THOUGHT IT WAS OVER, BUT IT’S NOT
Or, The Morning After the Just-Been-Published Party
Euphoria! Made it! Found the one person on the planet who thinks my book is brilliant, and is prepared to put out good money to publish and market it! At last, at last, after all those dogged submissions and polite rejections, the partial rewrite and the constant patch-up job on the self-belief, it’s happened. My book is in print (all one and a half pounds avoirdupois of it) and on Kindle, soon to be on all the other e-readers too.
A tough couple of years. No one will grudge me a breather to look around and wave to all the cheering fans, surely?
No, not at all, because no one’s noticed. There are no cheering fans. And although friends and family are supportive and full of congratulation, a fair proportion of them are simply too busy to read the book right now. And those organisations and publications I was certain would instantly show interest in reviewing it have simply ignored the press releases. Yes, there was a big splash in the local paper, but I can still go into Asda without being recognised. Handy in a way, I suppose, since I assumed that from then on I’d have to put make-up on every time I went out!
All this sounds pathetically vain, but I never contemplated publication with an I’m gonna live forever! attitude; I always thought I was quite a modest sort, as authors go. But… let me tell you something about the aspiration curve. Once upon a time, I truly thought it would be enough to get published; sell maybe fifty copies to readers who didn’t actually know me. Yes, that’ll be vindication enough, said I. But once the book is out there, a mysterious burgeoning of ambition takes place. You want your book to do well. As well as possible. As well as beyond possible. And it still isn’t about the money; anyone with a rudimentary grasp of maths can guage that writing books which are largely sold in e-format pays one of the worst hourly rates in the world.
So this was my big mistake. The process of getting to the stage of holding my beautiful shiny newborn was immensely tough, and the focus on this goal incredibly intense. So standing out from the crowd after publication must surely be the easy bit. Especially as the book’s storyline was unusual, and didn’t follow a generic formula. (Did I stop to wonder why millions of dollars were considered well-spent on Deathly-pale Teen Vampire-nibbled Nymphos VII ? No!) And who knew there were so many books out there? Writing a novel is such a stupendous achievement that writing one and then finding that most people on the planet have also just written a book (and are jostling elbow-to-elbow to sell it, usually more aggressively than oneself) comes as somewhat of an anti-climax.
However, time to swing the positives. The new status of author demands new attitudes, new study, new skill-sets. And new humility. The starting-point of most debut authors is at zero, or pretty near; I am fortunate in having a publisher in paddysdaddypublishing.com whose main man Mark Wilson is very marketing-savvy, and who got the reviews ball rolling nicely for me with his own contacts and insider knowledge. I thoroughly recommend his blog: “Are Indie-Authors becoming the Whores of Social Media?” which has great marketing advice, not just for independents. Another good source is a blog called “Are You an Author or an Authorpreneur?”, by Kristen Eckstein on a site called Future of Ink. This sets out in no uncertain terms the difference between the way things used to be done in the old days (i.e. not that many years ago), and the new realities. At the 2011 Edinburgh Book Festival, I went to a talk which counselled the newly-published not to forget to thank their hardworking publicist. Chance would be a fine thing, I (unpublished, yearning) thought. And still do, but now knowing that the well-staffed publishing house is an endangered species, and travelling along a different planetary orbit from most of us. But Eckstein points out that although the author is no longer looked after by agents and publishers in the same cosy way as in days gone by, a bit of personal proactivity by the author is actually bracing and beneficial. Action always scores over inaction – who the hell enjoys sitting and waiting for phone calls?
And now, as Mark says, it’s the long game. When it comes down to it, it’s surprising to find just how many people you know, and whom you can politely ask if they would kindly read and review your book. Some will. Social media is essential, but must be used prudently (see Mark’s sound advice). I have found online forums good, too; they’ll often welcome a guest blog. It’s all about networking. Attending literary events (and getting to read if possible) has limited effect on sales short-term, but can increase your recogniseability factor. “Building a brand” sounds like the worst type of corporate-speak, but we are authorpreneurs now, and need to be loud in shouting our blandishments to lure passers-by to our stall.
So it may not be about Fame! and going to live forever. But it sure as hell is about Remember my name…