*Terms and Conditions apply: you can get a free copy of my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, by following this link - but hurry! Only the first 100 people to sign up can claim a free copy.

Write, Despite Anything You Feel
Yes, that's my motto, something I say every day of the week to try an counter the negative thoughts that line up to block my path to writing success. Over the last three years of serious novel writing, I've noticed that these thoughts fall into two broad categories:
  1. Fear of Writing - lack of confidence in your abilities; struggling to make an idea work; fear that you aren't qualified to write what it is you want to write; fear that when you do finish people will notice right away how dreadful it is.
  2. Wall of Indifference - from the publishing world; from friends and family and the world in general.

You can probably add your own negativeties to these, feel free to do so.

Fear of Writing
This comes in all shapes and sizes and annoying disguises: fortunately there is one way of dealing with them all:

Write, write and carry on bloody writing!

Ok, that's simplistic I know, but you do have to keep going and not be defeated. You can feel defeated in the few minutes that elapse between finishing one novel and starting the next. Get a coffee or cup of tea and something nice to eat, cry a few tears, then drag out your writing tool of choice and batter the hell out of it.

I've had a massive attack of the unqualified bit over the last few months when trying to write the final chapter of my bike-based romance, The Girl Who Dreamt of Water (thanks for that Nicoll - much, much better than it's working title, Life Cycle). I really struggled with the idea that I know enough about female emotions to be able to write about them convincingly. And there was a lot to write about. 

The way around this has been to break the chapter down into several segments (15 in all) that are much easier to write. I haven't written them in order either: I wrote all the easy bits first and gradually worked my way into the harder parts. This meant I was able to take
each level of emotional intensity one step at a time. And because it's not written linearly, I've got a much better picture of how everything fitted together. Normally I write from start to end with occasional looping back to tie up loose ends. When you work like this, and you
don't ready know a lot of the details of what's coming, then it's like trying to assemble a jigsaw in a dark room, nigh on impossible. So not only have I got most of the words written now, I can see how I can disassemble and re-assemble the sections back into a proper story, and not just a set of events arranged linearly.

Which is nothing like how I wrote The Darkness Beneath: so not only have I learned a few tricks to keep me writing, but also that the way you write each book may vary. So if it sn't working, maybe you have to find another way of writing. Which is great, because I though writing is writing is writing, when really it's just writing, writing, writing. :)

You can read the first three chapters of The Girl here.

Wall of Indifference
In some ways this is much harder to deal with because it's so inexplicable. Ok, I know the publishing industry are drowning in the screams of wannabe writers and the millions of people who, like me, are convinced they have something worth publishing. What I find harder to contend with is the lack of support from the vast majority of friends and family. 

There are those who always pat you on the back, but the majority don't - and I know that I'm not alone in this - recent blogs and discussions I've been reading show this is very, very common. 

So why aren't your siblings cheering you on from the sidelines? That's a question I can't answer or fathom. If you'd climbed any other mountain of achievement, say in the sporting arena, or raised £1k for charity by living with beans in your pants for a month, they'd be there every time. But when you finish writing a novel and get it published? No, forget it, not good enough, not interesting enough. 

was talking to someone whose opinion I trust about this and they said it was probably jealousy. I find that hard to believe - how could anyone be jealous of something so inconseqential as writing a novel?
 
 
After the Launch, the Real Work Begins

After the book launch come the marketing: if you think you were busy before your book was published, just wait until it's out there and you have to promote it. Not only is there all the leg work of finding websites for author interviews and finding places and people to tell the good news to, you also have to deal to the wave of indifference you get from those you would think might actually want to congratulate and support you.

And we thought it was bad enough surfing the publishing world's indifference wave. Think again: there's two more groups much closer to home than that!

Luck V Serendipity
It goes without saying we make our own luck, but serendipity is another thing. 

There was an article in the Guardian's Reading Group section by Sam Jordison discussing the many incarnations vampires have had over the centuries. Naturally I added a comment and somehow managed to include my book's title, The Darkness Beneath. I'm not sure if it's done anything for my sales, but you have to take your chances when the appear. 

In fact I think that commenting on blogs that promote you as a writer and lets you mention your book's name (and include a link to it if possible) is as essential as promoting it through Twitter and Facebook.

On top of that I also found Wise Grey Owl through Linkedin. WGO's site exists to promote indie authors by allowing us to show the book's cover and include a synopsis and link. It's very easy to use and looks great. 

Too Hard To Read?
There was an interesting discussion on The Hoopla website by Charlotte Wood that talked about how million-selling books are rejected by agents and publishers because of an unsympathetic lead character (or characters). She says: 

"... the way some readers, and perhaps more depressingly, literary agents and publishers, need to find a character likeable before they can love a book."

Which is quite a depressing thought as it suggests the whole chain of people involved in deciding whether our books are good enough to sell or buy will only go for the easiest options.

Obviously that isn't true across the board (see many of the great comments Charlotte's article recieved) but it's hard enough being an unpublished or newly published author without having to battle against that sort of attitude.

One of the great things about story telling is that it allows us to say things and explore ideas in ways that we might not be able to do so elsewhere. For example, what makes a murderer tick? What is going on in the mind of someone who's believes so deeply about something they're willing to kill themselves for it? And perhaps more importantly, how do either get to that position in the first place?

Niether question can be explored without getting into the mind of the character - and that's going to be a very ugly and dark place. And if the publishing industry and readers are going to shy away from it, then all we're left with will the bland and the safe. 

Fortunately there are still many publishers and agents who have an entirely different view and recognise that we, the book-buying public, have brains we want to exercise and are not afraid to be challenged - indeed welcome it.

Reading serves many purposes and take us to many places mentally, physically and emotionally. Books engage the brain and force the reader to get to grips with the story and the characters; stories force us to use our imaginations in a way that films can never compete with. They stimulate and excite, terrify and disgust and we are grateful that they can do all this without us having to leave the comfort of our armchairs, train seats or baths.

Life's Like That
It may not always be an easy or pretty experience but it's one we enjoy. And if we're brave and smart enough to accept this, then the publishing industry ought to be able to be brave and smart enough to give us what we want. After all, the book she opens her article with, Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk about Kev 
went on to sell a million and is now a film. 

So there's good commercial reasons to publish these sorts of books; reasons the industry would be foolish to ignore.
 
 
OK, so my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, has been on Amazon for the last week or so and I've gotten over the mild adrenalin rush that warmed my ego for a while: what now?

What now is, of course, the Great Marketing Push. Or rather The Rather Feeble Marketing Push. 

I know that as a self-publisher I have to get out there and smack the marketing baby all over the park and try reach as many potential readers as possible. And I've been doing that, but in reality it's a slow train to ride and it's one that you have to jump on every day without fail. I can live with the slow, slow build up to ever-lasting fame and fortune (who'd be a writer?), but the continuous effort to market my book is probably harder than writing actually is.

So, my fellow self-publishers, how do you deal with that? Do you have any methods or processes that you use to keep yourself on track? For example, do you set yourself targets or goals of any sort, and if so, how do you stick to them and do they work?

Friends and Spamily
I'm also very wary about hassling friends and family: I've told all my Facebook gang about it three times now: doing more makes me feel uncomfortable, and I wouldn't like to be on the receiving end of the same thing, so I'm reluctant to keep banging on to them about it. And just because they're my Facebook friends, it doesn't mean more than a few are my natural audience, at least for this book. 

To the Twitter End
Twitter is a bit easier because it's slightly less personal, plus I know that anyone who's interested might RT me to their followers. This is a potential market of 100s of 1000s of people, something I can't ignore. But even so, I still feel that one tweet per week is enough, or is it? Some people never stop banging on about their books, like on a daily basis. I ignore all such tweets, but I don't mind that they do it, I just don't feel comfortable doing so myself.

Writing V Marketing
It's a double-edged sword: why do the first and not the second? If you are serious about the former, then you can't avoid the latter - it simply isn't professional is it? I am fortunate in that I have the Libboo team behind me. At least their subtle prodding and regular emails keep the marketing monster in my mind - my efforts would be nowhere without them.

Personally, I'd rather be away with the fairies, ghosts and lovers that live in my writing: and as all writers know, life isn't long enough to write all the stories we have typing away inside us already, so losing time to other activities is a difficult choice. 

Marketing is really a full time job (on top of my real full time job and other commitments), so even if you give it a maximum of 50% of your writing time, that's a huge chunk of writing time that's being devoured by the marketing monster. (BTW, I'm not against marketing or doing it - I'm just coming to terms with it.)

How does one find a balance between the time spent writing and the time spent marketing? Finding a balance is essential, because with that I'm just osscilating, prevaricating and going nowhere.

Ego O'Clock
Then there's the ego: a powerful and dangerous weapon that may well be the driving force behind why we write in the first place. Yes, I do think my work is good, but I could be delusional. I'd been writing fiction of various sorts for 20+ years before I felt confident enough to start trying to get it published. And I've been writing professionally for 20 of those years as a journalist and technical writer so I'm no wallflower when it comes to writing and being published. 

But still I wonder if I'm not kidding myself about my abilities. (And despite numerous compliments from my readers of the 'It's a real page turner' variety. See my reviews for evidence.) We have to question what we do as writers otherwise we run the risk of writing rubbish (and allow our skills and imaginiations to stagnate), but there comes a time where, if we want people to take us seriously, we have to take ourselves seriously too. We have to stand up naked in front of the world and demand it takes notice of this great work we've laid before its feet. And that is a bloody hard and confrontational thing to do.

Cheers.
 
 
Well after a week or two of false starts, technical problems and a last minute competition to rename my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, the book has finally arrived all bright and shiny on Amazon!

I could not have done this without the help and support of those wonderful people at Libboo.com, who've actually done all the dirty work (conversion to eBook, posting the book on Amazon etc) and are now helping me with promoting it. Thank you everyone at Libboo, any success I have with this book will be a reflection of all your efforts, time and patience.

(Actually, as previously mentioned, I'm part of an experiment they're running to team writers and marketing people up to help each other get the book in front of as many people as possible. The screams and moans you hear coming out of the turrets of Libboo Castle, is the sound of their scientists and surgeons reading yet another dumb question from me...)

Which brings me on to a question that all authors (self-published or traditionally published) have to face up to, eventually: who's going to do the marketing?

On Your Marketing
I know and fully accept that we have to market our work, but I can't say I'm full of enthusiasm for it, especially as it means bothering people I'd rather leave alone (friends and family). Obviously total strangers are a fair target, but to get to them, I have to enlist the help of the F&Fs to (as we said in the marketing meeting where many creative ideas crashed and died among the rocks of apathy and a fiercely negative budget) help out. So if I annoy anyone with my requests and constant banging on about my newly published first novel, The Darkness Beneath (now available on Amazon) please accept my apologies. 

Personally I'd rather not be doing this, but I can't avoid it if I want the book to be a success - and yes I do want it to succeed! It took roughly two years of writing in my spare time, and was revised seven times before I felt it was good enough to be published. I'd like a return on that investment (preferrably in the shape of massive sales and a blockbuster film).

The Name Changes the Game
A funny thing happened along the path between writing the book on my laptop and it appearing on Amazon: the book's title changed. Some of you might have noticed that I ran a quick competition to find a new one. The original - The End: The Beginning - was deemed to be too mysterious (which is what I wanted) but the Libboo team that it was too mysterious. It didn't give one single clue about the story, which was a fair point, hence the competition. Weirdly enough, I won that competition and have now sent myself a signed copy.

Although a few people tried to help out, for a few days I was stuck with nothing that fulfilled the task being asked. Then I had the genious idea of looking up quotes about hell (which isn't part of the story, but as that's what a lot of people go through in the book, and because the main character lives in the depths of the London underground, it seemed appropriate). 

Eventually the phrase 'the darkness beneath' came to mind. I wasn't fond of it at first, but after a day of allowing it to percolate in the washing maching of my subconscious, I began to see and feel that it was a good choice. So listening to the marketing team has paid off as the title now hints at two of the book's elements, which is definitely a step forward.

This shows how important it is to get the name right, and why, but also that the name the author chooses may not be the right one - something that's a bit hard to admit.

It also means that the painting on the front cover, all of which was created by the utterly fabulous Nicoll Peschek, can be seen more clearly. And as a big fan of her work, I'm very happy that she designed the cover and allowed me to use her painting.

Nicoll and I have also collaborated on her hand-made books. Some of these feature her calligraphy and my poetry. If you're looking for someone to design your book cover, I'd suggest you talk to her asap.

Censorship
Incidentally, this novel was going to be published by someone else a few months back. I didn't like their cover ideas, which were poor to say the least. But what really annoyed me was the fact that they wanted to censor the cover by removing the nipples. Apparently this censorhip was being asked for because some of the publisher's other clients are religious groups and they didn't want to offend them. There's nothing like a bit of moral cowardice in the arts is there?

(As an aside, and given decades worth of non-stop research, I've discovered that we all have nipples, sorry if this shocks and/or surprises you.)

Buy, Buy, Buy!
I'm pleased to say that as soon as I announced the book's availability, a few friends went out and bought it! So thanks to you as well, it'll be great to read your feedback (and scary) if you decide to review it. 

Remember to be honest: it's my fault the book exists and if I send it out into the world, then I have to be able to take criticism as well as glory. Which, as we all know, sounds very noble in theory but, as well all know, will be very much harder to deal with in practise.

So, if you want to, please buy it (it's ridiculously cheap), and if you want to help get this literary earthquake a-shakin', I'd love it if you could tell everyone by featuring it on Facebook, tweeting it on Twitter, adding it to Google+, texting it to...

Cheers.