I’ve always wanted to be a writer. It’s a desire that I suppose came from reading a lot of books. Someone had an idea, wrote a book and I read the book and in doing so the author transmitted his thoughts and ideas to me through the book. It’s only natural, at least it seems so to me, to want to do the same, to not just receive the thoughts of someone else but to transmit my thoughts and ideas, in the form of a book, to others.
When I was younger I discovered Dylan Thomas. I like his poetry but also I love his short stories and his plays, especially the ones he wrote for the radio. I was also attracted to Dylan because of his image, that of the boozing pub going artist who drank beer and wrote poetry and who died after proclaiming that he had drunk 18 straight whiskies. ‘I think it’s a record’ he said before passing into a coma in New York, never to recover.
As it happens I’m nothing like Dylan Thomas at all except that we both share a love of writing. When I left school I wanted to be a journalist but back then I was held back in life in so many ways by an overpowering shyness that crippled me and stopped me from doing so many of the things I wanted to do. In some situations, I couldn’t even speak but happily writing was something that I could do alone in the privacy of my bedroom. Perhaps that’s why I love writing because all I have to do is open my notebook, or laptop, and write away.
My first attempts at serious writing were stories based on my love of television. They were stories of espionage and time travel and one day in my twenties I decided to change my focus and write about things around me. I wrote an essay about my work colleagues and an evening in a working men’s club. It was about snooker and pool and card games and pints of Boddingtons bitter. I wrote more and more similar essays and then I decided I could put them all together and with a little editing make them into a story and then into a novel.
I worked on my book intermittently over a period of many years. I wrote lots of it in long hand and then bought a typewriter and began to type it up. When the home computer revolution happened I began to type it all out onto my computer and then when it was nearly finished, my PC crashed. I couldn’t find my back up copy so I started again. Once again I had nearly finished when I found the older copy. Now I had two slightly different versions and reaching the end, typing the final page just seemed like an impossible dream so I stepped away from it all once again.
I took my laptop along on a holiday to France which turned out to be very wet. It rained almost every day so I opened my laptop and edited everything, deleting all the unwanted versions and duplicated chapters. I wrote the ending, tidied everything up and finally my book was ready. So, there it was, my manuscript representing years of work and effort. What do I do now I thought?
That’s the problem for amateur writers today. You’ve produced a piece of work, what do you do now? How do you get it published? You could try getting yourself an agent. The thing is, agents aren’t interested in unpublished authors. It’s a sort of catch 22 situation; you want an agent to help get you published but the agent doesn’t want you because you are unpublished.
I picked up my copy of The Writers and Artists Yearbook and started trolling through the listings of publishers who accept work from people like me, new and unknown authors. I sent my book off to three publishers and was rejected three times.
Getting a rejection, even three rejections isn’t the end of the world, in fact for a writer it’s pretty much par for the course. Even so, getting a rejection email is disheartening, it really is! It’s like all those years of work, all that effort coming down to one short email from someone saying they are not interested.
Someone at work mentioned to me that they had self-published their own sci-fi novel on Amazon. Self-published? Is that possible I thought? So that’s when I turned to self-publishing. It wasn’t quite as easy as I had thought it would be and the process itself highlighted a number of issues with my manuscript but I persevered and finally my book became available as a Kindle download or a traditional paperback.
Right, I thought, that’s it. I’m finally published. Now I can just sit back and wait for people to buy it. The thing is, who would know about my book? How would readers even realise that a new novel was available? Yes, that’s the thing. Writing a book isn’t enough, nor is actually publishing it. This is where marketing comes in. To sell your book you need to advertise. You need to use all your social media channels to tell everyone and his dog, here is a new book, come and buy it. You need to start an author page at Amazon and one at Goodreads too. Then you need an author website which is where this page comes in. How can you keep people coming in to read your blogs? Well, you need more social media and more blogs and for more blogs you need more and more ideas. How can you make your social media posts more interesting? Well you might want to add some graphics. Then you might want to add some animated graphics and even video so now you might find not only have you written a novel, you’ve written over 500 blog posts and graphics and made over a hundred videos, all to bring in more blog readers who may, or may not, buy your book.
The other day I was watching the classic film Treasure of the Sierra Madre. If you haven’t seen it it’s about a bunch of Americans prospecting for gold down in Mexico. The leader of the prospectors explains the value of gold in this way. A thousand men go searching for gold. One man finds an ounce of gold. His small find represents not only his hard work but the work of the other 999 men who were unsuccessful. Gold is worth so much because of the effort that went into finding it. Now I could argue the same point about this blog, that even though it is free to read this humble post, it’s actually worth quite a lot because of the hours, weeks and months of effort that went into preparing it, writing it, making the videos shown here and designing and producing the graphics that adorn this and all my many other posts.
So you might be thinking now, wow, what a great deal you’re getting! All that effort, just for you. Should you click on one of the links for Floating in Space or A Warrior of Words and maybe buy a copy? Personally, I’d say ‘yes, you should’ but most readers might be thinking well, maybe later and click over to Facebook and take a look at what their friends are up to.
Yes, I thought as much.