With just under two months left to go until publication day, I thought I’d reflect on the journey so far. It hardly seems real, still, that my book will be in the actual shops in eight weeks’ time. The creative process has been relatively smooth sailing, if I’m honest. The hard stuff is all the rest of it!
Being published for the first time is a strange situation: you go from lolling about in your writing bubble bath to being thrown into the publishing equivalent of a lazy river, constantly wondering whether you should kick your legs a bit to influence the outcome or just go with the flow. Throughout the past six months I have been constantly second guessing whether I should be more or less assertive with my publisher, or more or less proactive; not wanting to appear a control freak or tread on any toes, and at the same time trying to prove myself a competent, commercially savvy and enthusiastic individual who wants to work hard to sell my books. As an author, you have to be calm, patient and understanding that while your book matters to your publisher, they have a million things to juggle; and accept the fact that you’re a long way from the top of the pile, and that to get that vital airspace with bookshops and bloggers and influencers to propel you a little further up the food chain means pitching yourself against authors who are better, faster, more experienced, more known, with bigger budgets and better relationships with which to gain traction. It’s not easy. And I’ve found negotiating the choppy waters is all the more difficult because, like a lot of writers out there with their first book deal, I have absolutely no idea who does what.
Google ‘how to get an agent’ or ‘how to get a book deal’ and you’ll get a million articles. Try searching ‘who does what when you publish a book’ and the answers are less consistent. It’s quite a minefield, and from conversations with other authors, appears to vary from publisher to publisher, agent to agent, and author to author. Thankfully, I have an amazing, hands on agent who’s willing to steer a rather green debut author through the confusion of their first publication. But I’m sure it’s not the same for everyone.
One thing that’s very consistent though, is that authors need to market their own books. Although I was expecting to take on a lot of the responsibility to sell mine – I’ve read a million articles telling me as much – nothing really prepared me for how much there would be to learn and to do in order to make even the tiniest dent on the consciousness of the nation. Plus, I massively underestimated the sheer quantity of time it would take. Before this month, I thought doing social media was just a case of chucking a few tweets out a couple of times a week. Now I seem to be in a constant battle between being a writer who writes actual books and a marketeer promoting the one I’ve already written.
In truth, keeping up with the demands of social media admin in order to grow my online presence, generating book signings and organising launch events has become an almost full time job. To help me get some new ideas to help with promoting the book, I went on a marketing course for authors, which was great in terms of really focusing on my brand, but also made me aware of just how much there was to do. Today, I have a spangly website and several promises of book signings, and I’m feeling rather chuffed to have increased from 300 to a massive 434 Twitter followers (please do follow me, by the way, @Writerfaye – I’d quite like to make it 500 by the end of the week). But the amount of work that’s gone into it in the past four weeks or so feels faintly ridiculous and I have begun to wonder how anyone has the time to do this and write.
There’s a rumour that publishing a book in the good old days was vastly different. Allegedly, there was a time when the publisher did all of your marketing while you quaffed champagne and signed the occasional book. I’m not sure that’s entirely true. But I do know, that as a 21st Century debut author it’s very definitely not like that – and while confusing and fairly exhausting on occasions, that doesn’t always make it a bad thing. If I wasn’t before, I am super, super invested in my book now. I am not afraid to walk into a bookshop anymore and talk to them about stocking my book, or asking about an event. It’s yielded far better results than emailing, although taken about ten times the amount of time and effort. The @womenwritersnet and @debutsuk2021 groups on Twitter have really changed how I interact and I’ve learned a lot from other writers promoting their work too.
Whether it really makes a difference or not is quite impossibly to say, at this stage. But I keep telling myself it will! And honestly, after the last year and a half, I’m so excited to talk to strangers again I don’t really care. In talking to people and putting myself out there, on social media and in real life, I feel like I’ve tapped into a new community who really cares about books and writers.
Publishing a book is long, and crazy. I’m sure I’ll look back on this post in a few months and there will have been a whole other set of learning too. But to anyone reading this and wondering, is it really worth it, I would say yes. With bells on. Writers learn for a living: every edit is a lesson in how to be better. As I see it, the end part of the process is just an extension of this. So I embrace the next few months, and cross my fingers that it all pays off. If nothing else… WHAT a ride!