A brief encounter with my annus mirabilis.

'Please, tell me all about your annus.' 'You filthy swine.'

‘Please, tell me all about your annus.’
‘You filthy swine.’

Writer’s diary: stardate: 03.01.2014

It seems like only last week was last year.

It appears to be something of a custom in the blogosphere at this time of year for bloggers to look back on their previous annus (sorry to disappoint my legions of mucky-thoughted followers – no more bum jokes): reflect, sum things up and make lists. I have decided not to subject anyone to that other than to say…

What an amazing year it’s been for me as an author-publisher! I’ve had a positively annus mirabilis. (Sounds uncomfortable, I know, but I’m assured it means something good.) It was December 2012 – just twelve short months ago – that I uploaded my first book to Amazon. I now have five on there and two finished and in the editing pipeline.

Like the famous Mrs Pig of traditional story fame I sent my three little pigs (my three R&M Files) out into the big wide world to fend for themselves. They have managed to support themselves, garner some appreciation and even send a little cash back home to papa like all dutiful absent children should. (The fruit of my loins could do with reading that. In my opinion they have completely the wrong idea about which way money should be travelling in the parent/offspring relationship.)

Generally, the five books (three R&Ms and two Acer Sansoms) have been well received. Comments are overwhelmingly (in both senses of the word) positive and encouraging. I’ve had a few duffers, of course, but you can’t please all the people all the time.  (That’s one of the top five things I’ve learned to accept this year.)

In the books, on the blog and on my Amazon author page I asked readers, who wouldn’t mind doing so, to point out any errors that they came across. (Another thing in my top five of things learned the hard way: the services of a proofreader are essential to any aspiring author.) Readers have been wonderfully helpful and constructive. A huge thank you to all of you who participated and helped me. For the record I am now ‘fixing’ all the errors highlighted. Rope Enough is done. Making a Killing is halfway there. I want to put all the new versions on together before I submit another book.

I’ve been an active social networker. I’ve blogged once a week. I find Twitter and the rest of it a bit dull in comparison. One thing I do have to work on is some proper and effective self-promotion. (Another of this year’s critical lessons. See below.)

I’ve worked bloody hard. I’m always working at something to do with the books. It’s like a second job in nature, only more enjoyable. You’ve got to love it or you’re screwed as an author-publisher.

I started out craving a traditional publishing deal, like a fat person craves cake. I wanted to be ‘discovered’, coaxed, fed from the palm of a kindly literary agent and tamed as a raw talent. Nurtured, pandered to and cultivated. It would still be nice but I’m more realistic about things these days. I’m also more appreciative of the whole self-publishing deal. Self-publishing is not the sad and desperate last throw of the dice by sad and desperate writers. It’s liberating and empowering and it’s also quite groovy.

I’m looking forward to 2014.

So, because I’m in danger of boring myself, on to the top five things learned this year in no particular order:

1) The services of a decent proofreader are essential.

2) You can’t please all the people all the time, so stop worrying about duff reviews. (unless you are getting loads, of course, and then there is probably something wrong with your work).

3) Writing something half-decent is only half of it. In order to maximise success an author-publisher must wear many hats and often. One has to get stuck into self-promotion in a big way if one wants to be big. You don’t even have to be a great writer, it appears. If you are the type of person who can sell snow to Eskimos, write a turd of a book, sprinkle some glitter on it (ie splash out on a great cover) and get promoting.

4) It’s all about commitment. One must have a driving passion for being an author-publisher. Being an author-publisher is like having a second full-time job. Because one must write, correspond, write, promote, write, network often – daily ideally. I know I’m cut out for this life because I enjoy all aspects of the ‘job’.

5) Don’t stop dreaming about success and believing in your ability to experience it. But keep a lid on it. I am reminded of a line in an oft misquoted poem…If you can dream – and not make dreams your master…

Oh, look, I had a summing up and made a list after all.

Finally, two really good blog-posts I would like to share. If you are in involved in writing and self-publishing in any way, shape or form they are worth looking at. One from the legendary Joe Konrath is the practical one and one from a guy who I envy, admire and hate in equal measure, James Oswald, is there to feed the dreams. He is living the dream – my dream. I shouldn’t resent him for it and I don’t, really. Much. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: bloody good luck to the man.

http://jakonrath.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/konraths-publishing-predictions-2014.html

http://jamesoswald.co.uk/?tag=2013

This time last year I was a self-publishing nobody. And now I’m a couple of rungs up the ladder. It looks like a big ladder. I can’t see the top. There are people climbing over me in a frantic rush. There are people above me losing their grip to plummet to Earth. My knuckles are white and my knees are strong. I’m pacing myself. Upward and onward. I’d like to lead everyone in a couple of verses of that traditional yuletide ditty, What the Fuck by the seasonally appropriately named Sak Noel.  (Does anyone know if that translates to Santa’s scotum?) The title, at least, totally sums up my surprise at the way things went for me in 2013.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBlY53fgN-k

­Talking of poetry, here is a less well known verse than last week’s but no less meaningful for all that. It’s certainly appropriate.

Annus Mirabilis not by Philip Larkin

Self-publishing began
In twenty, nine plus three
(which was rather late for me) –
Between the end of middle age
And my impending RIP.

Up to then there’d only been
A sort of wistful scribbling,
A writing for the fun of it,
A shame that started at fifty
And not before.

Then all at once the penny dropped:
Everyone felt the same,
We sold our souls to Amazon
A brilliant breaking of the bank,
A quite unlosable game.

I dream life will be better than
In twenty, ten plus three
(And not too late for me) –
Between the end of middle age
And my impending obituary.

You can see the original here

http://www.wussu.com/poems/plam.htm

Philip Larkin & Sak Noel - a couple of potty mouths.

Philip Larkin & Sak Noel – a couple of potty mouths.

Happy New Year and sincere thanks to everyone who has supported me.

6 thoughts on “A brief encounter with my annus mirabilis.

  1. Dear Oliver,

    Firstly I wish you a very happy and successful 2014.

    Thank you for a very amusing new post (I’m sure you remember Her Majesty’s horrible anus of a few years back – the most respectful among us had certainly not realised that she was equipped with such a plebeian organ)

    As for my own book, it is progressing and I’m about a third way through (and the forward contains a mention of you as the person who gaver me the final push enabling me to put pen to paper). However for me it will be a one-off and somewhat therapeutic work which I am enjoying. I spend the rest of my time doing political and economic reports (the Ambassador has decided to bugger off on leave at the most critical time for Madagascar in the past 5 years) and these proving are more than enough to satisfy me both intellectually and exhaustively. It is however great fun to be back at the diplomatic helm some eleven years after retirement.

    Warm regards and best of luck with your multiple endeavours.

    Richard

    PS Thanks for the hint about the fruits of loins providing financial support for ageing fathers; I must try this on with my two

    • Hello Richard
      Very good to hear from you again. Thank you for your good wishes. A very happy new year to you and yours, too.

      I do, of course, remember our dear sovereign’s ‘complaint’ of 2005. And I did toy with the idea of including references to that in my post. However, as the new year’s honours list has not yet been announced, I didn’t want to risk my slim chances of getting on it for services to self-publishing being revised. I cannot remember a time when I have shown greater restraint.

      Congratulations for getting stuck in with your writing project and to think that you have mentioned me as a motivating influence is very kind of you and not a little humbling. I sincerely look forward to the finished article. It’s also good to learn that you are enjoying the experience.

      Regarding the changes in your professional fortunes, the phrase ‘never say never again’ springs to mind. It’s a good job it’s you there and not me. In your position, I might be tempted to have taken the opportunity, as the man in charge, for a bit of mischief. Of course, I have no idea of the limits of an ambassador’s powers. Would you be able to declare war on anyone in the name of the UK? Sanction the launch of a tactical nuclear strike, perhaps? Just a couple of thoughts. (I should probably stop drinking so much of my home-brewed Turkish raki before checking my emails.)

      All the best for 2014, and if you do find a way to encourage your offspring to reverse the flow of support funds, please let me know.

      Best wishes.

  2. Dear Oliver,

    Firstly I wish you a very happy and successful 2014.

    Thank you for a very amusing new post (I’m sure you remember Her Majesty’s horrible anus of a few years back – the most respectful among us had certainly not realised that she was equipped with such a plebeian organ)

    As for my own book, it is progressing and I’m about a third way through (and the forward contains a mention of you as the person who gave me the final push enabling me to put pen to paper). However for me it will be a one-off and somewhat therapeutic work which I am enjoying. I spend the rest of my time doing political and economic reports (the Ambassador has decided to bugger off on leave at the most critical time for Madagascar in the past 5 years) and these proving are more than enough to satisfy me both intellectually and exhaustively. It is however great fun to be back at the diplomatic helm some eleven years after retirement.

    Warm regards and best of luck with your multiple endeavours.

    Richard

    PS Thanks for the hint about the fruits of loins providing financial support for ageing fathers; I must try this on with my two

    • Hello Richard,
      Happy New Year. I am what they call ‘net-working’ putting myself ‘out there’ as they say. Read Oliver’s blog this morning to find you had posted. I became intrigued by what you said about your book being a one-off. I am now very interested in reading it, so don’t be too long finishing. Please let me know of title and when you’ll be publishing.

      Good luck and best wishes. Pat.

      PS. Take it from me, you’ll be at the food bank before you get finances to flow in reverse.

  3. Hi, Oliver.
    Happy new year and hope all your resolutions comes to fruition. Enjoyed reading your blog, very funny, and I did look at the Joe Konrath site: very interesting. Already taken on board your five point list and realise we have to constantly promote ourselves, not only by turning out books: we have to keep the ball rolling: but by putting ourselves out there. As a new author/publisher I feel I am having to learn a lot in a such short space of time. I have learned much in just two weeks, and to give thanks for your help and advice I ‘plug’ your books to family and friends.

    My only gripe this year is although my book is under the heading ‘fiction’ I seem to have been pigeon holed as a woman writer. There’s no getting away from the fact I’m a woman – well I was the last time I looked – and I am a writer, but why can’t I just be called a writer. I do realise its all about accessibility, but it does grate on me sometimes. I blame my mother. She was the type of person who would have chained herself to the railings. Or perhaps its my age? You do get grumpier as you get older.

    My only resolution for this year is to keep writing, but as I’ve been writing for 30 years it is now in my blood so whatever happens I will not stop, I can’t, and like you, I have to get my daily fix.

    PS: Perhaps you would like to know that trying to reverse the flow of cash from parent to child is a fruitless quest. Sorry, have to go now as I have to get to the food bank before they close.

    All the best. Pat.

    • Hi Pat
      Happy new year to you and yours, too. Thanks for dropping by the blog.

      It took me a year to fully understand all the hats one must wear as an author-publisher. And I’m still not doing enough.

      I think that Konrath is a man worth listening to. Author-publishers have got to innovate. If we want to stand out from the crowd, we’ve got to find something different and special. I have no idea what that might be, yet, but I’m thinking.

      Great start for your Amazon reviews. Congratulations. And I see that you’re replying to comments. I do that, too. I feel it’s a great way to build some sort of rapport with readers who might go on to download another book or two.

      I can understand your frustration about feeling pigeon-holed but what can you do? My initial reaction is to say, use it to your advantage. I would guess that there are a great many readers who are looking to download books by ‘women writers’ writing in a certain genre. You could always make it your goal to plug into that rich vein of readership. Don’t listen to me! I have no idea what I’m talking about.

      Once again, best of luck with the writing. I’ll be keeping an eye on your progress and blog and keeping in touch.

      Thanks, so much, for plugging my books. Much appreciated.
      Best wishes for 2014

      PS I did broach the subject of money with my kids and they agreed on something for once – I don’t give them enough.

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