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This is another post from the heart. Forgive me. If you are not a fan of honesty stop reading now. If you - like me - believe in occasional reality checks, read on and let me know your thoughts.

I run a small, independent press in Scotland, as you know. 8d Press prides itself on being small but focussed and big in vision. We/I also pride ourselves on publishing unknown writers or just-starting-out writers who - in this unkind world - would never get a look-in at any literary agency or big publishing house anywhere in the UK - through no fault of their own. They are talented but their genre is not in trend, or they don't have the social media presence - any manner of excuses for rejection letters. 8d Press doesn't care about any of that. We want to publish amazing stories. We care not who you are, what your background is or how many followers you have on Twitter. We're also self-funded (by choice not by desire - if I may offer a riddle), and invest money in finding and publishing Scottish writers.

But we are choosy. We only publish quality and we only want to work with ego-free writers who understand the nature of life and don't expect the world to bow to their talent.

The amount of times I get approached and get asked for my creative knowledge for FREE is just stunning. I am happy to talk to authors and offer a little bit of advice, but this question always comes to my mind: when was the last time you bought a book by a Scottish author? How much money do you spend on books each month. I kind of know the answer. I haven't and nothing.

So, this also raises the question; if you are an author and you want to be bought and read, go out and buy and read other Scottish authors. It's quite simple really. No small press can survive without financial investment in the form of book sales and 8d Press is no exception. Instead of hours of FREE professional giving, we need book sales. And so I move on to the next culprit; independent bookshops in the UK.

I am now waiting on payment of a few hundred pounds from a few independent bookshops for the sale of LUCENT, An Ode to Nan Shepherd's The Living Mountain, and I continue to wait. LUCENT has sold well and continues to sell well. BUT....the majority of independent bookshops have not paid me for sales. YET.

In any other business this type of practice would be unheard of. Imagine a local shoe shop scenario. If wholesalers weren't paid for the shoes they sent to the shop to sell, the shop would have no shoes to sell and the shop would go out of business. Most wholesalers - new to wholesaling - would have to pay upfront for the stock they are going to sell in their shoe shops. The independent bookshops I deal with take 50% of the price of the book and yet they are taking months and months and months to pay me.

Independent bookshops don't buy books. They sell books on a SALE OR RETURN basis, which means they have ZERO connection with the publisher in terms of investment. Books supplied to them by me and other publishers gather dust on their shelves, get fingered and marked until they are returned to the publisher. We can't sell these copies and so they will either be given away for free or trashed. Independent bookshops are not investing in Scottish authors, rather they are simply putting a book on their shelves and hoping it will sell and that they can make their 50%.

If small publishers like me don't get paid, we will no longer supply to them, and talented writers will get ignored and rendered invisible. So while independent bookshops complain about Amazon, maybe they should think about paying the small publishing houses who supply them on time. Supporting small publishing houses would benefit them too.

My 'don't supply' list of independent bookshops is growing, which means I will no longer supply them with new paperbacks when my next books are produced and are up for sale. I will sell them ONLY on my website. This is sad, very sad. There is so much kudos in being stocked in a physical bookshop and it also means you are reaching audiences who might not know about your website, but if these shops don't pay me what they owe me, I simply cannot afford to continue with them.

Bookselling is hard, really, really hard. Most people expect you to give them your books for free. Friends, relations, associates etc think that they are doing you are favour by offering to take your book of you for no money. Let's think about this for a minute.

In Scotland, right now, there are hundreds of thousands of talented creatives who are constantly having their talent blanked out by this cultural snobbery and society's view that culture - art, writing, sculpture, anything artisan is so low down on the scale of all that is important that it is not worthy time or money.

This is a nonsense. Art, culture, writing, poetry, sculpture and anything artisan are the vitamins that the body of the world needs to survive. We DO NOT NEED most of the crap we buy - that ends up in landfill, but we CANNOT do without books, or paintings or music. We would all die, if culture was removed from our lives. Yet writing, painting, designing and creating is patronisingly viewed as something we don't need to do, but we chose to do in the manner of a hobby.

As a publisher and writer I've seen it all. Scotland needs to have its stories published and that's something I am trying to do. But I cannot do this if everyone demands a freebie from me, in terms of my time and my publishing output.

Larger businesses could also do much more to support Scotland's creatives. I am about to do a call out to local businesses to sponsor 8d Press, because without sponsorship, 8d Press will become a fast-receding hobby press.

I put a call out on LinkedIn for sponsors and received no replies. I now want to start a campaign to encourage businesses to sponsor publishing and to want to do this.

Scotland is a small country - population-wise - and it's a country that is swimming with talented writers. Businesses in Scotland - while suffering from rises in energy prices and from Covid - could still palm off a tiny percentage of their income to support the voices of Scotland that need to be heard and published, for now and future generations.

I would appreciate your thoughts.

Blog - 8d Press website

First up, writing your novel has to be your number one passion. If it’s not, I seriously wouldn’t bother. Find another passion but know this, a passion is something you wake up to do, live to do, feel broken if you can’t do, long to do, and know that nothing will stop you so if you feel this about your developing story, that’s all good. If you don’t, then pack away your notes and get on with your life.

So you have passion; you’re writing your novel - you believe it’s great but you’ve been sucked into all these myriad of YouTubers who are promising you the world in terms of knowledge that will fling you into the arms of some traditional publishing house, some amazing literary agent, some seven-figure deal that will solve all your monetary worries. Sorry, but it just doesn't work like this. Rule number one - when it comes to YouTubers, don’t hand over a single penny of your money. Ignore most of them and don’t waste your time surfing the internet and YouTube for these types of chancers. Believe me, I’ve done it and it sent me mad.

When it comes to having a writing strategy, go old school and push away all distraction so you can concentrate on your w-i-p (work-in-progress).

Do NOT be tempted to join any Facebook writers’ groups either - they are often simply a platform for people to advertise their self-published work. If you must join a writer's group, I suggest you do it old-school, join a community group that meets once a week in the village hall. Too much social media will rip your mental health apart.

Think of it like this, the 1-2 hours you spend scrolling Facebook per day and reading posts, is 1-2 hours you will never get back for your novel. If it helps, turn off your internet at the modem and go off-line for the time you need to write.

Remember to break down your novel - the writing of it - into bite-size pieces - write scenes, not chapters as a way to deal with the enormous task at hand.

Guard your novel as something precious. Take it seriously but don’t be tempted to talk about it too much when you’re writing it because you’ll get sucked into conversations about it that might just pull you into a negative spiral.

Tell yourself you’ll have a deadline to finish it, even if it’s six-months away. In this respect you could plan to write a little bit on certain days of the week and aim for a first draft in six-months.

Don’t even think about how you are going to promote or ‘sell’ your novel at this early stage. Put an invisible fence around your story and your writing life and don’t be tempted to get into promotions right now.

Decide if you’re going to find a literary agent (hard stuff) or a publisher (hard stuff) or self-publish it. The choices are there and so are the never-ending nightmares. Keep it all simple. I recommend reverting back to a childlike state of mind where things are black and white and a lot simpler. Tell yourself, you’re writing your novel and you’re going to find someone who likes it enough to take it on. Have one - and one only - source to refer to in this. I recommend Query Tracker - the link’s here - and no - I am not recommending them as an affiliate rather as someone who has tried it.

Once you are nearly finished your novel - near the end of writing it, create an account with Query Tracker and start approaching agents. But remember, literary agents ALWAYS work to genre, so make sure you know roughly what your book’s genre is; historical fiction, romance, thriller (more on that in another post).

Your agent will ask you, if you hear back from them, how many Twitter followers you have, and again this is for another post, but if I had to recommend one social media platform, I would recommend Twitter (I've linked my account here). If you only ever have one social media account, create this one and start building followers there. More again on that in another post.

The moral of this story is: to keep sane, keep things exceptionally simple. Give yourself a certain amount of words to write a week - say between 1000 and 5000 words a week, enjoy the ride, cut out the noise and further down the track create a Twitter account and a Query Tracker account and don't waste time with endless social media accounts and Youtube advice. It won't end well.

More soon, love 8d Press.

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This is from the heart and has a simple message; 8d Press has recently been battered from all sides with requests to go digital, to produce ebooks, to belong to the digital world in terms of production. These requests have been taken with all good humour, with thought, with research done into the value of these ideas. We love people getting involved with the Press, giving us their ideas, hearing their thoughts and we understand the digital publishing world more than most.

We're super-experienced in ebook design, formatting and marketing. We know the benefits of ebooks like the back of our hand, but in terms of 8d Press going forward as an independent press we've got to be strong, be authentic, be us, be me, be real, be true to our original pre-internet desire, to produce artisan books that are keep-sakes as well as powerful odes to the stunning array of writing talent all around us.

It's always so tempting to go with the 'market' and produce - as a business and publisher - books that the the world can read in an instant - as with ebooks - but we have a different perspective. We love the rare, the unique, the physical and the authentic, and this is our point of difference. We love independent booksellers, we love the touchy-feely nature of books, hanging out in independent bookshops and getting to know our customers who buy from us online, often in person through email correspondence/friendships.

This makes us who we are: paper book lovers. Digital leaves us feeling soulless and flat. We want to leave our 'digital exposure' to the monolith that is digital marketing and developing an online presence, getting and retaining customers and be happy with this marriage of the old and the new.

In this labour of love that is 8d Press, we have to feel 'in love' with our product every moment of every day and nothing gives me more pleasure than producing physical books; from the selection of the type of writing that gives us goosebumps, to the design and the production; it makes us/me so, so, so happy in a way that producing a digital book never can.

I must keep looking at the mission statement printed in the rear pages of LUCENT, An Ode to Nan Shepherd's The Living Mountain, and getting comfort from our/my authenticity. Be authentic in everything you do. Love Jo xx

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