This week my website is one year old and I celebrate my first year as an ad-hoc blogger, and, soon, my first year as a published author.
Was the experience what I expected? Did I even know what to expect? While I’ve been circling the book industry for many years and been a marketer for many more, I’m not sure I really did. Still, for those interested, here are my reflections on my first year.
The best parts of being an author
Connecting with readers from all over the world – Brazil, USA, Canada, UK, Sweden, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand – though sadly no inroads into Newfoundland that I know of. Don’t they know I’m a one-man tourist machine for their province? Don’t they know people are enthralled with icebergs now?
The joy of writing. I don’t write every day as I have too many competing priorities and distractions. Or are they my excuses? I try and carve out blocks in my year to dive into my books. These are the best of times. True bliss. I’m hoping to carve out more time next year and maybe even a new routine.
Reviewers reaching out to help me because they believe in my book. These amazing women were strangers less than 12 months ago. I’m talking about you The Book Bosses, The Eclectic Reader, and Honey Lemon Tea. Thank you for your kind hearts, for shining a light on my stories and for the introductions you made for me.
The worst parts of being an author
Being seriously challenged by the commandment: Thou Shalt Not Covet. Envy is a bit of a foreign concept to me. It’s not something I come up against that often except this year I found myself envying other author’s lifestyles. I’m talking some hugely successful ones. Not envying their success because mostly they completely deserve that. It’s what their success has provided – the luxury of being able to completely devote themselves to their next book for months, even years. To not have to worry about money to cover the every day costs of living. To be able to hop on a plane and go to one intriguing place after another to do research. At Least for Christmas I’m going to New Zealand where my next book after Come Full Circle is set. But I have big dreams for Romania and Samoa and Egypt…The list is long. Maybe I can find a sponsor? Wait, that’s a publisher, right? Multi-book contracts. Drats!
Running a Social Media promotion that was a flop. As in no entries. At all 🙁 Well that was a good idea – not! Fortunately that didn’t happen that often. But there have been many times when what you think will work doesn’t, and what you think won’t, does. Go figure. The adage: if you build it they will come, doesn’t wash. My approach: Keep focusing on writing books, keep marketing when I can.
Being a klutz with Twitter. I thought I set it up so that anytime anyone mentioned me I would get an email. Obviously not. Please forgive my tardiness in replying, dear readers. Hopefully the situation is all sorted and I’m there more regularly these days.
What get’s readers excited
I have always believed you have to write what’s in your heart, you have to write the story inside you needing to be told. Writing about what’s trendy is a fool’s errand.
I’ve clearly been living a sheltered life. This year I’ve had my eyes opened to the world of flesh marketing. And I’m not sure if this is what’s in so many writers’ hearts and minds or if it’s serving up stories that they believe will sell, for that’s what’s readers’ hearts and minds.
There are a lot of books out there that promote sex and lust. I mean in your face promote. There’s no missing those covers. Some days I feel like I’m wondering through a sweltering Roman bath with no safe place to look. Each to their own. And in some respects it’s great that ebooks have created such a huge market for so many writers in this genre. I never thought of myself as a prude. That’s my mother! Bless her she once added her own graffiti to one of my brother’s posters drawing a bikini on a naked girl draped over a motorbike.
It’s just that I prefer subtlety. For me, more skin does not necessarily equate to undeniable sensuality or romance. Where’s the seduction in that?
I find myself a bit of a misfit, which in some respects is nothing new. I don’t fit the historical fiction bodice ripper mould either. In my books there are no damsels ditching their underwear, no heroines or sisters having their finely threaded laces slashed or yanked apart in front of their brother or lover, nor do my novels culminate in my couples consummating their love and living happily ever after, at least not in the conventional way.
My stories blend romance and family struggles and adventure and ‘oh my god – did that character actually do that!’… not the easiest tales to market, but thankfully something that does seem to appeal to a select number of readers.
How authors help other authors
Over the past year I’ve been inspired by a number of authors – old and new favourites – not just by their writing but by their tenacity, their humility and their gratitude. Indeed this year I discovered that many authors don’t really make it till their fifth book has been published. Sometimes, for others, it’s even further along the publishing journey.
This from Richard Flanagan on his Booker Prize win:
I’ve got wonderful publishers in Australia and I’ve got many readers in Australia, but, when you only – you know, when it takes so long to write a book, things can become (financially) difficult. But I don’t think it does to complain about it at all, Leigh, because no-one asks you or expects you to be a writer, it’s something you choose. And if so, if you’ve been lucky enough to be allowed to keep on going back to the table, as I have been for, you know, the best part of 25 years, you just have to be grateful and sometimes you just scrape through and sometimes, like today, I’ve been extraordinarily lucky.
Please note: I am not harbouring any aspirations re The Booker Prize, but I do concur that attitude and luck and gratitude have something to do with success in this vocation. So in that vein, let me leave you with my Top 5 Gratitudes.
I’m grateful for every review – even the not so great ones, which thankfully have been few and far in between. On Monday this week I got a 1 star review (my first) with the response: just not worth it. Hookay. On the same day I got a 5 star review. See, it’s random and at times fickle. The only yardstick for me are the averages. On Goodreads I’m sitting on 4.4 stars for Seldom Come By and 4 stars for Come What May – I take heart from that even though it’s very early days because reviews do help authors like me get discovered. However, there is a caveat that I discovered at The Brisbane Writers Festival. Often there has to be a set number of reviews before some discerning readers will take any notice. Anyone care to enlighten me on the number?
I’m grateful for the readers and reviewers who are voracious readers and favourably compare my books to traditionally published authors. I was tired of being blocked by agents and publishers and wanted to put my books out in the market to see if readers would enjoy them. To know that you enjoy my stories and are keen to read more means the world to me. That, and the joy of writing, keep me going when some days I feel like going, ‘Oh, well, I tried. Obviously I don’t have what it takes.’
I’m grateful for the women – and men – who regularly join me on Facebook and let me know you like popping by. Thank you dear people xo.
I’m grateful that my brother of all people really loved Seldom Come By. I’m grateful that after my Mum read it, it opened up conversations we’d never had before.
4. My partner
I’m grateful for my partner Mark, his delight in my small wins and his perspective, particularly on days when I see my glass being half empty, and he reminds me that it’s half full and what’s more, the water is like the beautiful mountain spring water we had in our home in New Zealand, which very few people ever get to taste.
I’m grateful that you read to the end of this post. Seriously, well done. It was much longer than I intended it to be. Leave a comment and you’ll go in the draw to win my second novel, Come What May. Either a print book or 2 ebooks so you can share one with a friend. Competition is open internationally. I’ll announce the winners on 20 November.