Advancing through twitter over the past few weeks, it’s staggering the sheer number of people who have entered the world of writing and self publishing. Clearly, we all have ambitions to conquer the world of publishing, whether self, or traditional.
I tweeted an article earlier this week, about making the choice between self publishing and traditional publishing. It was an interesting article in many ways, but I couldn’t help but notice a glaring oversight. How many people who are out there right now, feverishly writing away, pouring their soul and emotion into their work, will ever truly get to make that choice. Let’s face it, before Kindle, Kobo and the others came along, allowing anybody to publish anything (well, almost anything judging by the recent furor over porn writing) when they chose to do so, it was hard enough to get published. Now that more and more books come out all the time, it is forcing publishers, and agents, to be even more selective about what and who they pick up.
In many ways, it’s good, as only the very best in most cases actually get published, and for the publishers, it showcases their work in ever greater favor with the public. But it makes the life of us new writers even tougher. Last year, I read a childrens book which I kind of enjoyed, but also found myself wondering how it had been published. I was amazed that the premise had been picked up, and even more amazed that it felt as though it hadn’t even been edited. But it was with a pretty big agency and a traditional publishing house, so it must have been through the mill. Then I discovered the author had been introduced to the agency, through a friend, and that’s how the deal was struck. No sifting, no desperate letters, no rejection.
The danger with having an imagination that allows you to put your thoughts down on paper, electronic or real, is that it also allows, in fact lets be honest it encourages you, to think about what life might be like if you ever achieve success. Bracing walks along the beach, writing in peace with a view to gaze restoratively upon, a long lazy lunch, followed by an afternoon of energetic prose. Meetings with your agent and publisher to discuss the finer details of the process. The joy of having people actually read and like your work, to fall in love with your characters as much as you do. To ask you questions about the books.
So it makes it all the harder, when you get no’s. But I ask you, what is your measure of success? I know it sounds a bit fluffy and lovey to say, ‘I write because I have to’, but I think there’s at least an element of truth in there. I do feel better when I’ve written something. But I think my measure now is, can I finish what i started. I’ve begun two different series, and I really need to finish them. As well as I can. Before I even begin to plan the next projects. One thing at a time.
I think, if you keep writing, you get better. And I don’t think it’s beyond reasonable to consider the possibility that out there, in the wider world, there might be a few thousand people, who will absolutely love your writing. To the point where they form a readership, just waiting for you to find them. And unfortunately, the only way to find them, is to keep working. Keep writing, keep getting better, and keep making contact with people. A friend of mine, who I work with, told me when i started writing that it would probably be 5 years before i got anywhere with it. I smiled and thought I would achieve something in less time than that. It turns out he may have been a bit optimistic with that estimate.
But, he has turned out to be quite an inspiration. During our time working together, he has been beavering away working on his music, and even before we worked together. His goal was to get to the point where he could earn a living, a salary, from his music. He has done small presses of vinyl every year I have known him, 250 to 300, and sold them all. They resell for £20 or £30 or more sometimes, on discogs. But DJing is where he has begun to make his money. He got a big break earlier this year, and since then it has snowballed. He went part time a couple of years ago, and is now talking of leaving completely. His other work demands too much time, and his success means it has become his priority. How amazing is that? He has played his stuff a few times at work, and has had a pretty lukewarm reception. But out there, beyond our office, there are much more sophisticated , discerning people than us, who love what he does. Earlier this year, he DJ’d the Chic after party in Amsterdam!
The point is, he knew what he wanted, and he as worked incredibly hard, putting in so many hours of mixing, DJing, party hosting, social networking and anything else that would help, and has achieved what he wanted. He can now earn a pretty good salary, more than his job here provided, from his music. He has done what so many of us dream of doing. He is going to leave his job, and do what he loves for a living.
So people, fret not at the no’s, think no more on the lack of sales. instead, put your back into meeting people, readers, the ones who might love your work. Go to book clubs, interact with book lovers, offer help to others doing the same (it will pay you back), keep writing, keep getting better, plan your stories and make sure they are complete. And use an editor, find someone you can work with, it really makes a difference to your work. No matter how critical you are of your own work, you will not see it the way a professional editor will!
Keep the faith, dust yourself down, Keep Calm and Carry on. Dave.