I got my rights back from my publisher for my Rapture trilogy at the beginning of the year. At first, I felt a little bit at sea. Other authors may disagree, but for me, becoming an Indie author was a scary prospect.
It was a steep learning curve, especially learning to format and upload. I was already pretty familiar with the marketing side of things through facebook, goodreads, twitter etc. but it was the technical side of things that I found particularly challenging. I’ve got to grips with it since but I do cringe when I think of some of the mistakes I made in the early days. My books are available in basically any format you could want now (except print – more on that later). I uploaded onto smashwords but opted out of Amazon and did that separately. This is essentially because smashwords doesn’t take their cut out of your amazon
I still have to jump through a few hoops with smashwords. I’ve deferred my payments because I still haven’t got an international tax number. New Zealand has a tax treaty with the States so if I get one, I pay 10% tax instead of 30%. It probably doesn’t make too much difference with my level of sales but hey, never look a gift horse in the mouth. Of course, in order to get my international tax number I have to send an authenticated copy of my passport along with some other paper work. Unfortunately, I just realised that my passport has expired. Sigh. There’s always something to distract you from the real business of writing.
I got a three book deal for my Rapture books. I saw the first two (Rapture, Tribulation) in print but will never see the third (Apocalypse) printed by my former publisher. Instead, I’m using Amazon’s createspace to print all three books. I’ve got the same designer (Cheryl Rowe) who did the covers of the original series to do them for me. Before the publisher folded, I couldn’t use the covers. Now I can. They just need a bit of tweaking. This is great because it adds a bit of consistency. If I couldn’t have used the same covers, I would’ve had to start again and they never would’ve looked the same (or as awesome!). I’m just waiting on her to finish up and can’t wait to hold a printed copy of Apocalypse in my hand. I’m a bit old school like that – I do like printed copies of my books.
In terms of writing work, it’s been a busy few months. I haven’t started on my latest YA novel but most of the outline is written in my head. Instead, I’ve been concentrating on contract work. I’ve written two choose your own adventure books (word length 10k each), one chapter book (3k) and five non-fiction books. One of my science fiction stories was published in Australia’s No. 1 science fiction and fantasy magazine, Aurealis. It’s been a challenge balancing this type of work with my day job but I’ve managed and that’s basically what weekends are for. It might seem stressful to some but I know lots of people who have to work weekends. That seems to be the lot of people trying to make ends meet these
Normally, I would’ve been stressed but due to a twist of random fate and the miracle that
is modern medicine, that is not the case. I had back pain. Not just back pain but very specific back pain. It was in one spot. As chance would have it, it was just around the time when I heard the incredibly sad news about Iain Banks (R.I.P) being diagnosed with cancer. He said the first signs for him were back pain. Like him, I initially put it down to being hunched over a keyboard. And then of course I panicked. Panic for me manifests as deep brooding and worry. Eventually (after six weeks), I went to the doctors. I don’t like going to the doctors. I don’t like hospitals. Never have. They are scary places, reeking of
disinfectant, walls covered in squint inducing white paint. Anywho, long story short. After a series of tests, it was essentially good news. I had nerve damage in my back. The doctor gave me some medication that had originally been diagnosed for depression. The result? No back pain and a feeling of positivity. The world smells of roses. Even in the depths of writing, I don’t get those horrible feelings of doubt and self-loathing. Every writer should get some. And here I was relying on booze to get me through writing deadlines. Even my wife has commented how level I am (I think many authors are guilty of mood swings depending on how well/poorly their writing is going).
But I digress. Back to my Indie journey.
I remember when I was first searching for an agent (for Rapture). I received a lot of requests for partials and fulls. I had movie producers and one movie studio approach me about the rights. Stephanie Meyer’s agent read it. So did Neil Gaiman’s. One agent for a large and respected literary agency said (and I quote) “other agents will go nuts for this.” I never got the chance to find out. Before I could pursue this course to its fullest extent, I got offered my three book deal.
Do I have any regrets? At first, yes. But now, I’ve made my peace with it. I'm committed to being an Indie because it gives me a great deal of control and freedom. My wife asked me that exact same question the other night and I really do feel at peace (probably due to the meds). I had (and still do) high hopes for my Rapture trilogy. They are good books. I know they are, given that I read so many. I thought they may be the ticket to me writing full time but life throws curve balls. Sales are ticking along. They’re not exactly setting Amazon alight but that’s ok. I’m not in the position to give up my day job but I’m fine with that
too. I’m happy that people are reading it. I’m getting great reviews too which is incredibly satisfying. I’m in a good place at the moment, comfortable in my own skin. It's not to say that I still wouldn't be open to any offers from a major publisher (who wouldn't?) but it is liberating being an Indie. I’m a teacher by day but I’m hoping to combine my writing with teaching, perhaps becoming a specialist writing teacher. But’s that’s the future. Right now, I’m concentrating on the present. I’m just thrilled that I’m able to still write and that people are enjoying it. And isn’t that what writing is all about? Enjoying the creative outlet, knowing that you’re making some people happy. It’s enough.
Phillip W. Simpson
Phillip W. Simpson is an author of YA and children's books.