Monday 14 August 2017

12 Years Published - The Creative Process


Thursday was my 12th Authorversary and I thought that I would take the time today to do a little piece about everything that has changed since then. Looking back on 2005 and the route I took into publishing and where I am now is a massive task. I was 23, and desperate to have one book, if nothing else, on other people's bookshelves. Now at 35, I have 11 books published and another six finished and sitting on my "cooking shelf" ready to be edited and released in the coming years. I'm also working on two more and steaming through them both. But let's turn back the clock to the 10th August 2005 and that day when I could officially call myself a published author. I have learned so much since then and I'm gonna share that with you.

Blackout was published in 2005 and the way it worked, I got my own copies of the paperback in the post on August 10th. I can't possibly describe the feeling that came with holding my work in a proper published book. I made so many mistakes, but that wasn't one of the things I did wrong. My first mistake was going with a vanity press. I won't name them, but it wasn't the best option for me. To give you an idea of why I went the direction I did, I was, still am, very sick. My chronic conditions were hitting me left and right and centre and there was a possibility that given the state I was in, things would go downhill and I wouldn't be around for much longer. Things changed since then in some ways, in others they are still the same, but that was my frame of mind. One thing I knew I wanted to do was be published and so when I was approached by a vanity press I was more than happy to go that route.

Back in those days ebooks weren't really a thing and sites like KDP, Smashwords and Draft2Digital weren't around. I saw them as my only chance to be published. I had approached numerous agents and while I always got a personal reply saying they saw great promise in my work, they were also always rejections. I wanted to hold my book and knowing that there was no way I could afford to do this more than once, I went with Blackout which was, at the time, my best work in my eyes. At that point I hadn't finished Lynne & Hope so only had four books written. I would go on to write more later, but at that moment I did what I thought was best for me and my dreams.

Those mistakes I mentioned? Oh there were plenty, one being the whole decision to go with a vanity publisher. I tried my best to build a platform, to get the word out, but I didn't have the first clue what I was doing, and nor did they. Without more money changing hands they weren't going to sink into promotion and I didn't have anything to do it with. Although that dream was accomplished that day, I didn't ever think I would publish anything more. When the 12 month contract was up, I didn't renew. Yet to this day I still get calls from them promising me movie deals and ebooks of a book I have since published again, and have since sold more copies than I ever did with them. They promise me the world for a chunk of cash. So that was a big mistake. But at the same time, not one that I can really say I regret. It got me started and it gave me a very real view of what the publishing world was like.

Fast forward about ten months and I was approached by a publishing house, an actual legit publisher. It wasn't one of the big five, and again, I'm not naming names, but they were interested in signing me as an author. I was, again, very sick, and in and out of hospital pretty much like clockwork once every six weeks. I could barely keep my day-to-day life in schedule, let alone doing more than that. I was in college and planning to go to uni. It became clear very quickly that any additional stress was only going to make me sicker. I worked hard and I wrote when I could, and I now had four completed books that hadn't been published, but given the deadlines and the additional work that would have been on me, that deal didn't work out. I don't see that as a mistake either. It was the right decision for me, for my health and ultimately it was the best decision I could've made at that point in my life.

Fast forward to 2011 and KDP made it possible for me to not only re-publish Blackout, but to add the first Dying Thoughts book to my efforts. Since then I've published another nine books and as I said above, written eighteen in total. I am very happy as an indie author. I'm my own boss and while I am not the big fish, and probably will never be the big fish, it works for me. I write full time. I finished my degree in 2014 and have no plans to go back to uni for a Masters or anything. On top of that, I am building my platform, something that is taking a long time because it takes time. And that's okay. I have learned a few things in that time which I'll share with you.

Even if it's the very bottom of the food chain, everyone has to start somewhere. There's no shame in being new and there's no shame in taking your time.

I skipped this step once or twice and I'm still paying for that now. Don't be me, do it right the first time and remember that you'll thank yourself for it later down the road.

I was always worried about spamming people and in that regard yes, that is too much, but planning things and cross-posting and allowing all platforms to have the details is not a bad thing. Make sure people know where to pre-order/buy your book, when it's out and what it's about. You will create so many tweets and instagram and tumblr posts that you'll have the synopsis nailed to a few sentences.

I didn't do ARCs for the first few books, I wasn't sure how I'd manage it and I wasn't all that together once I did get the idea to do it. But I did it this year and while I didn't have a huge number of reviews, I did have some and because of that I also now have an ARC team for future releases. It's worth it to have reviews there on release day or the coming days afterwards.

Author friends are a life saver when it comes to both promo and cross-promoting and also just when you wanna talk about writing stuff. I have a huge circle of people I can call on who write both in my genre and outside of it. I have other YA friends as well as Adult and NA friends. It's good to be in that circle because so many indie authors know each other and it helps you build connections that can really help you.

One thing I never did do, but have seen in the author community, both indie, traditional and hybrid, is that some people feel like they're competing with other authors in their genre and that's just...not true. Think about it, a reader doesn't buy one book by one author and that's it! Readers, by definition, read! There are more than enough for everyone to share. And allowing yourself to celebrate other people's successes makes for a less toxic community for everyone and it'll be a good thing for you too.

I did a piece a couple of weeks ago (found here) about social media and how it works for you as an author. It's is a life line and a great way to connect with both authors and readers. I know it can seem like a lot of work, and it is a lot of work, but it is so worth it! I'm talking twitter and Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Youtube and all of the rest. Find a way to connect with your readers because that helps build your visibility.

I know this feels like it's more for people who, like me, are also chronically ill and/or disabled, but it's a good one to take away for many other writers as well. If you're indie or traditional or a hybrid of the two, find your own limits and work within them. Don't spread yourself too thin and don't set yourself up to fail. You find something that works for you and everybody is their own boss in that respect. But don't forget to take breaks, pushing your body to breaking point just hurts you and nobody wants that.

As I said above, success doesn't just instantly happen and while at twelve years published I'm still a small fish, I am further along than I was this time last year or the year before that. It takes time, more for some, less for others, but along with not competing against other authors, don't compare. Your journey is not theirs and it will take you as long as it takes.

Everyone starts somewhere and part of starting somewhere means that sometimes things will happen and you'll not know what the normal thing to do is. You learn by asking and there is no shame in being able to ask for help.

#11. - SET GOALS.

This is something I wish someone had told me. Setting a monthly list of goals has been one of the major reasons that my writing is regularly happening and that I get things done. It doesn't have to be monthly, some people do two-weekly, some do two-monthly, some do quarterly goals, but whatever works for you. I find the sticky notes and the monthly post work for me and it makes me so much more productive!


Or the second time. Part of writing a novel is just getting the words on the page and then you can start to chop it up and rewrite bits before it goes to an editor. There's a reason people say the first draft of anything is shit. It's not you, it's just how it works!

And finally, #13. - ENJOY YOURSELF.
There's nothing, for me at least, that compares to release day. To holding my stories in paperback and seeing them on my shelves and on stranger's shelves too. I love the community I have built and I love every pitfall and every success. Not everyone can say they've been published or even finished a book, that's a hell of an achievement, so celebrate that and enjoy yourself along the way. Yes, you will have bad days and yes it is bloody hard, but it's your passion and you earned it.

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