Saturday, 26 March 2011

Shhhh... Don't tell anyone

Okay, I'm going to come right out and say it: I've published a book.

In January I wrote 31 flash fictions, and when I finished I decided to go ahead and self-publish them as a collection. This was partly because people very kindly asked where they could read them, partly so I could have a permanent record of the project, and partly as a way of promoting myself and maybe, just maybe, having a 'real' publisher pick up the collection (or a collection at least) for their list.

So, it was a low key thing, just a little project to see if I could do it, see if anyone would like it, and it would give me and my friends a little keepsake.

Even during the whole editing, type-setting, cover-design and printing phases I never thought of it as any more than that. That was, right up until the book arrived on Wednesday.

There is something about the reality of the book which changed how I saw it. This was no longer just a little whimsy, it's an actual book. My perspective of what I had done changed in an instant. I held the book in my hands, saw my name on the front, spine, title page; saw all my words covering all of the pages, and realised that this was an actual thing that I should be proud of, rather than slightly embarrassed at my presumption.

You see, it hadn't occurred to me consciously, but up until that point I had been self-conscious about self-publishing my own collection. I thought it might come across as self-aggrandising and arrogant. People would think: Who is this guy who has decided for himself that his work is good enough for a book that we actually have to give money for?

But, once I had the book in my hands, I realised that this was really important to me. It was something I had slaved over and created, and something I was incredibly proud of.

With the book now a reality, I built a page on my website to sell it, and started telling people about it, and some of them came along and bought it. And these weren't all just kind friends, they were also writers who I respect.

So, today I have been finding envelopes and printing postage labels ready to send them out. In total, in the three days since the book arrived, I have sold 10 copies. This will never make it a best seller, but I am so pleased, and so proud. I have made this thing, and whatever people might think of it when they read it, I know that it's a good piece of work. And I'm no longer thinking about another publisher picking it up. It already exists, it is a thing in and of itself, and that's enough for me. The clamouring publishers will have to wait for me to write the next 31. What do you think? May?

The arrival of this book has managed to change how I view myself as a writer, and find a new level of self-confidence. So what if it's self-published. I think it's a good book, worth reading, and I've managed to do all the extra work (with help, I should add) to bring it into being. That should be worth more, not less, don't you think?

If you're interested in a copy of 31, you can find out more at

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


Over-optimistic? Prideful? Bombastic? Arrogant?
A definite maybe to all of those things, is my response, when looking back over my last few blog entries. I have been guilty of the sin of pride and been dealt the suitable response. I will now exist on nothing more than bread and water for 40 days and 40 nights, and never again presume to tempt the fates...

Too much? Yeah, okay, maybe. But still, that's how it feels when the rejections start rolling in after a period of success.

I have written a number of entries recently about the various things I have been doing and the stories which have been accepted. All was going so well until last week when 9 stories were rejected in one go. They were all to one publication, to be sure, but they couldn't find anything in any of the stories that they wanted to use, despite being a wide spread of different styles, genres, and formats. On the same day I checked in with a competition that I entered back in October - having sent them what I considered to be my strongest piece - to find that not only had I not won, I wasn't even in the shortlist.

It was a dark day.

My response? Well, I whined about it a bit, and then I immediately sent out two of the rejected stories to another magazine. Despite warning of a possible lengthy delay in response, as most magazines do, they managed to assess and reject both of the stories in less than 24 hours.

I was suitably chagrined and chastened.

And, really, that's all it takes to knock a writer's ego. We are only ever as happy as our last success, and one rejection (never mind 13 in two days!) is enough to wipe the slate clean again.

It was pointed out to me by my friend, Elaine, commenting on one of my whinges, that these rejections were actually a sign that I am sending a lot of work out. The more you send, the more you have accepted, yes, but also the more you will have rejected. And this is entirely true. One of the key skills in being a writer is to learn to take the rejections and carry on anyway. The 95% perspiration which contributes to success, is probably composed of at least 50% sheer, damned, dogged persistence.

And so that is what I shall do: persist. Rejections? Smejections! I shall lick my wounds, and get all those stories back out and trotting round the world once again. I know they're good, and for some unsuspecting editor, they will be just the thing.

Another friend - Angi Holden - told me that in this situation her father would have uttered the word 'FIFO!' - 'F**k It, Forge On'. I'm thinking of having it as a tattoo, now I just need to decide where.

Workshop opportunities

Vanessa Gebbie, a writer of excellent short stories and flash fictions, and the person who introduced me to flash fiction in the first place, is running some courses which would be well worth attending.

The first will be at the Anam Cara Retreat in Co. Cork, Ireland, for one week from the 28th May. Entitled 'Short Fiction: So Much More Than It Seems…' it promises to be a wonderful week. More information can be found at

If you can't make that, then she is also running workshops, masterclasses and one-to-one sessions at this year's Winchester Writing Conference. More details at