|Seek and ye shall find|
It was almost exactly a year ago when I set off on a journey in Scandinavia that led to the creation of my book The Path to Odin’s Lake. A year’s not much time and I’m surprised that I managed to get it written and published in that timeframe. I decided to go down the route of self-publishing for a number of reasons. First and foremost was because the book itself didn’t particularly lend itself to any genre. When people ask me what kind of book it is I jokingly tell them it’s a “peak oil spiritual travelogue”.
So you see what I mean …
I have had some limited experience with publishing in the past, and once worked as a freelance book editor, so I know the mountain writers have to climb just in order to get noticed. But the business model is changing fast and for good reason.
Not only do many publishers and lit agents mess you around and have increasingly difficult stipulations, authors complain that the burden of promoting their labour of love rests squarely on their own shoulders. Isn’t that supposed to be the job of the publisher (remind me again why they take a hefty fee)? I’ve been down this road before with a previous book I wrote. The publisher requested so many changes to the manuscript that I spent almost a year re-writing it - three times. And then, when it was done, they simply dropped it, saying that their catalogue was full up and the person who commissioned it had left the company. All that work for nothing!
Furthermore, somewhere, in the loft, I’ve got around 300 printed rejection letters from agents and publishers for various weird tales and book projects I’ve written over the last fifteen years. There was, I estimated, an approximately zero percent chance of finding a publisher for The Path to Odin's Lake, so I decided to save myself some time and effort.
I'm not complaining but perhaps you can see why having weighed up the options I decided to take advantage of the new possibilities opened up by self-publishing. Not only do you get complete control over your own book but, due to print-on-demand, you literally press a button and it’s published. Bingo!
Of course, there are downsides. It’s 100% down to you to promote your book, and you find yourself somewhat at the mercy of Amazon, who will change the retail price to a penny if you aren’t careful. Production costs are paid for by the author, and many self-published books run the risk of disappearing into the ether without selling a single copy.
I’m quite proud of my book but it took some considerable up-front payments to birth it. I spent about three months writing and re-writing it and I got an artist friend in Spain to design the cover. A professional copy editor needed paying, and then you have to pay Amazon for author copies. I sent around 20 review copies to people, bloggers and organisations around the world (some of whom asked for them and some who didn’t – all of which seem to have disappeared into a black hole without so much as an acknowledgement). All in all I sunk about £1,000 into the project, plus about 300 hours of writing work and another hundred or so running the social media gauntlet in an attempt to promote it.
Once the book was ‘out there’ a strange thing began to happen. For a start - it being something of a radical truth book dealing with peak energy, civilizational collapse and the journey of the soul – I wasn’t entirely sure what family and friends would think of it. To be honest, I was quite worried – if they didn’t already think I was loopy they certainly would now. And with good reason, it turns out. Some people rushed out to buy it, then sent me pictures of it having turned up in the mail … and then never spoke to me again. A couple of people 'unfriended' me on social media, and one person told me that I might be better off ‘not thinking so much’. I can just imagine the conversations they may have had with their partners: “You remember that bloke Jason – you know, the editor who quit his job and moved to Cornwall? Well, he’s gone completely bonkers. He ran off into a forest in Sweden and ate a load of magic mushrooms, was last seen talking to caterpillars and birds and swimming naked around a lake ranting about Norse gods.”
My old newspaper, The Copenhagen Post (much diminished) duly obliged with the meme: I took magic mushrooms, confesses former Copenhagen Posteditor. (Note – not so much of a confession as an overt promotion).
A few other local newspapers begrudgingly agreed to mention the book too, including Denmark and Sweden’s The Local, which would only promote it on the condition that I give career advice to its readers (me??? !!!) - and only succeeded in bringing out the haters.
Anyway, once I was over this hump of negativity then another thing started to happen. I began to get messages. These were from people who had read my unusual peak oil spiritual travelogue. Usually they had just turned the last page and felt compelled to contact me. These are a few of the messages I received (with names removed to keep them private):
Jason - I sat and read your book for 5 hours!!! I just couldn't put it down. I want to get one copy sign by you if possible, to give it to a scientist friend of ours … You are costing us a fortune , my husband's bought two of the books you've mentioned in your book!!! By the way, he also read your book and loved it!!! I have nearly finished and I have enjoyed it very much. We want to get some more and give it as Christmas presents.
Voicemail: “Hi Jason, I just finished reading your book and I had to call you. I just wanted to say it was absolutely amazing … seriously the best book I’ve read all year and I’m not just saying that. I honestly couldn’t put it down … was reading it all night. I’m going to make XXX read it too. I just wanted to tell you that. Well done you.”
Just finished your book - really enjoyed it. I liked the style and pace of it, and wholeheartedly agree with the conclusions you come to in the end.. Esp liked the short passage on trees. I write a little my self so I get that it's a shit load of work too, so big respect - it must be a real pleasure to see it in print. Hopefully you'll get some good reviews.
I finished your new book about a week ago and just wanted to write to you to thank you for writing it and making it available. I have been following your blog for a few years now and as blog's go I feel I know you much better than you would obviously know a complete stranger off the internet … Wishing you all the best from a chilly Australia.
Hi Jason … finished reading your book last night … really enjoyed it … excellent read. I think it’s a really amazing achievement and I’m a bit in awe! xx
Obviously, it’s very gratifying and hugely satisfying to get such nice messages from readers. And it’s also quite heart-warming to see that it has several five star reviews on Amazon. Still, it’s an uphill struggle to get the message out about it and as it stands I’m going to be seriously out of pocket unless it is more widely read. So that’s why I’m asking you to buy a copy, if you haven’t already done so, or if you have, consider buying one for a friend whom you think might like it. It’s available as both a paperback and an ebook. Once I have recouped the costs of writing the book I will shut up about it and focus on my next one.
I’m sure you will enjoy at least parts of The Path to Odin’s Lake - either that or you will hate me and never want to speak to me again. But at the very least you’ll get to find out who the Caterpillar of Destiny is.