Today’s guest post is from A. L. Michael a talented writer and creative entrepreneur. Many thanks to A. L. Michael for her contribution.
As a recently published writer, and dedicated creative entrepreneur, I thought I’d share some of that news that no writer really wants to hear: publication doesn’t fix everything. It’s what we all strive for, the pure moment of holding your book in your hands, really, truly real for the first time, the sum of all your efforts. And yet, what’s really changed? Here are the ten things I wish I knew beforehand.
1. It’s not a fairytale
I know my fairytale never really included the prince and the castle, but an agent and a contract, but maybe that’s just me. We think that once that piece of paper is signed, we’re on our way, it’s finally happened! But no-one every sits and thinks about what happened to Cinderella after the wedding, where they have to write the ‘thank you’ notes and tidy up the grand ballroom. Work doesn’t stop. Publication isn’t the end result, or the happy ending, it’s just a route to more work. Hopefully, more fulfilling work with lots of opportunity.
2.People think it’s a really big deal
Not to say that it’s not- celebrate, it’s awesome! But when you tell someone you’re published, and they think you’re JK Rowling, and you have to tell them you’re not. Explaining to people ‘outside’ the arts that actually, having a tiny print run with an indie publisher is not the same as having your book in Waterstones, can get a little wearying.
3. Nothing else can give you validation
I thought being published would make me more proud of my work. I thought having someone else invest their money and time in me and my creation would make me feel validated. But the truth is, only you know if you’ve made good work, only your thoughts and feelings about it matter. You’re the one who’s going to be selling it to everyone, so you better believe it’s good.
4. It still won’t be perfect
You might find typos, you might re-read a sentence that makes you cringe and wonder why on earth you got into this business at all. The more you grow and change as an artist, the more you’ll look back on your first work with a sense of embarrassment and irritation. Until you create your next one. It won’t be perfect, but it’ll be out there. That’s enough for now.
5. You’ll still have to work your arse off.
As much, if not more than a self-published author. They at least know what they’re getting themselves into. If your publisher has a ten month marketing plan, you better know about it. If they don’t, start preparing your own. Facebook pages, twitter accounts, websites. It’s not just about the money. How is the book getting ‘out there’? Is there any merchandise, are you doing readings? This is your baby, right? So are you going to let it briefly fizzle then die, or are you going to make it rock people’s worlds? It is ALL about marketing and planning and timing. Learn about it. ASAP.
6. Things don’t just happen. You make them happen.
Things ‘just happened’ to me for a while. After sending off a story to a defunct magazine, the publishers who took over the magazine got in touch, and it happened from there. I didn’t really have the awful rejection letters (at least not on that particular piece of work, there have been many others). But even if that initial push ‘just happens’, things don’t keep momentum by themselves. You want your book on Amazon? Do it. You want people on Goodreads to be talking about it? You want local bookshops to stock it? Get chatting and get going. People aren’t just going to offer it up on a plate. You have to want it.
7. You will get sick of your work (and so will other people)
With the constant marketing, the talking about the book, the tweeting, the sales forecasts, there will be a point where you can’t bear to even think about the thing you created. A bit like having a really self-indulgent child that sucks up all your energy and time. And other people will get tired of you talking about it. Yes, you wrote a book. Okay, we get it. The difference is, the minute that book got published, it turned from a labour of love into a business. So you do what you’ve got to do.
8. Unless you’re a sales genius, it’s going to feel uncomfortable
I hate selling people things. I especially hate selling people things I’ve created. So pretending you’re recommending a friend’s work. What does work, what is great? We might feel too close to our own work to do it justice, which is where creative entrepreneurship comes in. Know your market, know your product, and sell!
9. Not everyone’s going to be happy for you
If you’re a writer surrounded by writers, you’re going to have a hard time. The only thing I can say is that true friends will stick by, even if they think your work isn’t very good, even if they’re jealous, even if they think you’re being stuck up. You’re always going to have that certain type of artist who mutters to anyone who’ll listen that ‘I can do what they can do, I just don’t have the time/have a demanding job/have a more active social life/have a family.’ You need to learn not to give a shit about these people, because if they’re wasting time bitching about it, dollars to donuts, they’re just dealing with the fact that they’re never going to do it. Any creative project is probably only 25% talent, the rest is drive. It’s great to hear they’ll be able to write a masterpiece when they get the time. If it doesn’t exist, it isn’t worth shit. You created something, so feel proud and carry on.
10. JK Rowling is the exception
People don’t get published and have their lives change overnight. It’s like any other business interaction. It’s a long slog of contracts and planning and interaction and compromise. The majority of published writers are slogging along trying to pretend that they suddenly feel like a ‘real writer’ instead of a fraud. We’re all just trying to do the best we can, so when your publishing deal comes along, sure, jump for it. Get excited, have a party. Stroke your printed copy lovingly. Enjoy it! But know that it’s just the start of another type of work. It’s not the end, it’s the beginning.
A.L Michael is a writer and workshop leader from North London. She has a BA in Creative Writing with English Lit, an MA in Creative Entrepreneurship and is starting an MsC in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes. Because you can never learn enough. She’s currently the Writer in Residence for Red Door Studios in East Ham, and her debut novel Wine Dark, Sea Blue is available to buy in hard copy, and on kindle. Not that she’s sick of talking about it or anything.