As an aspiring writer, I took to the self-publishing path in 2008 to expand my readership circle to at least my family, friends and work colleagues. I’d compiled two dozen travel newsletters into a book Tales of The Bear, The Dragon and Other Wondrous Creatures, an account of my extended travels to mostly Russia, China and Africa between 1998 and 2006. Many who had read the individual newsletters encouraged me to share them with others. And so I became a self-taught self-publisher. Of course, I would love to find a national or international publisher to lift my books to the next level for both commercial and social benefit, but I accept that, while writer’s journey may be lonely at times, it offers many joys of discovery along the way as we wait for the other recognition to arrive. This blog entry seeks to sum up my self-publishing experience so far and my hopes for the future.
I chose the publisher label Fomalhaut. Fomalhaut, Alpha Piscis Austrinus, is a reddish fixed star at 3º 53″ Pisces and is the largest star in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish. The name Fomalhaut derives from Arabic fum al-ḥawt, meaning ‘mouth of the Southern Fish’. So yes, it’s the star with an exact conjunction with my sun sign in Pisces. In 2008, I tried to get an email address with this spelling of the word, but they all seemed to be taken. So I changed the spelling to fomelhaut to conform with an available email address and this is the publisher name that went onto all of my books till this year. It was only in November this year I was inspired to go back to the original spelling and rename my publishing enterprise Fomalhaut Publishing. It feel like a realignment with my original writing intention. History can be a messy game. But us humans do learn by doing. My new email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writing, both fiction and non-fiction, is such a creative process.- extended periods of time in an alpha meditative state, I love the planning, the research, the movement forwards from a blank screen to a first draft and then to a completed work. I love this sense of receiving the book (I once thought we composed it, but these days, I believe the book is there in the unseen and a writer’s job is to translate it into the physical, but that’s an issue for another blog). I enjoy the drafting, structuring, editing, polishing, titling, and eventually the production of the book. The advances in print-on-demand technology over the past 15 years allow us to do modest print runs without sinking into the mire of vanity publishing. Here is a journey well worth taking. I still hold high hopes and send my fresh manuscripts to national publishers and enter them into competitions. I may choose six publishers and send all my meticulously prepared tailor-made submissions as per the website requirements of each publisher. Given we have no guarantee of any feedback, or even a reply, I have found that the best way to wait is to get started on a new project. And I still wait without too much waiting anxiety! But the new projects keep on coming.
The more we write the better we read: we see more clearly the quality of the writing, the inner structure of the book, the cover design, the clarity of the back page blurbs, the taglines etc. We can better relate to the author and their intention in writing their work. And conversely, the more we read the better we write. We become part of the fraternity of writers, past, present and future. We are more able to appreciate the contrast and variety of the written word. When we are asked to critique a work, we tend to look for the strengths of that work, its uniqueness, explore the writer’s strategies, see its relevance to the time and place, and lots more. We know that reading can give us lasting pleasure. Why would we spend time harping on the failings of a work? But each to their own, I suppose.
It’s easy for us to to take what we know for granted. I’ve had several friends pver the years who wanted to share their writing with friends. But they knew zero about how to go about it and I don’t think a publisher would have shown much interest. They weren’t going after the New York Times best sellers list. One friend, Marjorie, was a Scottish migrant to Australia whose family arrived here in the early sixties. She had written poetry all her life capturing various moments of her family’s experiences in this ‘new’ country. With little effort on my part, I was so happy to help her print and share about 50 copies of this very personal project with her extended family. I also helped another friend who wrote a history of her local lapidary club. I was prompted to write this blog entry after being asked to help guide a writers group in Sydney to prepare an anthology of members’ short stories and poems. And it was satisfying to pause and realise what discoveries I have made on this journey. I am currently working on two projects which I will elaborate on in future blog entries.