It’s now just over six months since I self-published my first novel, ‘A Construct of Angels’ and I have learned many a lesson in just that short time – and I know that I still have much to learn before I finally end up in a long wooden box.
The first lesson, as the title suggests, is to have patience.
L-o-t-s of p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e.
Writing is a long, slow process – even if you have just emerged, breathless, from a month-long NaNo sprint. Not only must you have patience in yourself in order to create that precious first draft, but you will have to watch and wait as your query letters flow first out, then back in as (hopefully) requests for the full MS or (more likely) rejection slips. There are many agents and publishers out there and the water must be tested with each one before moving onto the next. If you’re a nail-biter who doesn’t like to wait, then this will be a nervous time for you. Even if you choose to self-publish, then all the fun of formatting your book lies ahead. And boy, does that take some patience!
The second lesson is to keep, keep, keep plugging away at spreading the word. Unless your sole ambition is simply to see your poem / artwork / novel listed on-line and you have no further desire to engage with it, you owe your magnum opus (or opus minus if you are less confident in its greatness) some degree of dedication towards seeing it flourish even briefly within the publishing world. As much as you’d love to imagine the scenario, there will not be a stampede of global proportions for your newly-published works. Yes, there could be an initial (and quite encouraging) surge as your friends, followers and family click ‘purchase’, but that interest is finite and unless you are very lucky, your eBook could languish in the doldrums for some time, only picking up the odd sale here and there.
Patience, my friend…spread the word as thoroughly as you are able via word of mouth and your (essential) author platform. If you tell everyone that you meet about your book, then you can rest a little easier knowing that you are doing everything possible to encourage sales. Last week, for example, I managed to generate some interest amongst the Polish community in North West England – something that seemed counter-intuitive at the time – because reading English-language books helps to improve their written English skills.
The third is to absorb every piece of advice from other authors, editors and publishers that you can. You don’t have to use it all as not everything will be relevant to your situation, but take note anyway. You never know when your self-published book might get picked up by a publisher and you suddenly need to know about contracts, or you may suddenly decide to begin giving away swag and have to find a printer or jewellery / fridge magnet maker in a hurry. There are always new skills to learn and the number of published authors is ever-increasing…as is the wealth of experience out there. Many of us have made mistakes, spent money unnecessarily or gone with the wrong publisher. Some are happy to relate their experiences and we owe it to them to pay attention and do things better. But all these lessons cannot be learned in a single day – and they do not arrive on our doormat in a brown-paper-and-string parcel. This is where our author platform becomes an essential tool, connecting us to our peers and more experienced colleagues.
Your book might be listed on Amazon / Kobo / Smashwords / Scribd (delete as appropriate) but at this stage the process is far from over. As my driving instructor told me on the day I passed my test; ‘Now you can really begin to learn how to drive.’
And so it is with publishing. Many lessons lie ahead – but so do many adventures.