Publishing your first novel
When I started writing ‘Poison’ I thought that would be the hardest bit, waiting for the ideas to flow. And to a certain degree it was. When you start something, you have so much choice, so many possible forks in the road to take. You have to think carefully, what is the story you want to tell, what is the tone. Do you want to write a grisly gruesome murder, a romance, a literary novel, a comedy? Do you want something surreal, or is this a book based on a true story? Choosing the avenues to pursue take time at the start.
Then you find your stride and off you go. Whether you’ve plotted it out carefully at the start, or you’re deciding to let the book lead you, this must be the favourite bit for an author. The writing. As it allows you, just like when reading a book, to enter a world outside of your own, outside of reality. You are able to escape, pretend, imagine. The only things that stop you are you either run out of ideas, or you have to put the washing on (or something as mundane which takes time and takes you away from your first love).
Then you get close to finishing. Again you are faced with questions, lots of them. Like, is it good enough? How many times should you polish it, before you risk changing the shape of what you wrote in the first place? You may have done two, three, maybe six drafts of your book. Then there comes a day when you say, enough, I’ve finished. I can move on. Little do you know - if it is your first book - that this is only the beginning again. You need to show it to others, get their opinions, and if needs be reshape bits that they didn’t understand or have given you notes on. That’s if you trust them.
Then you need to think about a cover and an ebook conversion company (if you choose to use one). Which ones? There is so much choice. More decisions. These aren’t decisions a writer likes to make. They’ve written their fiction, they want to go back to their fantasy imagination and write the next thing. Not get stuck in the hard reality of marketing. Making your book stand out on the ‘shelf’ so people see it, want to read it. The writer is really only interested in what is inside, it is all they know most of the time. It can get quite stressful, making all these choices.
If you are selling your book on Amazon then you need a profile. A lot of writers are quite solitary. They don’t want a profile. In fact they’d rather they were not even on the cover, preferring to remain almost unknown, save for hearing people say they enjoyed entering the world they created. It’s just more things that take you away from the writing, from sitting in your shed, spare room, lovely desk somewhere else by the window, for hours upon hours in another world. Publicity is the opposite of that. The last thing you will have thought of as a writer, believe me, is the need to get a good photo, not having gone out much before or seen anyone, let alone having a photo taken of them. Too busy sitting in the shed. Then you can’t mention in the blurb that you love your cat, or like camping, or anything that doesn’t resonate with the book. How can you write a thriller but help hedgehogs cross the road at weekends? The two don't gel for your audience. So you create a profile people want to read, leaving out the interesting quirky things that don't mesh with your genre.
As for me, I survived. Self publishing my novel felt a bit like when I had finished my PhD, and was reading through it for typos, checking it before it went off to the printers. Then the waiting, for someone to read it (in this case two examiners who had to test my hypothesis). Hopefully more than two for my novel, but equally I wait to see how the book is received. Completely prepared for both the good and the bad reviews. Who can tell and you sure can't please everyone.
In the meantime, I'd like to thank Robin Howlett, a very talented illustrator, who helped me enormously by providing a cover which would get people to read my book. He made it easy for me, took all the stress out of it, and provided such a wonderful cover I probably look at it more than I should, not because of my book, but because I love it (and his other illustrations on his website). Please do visit his site you will see so many great illustrations HERE
I would also like to thank Peter at BlueWavePublishing, who provided an ebook conversion service. Basically did all the IT that makes the whole thing readable on your Kindle or iBook once I'd written the thing. Who knew how complicated it could be? Peter did, which is why I used him. If you want a very patient and really supportive ebook conversion service then check him out HERE
I’ve already thanked the people who read this book and spotted typos in the dedication page of the novel, but they deserve to be thanked twice at the very least! Katie, Penny, John, Lindsay, Jo and my father John. Thanks for spotting the dreaded grammar and spelling mistakes. Without yew my buk wud h’ve loaked moore like thes.
If you are writing your first book, don't give up. Just keep going. If you are doing it alone, like I did, then I applaud you even more. I'm sure, like me, you'll wonder if you are doing the right thing at times. But remember why you started. Because you wanted to escape into another world. And if people read your book and you succeed in taking then on that journey too, and they enjoy it, then you have done your job.