The Spirit Of Billy Shears

In 1967, The Beetles presented to the world a fictional character called Billy Shears. This drummer with limited vocal range stood up to the microphone and humbly declared that he got by ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’.

It was a simple tune with obvious shortcomings but surprisingly became a fan favourite. Shears and his shaky voice defied the odds stacked towards slick perfection, singing a different tune into the airwaves - Vulnerability. We need each other.

And now this is my moment to step up to that same microphone and say that “I need your help.”

How can we review books differently? ...How could my book be reviewed differently?

Since the launch of Paradox, I’ve kept away from asking for reviews. There’s a reason for that. The review game is just that — a game. The typical approach is to encourage snappy comments before and during the launch. These will then get funnelled through a well-known online store. If the author does their job right, it will present a robust and successful image for their product. Foster enough 5 Star reviews early on and it should encourage others to follow suit. Finally, the strategic code hidden within the purchase link should help that ranking system kick in.

This game has a few apparent champions. Occasionally a wobbly voice defies the odds. But it’s hard.

Every part of the Paradox Hardback, from design, production and promotion, is my attempt at trying to do something different within the publishing world. The same goes for reviews. Over the last few months, the conversations I’ve had about the book, and the emails received, have been rich. Special. Which strengthens my resolve that I want to engage with reviews where honesty, authenticity and conversation take place. Away from the game of manipulation.

Except I don’t know how.

And that’s why I need a little help from my friends.

Can we review Paradox in a different way? Is there a site or service (other than Amazon and Goodreads which share the same owner and stacked digital system) which taps into the heartbeat of what I’ve been talking about? If you have ideas, please email me at andy@andysmithyman.com or comment the usual ways.

Billy figured it out. And I’m confident ‘we’ will figure it out.

It’s what friends are for.

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Paradox Sketches: Change?

During the times of Charles Dickens, between 15% and 20% of the population in the UK was living at or below the expected subsistence level in food. That meant, nearly a quarter of the population were skipping meals or reducing the quality and quantity of their food. Alongside that, 10% of the population experienced severe food poverty where even charitable donations couldn’t stop those families experiencing abject hunger.

Shocking. And rightly so. It’s an example of historical poverty which fits perfectly into the image of Dickensian times. But there is also another set of statistics that I’m reflecting upon.

The UK news recently picked up on a UNICEF report, highlighting that in the UK, 19% of children under age 15 live in a family where they experience food insecurity (skipping meals or reducing the quality and quantity of food). Alongside that, 10% of children under the age of 15 live in a family experiencing severe food insecurity. Hunger. Beyond charitable donations.

Today. Right now, as I craft this post.

I wrote Paradox for many reasons; one of them is my belief that the Dickensian landscape of poverty and social injustice is still around today.

Dickensian poverty is ugly. It’s ugly because it’s blatant. In my face. And yet how often do I move on, justify inaction or give myself enough excuses to ignore what is in front of me? The harsh reality is that 'The Twins’ of Paradox are real. I walk their Paths on a regular basis.

‘Wish you were(n’t) here?’ That’s the tagline of the book. A question. Continually asked. Of myself. My answer determines what happens to The Twins. My answer determines what happens to my heart.

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The Swirl: More Than A Tour

November was a special month for me.

I travelled with a ragamuffin band of creatives to Scotland, France, Spain and England. We called it The Swirl; a tour where I had the privilege of talking about my new book, Paradox. My not-so-great acting abilities came into the spotlight as I attempted to emulate how Dickens delivered his Christmas Carol readings. The one glaring omission - I didn’t dress up in fancy clothes.

And November was a special month for me because…

I stepped outside my comfort zone into a world I’ve worked hard to avoid for many years — the public stage. I know how easy it is to believe my hype and, paradoxically, at the same time doubt my ability. This tour helped to remove some of those fears.

But November was also a special month for me because I was part of a group of dreamers who ‘made good art’

Together.

I like my own world; the Andy universe. It’s safe, covered with all the stuff I’m familiar with. But art is not designed to be controlled like that. Art dismantles the frame in which we see the world. And this was true of my experience on The Swirl.

The Swirl logo is an illustration of a campfire; a fitting image. At every event, we all brought our individual logs of creativity and placed them on the fire. As the flames danced into the night sky, something magical appeared.

The embers.

These small lights of dreams, hopes, sacrifice and questions, leapt into the sky. To follow each movement is impossible, because their individual journeys blend into a collective dance, swirling higher and higher into the unknown. Out of sight. But still floating. Their adventure, just beginning.

This is the paradox of art — life beyond sight.

We are connected.

For the better.

(Ps: a documentary is coming out next year, until then, here are a few little insights into this crazy time).

https://www.youtube.com/user/daveerasmus/videos

https://www.youtube.com/user/georgeholliday123/videos

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Andy Smithymandickens, Paradox
A Carol Type of Success

 

To all you creative dreamers out there.

Charles Dickens paid all expenses for the production of A Christmas Carol. He expected the initial profit to be about £1,000, but because he insisted on expensive bindings and illustrations, the first 6,000 copies brought him £230. The earnings for the following year - £744.

It may not have produced a triumphant monetary return, but the Carol became a story which changed the world.

Andy Smithymandickens, thoughts
Personal Touch

 

In just under one week my book, Paradox, is officially launched and the pre-launch discount ends.

For those who have already purchased the Hardback, thank you. It’s been a great encouragement as I venture down this Path of reimagining how to publish.

The publishing world continually encourages any dreamer to fit into a template model of production and distribution, usually motivated by cost. Although the Paperback and eBook of Paradox is fully immersed within that model, the Hardback is walking a different adventure. I’ve tried to keep true to the authentic tale of the story, from sustainable material to moral choices around production and delivery. But there is one part of this adventure I have yet to speak about.

The personal touch.

The personal touch is unscalable. It requires cost. Time. Capacity. And this month, I have faced that challenge head-on. Did I think through all the implications of writing a handwritten note with every purchase? Is it worth the energy to package the book in a bespoke way or frame any public presentation to bridge the gap between author and reader?

The answer to these questions and many more is yes!

This book is more than a story bundled inside a red cover. It’s my attempt at allowing the story to shape every part of this adventure. I have no set map or easy template. Only trust. So once again, thank you to everyone who has supported this dream, regardless of any purchase.

And for those who still want the book at a discounted price before its release. Order this week at www.andysmithyman.com.

A mysterious adventure awaits...

 

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Andy SmithymanParadox, new book
Why Not

 

I’m halfway through the month-long Swirl Tour. As with any journey, no matter what you plan, the very nature of its travel is the open invitation for the unknown. The surprise. The adventure.

And this tour is no different.

It’s a precious thing to have a platform to display your craft. But to remain focused upon that platform distracts the eyes from the deep, vibrant beauty of what’s around.

Pablo Picasso said that “Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”

This tour has, and still is, giving me the privilege of spending time with creative giants. Giants, not necessarily in the form of perceived fame and acclaim, but giants of spirit, imagination and compassion. In their unique ways, public and hidden, they have committed themselves to reveal the beauty within this world. In the words of Neil Gaiman, they are making ‘good art.’

And I’m humbled.

Inspired.

With friends.

We all can make ‘good art.’ In our home. With our family. How we raise our kids, work with colleagues and walk with each other.

Imagination into reality.

Why not.

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Andy Smithyman
Pre-Orders are now Live

The nervous moment has arrived...

Pre-Orders for my new book, Paradox, are now live on my website!

I have no idea how this book will be received. Does the story hold up? Will people like the design? The questions can seem never-ending. Occasionally overwhelming. But last week, a friend told me it was time to enjoy this moment. Celebrate. Follow this crazy adventure. It was good advice.

Looking at the finished product, it’s a book I’m really proud of. The creative team did a fantastic job. We didn’t get to do everything we dreamed of (that’s for the sequel), but what we did do is worthy of shouting about.

The Special Edition hardback looks and feels beautiful. It has an Iris Cloth cover. The uncoated cream paper (made from wood procured from sustainably managed sources) compliments the nature of the story. Ollie Mann did a fantastic job with 18 black & white illustrations.

The hardback retails for £20, but you can pre-order the book during November for £15.50. As a bonus, you will also receive the eBook version of Paradox for free!

Alongside this, there are a selection of signed prints (12x16inch) available to purchase (for those who like the idea of The Twins staring at you over the dining room table).

The paperback and digital versions are released internationally on 01/12/18 from most retail distributors.

One final thing. I’ve wrestled with the best way to approach P&P, from sustainable packaging to a delivery method which doesn’t take advantage of workers. Finding cost-effective solutions is difficult. I may not have found all the answers, but I did make a few decisions. When you purchase the book from my website, you have two options on P&P.

A flat fee of £2.50 for any order under 2kg.

Or.

Free customer collection.

Enjoy Paradox.

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Collaboration

Paradox has my name at the bottom of the book. But as with any story, the creation is rarely from the author alone.

Collaboration is at the heart of this book. Every aspect of the content, design, production and promotion carries the fingerprints of many lives. As I begin to take this book onto the public stage, I will get a chance to tell a few stories about this crazy journey.

And then something else will happen.

Paradox will morph into a tale I have no outline for. That’s the beauty of stories - they are never the exclusive right for the author alone. The reader crafts the next chapter. Collaboration leads to the unknown. Uncharted. The mysterious world of imagination.

An adventure.

For us all.

Pre-orders go live in a couple of weeks with a few special offers. Until then, I have linked below a sample of a three chapters for you to enjoy. You will see a couple of illustrations by the artist Ollie Mann. His artwork took Paradox to a different level.

There are eighteen drawings inside the Limited Edition Hardback and Paperback. (Psst... The Hardback also has a few extra surprises with it).

Hope you enjoy the chapters.

www.bit.ly/paradoxsample

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Andy Smithyman
It Matters

Be Bold.

Be Rebellious.

Choose Art.

It Matters.

(Neil Gaiman: Art Matters)

 
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Andy Smithyman
The Value of the Journey

 

“It is no paradox, surely, to assert that the road to a famous and beautiful place is in some mysterious way a part of that place.”

(G. Troutbeck: Rambles In Florence)

Who would have thought such wisdom could come from Mills & Boon.

 
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Andy Smithyman