The Market Can't Even Handle Me Right Now, with Damien Seaman (Part Two)
Damien Seaman has been busy constructing the ultimate blog on the hows, whys and wheres of writing, and he invited me in to discuss complicity, privilege, wild dynamic pantsing, and small moments of joy.
"Why self-publish? "Publishers just couldn't fit me into a market," says BP Gregory
5 April 2019
Author Interview/Indie Publishing/self-publishing, Marketing/promotion, productivity, writing tips
How this Australian author turned "thanks but no thanks" into an invitation to publish her own work...
It's a simple tale. A common one, too.
A young woman, full of talent, drive and ambition.
She writes. Wants to get published the old-fashioned way ...
So she sends manuscripts off to publishers.
She builds up a stack of rejections, only to see a pattern:
Thankyou for your submission, enjoyed the read, just can't see a market for it.
So ... encouraging?
Also kinda inspiring. At least for this particular young woman:
"It got me thinking," BP says. "Traditional publishers face a lot of risk versus reward. This creates an artificial selection on what stories get offered to the market. Readers end up only being offered what the publisher thinks they'll like."
She wanted to offer readers like her the kind of stories that she likes.
So, having written them already, publishing them herself - without the risks publishers face - seemed like a no-brainer.
So, read on for more lessons from the Aussie Whirlwind, including:
The pros and cons of self-publishing
The benefits of her marketing experience so far - and her number one tip for promoting yourself as a writer (also why it's also "the simplest and most enjoyable" technique)
Which elements of the writing craft all writers must master ...
Why did you decide to become a published writer? What motivated you to take the leap?
I think it was after sitting down and honestly asking myself, "What are you afraid of?"
After all, if I write a story and somebody doesn't like it, neither of us are going to die. Worst case scenario is we'd both be mildly disappointed, and then move on with our lives.
Also I'm an extremely clumsy person. If I'm not scared by the occasional pratfall in real life, why should professionally be any different?
Why did you decide to self-publish your fiction rather than go a more traditional route?
When I was younger I amassed a file of rejection letters from publishers. They all ran roughly to the same tune: thankyou for your submission, enjoyed the read, just can't see a market for it.
It was great for them to take the time to write a real letter rather than mail-merging my ass, but it got me thinking. Traditional publishers face a lot of risk versus reward.
That creates an artificial selection on what stories get offered to the market.
"Readers end up only being offered what the publisher thinks they'll like."
This might be fine and efficient for those who only read one or two books a year; but I'm getting through a hundred, and it truncates my chances of making discoveries.
Weird and unusual stories that weren't commercial successes (at least not yet) have genuinely thrilled and changed me as a person. I certainly fee there's plenty of room on the field for traditional publishing, and the irregulars.
What kind of success have you had so far and what does success mean to you with your writing?
Well, I've completed stories. That's pretty successful. Some people have read them and left reviews, and that's amazing.
To date I'm still inching toward my first cumulative thousand in revenue, so in financial terms most accountants wouldn't give me the time of day - but every time somebody chooses to buy one of my books I die a little of joy inside.
Those couple of dollars will buy a coffee. They directly contribute to my happiness and wellbeing.
What are the pros and cons of indie publishing, as you see them?
I'm not going to pretend indie is the shiny be-all. It's a lot of unpaid administrative work. I find it a lot, and I'm a professional administrator.
On the up side, you get back the value that you put into it. Also your opportunity to do more, and do better, is constantly evolving.
"Real time sales data is nice, too. It allows better targeting of marketing and promotions, you can see what's effective."
Do you think there's anything in your work that is distinctly Australian or clearly influenced by your having grown up there? If so, what?
Definitely the language. Australian English is a peculiar beast: birthed from UK English, but not shy about borrowing, and full of its own slang (furphy is a favourite of mine) and vowel-y rhythms.
Sci-fi novel Automatons is set in the hot, red Australian desert, and outback horror The Town in isolated rural Victoria.
White Picket is very much set in an Australian suburb, where residents struggle to reconcile their middle class privilege with the distant horrors pouring through the news every day.
Short horror The Elevator Story is actually based on a building where I used to work, here in Melbourne, where a coworker would regularly get stuck on their journey up to the twelfth floor.
As with lots of writers, you have a pretty interesting background. Corporate drone, archaeology student, psychology student, catwalk model, you've worked on film shoots ... you seem naturally restless. how does this come out in your writing, do you think?
Well, you never know when something's going to be useful.
"A lot of my early life I felt like I was waiting for something to happen. Eventually I realized I was far better off trying random things, and building a bank of experience; rather than sighing out the window because the world hadn't swept me off my feet and shown my its secrets."
Also, I know a bunch of really interesting people. The opportunity to lend a hand on their projects crops up every now and again. Who WOULDN'T want to fly to New Zealand to film a half-naked barbarian, fling VFX blood at a zombie, or prance down a runway to see how it feels (terrifying, by the way).