In a little over a month, I will have been a published author for two years, although I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I have been lucky enough to have published three books, and have spent my days writing more and promoting those that are out there, and I have reached that all important point, where I have sat back and taken a long look at how things have gone. As this blog is a record of my experiences, to share especially with other new writers, and those who love to read, I have set out some observations that may or may not help or interest you.
The first thing that is the most noticeable is the way I live my life, three years ago I left my shop to the demolition workers, and gave up my business to spend everyday at home dedicated to finishing the series I had started, so the good thing is that life has got quieter and warmer. It’s a move I do not regret, as I think it has done me a lot of good, I have worked hard with little time off for years, and I am not getting any younger, so its nice to slow down and spend more time at home with my family, although there are those odd days when I miss the hustle and bustle of the markets, and the flood of the different people I had contact with.
Looking back at my life then as a horticulturalist, and my life now as a writer, it suddenly impacts on me how much time I spend alone these days. For all writers this is factor of their working day, I am pretty reclusive and have had to live most of my life in the throng of market life, rushing around from dawn until dusk, so the tranquillity of my desk is actually a wonderful retreat for me. It may sound bliss, but this does have drawbacks not just for myself, but for every writer as the disconnection to write, also removes the ability to talk and interact, and so therefore it can be very hard to actually get a real gauge of how the books are received, especially if you are a new writer.
Being the new kid on the block, alongside the other million or two published authors vying for shelf-space and sales, can have huge drawbacks, the most obvious being that local bookshops who are under pressure from everywhere in the book selling world, rank you as the lowest priority, and its hard getting them to include your books. The most difficult thing is getting out the word of your published work, and most importantly actually meeting people who have read your work to give you their honest opinion.
I have looked at hundreds of writer’s forums over the years, and it does appear to be one of the hardest areas of writer’s life. A good well thought out book takes tens of thousands of hours to write, and there are days when there does not feel like there are enough hours in the day to fit everything in. I work more now than I ever have, often working until the early hours of the morning writing, promoting and posting wherever I feel the word is needed, and then hoping at some point, someone will take a few minutes to send me a message to let me know what they think.
Most of the writers I associate with or talk to on the forums, all suffer from the same massive lack of confidence in their work, as they know if the slightest thing is not right, the critics will attack and be merciless in their scorn, something that can kill a books sales dead. If like me, you are a recently new writer, that can kill your writing career before you even get it off the ground.
I am a pretty upbeat person, having worked for myself for well over ten years I have no problems motivating myself to work, I love writing, so for me it’s a simple pleasure emptying my thoughts onto the page, but even I have found that there are some days it feels like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. Feedback is the key, but it’s not so easy to find it.
Like all writers I use Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, but these in themselves can be traps if you are not careful. I have a Facebook page which I update as appropriate, I do make an effort not to fill it with the mundane routine of my life, or make it one long tiresome advert for the books, I do actually put a great deal of effort into keeping it up to date with just the specifics. People can access it through my Twitter or website, and also from FB itself, and when I first started out it seemed to flow as the numbers rose rapidly, and it was pleasing to see that I had what looked like some solid support. Two years later with three books out, and the numbers have fallen, not because I am doing anything wrong or different, its just that the trends have changed, and people spring clean their profiles once in a while. Two years ago I was trying to get published and was finding it very difficult, as most writers do these days, those on Facebook liked the idea of supporting a struggling author, today I have done it, and I am working on a fourth, its much less appealing and so they click off and follow someone else. It’s a fickle thing and so hard to use as a gauge of your writing achievements.
I will add that its not all bad news, as I do get people who post or write a review in the reviews section, and that can lift my day and make everything feel so much more worthwhile as I sit here alone, knowing that my words connected with another human being, is a tiny moment of triumph that brings the all important extra motivation to continue. Emails and feed back are the source of extra inspiration and the only benchmark we loners in front of the keyboard have to guide us forward. It sounds sort of sad, but it does make a world of difference, those few comments from the mass are a permanent source for others to tap, and that is how slowly over a great deal of time, a writer finds his way through the media jungle to get noticed and begin to make a living out of his solitary creativity.
Out of the millions of people sat writing in this world, just two percent will actually earn enough money to live off, if they are self published it can take years just to earn back the money they have invested, as every aspect of writing costs the author before the book is finally produced, and as a new writer I know it could be years before I break even, but one post at a time, I will move forward until I do.
If you love to write or follow other writers, and like myself have sought to find the books of those you have followed, think about what they have done alone in front of a desk, and if you purchased online or know of a social network group they are on, take a moment to look them up and write a few words to them. All writers give their words freely to anyone who takes the time to read them, if you enjoy them, send a few back, and tell them of your enjoyment, believe me, it really does make a huge difference.
Most writers don’t write for vanity or prestige, they write because for them it is compunction, and a release for their creative abilities. It’s a hard thing to do as it takes a massive amount of will power and determination, to set your own deadlines and stick to them. Getting published is hard work, and with all the changes and uncertainty of life in the industry today it is getting a whole lot harder, we work the long hours in solitary conditions, and usually we get the smallest share of the profits, which are swallowed up by the retailers, wholesalers and publishers. We do it because we love to read, and we love the freedom of creation, it is a joy and one of the most satisfying things I have ever done, even if at times it feels like I forget that.