Sunday, 9 December 2012

What being published has taught me


So, after a hiatus of several years, I put out another book this year, and was reminded of the following… so for the newbie, here are my lessons, I hope they save you some pain.
My universally acclaimed book - oh, wait...
 
You won’t get the support you think you’ll get: getting published – or, indeed, self-publishing – is a huge deal for any writer. It’s likely one of the most exciting things that ever happens to you, and you expect all of your friends to be swept away on the same tide of excitement as you, and you console yourself that, hey, whatever the reaction of the wider world, you have rock solid support from your nearest and dearest, right? Um, not quite. While hopefully at least some of your friends will be excited/pleased/supportive, the most common reaction is an initial ‘well done, you’ followed by a crashing wave of apathy. This can be disappointing, dismaying and downright hurtful, but really, it’s natural: just like every new parent thinks their baby is the centre of the universe, to almost everyone else it’s a piece of good news to slot into an already hectic life (I can already hear certain writers thinking ‘bah! A baby only takes 9 months, my book took years!’). People have their own stuff going on, and there’s a whole list of reasons  hy they may not be (or be able to be) the cheerleaders you hoped they’d be: they’re busy, they’re stressed, they're skint, it’s not professionally appropriate for them to publically endorse you, or, and this is a tough one, they actually think your efforts are shockingly poor and you are not to be encouraged to continue in any way, and they won’t be hypocritical. The thing is, you’ll never know which of these reasons applies, because the only acceptable response to this apathy is to accept it and move on (OK, you get to rant to a supportive friend – but only in person, never online, and only once or twice. That’s your lot).
Everybody I know bought this book! No, wait...
 

Not everyone will like you: to re-use the baby analogy, you might think your precious is the cutest thing in the world, everyone else might think it looks like Gollum. Nobody gets published to universal acclaim and there are a whole load of people out there who will mightily detest whatever you have done, no matter how good you believe it to be. Agents, publishers, reviewers, readers – lots of them will think you suck. Again, the best thing to do is to rant to a sympathetic friend (never online!) and move on: though it is worth trying to be at least partially objective, as if a theme is repeated throughout the criticism it might be something you need to work on and improve (if you are left feeling the whole world doesn’t understand you, then you have to face the fact that you might be incomprehensible). But bear in mind that if you created a perfect, flawless and beautiful piece of work, someone, somewhere on the internet will still hate it.
 
EVERYONE likes Christmas, right? No, wait...
 

Ask – and you will be dazzled by the support you do receive: see, you thought I was going to be all negative, didn’t you? But honestly, put yourself and your work out there and ask for feedback and support and you will be amazed by what comes back to you. People will astonish you with their generosity and enthusiasm and acts of kindness and assistance, even if often these are not the people from where you would expect such support. Be grateful, and open, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
And remember – enjoy the journey…

Now for the shameless plug: if you fancy being one of those people who are surprisingly supportive, please consider downloading my new short story, A Vampire Christmas. Yup, it’s as trashy as it sounds. I'm expecting everyone I know to buy it. No, wait...

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