Birthing a book can be daunting. It’s a statement of fact and if you’ve gone through the process with no bumps along the way, then good'o for you and don’t tell me about it. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid banging out stories on my mum’s old typewriter, and technically I’ve been once since 2017 when I published my first book.
It wasn’t an easy road getting there. I wish it had been. I wish I had been able to get an agent and a traditional publisher and have someone outside me and my nearest and dearest believe in me. That wasn’t my path. Just because my path wasn’t the traditional (though in this day of easy self-publishing it is probably not the norm anymore), doesn’t mean I’m any less an author. It had taken me a long time to accept this.
If I had it my way that would be how I answered the question – what do you do? Unfortunately my millions from writing haven’t arrived yet and so I still have a day job. Thing is though publishing has changed over the years and so many of the publishing houses throw their money at celebrities believing (and probably rightfully so) that they already have a fan base or audience so they are a fair bet as far as making money is concerned.
Where does that leave the rest of us? Battling slush piles, the inundated competition round-about and weighing up the pros and cons of doing it ourselves.
Then there are the self-publishing options to wade through. I’d love to be able to put actual books in people’s hands, believe me, my own walls are lined with book filled shelves but it wasn’t the path for me. I am a mother and the primary income earner in a family of four. Outlaying anything for a print run just wasn’t an option. Then there is always print on demand but I just couldn’t really get my head around it, mostly from a money perspective.
And it was the money thing that swayed me. Going the e-book route that I have, I get more money in my pocket for each sale than any other way, and I’m only asking you to outlay a little more than the price of a coffee (well where I live anyway). Yes it’s possible if I’d done a print run and been able to afford the table at a convention, or a book seller to stock my books, I could have sold a few more than I have, but then you need to factor in the outlay, which as I’ve said I don’t have the ability to cover.
Here I am though, just having released my fifth book into the world and I want to perhaps offer some encouragement for those who feel a bit like, ‘well maybe trying to pursue my passion is a waste of time’.
Don’t give up – three small words that can be so very daunting at times.
Here are some tips that may be useful:
Work out who you are writing for. I write for me, because the stories in my head just need to be told. If you’d asked me this question five years ago, I likely would have said readers, or some version of that. The truth is unless you have amazing social media skills or connections and/or are really lucky, you won’t hit the sales targets you are dreaming of. And if you do, good luck to you. If you’re like me though it can be a hard pill to swallow.
Even harder is this one. Don’t expect all your friends, or even the ones who say they will, to buy your book. This was crushing to me. If all the people who told me they’d buy my book, had actually bought it, I’d have sold about three times what I have and maybe their word of mouth would have lead to more. People lie, and not maliciously, they say what they think you want to hear. The problem is words without substance can result in a blow to the ego, which can cause a tumble into not so great places. I had to go through a whole period of soul searching where I told myself everyday that they do support me in their way and not everyone is a reader, and not every reader likes my type of books.
As down as you may feel – Don’t give up. Take joy from the snippets of positive feedback. There may not be many, but even just one means somebody liked your work. Your words have reached someone and that is all we really hope for, even when we are story-tellers not deep thinkers.
Once you have decided you really are passionate enough to follow your dreams, and you’ve decided the right path for you, just do it. Pressing that submit button, as simple an act as it is, can really be difficult. The first time around I sat there for ages thinking over and over, what if no-one likes it? What if my work is crap and I can’t actually write?
Take it from me just hit the damn button. The more times you hit that button the easier it is, also it became easier when I decided I was writing for me, and being published was the goal, not making millions.
Then even if you have self-doubts put your product out there. Promote it on your social media, and other platforms if you can. If you can afford it, maybe even advertise.
What happens next for me, is I crash. I’ve done what I set out to do, now what? It is like with other creative endeavours, such as performing in a play, your energy has been so focused and now there is a void. This isn’t a bad thing, just something to ride out whilst you figure out what you are going to do next. I don’t think it will be so bad this time, but that is only because I’m hip deep in editing for my new series and I have a tv show I’m trying to develop.
Do I know if either of these will go anywhere? Not a clue, but the characters are in my head talking to me, filling me with stories that I just have to write. Maybe that’s the point, maybe I write for the characters, and in writing their stories I give them life, and it is good to create.
So to you, out there who may be wondering, or doubting, follow your heart, the world needs it creative’s now more than ever, even if it doesn’t seem to know it.
Oh, and once your books are live, try not to look at your stats every time you get on the computer. That is something I’m very much still working on. If you can, you won’t feel that sinking feeling so much when your sales don’t look like you wished they would. Do check them though, just not obsessively, sometimes even one book sale is a nice little surprise that can make your day.
If you want to check out my new book which is a selection of short stories set in the same world my first series is (though you don't have to have read those) it is available on kindle or kobo. Who knows if you like them, you may want to check out the series that spawned these tales, also available on both formats.