Friday 27 January 2017

Adventures in self-publishing: customer feedback, kind words and the cover-quote of my dreams. (If I'd ever dared dream that big.)

Hello, hi, how's things? 

Only now, after I've prepared all the info and images for this post, has it occurred to me that I might just be preaching to the converted. 

Below I've collected together some of the feedback, reviews and general loveliness Snipped Tales readers have offered through Etsy and Instagram over the last few weeks ... and I now realise that the majority of those supportive words have come from you: people who read this blog!! 

But ... perhaps there'll be a new set of eyes reading this, someone who really would like to hear what other people thought of the book before giving it a try themselves. Or perhaps you'll just enjoy seeing if other people pointed out the same thing you did in your comments. So let's begin ...

If you read my previous post, where I talked about the events following the book's release, I mentioned that - if I ever happen to do a second print-run - I now have a quote I can use on its cover. And it's this quote: 

Andrew Miller has been one of my favourite writers ever since I read his first book Ingenious Pain, which remains one of my favourite novels ever. And now I have this, from him. 

I could explain to you how this came about ... or at least, I could tell you the technical and chronological steps that occurred in order for an award winning novelist to be talking about my little self-published book ... 

And I could tell you that I sent him a copy of the book as a gift ... and that he enjoyed it so much he offered to help support it. I didn't even have to ask.

But, actually, I can't really 'explain' explain it ... there's a lot of serendipity involved, more than a little awkwardness, some 'hold your breath and just do it', and a good dose of 'don't squander this opportunity but don't abuse it either'. And somehow here we are. 

(BTW: if you've read the 'Full Disclosure' section on my About Me page then maybe this has shed some light on which novelist I was referring to there.)

Somehow several years ago the universe conspired to put me in touch with an author who would eventually offer to support a book I hadn't even considered publishing at the time.

 And while I can't give advice on how prospective writers can emulate this particular set of events I can stress the importance of being open to opportunities and making genuine connections with people along the way. You truly never know when they'll offer to help you out. 

And speaking of people who've offered their words in support of mine ... here are some of the other humbling and rewarding things Snipped Tales readers have been saying. 

Kind words about the contents of the book.

 I absolutely love this book! Such a clever, original idea. Some tales made me laugh, some were just so cleverly put together, and one in particular brought a tear to my eye. If you are looking for a totally different, interesting book, look no further!

Lovely bedtime morsels to cure Monday.

I just love this book! I have been dipping in when I want a moment to reflect or to smile and it is full of little treasures, it is magical.

This is fantastic. Perfect for often interrupted reading and actually quite magical to read. I love it!

Devoured it over a big mug of tea and will go back and re-read. Made me smile, made me think. Love it.

This is a gem of a book ... something for everyone.

This is the most unique, thought-provoking, funniest compendium of stories I have ever had the privilege of reading. [...] Julie Kirk's witty way with words (a mouthful!) is a true talent ... hoping for more "snipped tales" in the future!

Wonderful read, and inspired both myself and my friends (great idea for a New Year party!) to make up stories from snippings.

The book is lovely and I and my friends all adore it!

A gift to myself that I love and will look at daily and smile, and be reassured that there is someone else out there on my wavelength. Thanks for setting a precedent by publishing your kind of fiction.

This is a wonderful idea and a beautiful little book. If you like oddities, little poems, and tiny stories, you'll love this. I bought one for me and one for my sister-in-law... then loved it so much, I've just bought another two copies as presents for other people I know will love it.

Fantastic little book.

I love the style of this book! It's very thought provoking, I love the way it's laid out and how cleverly you've used the book text in such an imaginative way!

A wonderful book! I love the whole concept of 'snipped tales'. I have been eagerly awaiting this book and when it finally arrived it did not disappoint. Delightfully quirky!

Absolutely fantastic. Such beautiful new stories made from old ones - a little something for everyone!

Loving these collaged treasure tales and my unique tag, all beautifully done,

Compliments about the look of the book.

My good friend and long time collaborator Kirsty Neale created the illustrations for the book and Graeme at 6E Publishing incorporated them into the kind of cover design I had in mind. And really ... feel free to go ahead and judge the book by its cover ... because its outsides really are a good match for its insides. 
I love this book for so many reasons. Beautifully printed and designed and lovely to flick through randomly.

Couldn't resist sharing another shot of #snippedtales just because it's so beautifully photogenic.

Beautiful and intriguing ...

I've had it for half an hour and all I want to do is find a quiet corner to read it from cover to cover.

Praise for the packaging.

When you buy a copy through my Etsy shop each one comes gift wrapped complete with a one-of-a-kind tag featuring a mini snipped tale just for you because I love the idea of making it feel like you're receiving a gift even if you're buying it for yourself.

This lovely book would make a great gift: the packaging was almost too nice to open.

Beautifully wrapped.

Even the packaging was individual and very lovely.

Love the personal touch of a snipped tale on a handmade tag.

Beautifully packaged and personalised.

Amazing packaging, personal note welcomed. 

I ordered three copies (two as gifts for friends) and all three arrived beautifully gift wrapped.


I hope you'll forgive me blowing my own trumpet here, it's all just part of the job, the next step in the process. I spent time, care, and - yes, if we're not being coy about it - money, putting the book together and really do want as many people as possible to get hold of a copy. And no, it's not about the money, truly; I'm not going to be buying that villa in Florida my Dad asks about, or the bungalow my Mam's been hinting at, any time soon! (Sorry about that.)

When I was in the middle of the pricing/print numbers meltdown I mentioned in my previous 'Adventures in self-publishing' post, James - hero that he is - made me stop and tell him the main reason why I wanted to publish the book, and my answer was that I just wanted the right people to find the book, to have it in their hands, to share it with them. And that still stands today. 

There are some stories in there that will lift your spirits while others will tug your emotions, keep you company or raise your eyebrows. And hopefully posts like this will help someone new discover these eclectic little messages so they get to hold the physical book in their hands, while letting the contents hold them in return. 

Julie x


**Next week (30th Jan - 3rd Feb)** 

  • Kirsty Neale and I are hosting a 'Snipped Tales Takeover' of our collaborative Instagram account @thecopyandpasteproject
  • All week we'll be sharing behind-the-scenes details about how we collaborated on the book and various aspects of the creative and publishing process. 
  • Join us there @thecopyandpasteproject from Monday! 

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Adventures in self-publishing: the first 7 weeks in the life of Snipped Tales.

Hello hello. 

This month, on my birthday appropriately enough, my book - Snipped Tales - turned one-month-old; meanwhile the month prior to that had been an entire blur. So - now that things have calmed down a little I thought I'd share an update, fill you in on the gossip, let you know how it's all going. 

Before the book arrived ...

My hope - ever since first committing to publish the book back in May - was to have it ready for the Christmas gift-giving season so it was really stressful when the delivery date changed several times, creeping ever nearer to Christmas, before finally arriving. 

On December 10th 2016 I met it for the first time with only 20 minutes to spare before I had to arrive at a Christmas market where I'd booked a stall. My first published book was arriving and I had no idea if it would all have turned out OK, and then - introvert that I am - I had to then turn around and face people for the rest of the day at the market. 

If you can't quite imagine my stress levels on that Saturday morning then please do pause to consider having booked yourself two particularly anxious-making appointments for the same day, one straight after the other. Say like: your driving test and delivering a public speech, or ... going for a job interview followed by a smear test. You get the point. 

Anyway I didn't need to worry ... it turned out beautifully in the end: 
Snipped Tales, a book of collaged stories by Julie Kirk
The Christmas market? Not so much. All things considered I made a loss. But then, my stall was directly below some kind of Communist propaganda flags in the room in the gallery which also contained an exhibition of photos from Chernobyl. So, I don't know, maybe not the most conducive atmosphere for encouraging sales of vintage Christmas cards and craft kits ... 

Putting the book out into the world ... 

If you saw my Bad Portraits 2016 post you'll have also witnessed how I was apprehensive at hitting the button to set the book live in my Etsy shop (remember the photo of me clutching my breast?!). Fortunately - apart from the occasional discomfort at holding up the queue in the Post Office - that's where my fears ended because the response was overwhelming.

The first order ... came through less than 20 minutes after I made it available. I had goosebumps. I might have leaked through my eyes a tiny bit. 
Snipped Tales - a book of collaged microfiction by Julie Kirk

To date I've posted out books to ...  9 countries across 4 continents. It's completely surreal seeing it pop up across social media in its many and varied new homes! 

The lady in the Post Office ... asked "Have you got a Mary Poppins bag?" when the envelopes just kept coming. Meanwhile I tried to ignore all the eyes in the queue burning into the back of my head. 

Around 15% of orders ... have come from people ordering more than one copy, or those who've ordered one and then popped back for another. It's been a complete joy knowing so many people trusted me enough to buy it for themselves let alone to give as a gift!

Snipped Tales - a book of collaged microfiction by Julie Kirk
Every copy comes wrapped, the first in vintage paper and twine, and any second/third copies in kraft with gift ribbon. 

And this month I gave a 2 part interview to ... @comebackmag on Instagram which you can find here and here.

So what's next? 

I'll be updating the book page of my website as well as creating a blog post so I can share some of the lovely feedback the book's received. I'm gathering together reviews, Etsy feedback (21 people so far), Instagram posts and other lovely things people have said.

I'll continue checking Instagram for people using the #snippedtales hashtag ... when they share photos of their books - and the one-of-a-kind tags each copy comes with. And speaking of tags ...

I'll continue to share one of my #snippedtalestags each day on Instagram ... until, erm, until I stop I suppose. I'm just enjoying making them right now; the process helps me unwind on a night.

I'll be approaching alternative places to promote not only the book itself, but the whole process of making Snipped Tales ... including magazines (online and print) and, when I'm feeling particularly confident, in 'real life' independent local book shops. 

When I sell around 40 more copies ... I'll have paid off all of the costs relating to the project (eg. design and layout, the print run is already covered. As each page is a colour reproduction of the pages of my notebook the process is more costly than printing a novel.)

Back in December, when I had a total meltdown while trying to make tea while also panicking about how many books to order I would have calmed down much more quickly if I'd have known then what I know now: that people will want to buy it and that it won't all have been a big mistake!  

And if I ever need to do a second print run ... I now have a cover quote from an author who's kindly offered his words of support! And I'll be sharing that quote in my next post along alongside some of the other kind words I've gratefully received.

So that's me ... now, do you need anything? 

If there is any way in which my experiences in self-publishing can come in useful to you do let me know ... and I'll start keeping a list of questions, concerns, observations which I can address in a later post when I've had had more time to reflect.

If you have any burning questions about the book that you don't think I've covered ... either here -- on my website -- or in the Etsy listing then shout up and I'll do my best to answer your queries.

And to those of you who already have a copy ... you did check the Acknowledgements page in the back didn't you?  I meant what I said you know?

Thank you all so very much for your support ... you don't know how much it means to me every time I see a familiar name pop up in my Etsy orders. I absolutely, 100%, utterly and entirely, without exaggeration, could not have got this far without you. Thank you!!

See you soon,

Julie. x

Instagram  ~~   Etsy  ~~   Facebook  ~~ Website 

Tuesday 10 January 2017

2016: A Year in Bad Portraits

Hello hello and Happy New Year to you! 

For the last 3 years one of my first blog posts of the new year has been a collection of the less-than-flattering photos taken of me during the previous year. And, if you're ready for a good giggle at my expense - hang around - as 2017 will be no different.

My #BadPortraits posts are:
  • my version of a January detox - where I purge my system of any build up of self-importance.
  • my 'factory reset' - where I wipe away all the accumulation of gloss, filters, and spin of a life shared online.
  • my antidote to posting perfect lives on social media - all year, I resist hitting 'delete' on all those photos that I deem ordinarily unInstagrammable. (Totally a real word.)
  • my stocking-up on some good karma for all the times I have, and will continue to post favourable photos of myself! 
Photos like these ...
... which - throughout 2016 - lived out a life as profile images or received their share of covetable 'Likes' over on my @withjuliekirk Instagram.

And now ... in contrast ... here are those shots that didn't make it into my curated online persona in 2016!  

January 2016: 
New Year's Day 2016. Late afternoon.

Perhaps I have some Gremlin DNA in me as I'm really not at my best if I've been up after midnight the night before.
This is either my 'tired and emotional' pose or my 'guitarist in a late 90s indie rock band' look.
Note to self: take photos on a morning when your make-up's still on. Although ... some days ... even that won't save you ...

Here I am, on the morning of my birthday, in full make-up, trying - and failing - to capture the moment of turning 40 with any kind of effortless style

Instead I looked like a bush baby trying to emotionally blackmail a lift home out of someone (if bush babies need lifts home.):

And turning 40 had a few other effects on my appearance too ...

March 2016:
I don't know what to say. I don't know what came over me. I would never normally do something like this. It's completely out of character ...

I wore trainers ... with jeans.

30somethings - don't say you weren't warned. This is what happens when you hit 40. Suddenly you don't care about fashion - only ease and comfort (hell, I even went out in a short skirt on holiday without shaving my legs and I didn't care!).
And, before you know it ... Jerry Seinfeld has become your style icon!
Also - while we're talking about awkward styling choices ... I had an under-cut in February (the underneath of my hair shaved off) which I've really enjoyed having .... except for the time my hairdresser wanted to cut a pattern into it. And I let her.  (Bear in mind that I generally trust her completely, yet this time I couldn't see what she was doing.)

What seemed like hours later, after she'd already once stopped what she was doing to admit she didn't know what she was doing, she finished her design and asked her staff if they could tell what it was she'd done.

"A lotus flower!" cried several of the women in the salon, "Yes!!" she replied and audibly breathed a sigh of relief.

And I was relieved that it was apparently a success. Until the only man in the room came over for a look.

"Looks like a marijuana leaf to me". he helpfully added. A week before I returned to work on campus. Let's just say I didn't wear my hair up until the design had grown out.

(Try as I might I cannot find the photo I took of it! Probably for the best really.)

May 2016:
This photo isn't so much a bad portrait (although it is that too) it's just a slightly cringey one, but one which I took for a purpose. 

I'd had a terribly sore eye that felt like something was caught in there (it turned out to be an allergic reaction to something, tree pollen I reckon). An optician used drops of dye, which revealed the inflammation, but it wasn't until a few hours later, when I got into my car to go home, that I looked in my rear view mirror and learned that it had been a bright yellow dye ... 

... and I'd walked around town, even stopping to buy silver shoes to cheer myself up (which worked) with it luminously ringed around my eyelids:
It doesn't show up so well in the photo but it reminded me of the time in the mid-80s when I experimented with a rainbow eyeshadow palette. A look which I'm happy to leave in the 80s, and the opticians' chair.

And then there was this. A photo I'm sure was intended to capture a nice easy Saturday lunch of fish and chips along the seafront, enjoying the warming springtime air and blue sky. 

So I'm not sure why I'm looking at the camera like someone who disapproves of everything that there's ever been to disapprove of in the history of disapprovals.


June 2016:
The intention: to document a quiet afternoon in the garden with a book under a blue sky.

The reality? A re-make of 'Weekend at Bernie’s':
BTW: I took this photo myself. Myself!!!

It's not even like James sneaked up and took this unflattering gem while I was sleeping. I am fully awake in this photo! I am fully aware it's being taken ... and yet ... and yet ...

And from one cadaverous portrait ... to another ...

The thing with this one is, I had looked nice that day, for a visit to the Bodyworlds: Animals Inside Out exhibition. The fabulous skirt was new, to me, (from a charity shop) and - as we'd arrived at the venue, the staff member taking our tickets had even leaned in to say: 'Nice skirt!".  And then - when it came to getting a photo - I go and look all weird and bemused like this:

Although, to be fair, what is the correct facial expression to strike when you're standing in front of a preserved, skinned, dead elephant?

I mean, I don't remember that eventuality ever being covered by anyone giving out posing hints and tips. Not even on America's Next Top Model.

Now this next one isn't strictly a ‘bad’ photo of me, if anything it's one of my favourites of James and I from the last year as it makes me laugh. But it's just ... when I look at it I don't see a couple who've been together for almost 25 years, no ...

I see a giddy fan-girl who's bumped into one of her favourite, award-winning, authors in a book shop and has made him pose for a selfie with her!

"I'm such a big fan! Do you mind if I just ... " *click*.

July 2016:
Honestly ... when I just showed James this photo he said: "Oh God, what's that? That's awful!" And, judging by those sweet words, this next photo has unquestionably earned its place amongst my #BadPortraits!

You know what it's like ... you're at a day-long writing retreat in a country hotel, you're tip tapping away on a laptop, being all writerly-like, you're sitting in a bay window with the summer sun behind you and you think all of this will make for a nice sneaky selfie.

You think: "I'm cultivating my pensive lady-writer vibe".

And then you look at the screen ... and you're actually Lord Voldemort:

*No prosthetics or CGI were used in the creation of this delightful shot. Eat your heart out (or 'nose off') Ralph Fiennes.

BTW: shortly after this photo was taken my dress - which has a top-to-bottom, draping effect down the front, held in place with one hopeful popper - caught on a toilet door knob and popped clean open!

It was such a swift and seemingly choreographed manoeuvre it put me in mind of that Bucks Fizz performance at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1981 where the men whipped the women's skirts off mid-routine. Fortunately there were no witnesses to corroborate that!

Now here's another from July ... and another 80s pop-culture reference ...

The intention: to capture a simple, minimalist-chic, outfit on holiday.

The reality? A little too much 'Max Headroom' for my liking!

August 2016:
The thing you need to keep in mind while viewing this next set - as with all of my #BadPortraits in fact - is that I'm not intentionally making myself look ridiculous in order to get a funny blog post out of it. 

None of this is done on purpose. (I don't know if that makes it all better ... or worse ... !)

So what these photos are actually capturing is the gap between what I intended to happen ... and what happened in reality. Which, really, is the gap from which much of comedy is born (Ew, sorry for that mental image.)

Believe it or not ... before all these photos were taken I'd thought I looked OK - otherwise why would I be having a  photo taken in the first place?

I even thought I looked OK before these particular delights were taken.


These ...

No, I don't know what's happening here.

Let's never talk about it ever again. OK?

October 2016:
During another one of my writing days I took a walk into the grounds of the country hotel, down to the stream, for thinking time, for inspiration, and to be the kind of person who goes on day-long writing retreats and takes walks around the grounds for inspiration. And I tried to get a few photos to prove it.

One of which was this:
Which proves nothing apart from:
  1. I held my phone way too low while I was taking the shot, and ...
  2. I had clean nostrils. Which, and you'll correct me if I'm wrong, is not yet a category in any of the main illustrious writing prizes.
November 2016:
During November, while I waited for my book to arrive back from the printer (and we all know how long that took. And if you don't know then, it's a long story. Literally.), I couldn't put my feet up and rest because I also had a my new website to plan, design, write and provide photos for.

If you go to my About Me page you'll see the shot I eventually (understandably) went with, but here are a few I (also understandably) rejected ...

I call this one the smug frog:
And this, while it's utterly appalling, at least accurately reflects how tired I was at the back end of last year:

December 2016:
We could finally collect my book on Saturday 10th of December, 20 minutes before I had to set up for a Christmas market I'd booked myself into (don't ask, it wasn't a success). And ... as I sat in the romantic location of James's van in an Aldi car-park, I asked him to capture the first photo of me with my first published book.

And this was it:

I think you'll agree ... it's one for a frame isn't it?

At least my nails look nice in it.

And finally ...

Getting hold of my book was by no means the end of all my stress. I had to spend the following day preparing to get it into my Etsy shop so that people could finally buy it!

"How long will it take?" he asked "About half an hour?".

Nearly 6 hours later ... 6 hours of photographing, description writing, weighing and working out UK and global postage charges, I was finally ready to set my little book out into the world. And my in-house photographer picked up my phone to document this beautiful process.

There's that anxious bush-baby again in the first photo ... and photo 3!!! I am literally clutching my breast like a living breathing cliche of a feeble heroine from a Regency romance!

And with that ... I'll leave the #BadPortraits for another year. (Although you can fully expect the book promotion to continue throughout 2017 ... after all I've been through with it I'm not giving up on it quite yet. It made me clutch my breast for goodness sake!)

I hope you've had a smile, a laugh, even a snort while browsing my bad portraits. No need to feel guilty ... it's all there for your viewing pleasure!

I don't share any of the photos that have given me pangs of regret, or twinges of sadness or disappointment at how reality is often so different to the fantasy 'me' in my head!!

There are photos like that trust me, I just don't share those. I'm not a masochist. I don't share these to shame myself into dieting or wearing more make-up, or learning how to pose while keeping both eyes open, or not looking like I'm about to faint. I share them because as much as I like to look nice ... I like poking fun just a tiny bit more.

And I have no doubt it reveals how very very lucky we are to live in a time of digital photography. Can you imagine if I was using film? ;-) I could never take a dozen shots so I could pick out only the good ones ... all the #BadPortraits of myself would be the #Only Portraits ... and what a scrapbook that would make!

Join the #BadPortraits conversation! 

You don't need to share your own photos to have a say on the topic!

If you do share any of your own photos please stick to the rules of: no body shaming, no harsh criticism of yourself and only share the photos that make you smile.

And so ...
  • Which one of my worst is your favourite?
  • What do you do with yours? Delete straight away? Keep for the sake of a rounded family album?
  • Do you take selfies? Or are all your photos taken by others?
  • Do you look back at your albums and wish you had more photos of yourself in there?
  • Do you have any tips for posing? Asking for a friend ... 
Whatever it is you want to say on the topic do get in touch! 

Happy New Year to You. May 2017 bring you everything you wish for yourself ...

... plus good lighting.

Julie x


If you want to acquaint yourself with my earlier photo fails here's your chance:

Here's a link to the article I wrote for Marie Claire all about the project.

2015 A year in Bad Portraits logo