“The third kind is the madness of those who are possessed by the Muses; which taking hold of a delicate and virgin soul, and their inspiring frenzy, awakens lyrical and all other numbers; with these adorning the myriad actions of ancient heroes for the instruction of posterity. But he who, having no touch of the Muses’ madness in his soul, comes to the door and thinks that he will get into the temple by the help of art—he, I say, and his poetry are not admitted; the sane man disappears and is nowhere when he enters into rivalry with the madman.”
From Phaedrus by Plato, translation by Benjamin Jowett.
I think anyone who writes and who writes well—that is to say with passion, power, beauty, and conviction—is necessarily touched by divine madness; and this madness is a fire that has the potential to consume the one who dares wield it. For those uncomfortable with the mysticism of Plato, Touched with Fire: Manic-depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament by Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison essentially confirms the thesis and the price paid by artists. However, my purpose now is not to detail The Agony and the Ecstasy of creation; rather, the more mundane aspects of it: how an aspiring artist makes her work available to the public. Son of Thunder: The Sp... Best Price: null Buy New $2.99 (as of 02:55 EDT - Details)
For I have just finished and published The Cloak of Freya, the second book of a fantasy trilogy, entitled The Spear of Odin, about a young man who comes face to face with immortal gods, a story that will cover the full spectrum of human action, from fear to courage, sorrow to joy, and life to death. My target audience is Young Adults. The first book of the series is entitled The Son of Thunder. Like The Iliad and starting with the bullying of a sensitive young man, one of the major themes of the work is the consequence of force, as Simone Weill has written, “the true subject, the center of The Iliad is a force.”
And I chose to publish these works myself, partly because of the nature of my writing and also inspired by posts that I’ve read on LewRockwell.com, which included musings by Ellen Finnigan and James Altucher. Either by coincidence or providence, as I write these words today a post appeared on Zero Hedge, entitled The Birth of Cultural Marxism. Unfortunately, the publishing industry appears terminally infected with this pernicious disease, and it’s been written about on this site in posts that include Counter-Attacking in the Culture War. Given such ideology, I thought it highly unlikely that my novels would ever be considered for publication by any commercial house, for in addition to classical ideas about the nature of faith, love and seeking God, I attempt to introduce young readers to ideas promoting peace and liberty. In the Sixth chapter of Son of Thunder my Valkyrie heroine who is in disguise on earth or Midgard expresses her contempt with our modern “culture” and “values;” I have no doubt what an editor’s reaction would’ve been to it!
The son of the Norse god of Thunder, Magni, is a principal character. He converses with the protagonist of my novel Son of Thunder why the gods have left the earth:
“But why did you leave?”
“Leave? I didn’t leave—oh, you mean leave Midgard?” Touched With Fire: Man... Check Amazon for Pricing.
Magni furrowed his bushy brows. Then he gave me the barest hint of a smile.
“Why in this century and so many generations before this one it is now a time without gods, aside from the fact that we were B.C.? All right, I’ll ask you this, and it’s something grandpapa Odin himself taught me: what’s the most important gift you can give a man?”
I stopped dead in my tracks, truly stumped.
“Life,” I said—but that was obvious.
“Well,” Magni smiled, “perhaps you speak the truth. Isn’t man given life the day he’s been born? But what if I said it wasn’t just ‘the pursuit of happiness’? Would that be a good clue? Of course I know Jefferson!”
“Liberty? Freedom? Do you mean freedom?”
“Aye, lad; now you’re thinking clearly. And sometimes the greatest freedom a man can give his son is the freedom to make his own choices—good and bad. To be on his own. To become his own man. Do you think it’s any different between the gods and their children, if only their adopted children?” The Cloak of Freya: Th... Check Amazon for Pricing.
“Freedom,” I repeated. “And for humans to be truly free, you gods couldn’t intervene— at least not openly, not on earth.”
Given what Nick Cole recently underwent dealing with HarperCollins—Banned by the Publisher for a single “offensive” chapter—I truly think I made the right choice.
The actual creation of my books was truly a free market enterprise. Although I very much like my Amazon Kindle, I chose to use CreateSpace so that a traditional, high-quality trade paperback would be made in addition to the Kindle edition. CreateSpace took care of both.
I made the decision to design my own cover; CreateSpace has a tool called Cover Creator where I could choose the design. Essentially focusing on Norse mythology, I thought that the “Oak” design was a good omen. The next step was to choose a cover image; since Magni is the Son of Thunder, I looked for lightning. The principal antagonists of my novel are “volcano giants” and I couldn’t find an appropriate image from the stock photography and images offered by CreateSpace.
After searching the Internet, I came across a fantastic photograph of the Sakurajima Volcano with lightning by German photographer Martin Rietze. He had a website and contact information. I emailed and asked him if he’d allow my use of his image for my novel. He was delighted, especially since one of the issues a creator like him who posts his images online is that frequently they are taken and used without attribution or compensation; we negotiated a fee for use, to increase once a certain volume of sales is (optimistically) reached. I sent him the funds using PayPal.
The next step was formatting the text; CreateSpace has a team and provides suggested formats for fantasy fiction. Again, since I was Agony and the Ecstasy,... Best Price: $14.99 Buy New $11.25 (as of 09:00 EST - Details) featuring Ancient Greek gods along with Norse, I thought the “Mercury” font auspicious.
Now came the most problematic part for me of the entire writing process, something I didn’t anticipate so stressful: proofreading or copy editing.
I confess I suffer from a reverse form of dyslexia: my brain has an “autocorrect” feature when I read, so there were typos in the text I missed on an initial review of the Adobe Acrobat file of the proof provided. However, since CreateSpace publishes on demand, for a fee of $79.00 the interior was revised for a second edition. The initial cost of the Custom Interior for each book was $349.00, and Kindle conversion is an additional $79.00. Given my lack of talent at proofreading, I’ve now decided that I will purchase for my final book copyediting offered by CreateSpace for a fee (starting at $160.00).
CreateSpace does allow up to twenty changes to your submitted manuscript at no charge, which I did after spending weeks proofreading The Cloak of Freya. Kindle, unfortunately, as I understand it, has a policy not to send updated copies to customers for such corrections but my solution was in pricing, discussed below.
The second edition, as it was, for Son of Thunder incorporated formatting changes I made. It was obvious, although I didn’t check with their technical staff, that the actual file in Mercury font is a direct conversion of the manuscript I submitted; the formatting, punctuation, even spaces between words were identical to my Microsoft Word file. The latest edition of Son of Thunder now has a more professional “look.” Becoming my own typesetter was certainly a learning experience. The fee for a revision was $79.00.
Regarding pricing: CreateSpace provide a minimum price that evidently rises with page count. Initially, I tried for wider distribution which raised the price of Son of Thunder too high. Since those other outlets didn’t result in appreciable sales, I restricted distribution to the The War of Art Best Price: null Buy New $9.99 (as of 08:05 EST - Details) CreateSpace site and Amazon. The final price of the books is a compromise between an adequate royalty and a price I hope is not off-putting to my target market. I also enrolled my books in the Kindle “MatchBook” program so that any purchaser of the paperback edition can obtain the Kindle at no additional cost, given its ninety-nine cent sales price.
Initially, to market my book, I enrolled in Kindle Select but that resulted in a minimum price of $2.99. Through that program, I purchased targeted advertisements but they were not effective. Now, with the Kindle edition, I’ve chosen to make the price as low as possible: I myself have resisted many Kindle purchases yet have not hesitated when prices are low and I’ve assumed YA readers may take a chance on an unknown author if the financial risk is minimal. Even a ninety-nine cent Kindle sales price provides me with a thirty-five cent royalty per copy sold, which is a far better rate than a commercial publishing house. Sales are now higher at this price level, so I’ve learned by doing.
Now the most difficult part: how to reach potential readers, especially thoughtful ones. I confess this has been highly problematic. I have created a blog, The Spear of Odin, and focused on the books and posting excerpts. CreateSpace has a “Preview Gallery” and I have linked to it. Here is an example: Cloak of Freya Preview.
Yet finding an audience has been a challenge. However, given the nature of YA books that I’ve read, I truly believe that my works would have never seen the light of day if I didn’t self-publish. That decision wouldn’t have been possible without the ideas presented by Lew Rockwell, not only specifically regarding publishing but the writings on the free market, especially the free market of ideas. As Lew himself wrote in Authors: Self-publish:
“So authors, self-publish through Amazon, in Kindle and physical books. Earn some money, and more importantly, influence people. Don’t bury your book.” Son of Thunder: The Sp... Buy New $12.00 (as of 04:45 EST - Details)
I was finally inspired to fight “Resistance” and create something of my own by Steven Pressfield in his book, War of Art. His advice holds true for any creator, for even a business itself is the art of a kind. He’s written movingly and powerfully and I would add truthfully:
The principle of organization is built into nature. Chaos itself is self-organizing. Out of primordial disorder, stars find their orbits; rivers make their way to the sea.
When we, like God, set out to create a universe—a book, an opera, a new business venture—the same principle kicks in. Our screenplay resolves itself into a three-act structure; our symphony takes shape into movements; our plumbing-supply venture discovers its optimum chain of command. How do we experience this? By having ideas. Insights pop into our heads while we’re shaving or taking a shower or even, amazingly, while we’re actually working. The elves behind this are smart. If we forget something, they remind us. If we veer off-course, they trim the tabs and steer us back.
What can we conclude from this?
Clearly some intelligence is at work, independent of our conscious mind and yet in alliance with it, processing our material for us and alongside us.
This is why artists are modest. They know they’re not doing the work; they’re just taking dictation. It’s also why “noncreative people” hate “creative people.” Because they’re jealous. They sense that artists and writers are tapped into some grid of energy and inspiration that they themselves cannot connect with.
Of course, this is nonsense. We’re all creative. We all have the same psyche. The same everyday miracles are happening in all our The Cloak of Freya: Th... Buy New $14.00 (as of 04:45 EST - Details) heads day by day, minute by minute.
Whether you are considering writing a book or starting a business, fear not. You’re not alone. I have had customers in the United Kingdom purchase my books and through Amazon, they’re available all over the world. I have hope. And although marketplace success is not at all guaranteed, I truly believe, despite the sacrifice it entails, in the act of creation you will find joy in the work and the accomplishment, as I myself have done.