Good morning and welcome to whatever day of the week it is today. I’ve totally lost track of everything. This challenge is actually the only bit of structure in my life right now, all else is madness. I may even go so far as to sign up for Audible. My reading concentration is kaput and I’m struggling to write. Listening may be the only thing I have left. Well, listening and eating. So much for my grand plans to lose loads of weight while we’re in lockdown. It’s all peppermint Aeros and peanut M&Ms in our house. Anyway, I digress. Today’s letter is I and I stands for:
We all have it, don’t we? That awful, sinking feeling when you can’t help but think, “What am I doing? Who do I think I’m fooling? I’m not a real writer/artist/mum/teacher/whatever. I’m not as good as all the other writers/artists/mums/teachers/whatever.”
It’s horrible to feel like that, but it’s sort of comforting to know that it’s a condition shared by so many. It’s linked to that other horrible condition, Comparisonitis. That’s where you look around you and think, “Everyone else is doing so much better than me. Why am I such a failure?”
The over-riding fear is that, one day, you’ll be exposed as a fraud. That people will wake up and realise you’ve just been pretending to be good at what you do, and then the whole world will rise up in judgement and tell you what you already knew anyway.
You may think that writers are full of confidence about their work, but you’d be surprised how many suffer from feelings of inadequacy. It’s such an awful feeling. Any praise that comes your way is dismissed, as you don’t believe you deserve it. Any criticism, on the other hand, is lapped up and clung to, because it enforces what you already believe to be true. You keep slogging away, trying desperately to prove to yourself and others that any good reviews you’ve ever had are justified, that you really can do this. You look around you and it seems as if everyone else knows what they’re doing and you’re just bumbling along, bluffing your way through it all. One day, surely, someone will realise and expose you for the fraud you are?
The best way I’ve found to deal with Imposter Syndrome (and Comparisonitis, come to that) is to be honest about how you feel to some trusted friends. When you discover that – lord above! – they feel the same way, it can be a freeing moment. It seems to burst the bubble. That’s not to say you won’t continue to have moments when all those doubts and fears come back, but knowing that it’s a very real condition and that plenty of other people suffer from it, too, can help to put it into perspective. When you discover that someone you look up to and whose work/mothering skills/general all-round niceness you greatly admire has the same paralysing doubts as you do, well, you can start to get a grip on it. Most of us feel like frauds. That doesn’t mean we are. Unless you’re a counterfeiter or confidence trickster, of course, in which case, shame on you!
IngramSpark is a self-publishing and distribution company. Not only can you publish your ebook through them, but paperbacks and hardbacks, too. This is one of the advantages it has over KDP, which doesn’t offer hardbacks at the moment. You can choose from various paper options for black and white or full colour printing, and, as it’s print-on-demand, you don’t have to saddle yourself with a stack of books that you may never get rid of.
Unlike Amazon’s KDP, there is an upfront charge for this service. For ebooks, that’s around $29, and for print books or a print book/ebook package it’s $49. This may be off-putting to some, but IngramSpark does have an advantage over KDP, in that your books can be distributed to multiple platforms, including Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and even Amazon itself. Full instructions about publishing are available on its site.
Some retailers are reluctant to stock products published by Amazon. Many downright refuse. By publishing with IngramSpark, you get access to global ebook and print book distribution, enabling you to sell your books to Barnes & Noble and independent book shops, and even get them into many libraries. If you want to know more about the differences between IngramSpark and Amazon’s KDP, here’s a great article that offers a more detailed explanation. It’s dated from 2018 but it still holds true.
The Alliance of Independent Authors recommends publishing paperbacks through both Amazon and IngramSpark. This is because if you only publish through the latter, they will often show up as Out of Stock on your book page on Amazon and a long waiting time for new stock is given. This could, obviously, put potential buyers off. If you print with KDP and sell those copies through Amazon, and also print with IngramSpark for all other distributors, you’ve got the best of both worlds. And you can use the same ISBN for both, remember. Which brings me neatly on to:
An ISBN is basically a 13-digit code which is unique to your book. Not only does it identify your publisher and your title, but also a specific edition of that title. So if you publish a later edition with significant changes, you’ll need a new ISBN. What do I mean by significant changes? Well, a new title for a start. So, if your book was previously called Little Willow and the Chattering Frog and you change it to The Chattering Frog Meets Little Willow you’ll need a new ISBN (and a better way of coming up with book titles. Lord, I hope no one has called their book by either of those names!)
Fixing a few typos or rearranging the odd clumsy sentence isn’t classed as a major change, but if you add a whole new chapter, or even a foreword, then you will need a new ISBN. You won’t need one if you’re just changing your book’s price, but you will need one if your book was previously published by a publishing company and you’ve got your rights back and have decided to self publish. That’s because, not only does the ISBN identify the book, but also the publisher.
I previously published my first six books as paperbacks with Fabrian Books. I withdrew them from sale last year, and intend to republish them under my own imprint, Green Ginger Publishing. They’ll have new covers and will have been re-edited and brought up-to-date. They will therefore have brand new ISBNs.
In the UK, ISBNs are purchased from Nielsen. You can buy one individual ISBN or in blocks of ten, a hundred or a thousand. The more you buy, the cheaper it is for each one, but think carefully about how many you’re likely to need. The good thing is, they don’t expire. The ISBN is printed on the back cover of a book on a barcode. It’s also usually printed inside the book. If you are publishing an ebook through KDP you won’t need an ISBN as they are assigned an ASIN instead. This is a ten digit Amazon Standard Identification Number. Amazon can also provide free ISBNs for your print books, but if you want your paperback to have your own publishing imprint’s name on it, you’ll need to buy your own. I’m not sure of the rules around buying ISBNs in other countries, I’m afraid, though I believe in the US they can be purchased from Bowker.
I’ve mentioned Instagram before. It’s an incredibly popular social media site, owned by Facebook, which is geared towards sharing photographs, rather than text posts. Like Twitter, Instagram makes full use of hashtags, but unlike Twitter, where one or two of them will suffice, Instagram likes a full-on hashtag all-you-can-eat buffet. Apparently, you should use at least nine and the limit is thirty. Thirty! Sometimes, it’s pretty hard to think of them, but then again, it can be fun coming up with some weird and wacky ones of your own. I follow Georgia Tennant and she’s a great example of someone who’s really good at making them up.
There are established hashtags, of course. For authors, examples are #amwriting #amreading #amwritingromance (or whatever other genre you write) #authorsofinstagram #writersofinstagram #booksofinstagram #bookstagram # … you get the gist. Here’s a great list of hashtags for authors. Instagram is a great way to follow people you admire, such as other writers, artists, photographers, celebrities and even royalty. Some are superstars at it and their posts brighten up the day. This lockdown has definitely brought out their creative talents! We’ve had everything from friendly chats from Miranda Hart to readings from Pride and Prejudice by Jennifer Ehle. Yes! The real Lizzie Bennet! Of course, our real purpose is to focus on our brand *ahem* and not get distracted by videos of puppies and other people’s fabulous holiday pictures, and cake, loads of cake … obviously. Post marketing pictures by all means, but mix it up with other stuff.
Here’s a screenshot of my Instagram account and I’ve tried to follow my own advice. Recent holidays and days out enabled me to post photographs of Glastonbury and cream scones and Ilfracombe and my daughter’s dog. Unfortunately, since lockdown, I’ve struggled to post anything. There are only so many pictures of my bookcase/office/Doctor Who merchandise that anyone can stomach, but I’m sure you’re all far more interesting.
The one question that writers are consistently asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?” Honestly, from everywhere! Inspiration is all around and thank heavens it is or there’d be very few books/pieces of music/paintings/songs/poems etc in the world.
I get my inspiration mostly from settings. Once the place has come to me my mind soon starts churning away, creating the people who live there. That’s why I love visiting different villages and towns throughout Yorkshire, because just seeing those beautiful locations gets my creative juices flowing. Robin Hood’s Bay inspired me to create Kearton Bay. Swaledale became Skimmerdale. Knaresborough became Castle Clair. And all the stunning moorland villages were the inspiration for my Moorland Heroes villages and, of course, Bramblewick. You can read more about the locations for my books here.
Paintings can also give me ideas. Sometimes it’s the setting, or a building, or a face that will make me think, “What if?” Sometimes, it’s a song. Occasionally, it’s a snippet of conversation that makes my ears prick up and draws my attention. For example, when I worked at the day job, one of my colleagues was chatting about her dog’s dreadful behaviour and something he’d done that had really annoyed her boyfriend. It made us all laugh, even while we were giving her our sympathies, but it started the cogs whirring. The result was my People’s Friend pocket novel, All Because of Baxter. I later sold the large print rights to Ulverscroft, then repackaged it as a Christmas novel, and published as a Kindle book and paperback under the title, Baxter’s Christmas Wish – the first in my Home for Christmas series.
My sister’s graduation ceremony sparked an idea that eventually became a short story called Sundae Girl. I sent it to The People’s Friend and they bought it, changing the name to The Luckiest Man Alive. It was so exciting to have a story published in a magazine, especially one as prestigious as The People’s Friend. It just shows you. Who’d have thought attending my sister’s graduation would lead to that? As I said, inspiration is all around, and you never know where or when it will happen. Isn’t that fantastic?
Okay, so I’ve wittered on enough now. I’m off to work out any writing-related words beginning with J. This challenge is getting trickier by the day! See you all tomorrow. Stay safe.