I’ve written elsewhere of the horrors of finalising a book (see http://gooseways.wordpress.com and the flurry of posts August-November 2007 with ‘end’ or ‘finished’ in the title). I’d forgotten how difficult it was to bring The Rebirth of Venus to an end until, converting my original blog from Blogger to WordPress, I came across it again. It so mirrored what is going on now that for a moment I thought I’d been trying to finish A Gift for the Magus for even longer than I’d supposed.
I can see now what happened with Venus. I obviously sent it off too early to the typesetter. This is the one downside to publishing your own work, and it’s quite offset by all the good things, artistic control not least of them. But without doubt I miss having an editor, someone who stands between me and the printing press. I’m an editor myself for other people, and I do try and self-edit, but it takes phenomenal brain power to be objective about your own work. I nearly engaged an editor this time but baulked at the cost, not just because I’m parsimonious (I am) but because I could not stomach paying someone to work on a project on which I’ve laboured for over three years and for which I’ll probably earn nothing. Authors don’t have wages or earnings, they have royalties – which sound like one-off payments at the whim of a monarch – or profits. And what a small publishing business demands is that you plough back any ‘profit’ to fund the next publication.
One of the reasons for going the self-publishing route was that it offered greater financial reward. My ‘proper’ publisher had given a paltry advance and would never tell me how many copies of A Tabernacle for the Sun he’d printed, so I could never say, ‘Royalties must be due.’ I never did get any royalties and when it came to publishing Pallas and the Centaur we thought, hell, it can’t be harder to do it ourselves. And it wasn’t. Not then. In fact we covered our costs in the first three months. But since then Amazon have made it very hard indeed and on Monday we’re signing a contract with the distributor, Central Books, to try and shake off the anonymity which Amazon have thrust upon us (basically if you don’t accept their 70% distribution terms – they call it ‘Advantage’ – they make it look as if your books don’t exist).
But enough of all that! I have a book to finish and cannot, must not, paddle idly into the doldrums steered by thoughts of the publishing industry. So, I didn’t hire an editor, I hired my husband. In the evenings, after turning off the TV at 9pm (and recording what we want to see at 7pm the next day), we retreat to my study so small and crowded that you practically have to walk sideways to get to my desk. I sit at the computer and read out loud, David makes objections or asks questions. If he is quiet too long, he is either finding nothing to say or he’s asleep. I love it when he laughs at the jokes. (He has a great sympathy for Fra Filippo Lippi).
After a troubled, hiccoughing start where much fault was found, it’s all going well now and I have practically nothing to do in the following morning’s session, which is why I’ve taken up blogging – to keep the writing elbow flexed – and walking – to keep diabetes under control. But I’m wandering into dark places in the mind because I don’t know what to do next. I know what I’m up to, I’ve been here before: I’m panicking. After Venus, I filled a whole bookshelf with stuff on Philip Sidney. Last year, anticipating going back into the 12th century, I filled another shelf with books on cathedral building.
Yesterday I ordered two books via Amazon (note the via). One will take me forward into the 17th century and one will keep me in the period to which I am wedded: the Italian Renaissance. It was recommended in an email from a Botticelli scholar, most wonderfully named John Dee, who said, ‘this one is asking to be turned into a novel, but I bet you’re annoyed when people tell you that’. No, I’m not annoyed, especially when I’m so desperate for something to do. And what I’m always waiting and looking for is some celestial prompting. Well, an email from someone called John Dee on the very day I’m in the pits about the future is as celestial as it comes. I love serendipity (or ‘coincidence’ if you’re prosaically inclined) – it puts a twinkle of fairy dust on things.
A Gift for the Magus effectively turns ‘The Botticelli Trilogy’ into a quartet. Am I headed for a quintet? What do I feel about that? Well, I suppose I shall wait until the book arrives from The Book Depository (note) before I get too excited. Because, because … it would be another book about Botticelli – a little cul-de-sac of a story I’d overlooked.
We have a lot to thank The Book Depository for, by the way. When I found that Godstow Press books (not just mine) were shown not to exist on their database, I got in touch to ask why (you can’t do that with Amazon). A very, very nice man sympathised and said all would be cured if we had a distributor and he recommended Central Books. Thanks to BD and to Bill Norris at Central, our invisibility cloak is about to be withdrawn.