As an aspiring author, I used to dream of the day I would hold my book in my hands – and smell it (or is that just me?!) I fantasized of Hollywood movie deals, glittery crystal awards, appearances on the Graham Norton show… Ha ha, yes, really. Of course lots of little dreams have come true since signing my deal and in many ways, it has fulfilled lots of my desires. Yet there are challenges I never expected, whilst having six books published. So here are my own tips for any authors who haven’t yet seen their work in print. I’m no expert by any means, but these things would have certainly been useful for me to know before my hopes became a reality.
DO accept that nowadays, no publisher is going to be the sole promoter of your work. Prepare for that now. Set yourself up a Facebook author page and Twitter account (er, okay, guess you have done that if you are reading this!) A large part of getting word out there, about your books, is going to be down to you. Consider your “brand” and start posting and tweeting about it, for example politics, family issues, cookery, crime… For me it is an array of fun subjects, including romantic heroes, movies, cats, and food and TV series relating to some of my books , including Downton, Poldark and Game of Thrones. Fill your social platforms with appealing and useful content that relates to you as an author. And network, network – retweet others who might then retweet you. Get to know bloggers.
DON’T expect all your writerly problems to magically disappear. Agreed, you no longer have the stress of trying to get published, but you will be faced with a different set of issues. In my experience, the years of trying to get an agent were a rollercoaster with the down of rejections and ups of an encouraging word – with full manuscripts being requested and then rejected and with meetings that got me excited then came to nothing concrete. There are still peaks and troughs when published, for example great and bad rankings or brilliant and poor reviews. Keep your expectations realistic. Getting published won’t wave a wand over your life and extinguish every stress or concern.
DO treat your writing job as the career it is. Get professional. Find out about declaring earnings for tax purposes, however small they may seem at the beginning. Meet deadlines. Engage with your readers – both fans and critics – in a professional manner. As authors we are emotionally tied to our work but try not to let that creep into your dealings with others in the trade. Don’t respond to an insulting review or tweet. Don’t ping off a discontented email when your editor sends revisions that you think are way too thorough. Keep a calm head, even though almost anything to do with our stories pulls at our hearts.
DON’T refuse to compromise. Presumably two of the reasons you want to become published are to reach an audience and earn from your writing – and that means making sales. Editors and agents have a vast experience and getting published is, in some ways, just the beginning of learning everything you can – from them – about your craft and career. Whilst initial suggestions to changing your story or title might sting, I have usually found (after a couple of days drinking wine, in a darkened room) that they are spot on. Try not to be too precious. For example the original title for my second book, From Paris with Love, was “On Abbey’s Secret Service” (it is a standalone sequel to my bestselling debut Doubting Abbey). It was hard to let go of my idea, but now I’m glad I did. The new title was far more search-engine friendly and commercial.
Finally DO enjoy every minute. Yes it is tough being an author in these times, the market is incredibly competitive and the goalposts are ever-changing, due to the revolution of the ebook. Plus there is always another social platform springing up that we are expected to use. In my opinion, every challenging moment is worth it when you get lovely feedback from a reader or praise from your editor. Or when you experience the excitement of a launch – something I’m looking forward to with my upcoming July novel, Breakfast under a Cornish Sun. And never stop dreaming. I’m still secretly holding out for Graham Norton to come knocking at my door. In fact– one last tip – try to overcome shyness. Be assertive and proactive. And on that note, does anyone happen to have Graham’s number…? 🙂