Ebooks are not just for fiction. Here we present a trio of non fiction titles ranging from Biography to Travel Memoir to Self-Help/Meditation by three ‘indie’ authors with different experiences and aims which they tell you about in their own words.
I was very happy as a traditionally published author. I had books in all the major book chains, was published by Virago, Times Warner, Bloomsbury, Constable, and one of my books had been in the top 10 on the best-seller racks of WH Smith for eight weeks. Then something strange began to happen. My publisher had finance problems and was bought up by another publisher with a different policy. Out went my editor and with her went my new biography. No problem, I thought, just need to find another publisher. But at this point my agent went on maternity leave and when she came back, didn’t have the time to trawl it around. Worse, she told me she was ‘slimming down her list’ to concentrate on fiction. Mysteriously in those nine months, ‘literary’ biography had imploded as a genre.
From best-selling author I found myself without an agent or a publisher and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. Dumped! I raved, ranted, cried, drank more wine than was healthy, and almost gave up writing for good. But words just kept on scribbling themselves in my head and somehow finding their way out of my fingers onto the page. Face up to it, I told myself. You’re an incurable addict. A show off. Attention grabber. You just love seeing yourself on book covers.
My partner, who’s a visual artist, said, ‘Why don’t we publish it ourselves as a POD?’ and was shot down in ten seconds flat. That was vanity publishing wasn’t it? The only self-published books I’d seen were so poorly produced there was no way I’d want to be on the same shelf. Through personal contacts I found an editor at Penguin who wanted to publish the biography. Then I found a fellow poet who was also an agent and she offered to negotiate it for me. Sorted! I should have felt secure again, but I didn’t. And friends were now telling me about another way of doing it – E-books, online, direct to the reader, without any of the agony and the hassle of traditional routes.
My partner was itching to rescue my backlist, now out-of-print. He proposed creating our own publishing imprint, using trade printers, distributing the books ourselves and having a go at this new E-publishing lark. I bought him a Kindle for his birthday and went to a talk about self-publishing and marketing by Alison Baverstock at the Society of Authors. Then I went to a London Writers’ Club event where a best-selling female author claimed she was now selling more books and making more money from doing it herself, than she’d ever earned from Random House.
I enjoy research and began to ferret around for more information. I found that CPI Antony Rowe, who did the printing for several of my traditionally published books (and printed 50 Shades of you-know-what), also does short print-runs and POD. My partner spent nights reading the Amazon KDP guide. We live in a remote rural area, so PR was going to be difficult, wasn’t it? How wrong can you be! I already had a blog, but I joined Twitter, Authors Electric, GoodReads, the Alliance of Independent Authors and the Kindle Users forum. It was like one big party.
Biography is much harder to digitalise than fiction. There are all the illustrations, and then the references. There are block quotes and poetry. But the technology is there, the instructions on-line, and with dogged perseverance it can be done. We aim to produce beautiful pages – so many E-books are textually boring – book design is a constant challenge. Editing is easily bought in (all those out-of-work editors!) and publishers have always out-sourced proof-reading, so you can create as professional a product as any of the Big Six.
Five books down the line I’m not selling massive numbers, but I’m making more money than I made in Royalties last year and am convinced that this is the new way forward. I’ve kept the E-rights of my new biography and we’ll publish it ourselves in December, meanwhile I’m having a go at fiction. The novel I wrote wowed beta readers and spent six months in the top five ‘best seller’ charts on YouWriteOn, before taking almost a year to go down the traditional submissions route, only to be told that it was ‘uncommercial’, and ‘not in genre’. There’s no way I’m wasting any more time. Straight into E-book format from now on. I love it!
Hot news: Kathleen is bringing out a new Biography. Margaret Forster: A Life in Books. Official publication date is 1st September but if you’re smart you’ll snap it up right now on Amazon And even more HOT HEWS Kathleen and Neil have taken the final plunge and set up The BookMill indie publisher as an imprint outlet. Too late for us to feature them on @theFestival but well worth a visit to their website or Facebook page
I didn’t set out to write an indie book. Indeed, I didn’t set out to write a book at all. I set out to go travelling for a year. And, since I’m pretty average when it comes to photographs but love words, it made sense to me to record the journey in diaries.
I was ignorant on all fronts. Travelling, I realised, was not something most older women did on their own. From the isolation of a beach near Manly to the backwaters of Kerala, I learned everything the hard way. So I arrived home with a heap of notebooks and wonderful memories.
I needed more – a way of holding onto everything that had happened. I copied the journals onto the computer, played with them a little, deleted the countless references to what I ate for breakfast. It was, I admit, turgid.
But around then I won a place on a mentoring scheme at Exeter University.
‘I want,’ I said, ‘to use the diaries as the basis for short stories.’
‘But,’ said my mentor, ‘you are at your strongest when you write about your own experience. Go away, write this again, and make it about you.’
So I wrote it again. Still it wasn’t good enough.
‘I don’t want to read about places I can see on the television,’ he said. ‘Tell me about the things only you know.’
‘Like the man with the gun in Lucknow?’
‘What?!! A man with a gun? And you haven’t written about that?’ He was horrified and I had to admit that even my daughters didn’t know about the man with the gun in Lucknow. So off I went again, wrote, rewrote – though I still had no clear idea what I was going to do with all this writing.
Until Paul said, ‘Ten years ago, you’d have found a publisher for this. But not now – so do it yourself.’
Well, I’d got myself round the world. If I could do that, I could publish a book, surely? It is, of course, a very different form of learning. I find it hard to make friends with technology. It is not designed for those of us who learned to write with a fountain pen. It has a different logic, and rarely responds to weeping or demands it plays by my rules just for once.
But I’m a dogged soul. I learned techno-speak. I uploaded and downloaded, PDF’d (though I’ve still no idea what those letters stand for). And my son-in-law came up trumps when it came to the cover. The book was done. It is on Amazon. People I’ve never met, will probably never meet, have enjoyed it. What more can I ask?
Would I do it again? Well, since you ask, I had an adventure or two in Nepal a few months ago. So watch out for Hidden Tiger, Raging Mountain in the autumn!
Picasso once said: “A painting speaks for itself. What is the use of giving explanations?” The same is true of meditation. Like art, meditation is a doorway between our inner and outer selves; between “reality”, the seemingly solid world that we can see, hear, smell, taste and touch and an elusive “something else” we sense beneath, between and beyond the grasp of our five senses.
And, like art, meditation is its own explanation. The danger in trying to analyse it is that intellectual explanations can actually detract from understanding.
The meditation method I teach was born in the summer of 2008, while I was going through a time of great change and challenge. Within the space of a few months, I watched as one event after another came into the life I had built myself and eroded its foundations.
A work colleague I trusted was revealed, in full media glare, to have been unworthy of that trust, in a way that affected my livelihood and potentially, my reputation. A lump on my right breast turned out to be aggressively cancerous, requiring mastectomy, radiation, chemotherapy, antibody and hormone treatment. And two people I thought of as my closest allies dealt me what felt like a deep betrayal (this latter was the worst of the three).
I had been meditating for some years and I was grateful for it as the shocks came, fast and fierce. Meditation allowed me to stay solid, connected to all that was still good in my life. To know that the events that were so troubling probably, at some level I couldn’t yet understand, had value. And to look deeply at how I might have contributed to these suddenly teetering relationships. To remain open to what these challenges might be trying to say to me. To trust that everything was probably unfolding as it should.
As I say, I was intensely grateful. So I had no intention of coming up with a new meditation method but then, one middle of the night, I woke with a phrase ringing in my head and a sense of how it should be used as a meditation.
The method had three parts: this phrase of almost-random words, that seemed to reverberate with multiple meanings; a singular sense of the space between each word of the phrase; and another word, even more charged with meaningfulness. This was the “sacred word”, my mind announced to me. “The creative word. The generative word.” It was to be sounded into the space between the other words.
Together with the method also came a name: Inspiration Meditation.
I’d been a writer for 20 years so I immediately recognised what I was feeling – the sense of excitement that accompanies a noteworthy imaginative moment. Noteworthy, for a writer, is literally that so I found myself slipping out of bed, padding downstairs to my notebook and writing the method down. Then I went to my meditation mat and, in the deep three-o’clock- in-the-morning silence, did it for the first time.
I got up half an hour or so later, feeling as I had never felt before: like I was rising out of what, in Burnt Norton, TS Eliot called “the still point of the turning world…neither flesh nor fleshless” There I had been but I could not say where.
Inspiration Meditation and Creative Flow
Once I noted its benefits, it wasn’t long before I was recommending it to interested friends and clients, to other writers, artists and meditators. It seemed particularly valuable to those who were over-busy, distracted or stressed and who hadn’t succeeded with other meditation methods.
The human mind operates at three levels — Surface (Intellectual) Mind, Deep (Emotional) Mind and Beyond (Creative) Mind. Inspiration Meditation allows you to experience all three. Inspiration Meditation provides a way to tune into your deeper, wiser dimensions of mind, which tend to speak in whispers.
When we take silent time to meditate, a shift happens within. Our consciousness expands, our awareness deepens, we come into the presence of what Albert Einstein described as “the most beautiful emotion we can experience…the [underlying] power of all true art and science.” This power – our creative intelligence – is in us all. You don’t acquire it, any more than you acquire your fingers or your feet. You allow it, welcome it, foster it.
Inspiration meditation is one way to do that. Its step-by-step approach, balanced structure and way in which it integrates right and left brain, sound and silence, words and the spaces between, makes it particularly good at fostering the conditions that allow creativity and creative intelligence to flourish.
As a method, Inspiration Meditation contains within its structure the intention to access the space beyond thought. This innate font of quiet, deep intelligence that we all carry within is the source of our creative power and it is this is what makes Inspiration Meditation more than just quiet time with words and the spaces between words.
This is what makes it a force.