Writers, we love to write, don’t we? That’s the best, even if NaNoWriMo can make us a little jittery (I know I had a wobble last week). But if you’re a writer, or an artist or creative of any kind, you know how wonderful it feels to be in the zone.
The converse of this: you still have to sell.
For indie authors, it’s all down to us.
This is why friend and fellow author, Paul English and I were selling our books at the local car boot sale last Saturday. My husband Cliff was there too with his some of his lovely artworks. He’s a very important member of the team as he has the transport (that’s his bakkie in the background) and the tables and the all-important awning were borrowed from his school.
I have to tell you, it was not a great success. I sold a copy of ‘The Silver Locket’ very early on, but that was it! No other sales of anything! A couple of sniffs… and a couple of people said they’d come back next time. And there will be a next time, in two weeks.
I mean, who wouldn’t want a lovely book for a Christmas present?
Ah well, there’s always next time.
Meanwhile I’m planning some Black Friday and holiday offers – stay tuned out there!
Last Saturday saw the launch of the #WritingMyCity book, the exciting collection of
Cape Town writing, put together by Cape Town Library Service and Open Book.
The selected authors signed a copy for the organisers, Christelle Lubbe and
Frankie Murray. Then we opened our copies and started reading each others stories.
There are some fascinating stories, poems and memoirs in the collection.
Here’s the piece I wrote (page 96):
I’d been late leaving school that afternoon. I’d stayed behind because nice Miss Leibrandt had been helping me with my poem.
On the way home I’d been kicking a can along the dirt pathway between the shacks when I heard shouting over on the main road. Then there was the explosion. Flames shot up into the air, all red and angry-looking. Black smoke billowed upwards.
My house was the other way, but I had to see. I peered out from the end of the lane. People were jumping up and down in the street, arms waving angrily. They were chanting.
Flames licked out of the little corner shop. My friend’s shop. Mr Kabongo whose skin was as black as night, who came from another country further up the map of Africa. Mr Kabongo who told me stories about the animals of the forest where he grew up and the people who lived there before the war in his country. Mr Kabongo who gave me sweets when I went to fetch a half-loaf for my mother.
And now his shop was destroyed. I wondered if he was safe. Had he run, as he’d run before?
So, this writer walks into a book store. She has a mooch about; she knows the store well. She often comes in, to browse (books are so expensive). It’s one of the largest book selling chains in the country. Nicely fitted out, and the staff are always friendly. It must be nice to work in a book store, surrounded by all those lovely books.
The writer picks up the latest copy of The Artist magazine. She’s written a few articles on behalf of clients which have been published in this particular periodical. Not that the artists get paid – it’s for their publicity. Nor does she get a mention, but at least the clients pay for her time. She has an idea for another of her clients.
But that’s not why she came today.
Clutching the magazine, she approaches the desk. One of the assistants intercepts her. “Can I help you?”
She takes a deep breath. “Can I just ask you..?”
The assistant smiles encouragingly. He’s a nice-look young man; intelligent, open-faced.
“Can I just ask you if the store supports Indie Authors?” (There, she said it).
The assistant smiles kindly; a little apologetically. “No, no, never. It’s all done by Head Office…with the publishers, you know.” He pauses. “There was this one time though…”
“Go on,” the author says, leaning forward, as if some major confidence might be shared; some key to unlock…
The assistant is speaking. “The lady’s books were selling very well. There was a lot of publicity. She was selling her books out of the boot of her car.” He shakes his head. “It was a bit greedy really. You know, on the part of the store. They realised they could make money out of her. It didn’t last long.”
The author nods. “So you have to be popular first?”
The assistant nods and smiles sympathetically (pityingly?)
The author nods. “I’ll just pay for this then.” (At least she asked. The ground didn’t swallow her up). She leaves the book store, head held high.
I’ve been wandering about on the old interweb looking for something to rate the reading level of my latest work-in-progress. It’s a children’s book, and this is the first time I’ve written for any audience other than adult (apart from one short story).
I’d tried comparing with some of the books which I still have on my shelves from my childhood, but I suppose I was looking for something more analytical.
Then I came across the Automatic Readability Checker from ‘Readability Formulas’. All you have to do is cut and paste some text from your work and you’ll get an assessment of the grade-age range of your writing. Interesting, huh?
So, I tried the first few paragraphs of the children’s story. The results show it’s ‘easy/fairly easy to read’ and at fourth to sixth grade level (9-12 years), which is great; I’m aiming at the middle grade market!
Then I tried some samples from my first novel, The Silver Locket. This comes out at much the same level. Interesting! So finally I popped in a couple of paragraphs from ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, which is the new novel I’ve just finished editing and I get a slightly higher reading age, 11-15 years.
Also interesting. Then I read somewhere else that Ernest Hemingway’s ‘Old Man and the Sea’ is a fourth grade read and that Jane Austen and J.K. Rowling both come out at between fifth and sixth grade levels.
It’s all about ‘readability’ and actually, who wants to read something difficult, unless it’s an academic text? And even then, wouldn’t you be aiming for at least a good level of readability?
In the end though, I guess the best judge is the reader. I’ll be posting my new work-in-progress children’s novel a weekly chapter at a time, starting next week. And I’ll be interested, as always, in your feedback. Must think of a title!
She hadn’t realised the consequences of taking down that old book and reading from it aloud. Nobody had warned her.
She’d always loved books; especially old books. Battered and bruised, but still adorable. Like a comfortable old armchair. The feel of the paper, pages yellowed at the edges, curled like parchment, worn down by the gaze of its readers. The smell: a little musty; a little dusty. And words which have been read and re-read; taken in, digested.
She’d been permitted to browse this ancient library. To scale the heights of the upper shelves and plumb the depths of the bottom-most archives. To swim in an ocean of promised words.
Finally, she made her choice, a heavy tome and rather old. The pages were discoloured, their edges torn, and the leather binding scuffed and stained. But the drawings of flowers and birds it contained were still colourful. There were passages of script held within the pages, although the language and spelling were archaic and hard to follow.
She took her prize to a remote desk and opened it carefully. She pored over it; savouring it. The illustrations were remarkable; tinted drawings so precise that they could have been photographs: two young girls dressed in pinafores, chanting a hand clapping game. Over the next page, a robust woman in a heavy woollen dress shouting straight out of the page at her, brows knitted with concern, arms open in appeal. A little further on, a poem was it? To be read aloud; of course.
And as she whispered the words, the world grew very bright for a moment, and then the lights went out.
Come, gentle reader, open the book! Look, she’s waving at you; page 229.