Sure there were 100 reasons to turn back and wait for some angel publisher to pluck me out of obscurity.
But I looked at all the past risks I’d taken with all my other books.
If I could do it before, I could do it again.
On October 23 I sold a few copies of my new short story collection TRUE?
The book is sixteen stories of strippers, celebs, trysts, travel, virgins, Viagra, jail, journos, A-listers and Class A’s.
To sell books on October 23, I had to raise awareness of TRUE? through lots of marketing on a shoestring budget. I used a tonne of tweets, Facebook updates, Mailchimp messages, Neighbourly, nagging, and lots of hustling at creative writing events.
To have the book ready to sell, I had to print paperbacks, posters, flyers and bookmarks then officially launch it all.
To birth my book in the best way, I had to utilise performance poetry, a strong speech and a little help from my friends, the Improv Mob, who performed hilarious literary theatresports at the Whangarei launch on October 10.
To have the book launch on October 10, I had to get the printery to have the books ready, which at 9am on the morning of the launch date, they still had not. Nor were the books ready at 10am, or 11. I got the books at 12.30 with just five hours left til liftoff.
To afford to have the books printed, I had to run an August-to-September GiveAlittle crowdfunding campaign for a very humble print run costing $1500.
To get the guts to run ANOTHER GiveALittle crowdfunding campaign – having run a successful campaign less than a year before – I had to watch a lot of Henry Rollins vids to convince myself my art was worth the cost.
To have stories to put in TRUE?, I had to write late at night, when the rest of the world was partying or dreaming, polishing draft after draft, sitting uncomfortably, ruining my spine, staring at a screen with dry eyes in black pits in my face, sacrificing sleep.
To design the cover in May and June, I had to ask around for the right graffiti artist who could spraypaint the lettering on a wall for me.
To show the prospective taggers what I envisioned for the cover, I had to mock up shitty demos in Microsoft Paint.
To spraypaint the right wall, me and my artist had to find a building we could be in control of without getting moved on (unsuccessful, we settled for my spraying my own garage instead).
To save money, I had to tell the tagger Sorry, bro: I’ll have to do the graffiti myself, on my own garage, with my own design, on plywood which wouldn’t even stick to the garage wall.
To spray directly onto my garage wall in an area with light instead of shadow, I had to find a patch where the thin winter sun hit the wall at precisely 4.57pm. By 5.02, the light was gone and it was too dark to photograph.
To save money on a model, I had to dress up and pose for my own book cover.
To get the giant 2m x 2m tag off my garage I had to get on a stepladder with chemical paint remover and steel wool. It didn’t work. I plugged my waterblaster in. The blaster ripped off the outer layer of garage cladding and turned the lawn into an impassable, flooded swamp.
To get the stories polished – and without budget for a professional manuscript assessor – I had to nicely ask three bookworm friends and pay them with karma (and a little cash).
To incorporate my friends’ feedback, I had to look at the stories first in Courier font, then on Kindle, then printed, hacking and slashing, trimming and red-penning thousands of unwanted words.
To find ONE perfect graffiti font, I had to download twenty. To find review quotes for the back cover, I had to trawl through my old book reviews, including the vicious, anxiety-inducing ones (see Landfall Review Online).
To get a cool blurb saying ‘Sixteen Stories’ on the back, I had to write a fresh story at the last minute (My book couldn’t be marketed as ‘fifteen stories’ – where’s the catchy alliteration?).
To tell the tale of a hungry reporter damned if he publishes a story and damned if he doesn’t, I had to spend a year chasing ambulances for $18 an hour.
To see through the eyes of a burglary victim dangling the Sword of Damocles over his burglar, I had to get my stuff stolen.
To share the story of a hipster looking for immortality underground, I had to spend nights on Ponsonby Road going from glamorous gallery to party to pub.
To spin a yarn about a tutor turning devil’s disciple I had to teach refugees in Roskill… then let my imagination run wild.
To overcome imposter syndrome and get the book completed, I listened to the art. If a piece of art demands attention, give it attention. Expect anxiety. Take risks.
Sure there were a hundred reasons to turn back and wait for some angel publisher to pluck me out of obscurity. But I looked at all the past risks I’d taken with all my other books. If I could do it before, I could do it again.
Score yourself a copy of TRUE? at Unity Books in Auckland, email email@example.com or use the order form at NZShortStories.com.