Lessons Learned: My Journey as an Indie Author


In the Beginning…

In August, 2014, I published my first science-fiction book on Amazon, ‘The Journey & Other Short Stories‘. As the title suggests, it is a collection of short stories, and the act of publication was a very exciting moment for me. It represented decades of wanting to be a published author but not having a clue how to go about it; two years of independent study with both Faber Academy and The Writer’s Workshop whilst holding down a stressful, full-time job; and two years (at least) developing and writing a full-length novel (working title ‘All Our Tomorrows‘) which would then only see the light of day in a much-reduced form, as the titular tale in ‘The Journey & Other Short Stories‘.

Keep Only What Serves the Story!

It was a very steep learning curve, and probably one of  the most important things I learned during that period was not to be afraid to cut out what doesn’t work. Ditching the best part of sixty thousand words (representing months of writing) and stripping the story down to the core to produce ‘The Journey’ was not an easy decision at all. As it happens, I believe  some of that material will probably be used somewhere else, one day… but it just wasn’t right for that particular story arc. And that’s all I’m going to tell you about that… for now.

Keep it Up!

As soon as I finished the anthology, I began writing my first full-length novel, ‘The Methuselah Paradox‘, which funnily enough, was also inspired by  ‘The Journey‘. And again, I had to make a major decision during the writing. I didn’t have to lose so many words this time, though!  I had been so invested in Tom and Eva’s story (which began in ‘The Journey’ and continues in ‘The Methuselah Paradox’) that I made the mistake of making them the main characters in ‘Methuselah’. I soon realised that it just wasn’t working, and that the main character needed to be the time-traveller, James Moran. Once I accepted that, everything fell into place. So never be afraid to ask yourself – “Is my main character the right one?” Be honest, even if it feels rather like a betrayal to those characters. If you must, tell them that you are saving them for better things…!

Is Your Protagonist The Right Character for the Job?

Tom and Eva’s story had pretty much been told in ‘The Journey’ –  and ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ takes place almost a quarter of a decade later, when Tom and Eva’s daughter is abducted. Who has taken her – and why? It seems obvious in hindsight, but being emotionally invested in your characters, whilst it is a good thing, can also blind you to their place in the Grand Scheme of Things. So common sense prevailed, Tom and Eva took a back seat, and James and (to a lesser degree) Emma stepped forward. Hurrah!

Another Learning Curve… or two! 

‘The Methuselah Paradox’ was published two years (not quite to the day, but the same month!) after ‘The Journey…’, and I was already thinking about the next project. But hold on a minute – that’s not all I did during that time…

Almost a year before ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ was published (and whilst I was still working on it) I decided that I wanted to make a book trailer to promote it. Having taken a short course in screen-writing with The Writer’s Workshop , and because I love TV/Film drama, I wanted to try to bring my characters to the screen.

Incidentally… if someone out there would like to bring ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ to the screen, please do get in touch via admin@neonskybooks.com.

Crowdfunding – the Indie Creator’s Gateway

But how was I ever going to find the money to pay voice-artists/actors, graphic artists, a camera operator and a composer to realise my vision?  Crowdfunding worked wonderfully for me, and again that was another steep learning curve, with a whole other level of responsibility. If people are sending you money to help you create something, you had better get your sums right!  I used an awesome networking site for the film industry, Stage 32, to find a concept artist, Cat Archer-Wills, and using Patreon and GoFundMe -and some off-line funding from family members – I manage to raise enough, which was a huge relief because I had been working on the script since January 2015… We finally recorded material for several versions of the trailer in March, 2016, and completed several versions of the trailer just in time for the book launch in August 2016. Here’s one of them.  Kudos to everyone who helped make the trailer a reality – the teamwork of creative collaboration is just the best thing ever!

What’s Next?

One of my writing buddies (yes, you, MW!) described me as an ‘ideas machine’, and it is certainly true that I have more ideas and notes for new stories than I currently have time to write. I don’t have a full-time day job anymore (or as fellow author Nick Stephenson calls it, the DDJ – ‘dreaded day job’)  having graduated to a four-day week, but there are still never enough hours in the day!

Currently I have two novels on the back-burner (one of which is a follow-up to ‘The Methuselah Paradox’), a stage adaption of the same book, another short-story collection, and a Graphic Novel. I do like a challenge! First an anthology, then a novel and a trailer, now a comic book – whatever next?

‘Minding Mama’ – a Tale of Future Earth

Minding Mama‘, the Graphic Novel – or comic book, if you prefer – almost became one of the short stories in my next anthology (and still might). Originally written as a competition entry, I didn’t get to the required word-count before deciding that it was fine just as it was. I put it aside. Then I went back to it, and realised that it would work very well in a more visual medium… so back I went to Stage 32, and advertised for a concept artist, then later a storyboard artist/illustrator. Amanda Fullwood (who in addition to being a first class concept artist, is also a talented costumier/production designer) was first to join the ‘Minding Mama’ team, followed by Dan Schaefer . (Dan has worked for Marvel, DC and Dark Horse Comics and the film industry, creates documentaries, does graphic design for the advertising industry and was storyboard artist on NBC’s ‘Grimm’). My long-time friend Sue Turner agreed to do the camera/editing work, and Matthew Thomason is on board to provide a theme. We have cast one of the two performer roles – David Learner (science-fiction readers will recognise David as Marvin the Paranoid Android in Television and stage versions of the late Douglas Adam’s best-selling novel, ‘The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy‘)

As of August 2017, we have concept art and sample pages (fully coloured, but without text) and are well on the way to creating a trailer/pitch video for the crowdfunding campaign – you can find out more about that here!

I love the process of research, writing, then creating a team to take it all further. Geography is no limiter – our current team uses Skype to link participants in Camberley, Southsea, Norwich and Oregon. Isn’t technology great?

So You Want to Self-Publish?

If you are just starting out on your self-publishing journey, and have doubts about whether you can do it, my advice to you is to keep at it! I’ve learned so much since I started on this journey, and have met some wonderful, very talented people. There’s a commonly-held misconception that writing is a lonely calling, and perhaps some of the time, it is. But I don’t see it that way. When I’m writing, my characters keep me company, and when I’m working with a team of fellow creatives, be it my cover designer (waves to Rachel Lawston and Harry Saxon) illustrators, actors/voice artists (hello to Simon Bugg, Richard Oliver , Amelia Sefton and David Learner), composer (here’s to you, Matthew Thomason) camera operator/video editor (waves to Sue Turner of www.elephantinscarlet.co.uk), stills photographer (thanks to Sue Thomason) and last but not least, all the lovely people whose crowdfunding support made the trailer for TMP a reality, it feels anything but lonely!  There is a wealth of online advice  to be had (some of it free, but some well worth paying for if you can afford it)  and you’ll find that most people are more than willing to share their experience and to help you however they can.  Go for it!

Elaine Jackson

Camberley, August 2017

 

 

 

 

 

“Imagination is the highest kite one can fly” – would you like to help me imagine a book trailer?


TMP_Cover1awithstrapline11.4.15

Cover art by Rachel Lawston:  www.lawstondesign.com  

TMGSimonBuggisDIHammond1Richard Oliver is James MoranAmelia Sefton is Emma Morgan

 

“Imagination is the highest kite one can fly.”  Or so said Lauren Bacall. I think she was right – free of earthly restraints, our imagination can take us beyond the edge of the universe. To infinity, and beyond, to quote Mr Lightyear! We can imagine events that have not yet happened, and by so doing, inspire ourselves and others to “make it so”. We can imagine a whole novel, or a film, or a play, or a series of dramas for television… or we can, if we are an Indie Author just starting out, imagine a book trailer…. you knew where this was going, didn’t you?

Unfortunately, imagination alone cannot pay people for their time and expertise…  So I’m going to imagine that you, just as I did with ‘The Minister of Chance‘, ‘Kaleidoscope Man‘ and ‘Kosmos‘, might just be interested enough in seeing the fruits of my imagination (and a lot of other people’s time and expertise!) to help us make the trailer!  You can do this via my crowdfunding link on www.ejjackson.org  and at the same time, earn yourself some unique rewards!

How Can I Help?

Firstly, by telling anyone you know who might be interested!  Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, PinIt, anywhere and anywhere – please spread the word!  Secondly, by pledging a very small amount to help me pay all those wonderful people who are going to make the trailer a reality – actors, voice artists, illustrators.

What Will I Receive in Return For My Help?

That’s a very good question, and one I’m very happy to answer!

The unique, limited edition rewards you can choose from are:  Your name on the credits as a supporter; an MP3 copy of the theme music; a signed copy of the trailer script; a DVD copy of the trailer; a signed copy of ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ when it is published (date TBC but provisionally spring 2016); a signed promotional poster, and a t-shirt. I may add a few extra goodies along the way, like key rings, badges, mouse-mats, photo-mugs… anything that says ‘thank you’ and helps to spread the word!

And although ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ is not a charity project, I will also be donating a percentage of the profits from book sales towards Progeria research.  Go here for more information about Progeria, and here for how it relates to ‘The Methuselah Paradox’.

Thank you for reading this – I do hope that you will join us!

x EJ Jackson

Why I’m supporting The Ethical Hedonist


Two reasons – the first reason being that Alison Jane Reid (formerly of ‘The Times’ and ‘The Lady’) did a fabulous online three-part video interview with one of my favourite actors, John Simm, last year (you can view it here) and she is now about to publish a new, in-depth profile interview with John in the re-launched ‘Ethical Hedonist‘ online magazine at 3pm tomorrow – as we all know, truly in-depth interviews with Mr Simm are as rare as … well, imagine one of the rarest things you can think of.  He’s a very private man; so for Alison Jane to have managed that video interview and another in-depth profile piece means that she is something rather special as journalists go.

The second reason is that as a newly-self-published author, I appreciate the effort that goes into promoting your own project – and Alison Jane is working very hard to get backing for her new magazine. She is well-known for her high-profile celebrity interviews (remember the Colin Morgan one?) with interview subjects like Hugh Bonneville, Sam West and of course John Simm – and the promise of more of these to come has to be worth donating at least the price of a cup of coffee!

And finally, we’re here – Publication Day!


Before you wonder if I’ve written at a million miles per hour, it isn’t ‘All Our Tomorrows’ but a collection of short stories I’ve been working at on the side.

‘The Journey and Other Short Stories’  is now available in paperback from Amazon here  – it will also be available in electronic form very soon.  

AOY

 The first in a series of contemporary mysteries with a science-fiction twist

 The Journey – young widow Eva King is trying to rebuild her life following the death of her husband and infant son when the train she and fellow traveler Tom are travelling on derails.

When Eva and Tom make their escape from the wreck, they discover that London has been attacked, and that Tom’s wife and two young children are missing. But all is not as it seems…

Gideon’s Road – a man wakes up to find himself lying in a cold country lane. He has no memory of who he is, where he is or why he cannot remember what happened to him.

Taken in by elderly widow Alice, he learns that the world around him has been devastated by a deadly virus, and that very few people have survived.

I Think You Knew My Father – Journalist Marc Harrison gets more than he bargained for when he takes the place of an indisposed rival on the first manned mission to Mars.

Cover art by Harry Saxon:  http://about.me/harryasaphsaxon