How and why I self-published my new novel: Part One

So it is happening. Tomorrow my sixteenth novel is published – an idea I still cannot quite comprehend. Sixteen? Where did all those words come from? When and how did I pluck such stories from the air and set them down in ink?

Yet there it is: ‘Chasing the Wind’ soon to be on a bookshelf near you.

And this novel is very different. Not just in subject matter – though there is that. But in the manner of its launching. For while I am being ‘traditionally’ published by Penguin Random House, that’s only in Canada…

… I am self publishing it in the rest of the world.

To those not in the writing game, that may sound very strange – published and self published? But many of you will completely get it; will know how the industry has changed so much in the last ten years or so that, in order to keep earning a living, many authors such as myself have been forced to follow a different route and learn new skills. No longer can we just put pen to paper or fingers to keys, make up stories and have other people sell them. We must be author and publisher too. Not to mention marketer, promo manager, publicist, copy editor… and a host more jobs to boot!

Really, I was very happy with the old model of publishing: write up a few pages of an idea, get your editor, who already loves your stuff, to advance you a year’s salary so you can write it. Give it back to them to edit, package, promote and sell – then show up to the launch party to drink warm pinot grigio and receive the plaudits. But that changing world? These days, unless you are in the top two or three percent of authors who are ‘front listers’ – your Stephen Kings and James Pattersons – you are a ‘mid-lister’. Your book and you will scrap it out with all the other mid-listers for press coverage, publicity and table space in the book stores – 90% of which is taken up by the aforementioned front listers. If you are very lucky, the book takes off, you make some decent sales, get some good reviews, the publisher offer you another contract and you write till the next time. Rinse, recycle, repeat.

But if the book doesn’t do well…

In this new world the publisher then says… ‘Write what you want, and we’ll consider it.’ No advance (or not a living wage advance anyway). Somehow feed yourself and your family while you work non-stop on another novel… that then gets thrown like all the others against a wall. Maybe it sticks, maybe it doesn’t.

Now, I do wish to point out that the people I deal with in the book trade, the editors, agents and publishers are some of the kindest, smartest folk you would ever meet. It’s just that, in the main, they are not the ones making the offers anymore. The accountants do that. And they don’t care if you are the next Hemingway, King or Rowling. They don’t read book pitches. They read balance sheets. And if your last book didn’t sell enough, they offer you a derisory sum – or get the editor to tell you to ‘write what you want’.

Which leaves the question of food on table and clothes on back somewhat up for grabs, right?

Which is why, when no one but my wonderful people in Toronto at Doubleday wanted to offer for my new book, I thought: I will do what so many of us mid-listers are doing now. I will become a hybrid author – traditional and self published.

I have come late to the game. The learning curve has been steep. But I was never afraid of hard work – sixteen novels, right? So tomorrow and in the subsequent weeks we’ll see if my graft has paid off.

In another post, I’ll tell you some of the stuff I’ve done. I’ve learned from the best – online, and from friends who made the leap a while back and are now reaping the rewards. I couldn’t have done this without them. And I’ll report back to tell you if it was enough. Because it’s very hard to get noticed out there.

Meantime, for now… welcome my gal Roxy Loewen to the world: ‘Smuggler. Smoker. Aviatrix. Thief.’  Leaving aside all the hard work, she has been a great person to spend time with.

Of course, if you’d like to find that out for yourself… try your local Amazon.

Or in the US, Click here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D6Z9BQ4

Or in Canada, here:

https://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/561313/chasing-wind#9780385690485

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smuggler. Smoker. Aviatrix. Thief: The double life of Roxy Loewen. (It’s a publishing thing!)

The Double Life of

Roxy Loewen

by

C C Humphreys

 

 

 

See those Dames above? Except they ain’t… dames. She’s one dame. Cleaned up nice… or taking to the skies.

Which one do you prefer?

I like ’em both. The one on the left has class, she can wear bias cut and pearls, put cherry stain on her lips, and infiltrate highest society where the bad guys tend to be. The other is tough, you don’t wear make up or dresses at Angels 1-5.

Ok, enough of the wise guy talk! Though since I’ve lived with Roxy for a while now, she’s kind of rubbed off on me. Wise-cracking-wise anyways. At least I haven’t taken up smoking. Though, considering all that she’s cost me in recent months, in time and understanding, I’m kinda surprised I don’t have those yellow nicotine-stained fingers.

Because the two covers above represent a lot of effort. The writing went into the first one, the glam one. To be published next week by Doubleday… but only in Canada. So I transferred that writing into the second one – Roxy with Moxie – and then have spent the last four months at Indie U … learning how to self-publish.

Phew! What a journey! And not over yet – we’ll see if my efforts will be rewarded on June 5th and the days thereafter.

The reason for this double life – Roxy’s and mine? Depends how much you believe the reasons editors find to turn books down. They range from a) Penguin Random House can’t buy in the USA if Canada is pre-sold, to b) The English don’t like American heroines to z) Historical fiction is on the decline – ‘Now, if Roxy was the girl next door on a train in Cabin 10…’

I’d been wanting to try the Indie route for a while and this seemed to be the perfect opportunity – I get control of things like the cover, the publication date, the advertising and promo, the price. Yet I am backed up by the wonderful editing and publishing machine of my people in Toronto. The two – Indie and Trad – can feed off each other – I hope. I have become – or will after next week – a Hybrid author.

The learning curve has been steep – but I have had so much help from every side. From Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Indie author and former guru of Kobo Writing Life. (http://www.markleslie.ca/). From Jonas Saul, (http://jonassaul.com/) the bestselling author, who sold gazillions Indie and has now been part absorbed by Trad – but only on his terms! From Crystal Stranaghan (http://crystalstranaghan.com/) And Art Slade (http://www.arthurslade.com/) who began this journey about two years ago and has shared every bump in the road with me. (Click on names to visit them. It’s so worth it!)

I am obviously hoping for the book to work in both trad and indie arenas. The trick of course is getting noticed because there are so many people doing it. My advantage, I suppose, is that I have a reasonable fan base already. As well, this is a book that has had to pass the rigourous standards at Doubleday, one of the best and oldest houses in the world. If people discover it, I believe most will like it.

Like her: Roxy. She’s quite the dame – in bias cut or overalls – as the Nazis are about to find out.

I’ll be back with updates soon.

(I’m warming the engine. Chocks are away on June 5th, 12:01 AM. But if you are keen for the head start you can pre-order the book here:

Canada:

https://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/561313/chasing-wind#9780385690485

Rest of the World – Your Kindle store. The ASIN is

B07D6Z9BQ4

(WordPress playing up: you’ll have to cut and paste or search ‘Chasing the Wind C C Humphreys)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

C.C. Humphreys’ keynote poem at When Words Collide #wwcyyc17

Hello Members of the Tribe!

Several of you have asked for a transcript of the poem/doggerel I spouted at the keynotes yesterday. Here ’tis:

We are the genre novelists, fiction is our game,

We do not write for fortunes, we do not write for fame.

We write because we have to, the fire that burns inside

To fly across the galaxies, and sail the oceans wide.

We stand upon the shoulders, of greats who blazed so hot;

Donaldson, Wells and Tolkien, Azimov, O’Brian, Scott.

We rub against great shoulders, a fabulous display

Eestep, Hiyate, Leslie and of course Guy Gavriel Kay

So when you reach for implements, for goose quill, pen or keys,

Do not seek for glory, nor seek too much to please.

Write because you have to, the fire that burns inside,

To fly across the galaxies, and sail the oceans wide.

 

Apologies again to my obvious mentor, Walter McGonnagal!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Shakespeare Goes Electric: The adventures of two old thespians in the Gulf Islands

It began with a phone conversation with my old mate, Neil Dickson. He in LA, me on Salt Spring Island. We’d appeared in a 1985 mini series together: AD-Anno Domini, a Biblical-Roman epic. Stayed friends and saw each other over the years. In our chat I learned that Neil had a one man show, a play called The Standard Bearer, about an old actor taking Shakespeare to ‘the natives’ in East Africa, 1980. I have a one man show, ‘Shakespeare 1600’, about the world that Hamlet arose from. One man shows are hard to book as people want a whole evening’s entertainment. Two one man shows however…

shakespeare-on-the-islands-pender-2Which is why we found ourselves six months later boarding the Queen of Cumberland in Fulford Harbour and setting out on the ‘sea’ road. We were being toured by Ptarmigan Music and Theatre Society based out of Pender Island and the wonderful Krista Konkin organized everything for our first three gigs – Galiano, Mayne and Pender.

We arrived on Galiano and went straight to the Community Hall. img_1775There we were met by Sonya, who hailed from Essex, and who was our stage manager, technician and box office controller.

Neither show was too technical – we each needed some pre show music, basic lighting. I had a slide show to present and Krista had armed me with a projector and screen. And this is where I had my first difficulty – the clicker didn’t advance the slides, I downloaded a program to use it from ‘ye olde iPhone’.

That would work well for the first few five minutes then inevitably conk out when I actually needed it. 1600-on-pender-1In the end, at all the gigs, I relied on some kind soul to advance the slides on my command. A slight hitch – and since my show is part improvisational I was even able to have some fun with it.

We had an audience of 30, all enthused by the evening. At the talk back there were a lot of great questions.

 

 

 

img_1787We’d been told there was a pub next door that would be open. The word ‘pub’ is the absolute favourite of all old English actors – after a show there’s nothing they want more than a pint. We hastened thither – and it was closed! But there were lights at the back and I pushed into the kitchen. ‘Closed,’ said the chef. But the young manager was there – Nicole from Taiwan. After I explained who we were and worked the puppy dog eyes she took pity and let us in. Not only did she pull us a pint each, she then appeared with a huge tray of nachos! Then it was back to our cabin at Driftwood Village and a rendezvous with another old friend – The Glenlivet. Tales followed, memories shared. It’s very rare for me these days to be able to return to the world both Neil and I emerged from – English regional theatre. Tales of dodgy digs, strange landladies, romantic encounters, drunk actors all flowed with the whiskey. This was what we’d both signed up for all those years ago. What was for so centuries was the primary impulse of the actor: take a show on the road. Gypsies moving from town to town. Our lives are so different now. But this was a time machine back to a special time and though our bones creaked a little, we revelled in it.

img_1756

 

 

Neil also had the extra dimension of never having been to the BC before, let alone the Gulf Islands. He was gobsmacked by their beauty and it didn’t rain once on us.

 

 

 

img_1742

Programs, Yorick, Beer, Glenlivet, Money Box

There were two other members of the team: Yorick the Skull, who opened the show with me; and our electric car, a Leaf. I’d scored this from Motorize.ca in Victoria BC. They were happy to sponsor us, in exchange for some promo. I loved the fact that we were green in our travels.

 

 

 

Onto Mayne, this time the Agricultural Hall. Another great tech/SM – David. He set us up wonderfully and a small audience appreciated what we did.

img_1804

Three performers on Mayne

 

Then it was back to our digs – a lovely little cabin in the woods, Raylia Cottage.

Pender next – home base for the tour, everything taken care of by the fab Krista, her husband Leon and the SM Colin. This was a bigger hall and we got a bigger crowd. img_1808

I’d also set up our digs with a friend, William Deverell, the great crime writer and his delightful partner, Jan Kirkby. They provided us with amazing food and drink after the gig in a house I think one of the most beautiful I have ever stayed in.

 

 

dickson-drunk

Neil Dickson, drunk in Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

img_1822

Artspring Stage. About to show a clip from AD – the series we did in Tunisia 1983/4

We returned to my home base, Salt Spring Island on the Friday and had a day off, to show Neil about here. Saturday night we were playing at Artspring, a proper theatre with more bells and whistles for us to use. Pender had been a good house of 60. Artspring doubled that, so it was terrific to end with a bang. A little gathering afterwards at Café Talia, old friends as well as new – and the visiting British Consul who I’d met in Vancouver and who made her first trip to the islands to see us – was a great wind down. But not the last. The last saw Neil and me in my writing hut, finishing the Glenlivet, laughing our heads off.

I feel I have just laid out the facts here without the feeling. I mentioned above that this sort of touring felt like a return to our roots, the world Neil and I began our careers in four decades ago. It may not be a world we want to live in now – I am mainly a writer of course, and Neil has a very different full life in Los Angeles. But to do it for a few days? Travel, explore a new place, set up a show, perform – which is still the ultimate high after all – then to wind down with lovely food and drink and conversation?

As I had said to him from the beginning, quoting Great Expectations: ‘What larks, Pip! What larks!’ Now I am trying to set us up with a few more gigs. There’s more whiskey to be drunk, more places to visit, more audiences to share Shakespeare with, to engage in discussion and exploration. What larks indeed!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

TOUCHSTONE TUESDAYS 7: The Make Up Box

Hello All! And sorry for the week’s delay. I got a touch distracted by my mad decision to both direct and act in ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ on Salt Spring Island, where I live. We opened last week – went well, thanks very much for asking. So it seems appropriate that I go for a theatrical touchstone this week: my old make up box!

Make up boxHere it is, with some of its contents revealed. The actual make up is in that old brown cigar box. And when I say actual make up I am referring to the sticks I bought for make up class at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama… in 1975! So you can guess why I haven’t opened it. My Hazmet suit is at the cleaners.

Why a cigar box? My Dad, an actor himself, (especially in pre-war England) told me when I wanted to get a fancy dancy plastic multi-levelled make up container: ‘No real actor uses those. They use cigar boxes. Here, you can have my old one.’ I think he just didn’t want to lay out the cash! Beside it is my Jack O’ Clubs soap dish. Have no clue where I got it – but the Jack of Clubs is my card. I had a phase when I would draw it a statistically impossible number of times. Then, of course, I did write the JACK ABSOLUTE books. (Click on title to visit them). The towel was a gift from my good friend Bruce Winant, a wonderful actor who I met on the set of the Biblical Roman epic ‘AD – Anno Domini’ in Tunisia in 1985. He was later in the LA company of Les Miserables and gave it to me. The cardboard box contains facial hair – various disguises I have worn to enhance a character, or hide myself. Indeed in the photo you see a moustache that was the character: a chancer called Bernard in the BBC’s Franchise Affair circa 1987.

Eye patch

And the eye patch? Talk about disguise! I wore that in a production of ‘The Three Musketeers’ at the Bristol Old Vic in 1988. Annoyed that I’d spent all my life craving to be D’Artagnan only to find myself playing D’Artagnan’s victim, Cahusac of the Cardinal’s Guards, I decided to distinguish myself. Much to the disgust of the other actors, when I suddenly appeared sporting it at a dress rehearsal. Apparently it pulls focus a bit on stage. Who’d have thought!

 

ObPuck

And here’s a shot from my latest use of make up – just a touch around the eyes. I am playing Oberon in that ‘Dream’ on Salt Spring Island, BC right now – well, this coming weekend, if you are about! Oh, and that’s my son Reith playing Puck. Now there’s a guy who really likes his make up!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment