A writer's life for me;
A paper stack and a silver pen,
A laptop that's gone wrong again.
A writer's life is fun;
You get your name on a book, you know –
You're no longer just a so and so,
Even though your sales may be low,
A Writer's life for me!
The other day I found myself wondering what I would be if I wasn't a writer? Oh, I have had heaps of other careers – day jobs – but I have been a writer all my life. From my earliest memories I was never happier than with a pen and paper, making up a poem or story; for, it does not matter what I may do by way of employment, the fact that I am a writer is something deeper within, set in stone at the core, it is part of who I am: my vocation, my calling...my life. This was not something I wholly recognised until I was having one of my 'Why do I do this?' tantrums. You know the moments – when it seems that being a medieval gong farmer would be far preferable, and certainly far more financially profitable, than this wordsmithying malarkey. At such moments I rally on about how I shall jack it all in and spend my time restoring furniture, or sewing curtains, or... My husband's response was to ask 'How long would that last? You couldn't go a day without having a storyline run through your head from some random thing you have heard or seen’. I had to concede, he was right. It is in my thinking, my nature, to be a writer, and I am continually astounded to find that it isn't what normal folk do – weaving mental stories throughout their waking and, I am in no doubt, sleeping hours.
The only problem with being a writer is at times it can be a curse rather than a blessing, for a writer is compelled to commit stories to paper, seek an audience, and dare I say it, aspire to feel the jingle of a coin or two in the pocket in remuneration for doing such. A career as a full-time writer is becoming a rare beast, especially if you seek to do this via novels alone. A number of contributing factors, over the past twenty years, have seen the world of publishing change into a hydra of not merely many heads, but colours also, and the evolutions continue to roll at a pace that is reflective of the instant world we now live in. The heads of this publishing monster, a twenty-first-century writer has to tackle, are varied in their friendliness, or ferocity. It was always incredibly difficult to get an agent and/or publisher interested in your work, but now even more so, given the state of the industry. Mass market discounting, celebrity bandwagons and accountant analysed trending mean that obtaining a publishing contract goes far beyond simply having a truly fantastic manuscript to sell. But what care we, us scribes of the techno age, for we have print on demand and eBooks, and all the software and channels to do it all for ourselves...well that is the theory, anyhow. For those of you who have forayed into the murky waters of independent publishing you will know that plain sailing it is not! Not to mention that the facility that is open to one, as a writer now, is also open to every single citizen of this planet...and you soon discover there are an awful lot of wannabe writers out there! Readers have never had it so good!
I have a mental analogy which reflects the current state of the book publishing industry as being akin to the upended Titanic in her death throes. Having hit the iceberg of e-publishing and mass market global booksellers, the established, big name authors are clinging desperately to the ship's upended stern for as long as they can, watching their companions slowly lose hold of the rail and tumble, one by one, into the obscurity below. Meanwhile, the conventional, old-order publishers and agents have roughly shoved women and children aside to commandeer the lifeboats and make their escape as best they can, with as many first class, celebrity passengers as possible crammed in with them, picking up the odd survivor, who has proved their mettle, along the way. This literary Titanic is crewed by independent bookshops, who are stoically committed to going down with the ship, whilst a plethora of literary festivals serenade them, keeping them company, playing on in an attempt to lift their spirits and offer hope to the doomed. Meanwhile, the long-serving pulp fiction authors from the 'B' deck are throwing themselves into the churning new waves of the publishing ocean in the hope they will float somehow. So, where are the new authors, the up and coming voices? Below the waterline they labour, surrounded by the choppy waters of conventional and independent publishing that have churned in the storm of the technological advancements which conspire to sink the ship. As third class passengers, who have scraped a ticket for this perilous ride, they are stuck in steerage. When they boarded the ship they were full of hopes and aspirations, although they may have clambered aboard at the bottom, with a turn of luck and a spark of something special they could just possibly make it up to the very top deck, or at worst creep up into second class. Invisible to those above, they are left to not only find their own way out of the maze that confronts them, with lights out and the constant threat of drowning, but they are also required to cobble together their own lifejacket and raft... not to mention fight their way through the masses who are packed around them, all shouting to make their voices heard! But, it is possible to make it to the top deck, for we have all heard rumours of those who have made it out – and even though we are upon a sinking ship, there is hope – for readers man the numerous rescue boats that are streaming towards this wreck.
That might paint a fairly grim picture of publishing as it is today, but the reality is that it is getting harder and harder to find a conventional route for getting your novel into print, and non-conventional routes there may be aplenty, but they are rarely straightforward, pitfall-free paths. The problem, if you are like me, is I AM A WRITER, it is what I do, and want to do – I can't simply shrug my shoulders and go and find something else to do, as much as I would like to at times. My only choice is to explore the options and find the best way to negotiate the publishing chaos around me, and make it to the readers who are out there somewhere, in the lifeboats – keen to haul me in over the side and welcome me into their boat. There are thousands of us writers seeking the same thing, and many ways to get there, thus, collaboration must be the answer. If I share with you my experiences, and you share with me yours...with a touch of camaraderie we all might just make it through. To this end I have established a new blog, for one of the positives of the technological age is blogging, never was there a better way to share and glean information around the globe. The blog is called The Indie Writer ( http://theindiwriter.wordpress.com/ ) and I am hoping for it to become a hub of shared knowledge between independent writers endeavouring to get their books published. I don't want it to be my voice alone on there, though I will be sharing my experiences and tips from time to time, no, my aim is that other writers will swamp me with blog entries that I can post and thus together we can create an evolving guide of up-to-date information that will aid and enable other writers to perhaps make it through the labyrinth a little easier.
As an indie writer I have created my own publishing company, Wilton End Publishing, and the aim of that company is not just to publish my own work but to enable others to publish their work too, by using the means that are best for them, and discover an audience for that work. Together we can perhaps cobble together a raft that will allow us to chart our way through the roaring ocean of modern publishing and reach our waiting readers, who really do want to read our books.
So, who is with me? If you would like to send me an article for The Indie Writer I would love to hear from you, whatever your route from pen to published – ups, downs, highs, lows, peaks and pitfalls, please do share. My aim is to not only enable others through our own experiences but also to publicise as many indie writers as I can via their contribution to the blog, and her sister blog The Indie Reader...but that is a blog for another day!
If you have a blog entry you would like to have posted on The Indie Writer please email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi diddle dee doo
I'm a writer, don't you know
I'm on Goodreads and Amazon
And a big contract won't be long
She did it with Shades of Grey
And I'm better than that, or so they say...
A writer's life for me!
Janis Pegrum Smith is the author of
More Than Gold – A Klondike Adventure
Marigolds in Her Hands – A Romance
and her new novel
The Book Ark –Black on White will be released in August 2014.
The creative light behind Wilton End Publishing, she is also a reviewer and Assistant Editor for the Indie section of the Historical Novel Society.
For more on Janis please go to
For more on Wilton End Publishing please go to
For more on The Indie Writer please go to