My name is Claire and I am an indie author.
A self publisher.
It's a bit of a cringe, right?
Even more than a decade after self-publishing became a thing, and when self-published authors are regularly making five, six, figures -- we're still a bit funny about it.
I see posts from authors all the time:
"If all else fails..."
"I'll do one more round of querying and then..."
Not to mention the Twitter thread I stumbled across a couple of weeks ago, full of writers and agents sneering at the audacity of some author to reject a big-name agent and go it alone. Now, I have no idea whether or not this person made the right decision, but I do know that they know their story and their ambitions a lot better than all the people chortling about their "big mistake."
I don't necessarily believe that self-publishing is right for everyone.
There's no question that the business hustle side of things can be soul-destroying when it's not your area of expertise. It's definitely not mine -- my marketing efforts over the years have been hit or miss, to say the least. I enjoy dreaming up ideas and plans to connect with new readers, but the randomness with which they appear to work often makes me feel as though I'm banging my head against a brick wall.
There's no question it's frustrating to be rejected or ignored by bookshops, reviewers and festivals, even when you know perfectly well you outsell many of the traditionally published authors they do feature.
There's no question it can be draining to force yourself to keep going through a period of lacklustre sales without the encouragement, wisdom or perspective of a team, just kinda blindly hoping you're headed vaguely in the right direction.
But I wouldn't have it any other way.
Because I love the audacity.
In fact, that's my theory as to what makes self-publishing so uncomfortable for so many people.
It IS audacious to decide that we don't need validation from the industry. To give ourselves permission to put our stories out there and just see what people think of them. To click 'publish' and let the chips fall where they may.
And to have no one to blame when things go wrong.
It's not just my marketing that's been hit and miss, I have made SO MANY mistakes over the years. The cover of my very first book which I created in GOOGLE PAINT. The time I made a mistake when accepting my copy editor's suggestions to my first three books and had to endure YEARS of mystifying reviews mentioning typos until I figured out what the heck had happened. All the millions of ways I've managed to annoy Amazon and had books abruptly unpublished or pre-sales cancelled and I still don't know what went wrong.
But I love the audacity.
I spent the first couple of decades of my career as a screenwriter desperately searching for someone, anyone, who would tell me I was a good writer. Even when I sold a few scripts, thus meeting Stephen King's definition of talent:
If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.
It wasn't quite enough. Because for every project or pitch sold, ten more were met with stock rejections or ignored altogether. Even on a couple of the bigger deals I got, there would be talk of needing more experienced (*cough*male*cough*) writers on board, very much suggesting I wasn't even qualified to write stories I had made up in my head.
I would love to tell you that there was a single lightbulb moment when I realised that the gold star of "good enough" was never coming and I merrily freed myself of any such tethers.
But I would be lying.
There were probably ten or twenty such moments, spread over a good seven years.
The time a production company promised they definitely wanted to pick up my TV series and just needed a bit more time to issue the contract -- until I missed the deadline to submit it elsewhere AND THEN they turned around and rejected it after all. The time a producer bought my script, pressured me to rewrite it entirely, insisting again and again that his version would definitely get a streaming deal, then never even bothered to let me know that his version did not, in fact, get a streaming deal (I only found out after repeatedly chasing the company after months of radio silence). The time I pitched an idea to a producer, he got all excited and suggested one big change which I was okay with, I went home and re-wrote it with his big change, submitted it back to him... and then he rejected it based on his one big change.
I framed his email informing me that stuff about the thing he suggested didn't sell.
It eventually took being forced to threaten to sue producers for stealing my story while they tried to convince me they *needed* to steal my story because I wasn't good enough.
(Don't you worry, that tale is COMING...)
I finally realised that not only was there no stamp of approval to be earned, but that I was drowning my creativity and my stories waiting for it.
This wasn't actually intended to be a bitter rant about the film industry, but an explanation as to why I am so passionate about going it alone.
Every one of my greatest moments as a writer has been connecting directly with readers. Hearing about how they sat up all night finishing the book then still couldn't get to sleep for worrying about Ruari. How Ellie's adventures made them feel a lot better about their own first few months in Sweden, and how Kirsty introduced them to Glasgow.
It finally that if I only write for readers... then I'm going to only write for readers.
So here I am.
Better late than never.
CEO and star author of Fika Books.
A completely independent and entirely audacious tiny corner of the internet dedicated entirely to the love of stories.
Exciting things will be launching towards the end of summer, but I'm starting this blog now, partly to keep myself accountable and record the run up to the launch, but mostly because it feels right to start with my story.
Posts will be daily, and I'll email a weekly omnibus on Fridays to site members, so sign up if you'd like to follow along!
In the meantime I'm running Letters from Callie on Substack over the summer -- it's a series of fictional letters from an aspiring screenwriter in Hollywood in 1922: Downton Abbey meets Entourage if you will!