Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Writing Lesson #13 - How Life Changes

My life changed when the publishing contract arrived. And it wasn’t just in the obvious ways. It was a lot of little ways, too.

But, let’s start with the most obvious. Before signing the contract, I felt quite often I was just playing at being a writer. Occasionally I would have daft conversations with non-writers. This would normally be people I met at social events, trying to make polite conversation. Upon finding out I am a writer, they would ask, “so where can I buy your books, then?”. I would then explain that they can’t, because none of them have actually been published yet.

The person would then give me that withering, disbelieving look – the one that says, “how can you say you’re a writer, then, if you’ve not had anything published?” Generally the person would be too polite to say this straight out, but would go and find someone else to talk to rather quickly.

But then, all of a sudden I had a book out. Now when people ask me that question I give them one of my cards and tell them, “you can buy the book direct from Lyrical’s website. Here’s the link.”

Being offered a contract is a fantastic confidence boost for a writer. Here you have evidence that you can write, after all, and what you are writing is publishable. After the initial euphoria wears off, however, you then start to worry that you have to come up with a second book before people forget who you are. No more taking 10 years to write a book. The second, and the third, and the fourth, have to appear at regular intervals.

So there is a need for discipline. Making time to write became important, even if that meant crawling out of bed at 5:30am to get some writing in before work. It was no longer enough to wait for the Muse to be inspired. The Muse was obliged to get to work when I required her to, instead of sitting about on her lazy backside for months at a time.

As well as finding time to get on with the next book, I also had to make time to promote the one that had just come out. I perused online writing forums for any sign of anyone who might be interested in reviewing horror novels. Every time I found someone expressing an interest in featuring writer interviews or guest blog posts on their website, I volunteered. My own blog became a marketing tool, rather than just a series of random ramblings. I post a lot more about writing and publicity now, and less about all aspects of my life which is the way the blog started out.

One very small but significant thing that changed is the way I read my writing magazines. I subscribe to several. I still subscribe, but before the contract I used to peruse each one carefully, pen in hand, and highlight any article regarding an independent press or an agent actively seeking submissions of crime and horror. For a while after the contract was signed and sealed I caught myself doing this, before remembering (with just that small thrill) that I didn’t need to be looking for places to submit the novel any more – I had a publisher.

And finally I have learned to never, ever, go anywhere without my promotional business cards. You just never know when you might meet a potential punter. Now, if the conversation happens to turn around to writing, and the person I’m talking to appears to show genuine interest in the fact I’ve written a book, I can give them the card and point them towards the link. I even take my cards on holiday with me. I have given them to friends of friends I’ve met at social events. I’ve given plenty out at conventions. I’ve left piles of them in Starbucks. I’ve even given them to a few of the doctors at work (should they express interest in the postcards of my book covers I have stuck on my notice board).

I guess I have to admit to becoming a publicity tart. That’s another thing that’s come about since the contract arrived. But that’s a subject for a future post.

1 comment:

Nerine Dorman said...

The thing that gets to me the most is authors who write one novel then sit back as if in wait for that one novel to fly off the virtual shelves. Backlist is king, and so is promotion. Success doesn't happen overnight and it's a lot of hard work, as much as one would invest in a day job.