demand, halfway between tears and anger.
BFF rolls her eyes and asks me if I think bad books are awarded prizes. 
“Err…” I say.
“Precisely.” Which, as per BFF, is enough said about this subject. 


Most writers I know suffer from fragile egos – more or less. Even more so when you’re self-published, as generally you don’t have a cheerleading squad at your back. After all, traditional publishing comes with some sort of team – or so I imagine, although sometimes the stories I hear from people who have been traditionally published and then opted to go on their own makes me wonder. Still: in my head I see Author, Author's Agent, Author’s Designated Editor, Author’s Designated PR Person, Author’s Designated Cover Artist and Author’s Designated Project Manager breaking out in a coordinated dance, complete with pom-poms and sequined suits as they go “Give me an A” or whatever letter the author’s name may begin with. And then there’s champagne and canapés and wild and crazy dancing. I like wild and crazy dancing. I do a lot of it – alone.

[Helen: Anna threatened to dance on the tables at the HNS Conference Denver 2015 if she won the Indie Award. As I run the award I did spend a few minutes wondering if I should switch winners - the tables looked a bit flimsy...LOL. No idea how I managed to keep a straight face for two whole days between the start of the Conference and the Saturday Night Banquet- and award announcement!]

Anna and me Denver 2015
Alone is actually something of a constant state for most writers. We sit and write alone – I’m not counting our characters, because (and I know this comes as a shock to most of us) they are not real. They just inhabit our head, however vividly they do that. In Helen’s case, it is Jesamiah who takes up most of the head space, and seeing as this is a handsome rogue of a pirate I can well see why she insists he is real – more or less. [Helen : of course he's real!]

All authors write alone, rewrite alone, do initial editing alone. A very, very lonely process – even if one has a BFF like mine, who reads every single word I write and does not hesitate to tell me what she thinks is crap (this is when she utters her famous “hmm”)

At some point, the traditionally published author turns her/his baby over to the publishing house. As a self-published author, the rest of the road to the finished product is just as lonely. More rewrites, more edits, and those with very inflated egos even do all the editing alone (which is mostly a bad idea). The rest of us hire an editor and then we agonise over proposed changes – because this is yet another decision we have to take alone. We hire a cover artist (please do so unless you are very gifted. “Home-made” covers detract A LOT from the finished product) and once again, we are presented with alternatives but must make the final decision ourselves. Yes, we ask the opinion of BFF, other half, family and whatnot, but it is me, as the writer, who finally makes the final call. 

Decisions, decisions, decisions – at times it is scary, at others empowering. After all, no one can force a headless woman onto my covers or insist it should be bright yellow and blue when I want green and red. Neither can the editor demand I slash 20,000 words. She may recommend I do so – and a wise writer listens – but I may decide to stick to my guns anyway. I am in control. I. Am. In. Control. (except that very often it doesn’t feel that way…)

Until recently, I have chosen to mitigate my loneliness by using assisted publishing services for that final conversion of unformatted (if very polished) MS to a published book. While full of admiration for those that have chosen to do it all by themselves, I felt overwhelmed – and scared. I still do, actually, but I have decided it is time to move on. Overcoming challenges is good for you, which is why I have registered my own imprint. 

Oh dear: I hyperventilate at the thought. And then I remember I actually DO have my very own cheerleading squad, my own tribe: people like my fellow authors (such as you, Helen), people like Amy Bruno who help me get the word out, book bloggers, organisations like ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors), the Society of Authors, the Historical Novel Society. My family, my BFF, my friends on FB and elsewhere – they’re all there to cheer me on. And then, of course, most important of all: my lovely readers and my beloved characters, demanding my stories be told. Failure, people, is therefore not an option. Nope. 

I have decided to ease myself slowly into this new role as fully indie, so for some books more, I will purchase the services of others to format and typeset and do all that magic I have – as yet – no idea how to do. But I do have 20 ISBNs registered to my name, I have a logo and an idea of what I want to do and where I’m going. A good start, I believe. 


Anna Belfrage Publishing - Time Light Press
Now all I have to do is jump!  

Helen : rest assured, Anna, we are all here cheerleading...
Give me an A... 
Give me an N ... 
Give me an N... 
Give me an A! A.N.N.A!
go for it girl!

LINKS

Anna's characters featured on my April A-Z challenge - click here



And click HERE to start the A- Z tour on this blog: 
beginning with A for Aurelia and Alison Morton


Did you miss last week's Sunday Break?


A Strange Star in the Sky by astronomer Nigel Henbest.

28 comments:

  1. Really interesting post for anyone wanting to dip their toe into the self-publishing arena.

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    1. Thanks - its a big step to go it alone but Anna's proved it can be worthwhile.

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    2. Umm...I haven't proved it yet. (gulps) But I hope to do so :)

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  2. Great (and so true) article, Anna; but a little dangerous while drinking coffee (due to the inevitable guffaws).
    Suddenly, I realize I've become a total hermit (which surely saves on the Italian-shoe-fetish); however, I don't feel lonely having made some great and interesting writer friends. And through Helen's fabulous blog, I am wondering if I will garner a few more of "the most interesting kind" (hopefully).
    So, I am adding my own:
    Give me an A! A.N.N.A!
    Go for it girl!

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    1. I saw your pom-pom waving at me:)
      And as to the hermit vs shoes, nope, I see no correlation whatsoever - which has hubby muttering a bit...

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  3. I salute your courage, Anna!
    Very best of luck with your books

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  4. GO, ANNA, GO! *Waves pompom, attempts backflip, ends up in a heap, still waving pompom but more weakly*
    But, what? My characters aren't real? You mean I'm ALL ALONE? *Cries in corner until they pick me up and assure me you're lying*
    Well, anyway, alone or not, you're doing magnificently. *Waves pompom v-e-r-y carefully, wincing a bit* GO, ANNA, GO!

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    Replies
    1. I know! People keep telling me they're all invented...But hey, nothing wrong with imaginary friends, is there? And thanks for the magnificent backflip - I saw no heap :)

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  5. Go for it, Anna. Keep believing!
    Wishing you every success with your new imprint.

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    Replies
    1. Every endeavour starts with a small step, right? And yes, I'll keep the faith :)

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  6. Brilliant and very inspiring! And my characters seem real enough to me, despite what people say.

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    1. Thank you. And seeing as I now and then hold hands with my characters, I'm all with you - but now and then I attempt to promote a somewhat saner version of myself :)

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  7. A wonderful and informative post. I don't know about anyone else, except maybe Helen and you Anna, but my characters are very real.
    I self publish and also am with a small publisher but for some reason I would like to be able to wear big boy pants and go with a medium or large publisher. If for no other reason, to see if I've got what it takes.

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  8. Yes, the whole indie publishing process takes courage for sure. And a broad expertise (or almost expertise) of what makes a book a book. And that is all sort of the fun of it, I think.

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    1. Absolutely! (*gulps a bit, tries out a wavering smile & stiffens spine*)

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  9. Oo Anna, I'm so glad you settled on Timelight. And I love the logo. It's so exciting isn't it, and I'm excited for you!! I can see that you are going to be a massive success!!

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    1. Well...But at least I have a nifty logo. ANd yes, it is exciting :)

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  10. Interesting post , I must agree despite my A-z fatigue was good long post to invest my time in. visiting from http://poojasharmarao.blogspot.in/

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  11. Good luck Anna. I hope that the time demands of going it alone won't preclude your regular stream of excellent blogs

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  12. Fascinating blog about the leap from self assisted to total going it alone - I'm sure you'll be very successful Anna. And actually I sometimes think we worry too much about being the lonely writer - we do have communities and networks and friends - this is one, isn't it? And that's one of the first things I noticed about self publishing - suddenly I wasn't completely alone any more. I have people to talk to, to ask questions of, to share the ups and downs with...I used to feel incredibly isolated but now I don't feel that way. So while it's true that writing is something you have to be alone to do, I think that those kinds of creative solitudes offer us many many joys...so good luck and enjoy the next adventure Anna!

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  13. Thank you everyone for leaving comments - and here's wishing Anna the very best for her new venture!

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  14. One more well wisher! I'm rooting for you to make a go of this.

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    1. Thank you Marylee for dropping by - Anna's poorly at the moment, but she'll reply when she can!

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  15. Poorly and poorly - it's the pollen that's driving me crazy! Thank you so much for your kind words, Marylee, Lucienne and Michael. And Helen, of course! MWAH to you all :)

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