An author confession: about the choices we make, the connections that matter, the power of wishes (and the book biz we all love).
Hello B&L Bookclub,
It’s so lovely of Anna to invite me over. The B&L Book Club has always been good to me. In fact, I can brag about having a whole bunch of you as friends, thanks to Facebook and Instagram. Many have been with me since 2013 when House for all Seasons came out. I went on to write four novels for Simon & Schuster (each one reviewed by B&L) before a UK publisher took my fifth to a worldwide audience in all formats: paperback, ebook, and audio.
A lot has changed over the last six years, such as:
- Netflix (and the like) are now the biggest threat to the book biz, with people turning on TVs rather than opening books.
- Major publishing houses have merged, reducing the ‘big 7’ to ‘the big 5’ and the result has been staffing changes and belt-tightening (with some publishers doing better than others).
- The ripple effect of change has resulted in small/independent publishing houses emerging, as well as some, um . . . ‘innovative’ and often not-too-legitimate ‘assisted publishing’ enterprises. (A close cousin to the old vanity press model that takes advantage of aspiring writers with a publishing dream.)
- The ‘Liane Moriaty Effect’ has had the industry in a frenzy for the last few years, with publishers (and agents) all hoping ‘the next big thing’ will land on their desks. The result of this phenomenon is great for readers and debut authors, with titles hitting the shelves in numbers never before seen in Australia.
- Audio books are not only making a noise, this technology (once out of the self-published author’s reach) is fast becoming a possibility for anyone with a story to tell.
- The other huge shift since 2013 is the rise and rise and rise of the ebook and the ‘indie’ author (or as I prefer: the author-publisher).
All these changes mean, as authors, we now have more choice.
But the industry is not the only thing changing. I’ve changed.
- I’ve grown: a little wiser, more wary, and wider in the bottom, unfortunately! (It’s an occupational hazard from all the sitting around a writer does to get those words down for you to read.)
- I’ve been testing the author-publishing model and setting up Wild Myrtle Press to publish my latest novel—my sixth!
- And I’m also delving into children’s picture books, having discovered a love of rhyme (and because I’ve recently become Great-aunt Jenn—twice over. Yikes!)
Becoming a ridgy-didge author sure has been a dream come true. I’m so lucky to have had the opportunity and I’m not ready to stop. I do know that—now—and to be honest, I’ve discovered something else about myself.
I’m not sure who or what I would become if I was to stop writing stories. But I almost did, not so long ago. In fact, I tried. I cut myself off from the computer and all social media and do you know what I missed the most? You, lovely readers and friends.
I didn’t realise how important those online connections were until I didn’t have them, and until I received a Facebook message from a reader telling me how my stories had touched her and asking me to write more and faster.
So, I sat my butt back in the chair and took a fresh look at House of Wishes—a story with a central theme that looks at the connections that matter. And so, with book #6, I’m taking readers back to Calingarry Crossing and Dandelion House.
Why? Since 2013 I’ve received emails from readers of House for all Seasons asking me if the town and the river house are real places, as they’d like to visit. Others are curious about the origins of Dandelion House: who built it, and why on an island in the middle of a river? While the idea of delving into Dandelion House’s history had bubbled away for some time, it was the need to stay connected, as well as drawing on a personal experience (a pretty tragic time in my life), that fed my muse and the opening chapter.
And so the story began, with a mother’s wish to have her ashes scattered in a small-town cemetery. This wish leads a grieving daughter to understand life is about the choices we make, the connections that matter, the secrets we keep and the power of a wish.
In this latest Calingarry Crossing novel, it’s local cattleman, Tom, who shares tales of when the century-old river house was a swank summer residence for arty eccentrics in the 1930s, a maternity home for unmarried mothers, and home to Gypsy—whose mother, Maeve was a fortune-teller in a travelling carnival. The more Beth learns about the place, and the reclusive owner, the more Beth questions her mother’s wishes (her reason for being in town). Although a standalone story (you don’t have to read the books that came before) readers familiar with my earlier novels will notice some character cameos and few other little treats I popped in just for you.
While I am thrilled with the end result, and the amazing cover, the most rewarding part of bringing this story to life has been doing it all myself. Yep, the buck stops here, as they say in the classics! Being an author-publisher and establishing Wild Myrtle Press, which I literally run out of Myrtle the Turtle (my purple and white home on wheels since 2014) means having my finger in every pie—from story, to cover design, to picking the little page ornaments (shaped like vine leaves and hearts) so befitting the story.
House of Wishes is all me and I am enlivened and encouraged by readers accepting that change is sometimes a necessary and a good thing for a creative mind.
Author-publishing is not for everyone. I wasn’t sure if it was for me when I started, but I’d done my homework and I understood the challenges, such as:
- Getting noticed in a very crowded marketplace. Rather than the huge promotion budgets enjoyed by traditional publishing, author-publishers rely on happy readers to spread the word. One word—wonderful—to one wonderful book-loving friend can be the start of something wonderful for an author!!
- The costs to produce + print + post takes a big chunk from the profit of each sale, so pricing is a consideration.
- Unable to meet discount dept store expectations with regard to stock as small publishers/author-publishers are generally unable to meet the huge supply demands. (ie The likes of Big W orders thousands of copies of each title on the proviso all unsold stock can be returned to the publisher. (Poor Myrtle the Turtle would end up a bit weighty!)
- (With some exceptions. . . ) Bricks and mortar bookstores/booksellers, in general, do not encourage print-on-demand stock (a process used by author-publishers) for the same reason. (ie They can’t return unsold stock and they are wary of opening the floodgates to independent authors. Just imagine!
I understand the limitations that come with author-publishing and I’m not complaining and I was not denied a choice—unlike the characters in House of Wishes. I simply chose health, life and love because I believe they are the things that help an author tell the stories readers of women’s fiction want to read.
For those B&L Book clubbers not familiar with my earlier works, here is the Book Club link for House for all Seasons. If anyone wishes to catch up on the earlier Calingarry Crossing novels or buy my latest (House of Wishes), please visit https://www.jennjmcleod.com
Those who follow my adventures with Myrtle the Turtle on socials know I’m madly ticking things off my bucket list. I can now add a big tick alongside author-publishing. It has been a journey, for sure, and I’m excited about the new direction and the future.
I hope to see you in it!
Jenn J (Australia’s Nomadic Novelist) xx
Optional Hyperlinks to your social media and website:
eBook page: https://books2read.com/ap/RWKlqv/Jenn-J-McLeod
Facebook: Friend me for fun travel posts: https://www.facebook.com/JennJMcLeod.Author or LIKE my author page for serious bookish news! www.facebook.com/jennjmcleod.books