This post was inspired by fellow crime writer Rebecca Bradley’s blog post, ‘Do I Want To Be Published?’ (You can read the full post here.), where she discusses her concerns about becoming a published writer. The post made me reflect on my own experiences. Is being published all I expected it to be?
Writing my first book was my hobby and, aside from family time and work commitments, I did little else. Receiving a book deal and watching the process from contract to print – editing, choosing cover art, writing blurbs, dedications and acknowledgements – was an exhilarating experience, culminating in me holding a copy of my baby in my hands for the first time: a moment of much excitement. But once the celebrations are over, what comes next?
Before I entered the publishing world I had visions of authors finishing their books, sending them off to their publishers and brushing their hands together. Job done. In reality, the world of a published writer is wrapped up in book promotion: being active on Face book, Twitter, maintaining a regular blog, in addition to signings and events to promote our work. These demands, coupled with writing a second book, have certainly increased the amount of time spent on my ‘hobby’.
I’ve read a lot of blog posts recently from aspiring authors who feel sceptical about the publishing process and, in the light of the recent news and discussions over ‘sockpuppeting’, increasingly wary about sharing their work. I’m not going to talk about sockpuppeting here, much has been said about this already; suffice to say that whilst false reviews are a blight on the publishing industry, we should remember that the incidents involve a very sad minority of authors. The authors I have met online and in person are lovely people, many of whom can’t do enough to support each other.
I’ve also read much apprehension about reviews, in particular dealing with bad reviews. I admit that when my book was first published I checked Amazon reviews 2 or 3 times a week to watch them coming in, and read them in detail. But why? My book was picked up by a publisher and has been properly edited. Shouldn’t I have confidence in my work? As time progressed, I relaxed into the process. In an interview this week, Michael Connolly said he never reads reviews about his books. Perhaps, as a multi-published author, one could argue that he doesn’t need to, his audience is already established, and as new authors we are merely building our reader base. However, I do think he has a point. It can be damaging to the creative process to dwell too much on the good or the bad. After all, reviews are subjective and purely the opinion of the individual. I’ve only received one bad review and, yes, it did floor me for a while. But this is part of sharing our work and, if the book is good enough, the 1 star reviews will be far outweighed by the 4 and 5 stars.
Whilst I’m grateful to everyone who reviews my book, in whatever format, one of the nicest things about sharing is all the personal messages you receive from readers through Face book, Twitter, by email and even snail mail. Every one of these is special, they make me smile and I’m always slightly humbled and very grateful for the comments.
What has been particularly nice for me is the support I’ve received from fellow villagers where I live. When I’m out walking Bollo, people stop and ask me how the book is doing. I’ve been invited into homes of people I politely nodded to in the past, to sign their copies and discuss characters and plotlines. Only last week, some people who live down the road, having read the book themselves, bought extra copies for family Christmas presents and called me in to sign them. (I did feel slightly guilty since I haven’t even thought about Christmas shopping yet!) All magical moments for a new author.
I love a good yarn and, for me, this is what being a published author is. Not about watching reviews and reading widespread opinions on speculated changes within the publishing industry. It’s about sharing the story. So, if you are an aspiring author, just like I was until very recently, take heart from the fact that it can be a very enjoyable process.
What I’ve learnt is that being published requires commitment, determination and a thick skin to promote your first book and continue writing your second. Because if readers enjoy your first, they’ll be calling for more, and rightly so…