A brief encounter with my annus mirabilis.

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

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

You remembered!

 

Writer’s Blog: Stardate: 03.10.2013

This week I had an unusual icon appear on my blog’s message notification bar. On further investigation I discovered a note from WordPress saying: Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com. Has it really been a year? I asked myself. Yes, it has. Sixty seven blog posts (not including this one) which, for those readers with something of a mental blockage where mathematical equations are concerned, is an average of over one a week. (1.288461538 and lots of other digits that I can’t be bothered to type to be precise). So what? I hear shouted from cyber space. So what? It’s a milestone, that’s what.

My Acer Sansom books have been on Amazon for just over three weeks now – how time flies. It seems like only yesterday I was anxiously fumbling with the keyboard, like some green midwife delivering her first baby, trying to make sure I brought my twins into the world without a hitch. I wonder if any other self-publisher gives themselves a really pulse-racing, heart-thumping time over putting books on Amazon (Is that the right file? Is it the right edition of the right book? Did I choose the right image for the cover? What the hell does DRM mean and is it important to me? Should I click the box to be on the safe side?)

At time of typing, both books are doing reasonably well: Dirty Business is sitting at number twenty-nine in the Kindle Store>Books>Fiction>Action Adventure chart and Loose Ends is at number forty-nine. Encouraging. It really is something special to see one’s book in a chart sandwiched between Patricia Cornwell and Robert Harris, even if they are charging pounds for theirs and mine is virtually being given away. Incidentally, it’s worth mentioning that I started out with Dirty Business in the thriller category but when I saw that Loose Ends had made it into a chart I enrolled Dirty Business in the same chart to get more exposure. It’s all about exposure as Cartier-Bresson used to quip. I’ve had a couple of good comments on both books, too.

One thing I can report to myself this week with the confidence of statistical evidence to back me up is that the Romney and Marsh Files are selling quite well since the promotion day I had a week or so ago. (That’s always going to be a relative thing and I mean relative to recent sales not some blockbuster by Dan Brownstain.) Both books that I’m charging for have lurched back up the police procedural charts with all the elegance and grace of DC Grimes in hot foot-pursuit of a Dover toe-rag. Making a Killing was knocking on the door of the top twenty for a couple of days. However, no one answered and the door remains firmly shut.

I’m nearly fifty-thousand words into the fourth Romney and Marsh title. When I can find the time and the energy to have a good crack at it it moves along well, I think. But work and life are proving particularly demanding at the moment and time is just what I seem to have too little of. That and energy. I think I’m getting old. Crap.

It’s not easy writing a book, you know, when you’ve got a full-time job and other calls on your time. The further you get into it, the more you must keep on top of it. Leave it for a couple of days and you’re going to start forgetting stuff, losing threads. And then you’re going to have to have a big re-read-refresher, which can get quite annoying after a couple. Keeping notes just isn’t the same, I find. Writing is all about the mood. And all I’m in the mood for right now is bed and a good book.

Goodnight.

PS ‘Life is full of mysteries, and whether you’re working with a traditional publisher or you are an artisanal publisher (a.k.a., “self-publisher”), the potency of your marketing platform can determine your success.’ Guy Kawasaki, Advisor at Motorola Mobility. (I prefer self-publisher, thanks, Guy. I don’t find much to commend the term ‘artisanal’ for something I’m making my life’s work.)