My book Song of the Sea God has been out in the world for more than a year now so I’m in a position to compare my naïve beliefs about being published before it happened to what I’ve learned since. Here are five things I know now that I didn’t know before.
Some of the people you expect to care that you have had a book published won’t care at all.
You might think your friends old and new will all gather round and be incredibly supportive about your book when it comes out – and generally speaking, of course they will! But you might find also find yourself surprised that this isn’t uniformly the case. If you had written a list before publication of people you felt absolutely certain would buy a copy of your book then examined it later you would find some of those names didn’t show the slightest interest in doing so.
What I’ve learned is not to take this to heart. The truth is that some people just don’t care about your book – it simply isn’t their thing, maybe books generally aren‘t their thing either. And, just because they know and like you, have a connection to you, doesn’t mean they are going to buy your book, plus an extra copy for their partner, rave about it on Amazon and make it their life’s work to promote it. They are going to ignore it, and carry on as if nothing has happened. And it’s probably best if you do that too!
Some people you hardly know, or don’t know at all, will be incredibly supportive.
The flip side of the coin is that some people who are only vague acquaintances, and many, many people you have never even met, will support your book. They will buy it, they will give it positive reviews, they will wax lyrical about it to anyone who will listen. These people might live on the other side of the world from you, they might have an entirely different life experience, but they will have found something in your work which has chimed with them and they will be generous enough to tell you about that – and to tell others.
I suppose the reason for both this point and the previous one is that, outside of your immediate nearest and dearest, basically people are supporting the book, not you. Which brings us to point three…
You are not your book, your book is not you.
So it pays not to get too upset if someone doesn’t like it – and indeed not too puffed up with how wonderful you are when someone says it’s a terrific piece of work.
I’ve been lucky so far not to have had any negative reviews for Sea God. I suppose one could say it’s been a kind of cult success in that not that many people have read it, but those who have done so are often very enthusiastic.
There’s no point me wringing my hands and worrying that it hasn’t sold like Harry Potter – I made a fair fist of writing it, I’ve done what bit I can to promote it – as have my publishers. After that it’s on its own and there’s no point me worrying about what I can’t really control.
Overall the world is benignly indifferent to your creation.
To me, and I’m guessing to pretty much any author, having a book published is a pretty special thing – we work hard to learn to write, we work hard to write a book worthy of publication and we wade through the rejection slips until we find a home for it with a publisher. Maybe the book you finally get published isn’t the first you wrote – I know it wasn’t mine, (I have another three sitting in my bottom drawer) so there’s been a whole weight of expectation on your part.
Bearing that in mind it could come as a surprise, maybe even a disappointment, to realise the world really doesn’t care about your pride and joy. On the whole it’s an uphill battle to get any attention for a new book – and I suppose the basic reason for this is that there are so many books out there, and more arriving by the day – which brings me to number five…
Seemingly everyone has written a book
I didn’t really know this was true until I started on Twitter. I had no idea that there were so many writers out there. I suppose it’s the self-publishing revolution that’s lead to these huge numbers. In the past the only real route which was to do what I did – write, submit your material to publishers, get rejected and then do it all again until finally you found a publisher. Now people can be their own publisher and the old adage that everyone has a book in them has turned out to be true! It’s a great thing in many ways of course – more choice for the reader, more opportunities for the writers. But it does make it more difficult to get your work noticed.
I’ll be back another time with five more things I’ve learned since I’ve been published!
Tell me – what have you learned about the world of books and publishing?
Don’t forget if you get a moment to take a look at my book Song of the Sea God.