It’s been a while since my last confession… I mean post. For what seems like months, in fact for what has been months I’ve been working on getting Dark Waters split into a series and at last book one Harvest is now out there – little pat on the back methinks.
It’s funny, Harvest was published nearly a year after Dark Waters and you’d think I’d have gotten the hang of it by now. I guess I didn’t pay much attention in class because I made the same stupid mistakes: published the wrong file, forgot to add links to my new website (not forgotten now though www.l-e-fitzpatrick.moonfruit.com – another pat if you please), messed up my synopsis and totally forgot how to advertise.
Obviously I’m still a novice with a few hundred book sales underneath me. Although Dark Waters didn’t take the world by storm it did so much better than I ever thought was possible and at least publishing it has taught me how this process feels. To publish a book, whether it’s your first or fortieth is like the birth of a new child. It’s exhilarating and terrifying. The potential for it to be the best thing you ever did is levelled with the possibility it could ruin everything. You want to give it the best start in life and when it goes wrong it hits you hard.
In my experience, once I’ve fumbled through the actual publishing process, the next stage is the hardest: Promotion. Now you’ve poured your heart and soul into an e-pub it’s time to tell the world how amazing it is. I’m naturally an understated individual. When I’m asked how I am, it doesn’t matter if I’m bleeding from a severe fracture of the skull or doing back flips through the supermarket, I will always say “not too bad.” But “not too bad” is not going to sell books.
Last year I got bogged down in advertising and it sent me a bit doo-lally. I found myself so concerned with what others thought that I began to lose my identity altogether. Modesty became uncertainty and then fear. It didn’t matter that most of my feedback was excellent, nor that the nastier undercurrent of snipes I got were from people who hadn’t read my book. What mattered was I was told I should take writing classes. What mattered was that 1 return out of 200 sales. What mattered was people saying March was a great month and I had sold 2 books!
For my own already shaky sanity, I have to approach this next step with caution. You see I love my book, deep down I think it’s brilliant, but it’s so hard to openly say that without feeling like you’re setting yourself up for a fall. I would never publish anything I wasn’t happy with, but what if other people aren’t happy with it? What if it doesn’t meet their standards? What if? What if? What if? Your opinion counts to me, of course it does, that’s why I published, but your opinion will not affect my opinion, because, like the love for my son, the love for my work is unconditional. It can’t let me down because it has already exceeded my expectation.
This has to be my new mantra. I’ve posted Harvest here and there, but after some research I have decided that the best promotional technique is to just keep writing. Traitors’ Day is book 2, it’s in draft and it is exceptional (getting easier to say the more I say it). If you like Harvest, hell even if you don’t, when book 2 is published you better buy some new socks because your old ones are going to be blown off (tongue may be in cheek or it could just be the swelling from the head butt my son gave me mid handstand – his not mine – unconditional love eh?)
I think if you’re embarking on a publishing adventure, or thinking about it, you need to be strong willed and confident, not to the point of arrogance, but to a stage where the spiteful rain will fall off you. We writers seem to spend so much time and effort trying to get reviews and sales for our work we forget that we have to still be in love with our books. It’s vitally important before you expose yourself to the world that you accept your weaknesses for what they are. At some point you get to a stage where you are ready to take the plunge and publish your work and it will not be perfect, but that’s life. You will have to deal with that missing comma, that passage that people read as incredibly dirty when you really didn’t intend it to be, it will be you they are critiquing and this is about as personal as it gets.
The lesson I would stress the most is we are here to write. Whatever happens to you if you are embarking on this journey my advice is to just keep putting words down. You will only get better and this is one of the few occasions time is on your side. For every bad review, poor months of sales, dip in self-confidence knock out a page of something. Every paragraph will be a step further, a practice run, a learning curve. Don’t give up!