Dear earth protectors, I wrote you a book

It’s about a year since I published my second novel, To See The Light Return. I wrote it as a love letter to climate activists. I thought it might entertain, encourage and amuse at a time when caring about having a biosphere viable for future generations felt like swimming against a tsunami of individualistic materialism. Boy, what a difference a year makes! Now, with cleaner skies, and dolphins frolicking in Venetian canals, more and more people are realising how human activity directly correlates to pollution. Calls for action on the climate and biodiversity emergencies to be taken with as great a dispatch as we have seen for COVID-19 (or greater, in the case of the UK and the US) are coming from all quarters. We know that action is possible when the threat is recognised.

So, from an individual, materialist author’s point of view, that’s more readers then, surely. Unsurprisingly, not so much.

I knew climate activists would be a niche market. It turns out to be even nicher because, understandably, no one who is busy working to keep our planet liveable for humans and other species has much downtime. Or, it turns out, much appetite for reading anything that isn’t full of information about how to accomplish that laudable end. As I didn’t have time to write the book for many years, for exactly those reasons, I am not surprised. But I am disappointed. Why can’t you make an exception in this case, I think, a little forlorn.

It’s been a discouraging year, from this narrow perspective.

I have had some amazing reviews. One reader told me she burst into tears as she read the end of the book, because it held out the vision of something hopeful, something other than the individualist, materialist world of 2019. I was touched and delighted. This was exactly the response I had been hoping for. It tipped the scales, balancing out the year of slog, the slow sales and rebuffs from independent bookshops that only buy from wholesalers. The silence from prospective reviewers, too busy being serious to take a moment for a bit of fiction. A bit of fluff from an unknown noveller.

But here’s the thing. Fiction is a serious business. What we read informs our view of the world and our expectations. The principal impetus to write TSTLR was being unable to find much to read that represented the world as I see it or, more importantly, that represented it as I and other earth protectors would like it to be. That looked at all that materialist individualism and found it lacking; not ‘normal’ but alienating, frustrating, arid. I wanted to be an alternative voice offering an alternative vision.

And more important, reading fiction can increase the reader’s capacity for empathy. In my own work I write from many different characters’ points of view. I find myself experiencing empathy, even for my villains and – according to my reviews – my readers feel it too. In a time when our society is becoming increasingly polarised and divided, our ability to put ourselves in the minds of those with whom we do not agree, to see why they might feel the way they do, needs to be exercised, toned, not left to atrophy. Reading data-driven nonfiction might give us the tools to win an argument, but will it help us reach agreement or understanding?

So please, earth protector, consider putting a bit of downtime my way. To avoid the industrial behemoth that is Amazon – reasons why it’s available there, here – email me direct: sophiegb@me.com

ps, if you’re wondering, earth protectors, eh? check out the life work of the much missed Polly Higgins and the Ecocide team.

 

 

 

Kaboom – navigating the moral minefield of selling a book on Amazon

 

My friends, I am fairly confident, love me. But many of them refuse to buy my book on Amazon.

I understand fully that the socially and environmentally conscious steer clear of Amazon. Zero-hours contracts, and tax avoision, who can blame them? But what is an independent author to do? All online retail is morally tainted to some degree, depriving high streets of custom and clogging residential streets with CO2 emitting delivery trucks, but in order to find readers one has to use the available channels. And to reach a readership outside of one’s social circle, without the resources of publishing companies (most of which are now owned by multinational conglomerates with their own dubious ethical quagmires to pick one’s way across), I am obliged to go where the readers are.

I thought long and hard before choosing a publishing platform that boasted access to 70,000 outlets via Amazon’s print-on-demand service. Turns out a lot of that was bull, but back then it was persuasive enough that I am now committed until April 2020 at least. If I can only crack this marketing malarkey, in theory I could recoup at least some of the money I’ve spent on self-publishing. Perhaps even turn a profit, some of which will be tithed to the charity I used to work for and still support, Transition Town Totnes.

Because the biggest local independent bookshop on my high street refuses to stock it. Their reasoning? It is not available from wholesalers (exept Amazon, whom they abhor for killing off independent bookshops, forgetting Waterstones had already done that). And so it is too much paperwork. They do have independent local authors on their shelves but won’t take on any more until one of them dies. Hmmm. Knowing if that happens will be difficult unless I make a habit of popping by frequently to ask, “Anyone dead yet?” which seems rather distasteful.

So, my book is available from Castle St Community Bookshop and Arcturus in Totnes – from the dreaded A****n and iTunes (Apple books), and direct from me, via emailing sophiegb@me.com, or contacting me through this blog site.