It has become my habit on a Thursday night, after my two-year-old son has climbed the wooden hill to Bedfordshire, to sit down and write my Friday morning blog-post. I leave it to simmer/fester overnight and then take another look at it in the cold light of day before titivating; correcting what I can see needs correcting, and posting. That’s how seriously I’m taking my blog-posts these days. Am I a dick for it, I wonder?
I do enjoy the writing of it. Word limits and deadlines are self-imposed. I please myself; I answer to no-one over the content, style, length or language. I can write fuck whenever I like. Fuck. And I can pick my own topic – something that is pertinent to where I happen to be in that particular week in this stumbling about of mine to become an author.
And it is this need to feel like a real author that is a large part of the driving force behind my significant effort, engagement and dedication of time and energy on all fronts: writing, editing, proof-reading, formatting, interacting with readers (hugely enjoyable), social-networking, building an internet presence – a ‘platform’ (vomit). (Not querying agents. I gave that up like I gave up putting teeth under my pillow and for much the same reasons.) But more and more I find myself wondering, what is an ‘author’? How should I be defining the word ‘author’? What should be my criteria for ‘making it as an author’? (My blog tag-line is and has been from day one: ‘on trying to make it as an author’.)
I’ve written three books. I have self-published them. They have been downloaded. The first is free, but a decent number of decent people have gone on to pay for the second and third (if you are one of those decent people, because I have complete editorial control over my blog – another plus of the medium – I am interrupting myself to offer you my sincerest thanks for your continued support and encouragement). They have been read. They have been generally fairly well received. Am I not an author already? If you want to answer yes, as I do, can someone tell me why I don’t yet feel like one? Am I like some flawed character that Aesop may have written about who spends his life looking for something only to find that he has it already? Did I already make the transformation from ugly-duckling to swan? Someone pass me a mirror. (Shit I look tired.)
I do want to see my books in print. I want to hold hard-backed, dust-jacketed, first impressions of the first edition of each of the three Romney and Marsh Files. I want to inhale their reality. I want to line them up on a bookshelf, arrange a chair opposite and stare at them. I want to be courted by an agent. I want to be fought over by publishers. I want to be someone on Twatter (thanks M) who other authors are following (anyone else noticed their cliquey little name-dropping groups – wankers; someone who aspiring authors tweet on the tweets of in the hope of a crumb of recognition falling from their high-table. I make myself feel a little bit ill with my shallowness sometimes.
I have this theory that traditional publishing is the new vanity publishing. I’ve detailed above what I’ve achieved on my own, for myself. To a fair degree, I have what I set out to achieve: books and readers and satisfaction, but I want more. It’s not about the money – I’ve got a day job. I want industry recognition – affirmation and confirmation from those who run things. And that is simple vanity because I don’t need it.
A couple of days ago I reblogged a post by another aspiring author. It makes quite sobering reading for people like me. Tin’s experiences of trying to land an agent – he did get an agent, but it hasn’t yet amounted to anything. The agent advised him to self-publish! – and subsequent book-deal have served to reinforce how I’m feeling about it all – not horribly negative just realistically resigned and more determined to accept what I am and where I am and probably where I will be in a year’s time. For that I am grateful to him for sharing.
I like to ghost about the web looking at author sites seeing how they view things. I have noticed that there are an increasing number of successful ebook authors who are positively encouraging others to forget about chasing the rainbow of traditional publishing deals, to self-publish, self-promote, take control, enjoy the profits and the feeling and if you should be fortunate enough, or good enough (actually, let’s stick with fortunate enough. There are plenty of good writers out there who won’t be found by the traditional publishing industry because they are simply unfortunate.) to garner attention of agents looking for an author who has proven the market for themselves in every sense of the expression dictate your own terms. Here are mine: (1) a small, hard-back print run of each title (2) you need to hook me up with someone in the music business who can help me produce my music (3) buy me lunch somewhere nice (4) a Shetland pony. OK, three of them are negotiable. My vanity is really quite a powerful thing. I’m such a slut. I could be my own worst enemy.