The joys and challenges of indie authorship

Three years ago I made the transition from traditionally published writer to indie author, and have now self-published three non-fiction titles and three novellas. There were plenty of mistakes and frustrations, especially to begin with, and I still have a lot to learn. But, overall, being an indie author has brought me as much satisfaction as anything I have done in my previous careers. New Year seems a good time to review my personal perspective on self-publishing, and some of what follows may be useful to others just starting out on this path.

I like being free to write what I want, without having to fit into an accepted genre or follow a formula. This does however make it more difficult to choose the most suitable categories and keywords through which potential readers can discover my books.

I like being able to upload my books as soon as I am ready, without having to wait several months for the traditional publishing process to run its course. But because modern self-publishing is so fast, cheap and easy it is tempting to go into print too soon without taking time and care to make both content and presentation the best they can be, thereby adding to the glut of mediocre books which give self-publishing a bad name. So I try to be patient, asking several other people to review my draft manuscripts and point out the errors which I have missed, and disciplining myself to check through the final version several times in the vain hope that not a single typo slips through the net.

I like being able to choose the layout, cover image and price of my books. Though I don’t have either the skills or the software to handle all the technical aspects myself, I have found an expert formatter and an expert cover designer to help, and it is a pleasure to work with them both.

I like being able to check my sales figures frequently, even if there are not very many paid ones. With literally millions of books available, readers are spoiled for choice, so I count every sale as cause for celebration. Free books are a different matter – thousands of people have downloaded the free e-books which I have offered from time to time, though I do wonder how many of these free copies have actually been read.

I still can’t really say that I like marketing, which seemed a huge challenge at first, alien to my personality and training. Exploring ways to publicise my work has been a steep learning curve and I have found some methods which I do enjoy, for example creating a proper mailing list and email newsletter. But I find that marketing takes up too much of the time which could have been spent on actual writing. My one experience of paying someone else to do it for me proved an expensive failure.

The world of books has been transformed in the last few years, and it will be interesting to see what the future will bring. My hope is that self-published titles will be fewer in number but better in quality, though I don’t know how this can be achieved.

Completing the trilogy

I tend not to plan much ahead in my life, and back at the beginning of this year I had no idea that I was going to publish a series of three novellas during 2014 – marking the launch of what I hope will be an on-going career as an indie author.

The Windflower Vibration, the third book in the trilogy, has just come out. Please read on for the blurb, and details of a free offer on the e-book version.

“A man dies while swimming off an Auckland beach. Georgina is out walking with her grandson when the rescue helicopter arrives, and they become involved in the aftermath of the event. Was this man’s death due to natural causes hastened by medical malpractice? Or was it one strand in a complex web of events, spread over two hemispheres and two centuries, involving homeopathy, Elgar’s violin concerto, forbidden love affairs and a sick dog? Georgina’s life has seemed empty following the loss of her husband, but by the end of her quest to unravel these mysteries she has found a new purpose. Set partly in England and partly in New Zealand, The Windflower Vibration can be read on its own or as a sequel to Jennifer Barraclough’s earlier novellas Carmen’s Roses and Blue Moon for Bombers.”

The Windflower Vibration is available in both print and ebook versions from Amazon and other online stores. Between now and the end of this year, I can offer readers of this blog a free copy of the e-version from Smashwords: if you are interested, click on this link and enter the coupon code GP73W at check-out.

I would hugely appreciate your help with marketing; please consider posting a star rating, writing a brief review on Amazon or elsewhere, sharing this message with your contacts and/or asking your local library to buy a copy – thank you so much.


“Don’t get another cat that looks like Felix,” people told me. “You’ll only keep comparing them.” Sound advice, perhaps, but I decided to ignore it.

During my last volunteer shift at the SPCA I met a distressed young couple carrying a cardboard box. They told me it contained a live kitten who had been found, along with some dead ones, in the bush near their home in the country. I escorted them to the hospital block, where the box was opened to reveal a beautiful black and white Felix look-alike. Being assessed as a three-month-old male, this kitten must have been born around the same date when Felix died. Not that I believe in feline reincarnation, but it seemed like the hand of fate. I immediately applied to adopt him if and when he was ready to go to a new home, and decided to call him “Magic”.

An anxious wait followed. He had to spend a statutory seven days in the holding area in case an owner came forward. During this period there was a significant risk he would develop symptoms of cat flu or some other health problem. On the eighth day he would be microchipped and desexed, and hopefully be ready for adoption the day after.

Medically all went well, but when I rang to arrange the pick-up I learned that not only had Magic’s black and white coat developed ginger streaks, but that “he” had turned out to be a “she”.

It was a big shock. I was reminded of the scene in the film Carousel where Gordon McRae’s character realises that his unborn child might be a daughter instead of a son.

But like the man in the film I came to terms with the situation, and went ahead with the adoption. With her ginger streaks and feisty nature, Magic is not much like Felix at all. But she is a sweet, lively and affectionate kitten who has settled into our household right away and I hope will bring us love and joy for many years to come.





When doctors become writers

Several of my friends and acquaintances have, like me, exchanged a career in medicine for one in creative writing.

Some had to retire early from medicine because of illness or family circumstances. Some chose to leave the profession after becoming “burnt out” by the continual exposure to human suffering, the weight of responsibility for people’s lives and health, frustration with the administrative aspects, or the long hours. Others were simply driven by an overpowering desire to write. For me, after 30 years in medicine, the reasons were mixed.

Working as a doctor provides a wealth of material for fiction writing. Although the settings of my own three novellas are mainly non-medical, drugs and diseases play crucial roles in all their plots. The risks of breaching patients’ confidentiality, libelling professional colleagues or offending readers’ sensibilities must be kept in mind, and I am currently debating whether the satirical novel which I wrote while working as a junior doctor in a psychiatric hospital is too politically incorrect to publish.

Unlike such well-known figures as Somerset Maugham, Anton Chekhov and Arthur Conan Doyle, most “physician-writers” will never achieve fame and fortune as authors. They will usually experience a drop in income and status and, no longer having a structured work environment or daily interaction with colleagues, must become entirely self-motivated. Life coaching can help with adapting to the transitions and, in my experience, the freedom and stimulation of developing a new career in mid-life more than makes up for the losses.

Outside criticism, and self-criticism, may suggest that those who choose this path are no longer making a worthwhile contribution to society. This is only partly valid, for the written word can have marked effects for better or worse on people’s well-being. I am always delighted if someone tells me they have benefited from one of my medical books or enjoyed one of my novels. But while doctors have direct contact with their patients and are usually able to tell whether their treatments have healed or harmed, writers do not meet the majority of their readers and will never know the wider impact of their books.