While there are many concepts debated in the writing world, one that is universally accepted is that writing has healing power. In today’s encore podcast, Howard speaks to Angelique L’Amour. Back in 2009, Angelique L’Amour received news that she had cancer. But her first thought was not for herself. It was for her family, particularly her children. How was she going to hold things together for her kids while she went through the ordeal of chemotherapy.
Cancer and parenthood are both all-encompassing. Can the two coexist? Well, Angelique literally wrote the book on how it’s done. She published Chemo, Cupcakes and Carpools: How to go Through Chemo With Your Marriage, Your Family and Your Sanity Intact.
And, if you think the last name L’Amour sounds familiar to you, you’re right. She’s also the daughter of author Louis L’Amour.
I ask Angelique how and why she kept up a “normal” family life in an abnormal situation.
She also explains why she chose to self-publish this cancer memoir and gives us a peek into her childhood as the daughter of a prolific author who died of cancer in 1988, when she was 24 years old.
The AskALLi podcasts are sponsored by Damonza: Books Made Awesome.
If you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.
Listen to the AskALLi IndieVoices Podcast
About the Hosts
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and has spent the last five years amplifying the voices of independent publishers and authors. He works with authors as a “book doctor” to prepare their work to be published. Howard is also a freelance business and technology writer, and is launching a new Jewish-themed podcast on Patreon. Find Howard on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines Earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available on Kindle
Read the Transcript
Howard: Hello, Angelique, and welcome to IndieVoices.
Angelique: Oh thank you so much, Howard. I’m happy to be here.
Howard: Well, if you can, let’s start from the beginning. Can you walk us through, you know, your life up until 2009 and then how things changed?
Angelique: Well, I grew up in the house of an author, obviously, who wrote 365 days a year so the only time I saw my father not write on a day was if it was a travel day. Or he was doing a book tour, in which case he was usually reading for research and planning research trips around any place we went.
We traveled for his research so my upbringing as far as family vacations was a little unusual. We didn’t go to the normal, you know, like, “Hey, let’s go to the beach, hey, let’s go to the mountains and ski.” We did go to the mountains and ski but most of our vacations were spent in the middle of nowhere, looking for a rock or a tree or anything else he could think of, a cave and Indian cliff dwellings, whatever it was that he needed to look at or research where he needed to walk land but I did learn early on that I had a unique perspective in that most kids, their family, you know, they get up in the morning and dad goes off to work and does something mysterious and comes home at the end of the day and my dad had breakfast with my brother and I and then walked in the next room and sat out in the typewriter and wrote.
And as I, you know, as he wrote our fortunes got better, you know, we had a little house, then we had a bigger house. We had, you know, one car for twenty years and we had two cars, you know, things changed but we still had a fairly modest lifestyle in a lot of ways because we were a family that acquired a lot of the things or had giant, you know, we didn’t go on cruises, we didn’t do a that kind of thing, we were a little unique.
Howard: I think this is important because the later when we talk about about your book, part of the premise is how to make things appear, seem normal for your family and for you, normal is a little different than your average normal family.
Angelique: Yes. Yes, I’d say that’s true and surrounded by books and I grew up in bookstores, which you know for a writer or reader or both is, you know, Fantasyland. I mean, dad would do these autograph things that were four hours and my brother and I would be sitting on the floor somewhere prowling through, you know, book shelves.
Howard: Sounds like an exciting childhood. What happened after that? What did you do for a living and when did you start a family?
Angelique: Well, I started acting. I started performing on stages when I was a little kid through school and my parents were very, very serious about me not being a professional actress until I graduated from high school and was enrolled and going to college, essentially, so I did everything I could that way, that was my after school project was how many different plays can I do in the space of a school year and, but I always wrote and I always had two notebooks open on my desk at school.
I was taking notes for the class and I was writing in my journal or writing songs or putting ideas down and it was always two at a time and I wonder to this day if I would have gotten, I got decent grades but if I would have gotten really good grades if I hadn’t had that split personality action going on and so I think it took me a long time to get to a position where I was going to say “OK, I want to actually write as a living, like I want to try and do that” and I’m still not doing that, obviously because I only have four books up but I’m in the process of it and so I got married and I got married relatively young for these days.
I got married at 26 and we started trying to have a family when I was in my early thirties and so we had two daughters. I had some classic issues with that because I had two miscarriages before each of them. So I was pregnant six times and have two daughters. And they are four years apart and so one is twenty now and one is sixteen. I was 45 when I was diagnosed with cancer and I had a lot of life lessons before and we’d been married for nineteen years.
Howard: What kind of cancer were you diagnosed with?
Angelique: Breast cancer stage 2b and I am the really scary story because I had a, quick version is I had a mammogram in January, I had my doctor checkup April 19, 2009 and in June 24 or 25 I was in a hotel and taking a shower we were on a family vacation and I put soap on my body In a completely bizarre way that I had never done before and never done since where I came up under my breasts and put my hands straight on a tumor that felt like it was the size of a golf ball and it was.
And when I got home three or four days later I kept it to myself for about two days and then I started getting really short tempered because I was really scared so I had to tell my husband. I was trying not to until we got home because we were in this, you know, we were in this very close quarters for this trip and when I got home I went to my doctor and he sent me to a breast surgeon and I had another mammogram, an ultrasound and a fine needle aspiration and every single test came back that I did not have cancer and I was perfectly fine, except that we could feel this lump in my chest it was a very close to the surface and it was huge and so my doctor said “Go, you know, go have two periods, go, you know, have your summer and come back”
So I went and I had my summer and I promised myself that I would not check my breasts every day, I promised myself that I would only check on Mondays and twice on two of those those eight Mondays I convinced myself it was completely gone which I find mentally is just, it’s just fascinating. And then I got back and my doctor said basically, it’s still there and I’m like, “I know” and he said “Well, we can do an M.R.I. and your insurance won’t pay for it” and I said “I’ll pay for it, how much can it be? I have credit.” So I plunked down my Mastercard and saved my life and you know, $1300 later I had a diagnosis that I had cancer. You know, right at that moment, when I finally got the news, you know, the actual words “You have cancer” I realized that I had a decision to make and one was to be positive instead of negative and it is who I am, I am an eternal optimist.
And the other was the one that was probably the most important to me, which was I wanted to be a good example to my kids. I wanted them to see that something really scary, really horrible could happen and you keep living and doing and having a great time anyway and I didn’t want their lives to become about cancer.
That to me was was not going to happen, like it couldn’t be “Oh mom is sick and we all have to be quiet” because they were seven and eleven and they had lives and they were on soccer teams and they had friends and they had school and I just wanted to be a great mom and I wanted to take care of myself and but it meant I had to ask for a lot, I asked for a lot of help.
Howard: Did you know at the time how serious this was?
Angelique: At that moment I didn’t know and I can say that if I had less of a doctor I wouldn’t be here. I’d be gone by now, it’s nine years, I’d be dead and I would have had metastatic cancer within six months. It grew so fast from nothing and I didn’t realize how serious, I mean, I knew it was big and I knew it was serious because it was cancer and it wasn’t stage one or stage zero which would be lovely compared to, you know, stage two is just a step beyond. It wasn’t in my lymph nodes, which was great, it had, you know, they thought it was ductal carcinoma and two weeks later after that M.R.I., I had my mastectomy and it wasn’t ductal carcinoma anymore, it was out of the duct and it was, but they got good margins and they took everything and, you know, and then I started to heal and my healing, unfortunately for my family, was not a straight ahead thing either, it took two and a half years for my mastectomy to have my final implants put in which to me is sort of the end of major cancer treatment.
Howard: The kids were 7 and 11 when you were diagnosed, how did you tell them?
Angelique: It was nonchalant in that my older daughter, she had a classmate whose mother had cancer, was currently, like had just come out of battling it. She’s someone who carries the B.R.C.A. gene and so she had been chasing it around her body. She’s still alive, she’s doing really well but so, she was not completely unaware of cancer and she overheard.
I was being really careful because I didn’t want to tell my kids anything until we knew what my treatment plan was but Kate overheard me on the phone with my mom, you know, in the bathroom with the shower and the fan going, she overheard me, yeah, well, okay, 11 year olds, right? She overheard me and she walked up to me and just walked into my bedroom and just looked at me and said “Do you have cancer? Are you going to die?” and I looked at her and I said “Let’s go for a walk” because the four years between her and her sister, 7 to 11 is a really big and Kate was almost 12. It’s a really big stretch of time and I just thought she needs to be able to ask me everything. I am going to be completely honest.
I never promised my kids that I would live. I was very, very cognizant of the words I used. I never said “Don’t worry about it.” I never said “I’m not going to die,” I would say, “The plan is I’m going to live forever. The plan is I’m going to get to be really old and be really irritating to you and have gray hair and steal your babies,” you know, but I never said “I promise you nothing bad’s going to happen. I couldn’t do that because I didn’t want to break the promise and if I died. I didn’t want them to be angry. I mean, they were going to be angry enough, I didn’t want them to be angry at me for lying to them on top of what was going on.
Howard: In your book’s description you write that cancer survivors want to keep their family life as normal as possible when faced with the staggering number of treatments, surgeries and tests. But kids know that things are not normal and they’re pretty perceptive about changes and routines. What do you mean by normal in an abnormal situation like cancer?
Angelique: I think you always want, I mean, if you think about an abnormal situation like cancer, you think about parents who want to divorce but are mature enough to not go stomping off. You try to keep your kids’ lives normal and I wanted their routine.
I think that kids feel safe when they know where the borders are, right and they’re always going to brush up against those rules and regulations and they’re always going to see how far they can go before, you know, before the wall gets rebuilt and I wanted their routines to stay simple and straightforward and what they were, school, practice, games on Saturdays, friends over.
I wanted that to stay as normal as possible because I was very aware that I was teaching them a lesson of how to get through anything, you know, a D on a test, your boyfriend dumped you the night before prom, losing a job you really wanted or loved, you know, any crisis in your life they were going to see this example that I was setting.
Howard: Did they actually give you a certain amount of time?
Angelique: No, they never gave us a particular amount of time but when I hit five years, I had my oncology checkup and I was in my doctor’s office and she’s like “Oh, wow, next month is five years!” and I said, “Yeah.” She said “That’s amazing. That’s great,” and I said, “Well, isn’t that just sort of an arbitrary thing, that’s how long they study people” and she was looking down and she looked up and laser focused on me and said “Not in your case.” And I was like, “Oh my God.” I had no idea until that moment how worried my doctors were about me not surviving.
Howard: So let’s talk about Chemo, Cupcakes and Carpools. There are, of course, so many aspects to parenting, I’m assuming, though, that during chemo you probably lost your appetite for cupcakes.
Angelique: Oh no, absolutely not. I had really good drugs but but also one of my drugs gave the whole mouth sore thing that comes as a side effect and there were times when the only thing I could really tolerate were things that were completely non-peppered, non-salted, non-nothing, so yeah, cupcakes were not a bad thing but I did I did end up watching my weight a little bit more diligently after, I think, the second chemo and because they weighed me every time and one time I said “Why do you weigh me every time?” and she’s like, “Oh, we just want to make sure we give you the right amount of medicine,” and I thought, “Oh, well, I don’t want more of this going in me, so I need to pay attention to what’s going in my gullet so that I can, you know, not just balloon up more than I already have from the chemo.”
So I became a little more aware but the Chemo, Cupcakes and Carpools really came out of a series of emails. Because one of my really dear friends was diagnosed right after. I was almost at the end, I was at my fifth chemo, I did six chemos then I had another eight months of treatment that was still I.V. but it wasn’t the hard chemo.
And I started writing her emails, “I think this is a great way to handle this, this is how you handle this, this is what you do with your kids, this is, you know,” and I was sending these emails and she said something funny to me, she said, “You have your own file, your Angelique wisdom file on my computer.”
And I thought, well that’s just fascinating right there and I mean, I knew I was, you know, I had started the blog and the blog I began right after my mastectomy because I wanted a way to communicate with my family and friends without having to write individual emails, without having to wonder and I knew I could be helpful and I knew it was going to be an online journal for me that kept my head straight.
So I sat down about maybe 2015 and started playing around with the idea of writing a book and my friend with the wisdom file said “You need to,” it was probably earlier than that, “You need to, don’t write a blog book,” and she said, “You should do the Girlfriend’s Guide to Chemo, like that’s what you need to do because you’ve got all this great information and all this great help,” and I tried to write the two books together and I couldn’t and the Chemo, Cupcakes and Carpools part just kept making the narrative of the other one, which I’m still working on, clunky and so I thought, “What’s going to happen if I pull it out?”
So I pulled it out and I thought, well, this is the perfect amount of material for me to learn how to do self publishing. Because it’s like 90 pages and I can’t envision selling it to a Big Five publisher, though it would have been great.
And one never knows what will happen but I just was like, I need to, I’m going to figure this out and I took this online class from a woman named, I think it’s Kristen Joy, she did a thing called Kindle in 30. And it was everything from making cover art to, you know, how to put it up to, how to, it was just everything in thirty days how to do a book for Kindle and so I just thought, “OK, I’m just going to take this class and I’m going to do this with all this information” and it got me really, really together.
I got it really together and then realized that it couldn’t be only an e-book and so I found myself a team that could create, do all the computer side of everything. It was like, “I can write more or I can learn how to upload everything and get it on the right stuff and make sure it’s available on all formats of epub and all format, you know, and everywhere around the world on Amazon and I can do all that or I can hire somebody” and I just thought, you know, “Here’s my thing,” and it was a, you know, the total amount that I probably spent on it was, you know, several thousand dollars but it wasn’t astronomical. It was sort of like taking a college class and I thought, this is what I’m going to do and I wanted to put together something that really helped parents.
The issue is that there’s no genre, there’s no niche, there’s, it’s not there, so I didn’t write it with a doctor, it’s not about my choices of implants or my choices of medicine, it’s about how do you get from Monday to Sunday when you have two kids, cancer treatments, surgeries, chemo, other medications, setbacks and you’re losing your memory because you’re so inflamed from chemo that you’ve got chemo brain on top of it.
Howard: So your book also contains practical advice, like what to wear and not to wear to chemotherapy. Any other tips you want to share, things that people might not think about?
Angelique: Well, one of them one of them is very specific for anybody who’s dealing with the mouth sores. Which I was told, you know, to rinse my mouth with baking soda and salt but I also had two kids who were going to school and I wanted to be able to drive them and I wanted to be able to be, you know, up and make breakfast and lunch and send them off with my husband to take to school.
So I would take those little tiny Dixie cups and I would line them up, I just had a bunch of them in my bathroom and I had a little, you know,Tupperware container of half and half baking soda and salt, because they were like, “Take a quarter teaspoon of each,” and I was like, “OK, I don’t have time for this” and so I would, every morning I would get up, I would go in the bathroom, I would line up six cups and I would put, you know, a teaspoon or half a teaspoon in each one and then every time I went in to use the bathroom, I would rinse, I would, you know, use my bathroom, I would wash my hands and I would rinse my mouth and it was just because I couldn’t remember.
I couldn’t remember if I ate breakfast, so I would leave the dishes in the sink til lunch which drove my husband crazy, but it was, otherwise I found myself eating like three times between seven o’clock in the morning and noon because I couldn’t remember if I ate and when you go through chemo, you go from zero to sixty in terms of hunger.
You’re just fine, you’re just fine and then you would, you know, eat the next bear that walk down the street because you’re just ravenous beyond on ravenous. So I learned tricks to carry, you know, I would carry power bars with me, a certain kind, I carry packets of peanut butter with me, I carried things that gave me a quick hit of protein.
I also would repeat things. I already talked out loud to myself so my family was kind of used to it, but I started, I have a chapter in there where I started burning the pancakes. I couldn’t remember that they were on the stove if I turned my back on them, so I learned to say, as I turned my back, “The pancakes are on the stove.” I actually said it out loud.
Howard: What do you think your father would say about all this?
Angelique: My Dad would say he never doubted me for a second but he was an incredibly optimistic human being. You’d have to be to get over 200 rejection slips before you saw your first short story and think that you could still have a career as a writer. But, and I would say, you know, “You’re so positive,” and he’d say, “No, I’m just really, really stubborn” but I think he was also very optimistic and he informed a lot of how I dealt with my kids, quite honestly.
I had a luxury he didn’t. When he got sick with lung cancer, he was very much in the public eye and he really didn’t want anybody to know, so there were five people who knew and one of those was his doctor. So, he kept it very quiet and very private but I was 23, almost 24 when he was diagnosed and I was 24 when he passed away and it was completely private, so I couldn’t even talk to my friends about it.
I couldn’t talk to anybody about what I was going through and that was very difficult and it was exactly what I didn’t want for my kids, so I was very open and not all parents can make that choice, but I did and it worked for me and it worked for my family and, you know, we had this weird cluster that isn’t a cluster in that my daughters were going to a very small private school, a Catholic school, and in my daughter, my older daughter’s class, of fifteen kids there were four parents with breast cancer almost at the same time.
There was one that was like three years before and then there were three of us who are all dealing with it at the same time. And throughout the school there were more and it was really weird. But so it wasn’t, unfortunately, it wasn’t that unusual in my older daughter’s classroom and we ended up being very open about it and it was great, you know, they felt supported by the Catholic community even though we’re not Catholic. They felt supported by their teachers, for the most part and the school.
So that was a that was a lovely thing for them and I chose that because I had a really hard time and I was much older. I was 24 but at the same time I found it very, very difficult to not mention it to my boyfriend, to not mention it to my best friends who had known my dad their whole lives.
Howard: That had more to do with your father’s fame, he wanted to keep it private.
Angelique: He wanted to, he wanted to beat it and I honestly, to this day, believe that if he’d had a tumour he would’ve, but he had something that was described to me as spider webs, so I don’t know, if that was, you know, it was a long time ago, it was 1988 so I don’t know if that’s mesothelioma or something but it was not located in one place with a tumour.
So that was that was something that, but he wanted that privacy and it wasn’t, honestly, until I saw what happened when Michael Landon said that he was sick and I watched people leave just thousands of flowers and cards at his gate.
And you know, they were haunting him, essentially, they were there every day, standing outside, like, holding vigil and I’m not to say that my dad would have had that kind of turnout but you never know and so I just, you know, I understood it better when I saw the reaction to Michael than at the time and I was on book tour for my collection of quotes the last three weeks of his life.
And I was going from seven o’clock in morning till seven o’clock at night doing all sorts of personal appearances and interviews and everything and not mentioning anything that was going on at home other than fact my dad was writing his next book, which he was. But he was also very ill.
So I cut that that six week trip in three weeks because I went home in the middle of it and he passed away about a week later. So it was, you know, that part was really, really hard on me. As it would be on anybody who has a loved one who’s, you know, very ill like that, but I I didn’t want that for my kids. I wanted everybody to know and I wanted to be open about it and I just thought, you know, I don’t. You know, it’s like Harry Potter calling Voldemort “Voldemort” and everybody going like, “You can’t do that, you just have to call him ‘he who shall not be named’ and I’m like “Cancer doesn’t deserve a capital letter. Cancer does not deserve fear. Cancer is obnoxious and needs to be kicked out and destroyed and so I just didn’t want to give it that power. Oh she’s got cancer. You know? No. You know, it doesn’t deserve it.”
Howard: Well thank you very much, Angelique, thank you for sharing your story with us.
Angelique: Thank you so much, Howard I’m really grateful to be here. I love what you guys do. I’m a big fan and I’m on that website periodically and I will be more so as I finish up next project.
Howard: Now it’s time for the news with Dan Holloway, and I always look forward to our monthly chats because he always surprises me by telling me something I never knew about him. He’s a true renaissance man. Hello Dan and welcome to Indie Voices.
Dan: Hi, Howard, it is great to be here.
Howard: So we talk of before about your new Oxford University spinout business, Rogue Interrobang and I understand you just officially launched it. You emailed me before the show and your launch lecture was called, and I quote, “Free Soloing the Future: How creativity could save the world (and why it probably won’t).” That’s intriguing and cryptic at the same time, so tell me what that means.
Dan: It’s very simply the idea of it as creative people we are in a way Cassandras, I’m talking Cassandra of ancient Greek mythology. We are destined always to tell the truth and never be believed, the idea being that most of the problems the world faces are problems that we need creative answers to. But because we’re the ones who can give the answers to those problems, the people who got us into the mess in the first place are very unlikely to listen to the answers we give them, so even if you come up with an answer to the world’s problems, the chances are the world won’t listen to you.
Howard: Well that could be applied to many things, including the current political situation or am I taking this too literally?
Dan: Good to avoid politics to some extent but always good to remember it’s there.
Howard: There you go, there I go again, OK, so let’s talk about something else. A quick transition, so let’s talk quickly about Digital Book World which took place in Nashville at the beginning of the month and ALLi had a strong contingent there and I wish I could have gone but it’s a conference where Indie authors are taken seriously for a change and I suspect it’s because we’re more comfortable with the digital world.
Dan: It is. I think we naturally fit places like that. It’s an interesting conference because for many years it was one of those things that it felt like that was where our home should be, but the conference actually excluded us from all sorts of things. We were always put on the side. We were never allowed to be involved. Then the conference sort of fell by the wayside now it’s been resurrected and the new incarnation seems to be doing things completely differently. It’s been rebooted and it seems to been rebooted within Indies right at the center of it which is a fabulous development.
Howard: You know, a lot of the story of digital publishing is about interactivity, you know, I hear my fourteen-year-old son talking in his room sometimes and so I go in there and I ask him who he’s talking to and it turns out he’s talking to Alexa. So we’re all very much interacting with our machines right now and I guess the question is what that means for indie publishers?
Dan: It basically means there are lots more ways that we can find the best way, well, the best way for us to tell stories because these different media do lend themselves to different kinds of stories. But it also means there are many different ways for the same story to find same reader or to find different readers. So I think there are two strands.
The first is the literary creative side, the stories that are designed for being interactive or stories that are to designed to be almost audio first might take a different format from one for the design to be read on the page. There’s no reason why you would have seen that they would be the same and that’s an incredible possibility that we didn’t have before.
But also, even if the story is the same, there are all kinds of ways to find customers whose lives are different and for whom one format suits them better than others. So the same story can reach lots and lots of different people. So there are two ways we have it to be creative using the all the different technologies. That’s really exciting. We can do both.
Howard: Right and it’s not an afterthought to think about the audiobook version. It’s a part of, you know, when you’re actually writing the story, you think about how it plays, you know, when you’re reading it. I recently did a Jewish-themed podcast and as part of it I read from a memoir and as I was reading it out loud, I started to rewrite the damn thing because it’s the first time I actually read the thing out loud. What sounded good in my head, did not actually sound so good coming out of my mouth.
Dan: Exactly. And it certainly is a great way to bring you down to earth with your dialogue.
Howard: Right, exactly.
Dan: And the amount of description. Things that you might look at a paragraph and think, “Oh that looks a little bit long,” but when it comes to an audiobook, a really long dense paragraph that goes nowhere is going to be ten times worse.
Howard: Right, right.
Dan: Trying to make heads or tails of how that plays out over several minutes.
Howard: And it does change the way books are received, though, you know, it’s more this, the audience is more passively receiving it rather than actively reading it and we can get into the pros and cons of accepting information via your ear versus via your eyes and what maybe the difference is. But that seems to be the way things are going with the rise of these devices.
Dan: It is but I would say first that the place it goes to beyond that is what happens when everything comes together, so when the technology for virtual reality storytelling catches up, so you’ve got the possibility to have the story delivered to you simultaneously in every medium.
Howard: Right, right.
Dan: That’s a really exciting possibility that and I talk about Magic Leaps quite a lot on the news column which is that augmented reality startup that’s producing really exciting tools for storytellers to play with so that they can see how you might want to use this technology.
Howard: Right, right.
Dan: And what we can do with it that no one imagined, when that’s incredibly exciting. So yes, subscription services-
Howard: Yeah, sorry, we got off on a tangent. So I remember a couple of years ago there was a service called Oyster and they claimed they were going to be the Netflix of books and it lasted, I don’t know, maybe a year or two then it went out of business.
Howard: And my feeling at the time was, well there already is a successful sort of subscription model for books, it’s called Audible but I’m not sure if that really can translate to print.
Dan: And that’s an interesting one because one of the things that small presses have done, certainly in the U.K., that have made them so successful in recent years is introduce a subscription model. So you have a small press with a very distinct identity, they might publish a particular kind of book or a book or a particular kind of length or on a particular subject and they will publish a certain number of titles each year and you buy a subscription and as a result, you get a book through your letterbox every month.
And there are several presses that have done this with really quite a large amount of success and it’s almost a hybrid between the Kickstarter model of getting things paid for upfront and being a regular publisher. So your selling the books through shops, but you’ve also got a certain amount of cash upfront that enables you to put the work in to develop the books.
Howard: So you mean something like a niche, like the science fiction book of the month, or the romance book of the month, something like that?
Dan: Yeah, these sort of “of the month things” have become have become popular in general but the most famous one in England is a press called Peirene which publishes, they’re basically novellas, it’s like Melville Houses The Art of the Novella series, it’s popular novellas in translation. And they publish one a month and it’s become incredibly successful and there’s, it goes along with the Netflix model, that the real key is curation and they are very carefully choosing titles to match to a particular kind of reader.
Howard: Now you recently wrote about a new announcement from Publish Drive which kind of flips things a little bit, it’s a subscription service for writers. How does that work?
Dan: Yeah, you know, I love Publish Drive simply because they’re always trying things and trying interesting things that no one else is trying. The idea behind this is at the moment they’re one of the new breed of platforms who give authors a 90% royalty.
The idea with the subscription is that you pay them a flat fee of one hundred dollars a month and then you get to keep everything, so that they will push you out of all the distribution channels they have, just as they always would but you’re basically taking a bet that you’re going to make a thousand pounds for a thousand dollars of sales or more each month and if you do, you keep everything but they get the advantage of, well, all the people who lose the bet but also they get the money upfront rather than taking a commission from the retailers.
Howard: Oh, I see.
Dan: So, it’s, in a way, should benefit everyone, provided you’re earning at that level because they get the money up front so their cash flow is solved and you get to keep all of your profits. So it’s like we would pay for WordPress, or we would pay for MailChimp or we would, a lot of the services that we’re used to paying for on a monthly basis.
Howard: Right, right. Is that more for advanced indie writers who are already have a fan base?
Dan: It’s certainly not for people like me who write poetry. I think that there are quite a lot of people now who do make that sort of money and it gives them a new way of a new way of doing things that fits with this whole self publishing 3.0 model of of being much more in control of how you do things.
Howard: OK, and so what are some of the more successful subscription models for books right now? I think if, you mentioned in one of your blogs Scribd, how do you pronounce that, Scribd, Scribd.
Dan: I don’t know Scribd or Scribd?
Dan: I have no idea how you pronounce them.
Howard: S-c-r-i-b-d. They partnered with the New York Times.
Dan: Yeah, yes and they were the first people to introduce a subscription service but it must be getting on for eight or nine years ago they did it now and they’ve gone through a lot of ups and a lot of downs but they are still there and yes, now they’re at $12.99 and you get all of their books plus you get your subscription to New York Times. The other really interesting one is that Wattpad are talking about introducing a premium subscription service, and that’s really interesting because Wattpad have never charged for anything and they have masses of users, I mean, they have billions of hits every month.
Howard: Right, and they’ve pretty much revolutionized things there. They’re getting a lot of young people writing and reading.
Dan: Yes, they’re doing amazing things to get people reading.
Howard: Okay, well, what else is happening in the world of indie publishing?
Dan: I’ll finish with my favorite topic, which is which is sales tax. Which people know if they read the column that that I love talking about tax and copyright. And it’s a couple of weeks old now but since we last spoke and that’s that the European Union has now paved the way to get rid of sales tax on ebooks. So just passed legislation or a directive that means that the member states no longer have to charge sales tax on ebooks, which means that e-books will be trying to treat the same as print books.
Howard: Oh, okay.
Dan: And anyone who’s sold e-books in Europe or to European customers will know what a logistical nightmare it can be.
Howard: Oh, it is.
Dan: And just how much of a relief it would be not to have to worry about sales tax, so that’s a really good piece of news too to end on, I think. Even though tax might be boring but it can save us a lot of time.
Howard: Well, thank you and congratulations on the launch of Rogue Interrobang and all your other various endeavours.
Dan: Thank you very much indeed.
Howard: And I’ll talk to you next month.
Dan: I’ll talk to you next month. Thank you. Goodbye.