Difficult Second Album Syndrome

So, regular readers of this blog will know that last year I published a book, Dark Dates. It wasn’t a good fit for my previous publisher and I struggled to find an agent, so I thought, sod it, I’ll publish myself, and see what people say. Self-publishing has been a steep learning curve: it’s way more work than you imagine going in (although I’ve also found it more rewarding than I could have imagined) but the problem with publishing something yourself is you haven’t gone through the quality control procedure of agent-publisher-editor: there’s constantly the nagging worry in the back of your mind, the little voice saying, ‘c’mon, if this was really any good someone would publish it for you’.

Some bloggers were really kind...

So when the reviews start coming in, you pay more attention than is healthy to what people say. I’ve been very lucky with Dark Dates – the reaction has been almost overwhelmingly positive. Of course, I’d like more people to have read it (it’s still incredibly difficult to get coverage for an indie book) but those who have, have tended to love it. I’ve been blown away by the feedback I’ve got – just this week I got another rave review from Indies R Us and was selected as Book of the Month at the TBR Pile, and I also made a couple of bloggers’ ‘Top 10 of 2012’ lists. It was exciting, and thrilling, and exactly what I wanted – the fact that people actually talked about my characters, had opinions about them, cared about them: this was the very thing I got into writing for.
See? Actual nice quote by person I don't know

Then I had to write the sequel, and suddenly The Fear struck. What if it sucked? Lots of people said the first book was funny: the second book was darker, but I thought it still had a nice streak of humour in it – but what if it wasn’t enough? I found myself scouring the text to see if I could put in jokes (I didn’t, in the end, because I find that kind of writing tiresome, but Lord, the temptation was there). There’s more sex in this one: is it too sexy? Will people still like the characters? Will they feel let down? Suddenly all I could see in my head was a stream of reviews from people saying how disappointed they were – and the fact that I connect with a load of bloggers via social media means I’d be unable to hide from their scorn. Maybe I should just leave Dark Dates alone, treat it as a success and then move onto something completely different? It’s ridiculous given that my readers probably only number into the hundreds that I was working myself into such a state – how do properly famous writers do it? No wonder George RR Martin always seems a bit grumpy.
Fingers crossed...

In the end, of course, it boiled down to what it always does: having faith in the writing. When it comes down to it, I love these characters, and I’d write about them even if I was the only one who got to read the stories. They’re under my skin now and they aren’t going anywhere.

I sent the book, Wolf Night, to my beta readers who all came back with great feedback – but, importantly, also with comments on what didn’t work, and what needed to be made better (it’s good to have cheerleaders, but you also need people to be honest, especially when you don’t have the safety net of an agent or editor).

And so, after a lot of agonising, the book is out there. I’m trying to tell myself not to read reviews this time around (I can still quote the bad ones from Dark Dates) but I suspect I’ll fall at the first hurdle on that one – it really does matter to me that people like it, and don’t feel I’ve let them down. But I know it’s the best I could make it, and I know I’ve been true to the characters – and that’s all I can do, I guess. Anyway, I’m off to write the sequel now…
You can follow Dark Dates at darkdates.org

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