Watch Me Self-Publish: Sydney Writers’ Festival
Ever since I saw the Sylvester the Cat t-shirt that said “Thydney” I haven’t been able to say “Sydney” without thinking with a lisp. Thydeny Writerth Fethtival is a bit of a mouthful, though. And anyone wanting to speak in public should not be thinking Thelf-Publithing.
Here’s where to find the official write-up: Self-Publishing Panel, Tools of the Trade
I had a great time. Being on a panel seems to be part-performance, part-job interview. The panellists were all very lovely and knowledgeable, the audience was full of writers, it was really very idyllic and I could have stayed there all day. Except that it finished at 1 o’clock.
The second panel talked about marketing and about how you have to do these sorts of appearances if you want to be a writer and especially if you want to self-publish. What I found really endearing was that all of the panellists were enthusiastic about supporting each others’ work – I came away with some new friends, both writers and editors and we’re all going to be promoting each other. Yay!
I sold 4 books – even more Yay! And one of the people who bought one emailed me and said,
“You are highly creative and it’s great to read works which actually say something, but with intelligent language. I cried reading the first story about the fellow in the penguin suit – it was a beautiful story and beautifully written.”
Biggest Yay! of all!
I thought I’d post here the presentation that I wanted to make. With pictures.
Hi. My name is Carla. This is Halibut.
[I did a lot of holding the book up and waving it around – we all had fun with that]. I have always wanted to be a writer. I have always written.
When I was 18 I left school and started a theatre company with friends in our home town, Glastonbury in the UK.
We wrote our own shows and toured them to schools all over the SW of England. We adapted the Ancient Mariner and took it to the Edinburgh Festival. We took Shakespeare to West Africa. We did street theatre, community theatre, video, cabaret, pantomime, festivals and events. We taught. We taught kids, teenagers, corporates, police cadets anybody. None of us went anywhere near a drama school and none of us looked to some sort of authority for approval- we were the artists and we judged our own work.
Then I fell in love, had a baby and bought a stolen bicycle. That combination of events landed me in Australia. In Blackheath. In the early 90s. Blackheath was really a cultural void at that time;
so I went about re-creating something of what I’d had in Glastonbury. I set up a youth theatre and started the Blackheath Pantomimes which I wrote, produced and directed the pantos for about 5 years.
They were huge. We had about 75 people engaged in each production. We had lights, sound, projectors, video, live music, tap dancers, animations you name it. People came up from Sydney every year. I was still teaching: I was writer-in-residence at Lawson school, taught workshops at NSW Writers Centre and a few other places, won a competition and had a short story published with Visible Ink.
And about 2 years ago I discovered Kindle Direct Publishing and it Changed My Life!
I’m in love with self-publishing. I come from that long tradition of theatre people just making theatre and putting on a show.
“I’ve made a show, you can watch it if you like”
Writers have been constrained by expensive and difficult technology – now we’re not. We can do the same thing:
“I’ve written a book – you can read it if you like”
Things I learned from theatre that I’m now applying to self-publishing:
I learned in theatre that the process of making something is at least as important, if not more so, than the product that comes out at the end. If you have a shitty process experience where you’re tired and tense and angry all the time, it doesn’t matter how great the product is – when you look at it you’ll just remember that you were tired and tense and angry.
When I look at Halibut, I remember a sense of freedom, artistic control and a gleeful feeling of finally unleashing myself on the world.
Capitalism wants to sell you products, regardless of any costs that might be incurred in terms of your artistic integrity or the environment. For me, self-publishing beautifully undermines both of those because I can write what I like and if you choose to buy my book in paperback it’s available as print on demand – there aren’t 5,000 copies in a back room somewhere waiting to be pulped into toxic sludge if they’re not sold.
Capitalism wants to sell products, when we humans spend most of our time in process – creating things, experimenting, trying things, failing and getting back up again. Capitalism hates that because it’s very difficult to sell something that has no packageable outcome.
Say you want to go on a picnic. You can just grab some food and a tarp to sit on and go have a picnic. But Capitalism says, wait, let us help you. Here – buy the Picnic Pack. – with the perfect food, the hamper, the retro-rug, all the trimmings.
And then Capitalism says, of course it’s only an authentic picnic experience if you buy the picnic pack. Otherwise it’s just eating outside and that’s not a picnic. Not a proper picnic.
We fall into this trap that Authentic Experiences have to be professionally designed and manufactured and purchased, otherwise they aren’t authentic.
Capitalism says there is only one way to be a proper, respected author – you have to buy the Author Pack which means you pay for an agent, a publisher and the chance to be packaged as a writer.
And I don’t want to do that.
I want to enjoy the process and I want to write what I’m driven to write. I have fun writing stories. I need to have fun publishing them as well. I have a day-job that is all about work and duty and doing as I’m told…As soon as publishing becomes like that, I’ll stop enjoying it.
The great thing about the process of self-publishing is that you can do it at your own pace, you don’t have to take yourself too seriously, you can miss deadlines, you can make mistakes and you can have a lot of fun.
As I published I set up a blog and wrote a series called “Watch Me Self-Publish” which takes you step by step through my experience including all the (many) mistakes I made.
So, those are my 3 reasons for self-publishing:
- Enjoy the process as much as you enjoy the product
- Avoid being commodified
- Have Fun