Autism can be a huge publishing strength—and challenge

FromThe Bookseller:

It was 31st January 2022 that I probably should have worked out I was autistic.

My editor had returned a draft with a note asking how a character was feeling while making a decision.This has been an ongoing question of me, across multiple books and genres; with different publishers and editors. And every time I’ve had a note like that, I’ve stared at it, utterly bemused. This time, the note came for a book I loved: the greatest thing I’ve done with my life. I was heavily invested, so I thought, properly, about what she was asking. And I finally realised. So I wrote back: “I really appreciate the bits where you ask what a certain character is feeling. I don’t believe I ever really think like that. I’m very practical — which probably explains my approach to writing and being an author.”

That was the point at which I would have understood I was autistic, if I had any idea what autism was. I know now.

I won’t list a bunch of traits but in short, simplistic, terms, autistic people tend to make logical choices and decisions, relying on facts and reason, not emotions. That’s why I didn’t understand why characters would come to emotional conclusions.

[Scottish comedian] Fern Brady changed my life. I’ve never met her but she said a single sentence on a podcast: half a sentence, really. Something about always disrupting group activities while not meaning to. It was the “not meaning to” bit that gripped, because, my God, I’ve disrupted a lot of groups in my time.

And when I fully listened to everything else she was saying, I realised the core parts were also true of me — and always had been. All of it. It blew my mind. Imagine someone you’ve never met changing everything you ever thought to be true — and doing it with half a sentence.

From that beginning, it took me a fair while longer, but I slowly realised my entire bumbling entry into publishing was because I was autistic.

I sold a lot of self-published e-books in the early 2010s, which got plenty of attention. People always wanted to know how I’d done it, and I was never quite sure what to say. I had read a lot growing up, wrote a lot, taught myself some stuff about self-publishing, and then… things took off. That is, technically, what happened. Except the “some stuff” is where things get woolly.

There are so many sites to help authors figure out self-publishing now. Back then, almost none existed. And so I read Amazon’s entire KDP site. All of it. Even the weird terms pages. I compared that to the front-facing sales pages, plus I owned a Kindle, bought e-books, and read them — which let me see how terrible the industry was at formatting files. So I taught myself how to create better mobis and e-pubs, then figured out the importance of categories, keywords, series consistency, a release schedule, blurbs… and a hundred other things I’ve forgotten.

To me, I assumed everyone who wanted to write and publish would have the same “special interest” as me, which was publishing. Now, it’s obvious that nobody’s going to read an entire website, including the T&Cs, then cross-reference the lot.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

2 thoughts on “Autism can be a huge publishing strength—and challenge”

  1. Speaking as a clinically diagnosed autistic person, he sounds like he doesn’t know too much about autism. From his posting, I gather he’s self-diagnosed.

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