In most schools I visit there's a small amount of time set aside for a q&a with the pupils (and the teachers!). Mostly I get asked if I'm a millionaire yet (I wish!), why I write about the supernatural (mainly 'cause that's what I enjoy reading myself...plus reality sucks!) and when I realised that I wanted to write (I can't remember NOT wanting to, but reading 'Seaward' cemented the idea) but once I was asked if there was anything I wish I'd known before I decided to unleash my first book on the universe.
Well, that one made me pause for a moment.
There's PLENTY I wish I'd known...or perhaps it would be more truthful to say that there's plenty I wish I'd taken more time to read up on, and advice I wish I'd heeded! I thought I'd share a few things...
1) Writing 'The End' is just the beginning.
Writing the book isn't enough - there are millions of new titles released every year and your book baby gets lost in the maelstrom fairly quickly. To get it in front of readers means learning to market not just your writing but yourself. It takes time, energy, a huge amount of support and a lot of luck. I am NEVER going to be the master of marketing and I'm fairly useless at promotion, both of myself and my books, but I'm learning. Add in 'building a platform' on social media, finding a good designer to provide you with a great cover that gets noticed, locating a good editor that means you will not mess up your first book quite so beautifully as I did (see point 2) and a billion other jobs that need done and decisions that need to be made. Buckle up...there's a lot more to it than sitting in your garret scratching with a quill and looking tortured.
2) You will make mistakes.
Whether the mistakes be in grammar, spelling, punctuation, taking the wrong advice (or choosing to ignore the right advice), whatever....you WILL make mistakes and they WILL be excruciating. Take my advice on this one...admit to the mistakes and correct them as soon as you can. I'm still working on this one.
3) Not everyone will enjoy what you've written.
I think that when you choose to share your writing then you are aware that this will happen; you kind of accept that there's a chance someone somewhere will lift your book, read the blurb, make a face and return it to the shelf or buy it, read it, make a face and never lift it again (you may even see copies start turning up on ebay). It's the chance you take when you choose to 'put your work out there' right? Of course. What I certainly wasn't prepared for were haters and those folks who detested what I'd written so much that they sent emails to point out every spelling mistake that I'd made and every plot twist that they didn't like. It hurts. Prepare yourself.
4) Once your book is released you cannot defend it.
This kind of follows on from point 3. I've been lucky with this one because I've never felt the need to go onto a public forum and get into a slagging match with someone who didn't like what I've written - I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion and although it hurts like hell that you may not enjoy my story or like my characters (ouch) and you choose to protest about it on every site on the web, well....that's up to you. It never turns out well for an author to argue their case or defend their characters. Go hide in your cave for a week if that's what it takes for you to get over it, but bite your tongue and let it go.
5) Reach out - there is support when you need it.
By and large the self-publishing community is very sweet. Most folks I've had the pleasure of meeting along the way are hugely supportive of one another and genuinely happy when someone does well. There's the odd difference of opinion but on most occasions when I've reached out for advice, support, company or just someone to rant to for a minute when my characters refuse to play ball, people connect and sympathise and send you on your way with a virtual hug and a 'talk 2 u l8r': I've made some good friends who, although I'll probably never manage to meet them in person, I would miss if I didn't 'see' them every day.
6) If you're just in this to make money then forget it.
Most self-publishers that I know are making a loss - once you pay an editor, designer, buy a proof, have some kind of marketing items made (bookmarks for example), pay the petrol charging all over the country to promote your work etc. etc. there's not much left in the kitty. Honestly, that's okay. I just wanted to find readers. Of course it would be lovely to actually make a living from it but I'm realistic to know that that will probably never happen. Those authors selling their books by the truck-load are the exception and fair play to them - they've worked their arses off to get into such a happy position.
So...6 things I wish I'd known. Any you'd add? Anything important that I left out?