As it’s half a year since my first novel Blind Side hit the digital shelves last July, and almost a year since my book project was funded (February 2016), I thought I’d take a peek back at the year. Yes, I’m a bit late with this looking back stuff, but I’ve been busy.
“How I walked into my worst nightmare, and survived”. This is what my tutor suggested (tongue in cheek?) as the title of a possible talk about my crowdfunding experience. I came across it while flicking through my notes from the one-term Authorpreneur course I took at City University, London on ways to make a living as an author. It covered how to decide which publishing route to take (traditional, self or a hybrid model such as crowdfunding at Unbound) and exploiting one’s authorly skills to supplement uncertain income from book sales.
Back in those fittingly chill, dark evenings of last January, I was stuck on a plateau with my book less than half funded, and no doubt presented a somewhat bleak picture of crowdfunding. Each week, to distract myself from the hard slog and in an attempt to be positive about my future ‘career’, I took feverish notes (our enthusiastic tutor Heather O’Connell talked quite fast) on what the savvy author should be doing: public speaking, connecting with readers, engaging with book bloggers, book reviewing, website building, blogging, blagging, shark avoiding, Tweeting, guerilla marketing and a lot more besides. Fortunately, one glorious week in late February I walked into the classroom with my book 100% funded – the group was nearly as excited as I was.
Some of my repeatable notes: ‘Tell people you’re doing X and you will meet people who want X’ ‘Say yes to everything!!’ ‘Instagram – home of vanity’
As I flicked through the pages of my notebook yesterday, it struck me that though I’ve not done a quarter of the stuff I wrote down, I’ve covered the first few miles of the wildly veering path towards my Dream Author existence. (Calls from agent about the film-of-the-book, anxious readers begging for my next book, enjoying my hilltop cottage with an envy-inducing, writing-inspiring view of the sea, occasionally chuffing off to book signings and of course research trips to all the places I’ve always wanted to go…)
As all that’s distinctly improbable, I’ll settle for the alternate version: moderate adulation and enough income from book sales to offset my writing expenses 🙂 (I’ve just entered a long list of them on my first tax return to include author self-employment income – or loss, in my case).
I’ve learned more about the hard realities of publishing (one can ask for the moon, but there’s always a budget) and being an author (free time, what’s that?).
In the months before Blind Side was published I completed an intensive editing phase with a structural and a copy editor, and played a part in the cover design. Since then I’ve organised a blog tour, written guest posts, answered bloggers’ questions and done my best to garner reviews from book bloggers and readers (thankfully the book has received a goodly number of heartwarming, highly appreciative reviews). From never having written a book review, I now regularly write them (though it takes forever so may be cutting back on this or learning to write 100-word reviews). I’ve learned more about the hard realities of publishing (one can ask for the moon, but there’s always a budget) and being an author (free time, what’s that?). I’ve spent hours scrutnizing Amazon categories and Absolute Best Seller rankings, especially while my book went on promotion over Christmas (you can read about this in a previous post) and sold a very pleasing number of copies, rising briefly to #239 in the Kindle paid chart. My blog posts are still erratic in length and frequency but are stumbling haphazardly towards a concise fortnightly update (I will need some self-discipline here), interspersed with fun stuff like poems, stories, competitions, and video and audio clip. I’m tweeting several days a week at least, though it’s a dangerous distraction in the era of Trump’s trumpeting. I even took a weekend public speaking course at City Lit and am now chomping at the bit to practise my skills.
So, I will give myself a pat on the back for effort and persistence, and keep striving towards Dream Author mark 3.
In the year ahead, I hope to give a reading at a book festival or two, and to give some talks on my publishing experience and so forth. I also need to get my writing habit back to what it was. And most importantly, get Book 2 out of the way (a dark, unsettling pschydrama) and ready for publication. I’m making a big effort to edit and write most mornings, despite the list of author things still not done (leaving bookmarks in local cafés, etc). Oh yes, and curb my perfectionist tendencies, fret less about what I ought to be doing and try to be a better person, friend and citizen of the world.
Soon I shall be able to give my blog readers some news about Blind Side. (My publisher wants to keep it under wraps for now, which makes it sound quite exciting.) See you in a little while, hopefully. And to everyone still reading this – I wish you lots of wonderful things for the year ahead.