I was going to say, hello and welcome to … insert day of the week here … but I honestly can’t remember what day of the week it is, so I’ll skip that part and get straight on with the blog. Today, we’ve arrived at the letter H. H is for:
I’ve been thinking a lot about holidays recently, not least because I’m supposed to be going away to Cornwall at the end of next month and that’s not looking at all likely, yet I’m having awful trouble finding out where I stand with the rental company I booked with. Anyway, enough of that. We all have our tales of woe, I’m sure, and it’s hardly important in the scheme of things. But, you know, holidays are important, and I don’t necessarily mean going away from home. I mean holidays from work.
When you’re self-employed and wholly dependant on your writing for an income, it’s alarmingly easy to slip into 24/7 work mode. I struggle massively with the concept of taking a day off. My first thought, when I wake up, is … well, it’s I need the loo, actually. And then it’s, I really need a cup of tea. But after that, my first thought is, time for work.
It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, or if it’s a weekend, or a Bank Holiday. You probably guessed that, seeing as I’ve lost track of what day of the week it is. If I’m not physically out of the house, then I feel I should be at my desk working.
The odd thing is, when I had my day job, I experienced no guilt whatsoever in taking weekends and Bank Holidays away from that. What’s the difference, you ask? You tell me! I come up with all sorts of reasons to justify taking a day off work, but none of them really cut it. Even watching a documentary for research, or reading a book that’s relevant to what I’m writing about doesn’t help. I might just as well be binge-watching Miranda or working my way through every Adrian Mole book for the hundredth time. The guilt’s the same.
I’ve even been known to take my laptop with me when we’re all away on holiday. Seriously. I can remember, all too clearly, being tucked away in a little cottage in Boscastle one evening, feverishly working on Saving Mr Scrooge, while my family members played games and got pleasantly drunk. Yes, I was resentful and cross, but only with myself. I had a deadline and I couldn’t miss it, so work came first.
It really isn’t good for me, and I know this lockdown is the perfect time to break the habit. Although, I have this blogging challenge to do – and how was I supposed to know when I signed up for it that I’d be writing it during a lockdown? Also, if I’m not working, I might just be guilt-tripped into baking scones, or learning to knit, or joining an online choir (and no one should have to hear that) so maybe I’m better off just getting on with the writing.
But you definitely should take holidays! If you can get away from home once all this madness is over then do it, and do not take your work away with you. Have a complete rest! And if you can’t go away, then take a holiday at home. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you have a break from writing, and everything that goes with writing, for at least a few days. You need to recharge. You’re not a machine. And neither, as I must keep reminding myself, am I.
We all need help at some point, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for it. But where does a writer go for help? How about, other writers? There is a fantastic online community of writers and I’ve honestly, hand on heart, found almost every single author I’ve ever come across on there to be helpful and supportive. Back when I was just dabbling in writing, and There Must Be an Angel was in its very early stages, I plucked up the courage to contact an author for advice about joining the Romantic Novelists’ Association. I’d seen something about her in Writing Magazine, and thought she sounded friendly and approachable, so I went for it. To be honest, I didn’t really expect a reply. I was amazed when she got back to me, almost immediately, with very useful advice and plenty of encouragement. Take a bow, Lizzie Lamb!
If you don’t want to contact an individual writer, and I appreciate it can feel scary to do so, there are lots of online groups you can join. Facebook has a veritable plethora of groups aimed at informing and encouraging would-be and newbie writers, and you’ll find that no question will seem too silly or trivial. There are groups specifically aimed at indie authors, too, and for advice about all things self-publishing, you’ll almost certainly find what you’re looking for. The Alliance of Independent Authors has a couple of Facebook groups for members, and topics may range from, “Do I need an ISBN?” or “Where do I find a cover designer?” to “How do I set up a live event?” and “What is the typical rate for Turkish rights?” plus everything in between.
Help is out there if you ask for it. Please, don’t be afraid to ask. Every single author started out as a wannabe, and every single author needed help and advice along the way. Most are only too happy to repay the favour.
It used to be that a writer was either traditionally published or indie published. Today, the lines are blurred somewhat, and many authors are what we call “hybrid” authors. That is to say, some of their books are published by traditional publishers, and others they publish themselves.
There can be several reasons for this. For example, if an author has an established brand and writes a certain kind of novel, a publisher may be reluctant to take on a book that doesn’t fit into that brand. Or it may be that an author is contracted to write a long-running series, but has also written a new novel that doesn’t belong in that series. It could be that a publishing contract has expired and the publisher doesn’t wish to renew it, or the author decides that he or she no longer wishes to work with that publisher. It could even be for financial reasons: if a publisher doesn’t have much of a budget for marketing, an author may feel that he or she could make more income by going it alone. It may be that an indie author wishes to have experience writing for a traditional publisher. Or maybe he or she feels that a traditional deal would get their name “out there” and help to push their books to a wider audience.
Whatever the reason, hybrid publishing is becoming increasingly popular. Some publishers don’t allow their authors to indie publish while under contract, or there may be time constraints on new releases, or “first look” options, so you must check your contract to make sure this is permitted. I know of several hybrid authors who are loving this new way of working. They enjoy the freedom of indie publishing, but like having the validation, expertise, wide reach and experience of a traditional publisher behind them.
I also know of some indie authors who are thriving and wouldn’t consider a traditional deal – and have even turned down offers because they know a publisher couldn’t do anything for them they couldn’t do for themselves. I’m equally aware of traditionally published authors who would feel deeply uncomfortable, and have no desire to pursue an indie career, even part-time. So, it’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely something to consider.
I’ll leave it there for today. I’m going to venture outside to the field across the road, and hope that a) my skin doesn’t peel off in shock at sunlight and b) my legs can still carry me, given I haven’t walked further than up and down the stairs for over three weeks. If I survive the shock exposure to Vitamin D and my muscles are still working, I’ll be with you tomorrow, when we’ll be tackling the letter I.
Have a good day, and stay safe.