You need commitment to succeed

commitment-quotes

I recently wrote about how difficult self-publishing can be in my post 5 self-publishing truths few authors talk about, and that it wasn’t automatically a road to fame and riches. It hit a nerve, with over 3000 views in less than a week – the equivalent to 2 months worth of views at my normal rate – and many of you who commented spoke about how the post represented your own experience.

One point raised was that it felt as if I was trying to put people off self-publishing and telling then not to try. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I would encourage anyone to write and publish a book. While I too haven’t had the fame and riches I’d hoped for (but not expected), I have no regrets about starting out on this journey, so much so I’ve published two books and am currently working on my third. The main purpose of the post was to make people aware of what they are facing. However, that doesn’t mean you just have to sit back and accept that fate.

Last week I spoke to Heather Hill, author of The New Mrs D, and she kindly sent me through a list of everything she did on her path to becoming an Amazon bestseller. As you can see, not everything she tried worked, but it is a great example of what you can achieve if you have the commitment to succeed, put the long hours of work in and refuse to take no for an answer. It also nicely mirrors the message from Kameron Hurley and the effort she put in to turn her writing career around.

  1. I started a blog, after gaining a decent following and wonderful feedback from my comedy twitter ramblings. It gathered momentum, people were reading me! And it was good.
  2. I bought ‘The Writers & Artists Yearbook and read everything in it that applied to my writer style and goals.
  3. I began writing my book. I did not stop to edit, I just kept going. Even on days when I felt like everything on the page was nonsense.
  4. I followed experienced authors through various social media channels; I observed them. I looked at them as a potential reader NOT as an author in training. I was picking up on the elements of their online persona that attracted me as a reader.
  5. I attended a few signings and talks from literary agents, getting real advice.
  6. I reached a halfway crisis of confidence. Got advice from a good friend to read ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King. Best move ever!
  7. I shared my writing with three friends that I knew would give me honest feedback and then did several rewrites.
  8. I employed the wonderful editing services of Flora Napier at Blueprint Editing.
  9. I rewrote again.
  10. I read three books on submissions to agents. They were Sex, Lies & Book Publishing by Rupert Heath Literary Agency, ‘Dear Agent’ by Nicola Morgan and ‘From Pitch to Publication‘ by Carole Blake
  11. I submitted to a total of thirteen agents after thoroughly researching the type of books and authors they were representing already. After six weeks, I was signed by an agent.
  12. I rewrote again, with suggested changes from my agent.
  13. We received thirteen publisher rejections. I gathered all of the editor comments and picked out the common themes – then rewrote again.
  14. I paid for a full manuscript report from Cornerstones.co.uk, got the report back, gave myself a few days to digest all of the advice and rewrote again.
  15. I decided to publish with agency assistance via the Amazon White Glove Programme.
  16. I made a list of everyone I knew personally and everyone I networked with in order to announce the release of the book via a one-off email. I explained that they weren’t on some circular mailing list; just that I wanted to share my good news with them all and thanking them for their support thus far.
  17. I blogged regularly via my WordPress site and shared my entire experience with followers on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and Stumbleupon.
  18. I sent contacted 29 book bloggers asking for a review (only 5 said yes) and 23 to Amazon reviewers (only 2 responded). I also contacted a number of women’s websites. Only 1 responded – Britmums, who agreed to an interview & feature but then stopped responding to my emails without a word.
  19. My book was launched on 4th July 2014, but hit the Amazon Best Sellers List two days beforehand… on pre-orders.
  20. A Kindle Daily Deal promotion on Amazon Australia rocketed my novel to no1 overall bestseller on the site in August 2014.
  21. I produced a hard copy of the book via Createspace and wrote to every major bookstore in Australia and some in the UK hoping they would consider stocking it. Everyone (eventually) declined – distribution problems to Australia and the UK were a major barrier. I had failed to realise Createspace only distribute to the US.
  22. In November, for personal reasons, I left my literary agency, who promptly and without warning unpublished my original ebook sending it crashing out of the Amazon chart and in to obscurity.
  23. In December 2014, I placed my book in a Kindle Free promotion for three days. In preparation, I entered news of the promotion to as many free Kindle book websites as I could find and applied for a BookBub promotion. Luckily, Bookbub accepted me, although I went with one of their smallest, cheapest genre lists. My book went to no4 in the Free Kindle chart overall in the UK and no 7 overall in the US during the promotion. It was downloaded 29,000 times in that three days. 17,000 of these downloads were on day one – the day of the Bookbub email.
  24. It is still in Amazon UK and US best sellers lists at the time of writing.

It would be very easy to read this list and say “well, it all came down to a BookBub promotion,” but that would be missing the point. Everything Heather did, the continual revisions to write the best book possible, the mailing list to get that initial exposure, sending out to bloggers to get good quality, neutral reviews – all provided a foundation that made her book attractive enough for BookBub to accept her submission.

So what do you think? Is there anything you’ve tried that worked for you and is not on the list? I’d love to hear from you.

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

Advertisements

Guest Post: AUTHORS: DON’T BE A BLOODY STATISTIC

Last week I wrote a post titled 5 self-publishing truths few authors talk about. It caused a bit of a reaction. For most of the following week my blog received 10 times its usual daily traffic and to date the post has received 130 comments. To receive such feedback was wonderful but at the same time there was a problem. My initial reason for writing the post was to let new authors know that self-publishing is difficult and not a guaranteed route to riches, but also to reassure writers that if their book doesn’t take off immediately that they weren’t a failure. However, in some cases the post was interpreted as “this is your fate, accept it.”

Today, Heather Hill, a good writing buddy of mine, wrote a great post about what’s required to be a successful self-published author, which I’ve reproduced with her permission below. I’ve known Heather since before she published, and one of the things that struck me about her (other than she’s very funny) was her determination to succeed. Since first publishing her book, The New Mrs D, Heather’s gone through lots of ups and downs, but for the past few months she’s been riding high in the Amazon charts on both sides of the Atlantic. So, if you are looking to understand what’s required to make a success of your writing career, have a listen to what Heather has to say.

Take it away, Heather…

 

jung quote

There are people that are writing in the hope of getting rich, and there are people that are writing for the love of the craft. I would firmly plant myself between these two extremes.

I suspect that those writers who are most disappointed are in the first category.

I love writing, have reached a point in my life where I recognise I have always loved it, yet was hampered by an inaccurate belief that making a career out of it was out of my reach and capabilities. Today I’m ready to pursue it to the death, only with the hope in my mind that I might make a decent living out of it.

Since the moment I first began working on my book, I knew I’d never stop writing again. I know that even if I never sold another word, I couldn’t stop. I’m forty three years old; that’s how long it has taken me to be in this place

Do I hate the idea of getting rich quick? No. I’ve almost accepted around four email marriage proposals from Nigerian Princes in 2014 alone. Do I care if I don’t make my fortune with writing? No, I do not.

I’m not taking my rejections personally, not watching my sales figures hour by hour asking why the world isn’t recognising my genius and I’m not dying inside every time a fellow author has heaps more success than I do. This is my journey; my dream. I’m not going to dilute it or belittle its significance to my life’s journey by making it all about money or the competition. I wish we could live a little (okay a lot) easier and I do imagine that big cheque landing on my doormat, of course I do. But my ultimate goal is having a better, more fulfilled life experience. It is doing what I think I was supposed to do with my life and being in love with it.

I’m offering you here my best advice on how to overcome your obstacles as a new writer. It is an A for attitude – and the greatest thing about attitude, is you get to choose yours. There are too many articles telling writers to be careful what you wish for and I for one don’t like reading them. It is good to know the pitfalls you might face, but not good to focus on them too much.

Let me break it down in to a simple sentence: Don’t let people tell you can’t do something.

A few months back, I wrote to hundreds of book shops all over the world, asking them to put ‘The New Mrs D’ on their shelves. I emailed scores of book reviewers, joining what I don’t doubt an absolute sea of similar requests they have from other self-published authors just like me. As well as the rejections this book has had, I also have the biggest pile of ‘no thank you’ emails you’ve ever seen. The ‘no reply at all’ pile is so big, I’m considering climbing it for charity. 🙂

The one that sticks in my mind the most is the book I bought and posted, as per the submission guidelines on their website, all the way over to Barnes & Noble in New York asking that they please consider stocking it on their shelves. Their response was (something along the lines of), ‘in our experience, self-published authors only sell on average two hundred copies for the lifetime of the book, many of those to family and friends.’ In case you haven’t guessed where this is going, they declined my request. Yet I had already sold a thousand copies by the time I read their letter, and believe me, I don’t have that many family and friends.

I read this particular line again: ‘Most self-published authors only sell on average 200 copies for the lifetime of their book.’ I’d already proved them wrong in my own case, but instead of internalising this statistic, as some might be inclined to do, I decided to smash it. And no, I haven’t yet. This is not a victorious, ‘I told you so, you short sighted bookshops, agents and publishers’ post. I didn’t sell thousands of copies, but to date over 32,000 people have downloaded ‘The New Mrs D’ and of that 32,000 I gave away just over 29,000 in a free Amazon promotion. It’s not a huge, life-changing income, but it’s a very promising potential readership for book two. Although, in a personal way, it is life-changing. It taught me I’m ever-so-slightly addicted to being read.

I can’t offer advice from the perspective of a long in the tooth, experienced writer who has made it to the top. I can only offer the perspective of a long in the tooth person with years of life experience behind her. And my advice is, if you love it don’t let it lie.

Don’t be a bloody statistic.

Am I selling dreams of writer success to people who can’t write? I don’t think so. If writing is what you truly love and truly believe is inside of you, even if your first attempted sucked you are going to work hard to get better. You’ll spend your last pounds on editing, getting the best cover you can afford and you’ll read your submissions feedback, searching for the common elements and taking at least some of the advice given to make your project shine. You’ll give it all you’ve got and stop wallowing in bitterness and self pity.

(Okay, give yourself an hour on this last one, then move on) 😉

You won’t spend your precious writing time emailing the agents that reject you with a stream of profanities telling him/her they have missed a golden opportunity and don’t know what their talking about. You are writing all of the time and reading about writing all the time.

So I guess I’m talking to YOU.

new-mrs-d-cover-design-smallerIf you enjoyed this post, I would recommend you follow Heather’s blog, hell4heather.

I would also recommend her book, the New Mrs D, which I enjoyed very much. You can read my review here or can buy it using the following links:

To buy The New Mrs D from amazon.co.uk click here
To buy The New Mrs D from amazon.com click here

I’d also recommend you follow Heather Hill on twitter @Hell4Heather. She’s very funny.

 

 

 

Everybody fails, it’s how you deal with it that counts

sochi ringsWe all fail. All of us. It could be a small thing or it could be an enormous, publicly humiliating failure in front of a global audience, like when one of the rings failed to open at the Sochi Winter Olympics this year. Failure is a natural occurrence. It’s what you do next that’s important.

sochi closing ringsIf you believed the press at the time, after the Sochi opening ceremony Vladimir Putin either sacked, imprisoned or executed the person responsible. After the bad publicity the Sochi Games had received about gay rights (and quite right too) it was another humiliating embarrassment. The press was full of pictures of this ‘catastrophe’ for days. So how did the organising committee deal with the situation? By making a joke of it at the closing ceremony, embracing their failure and dispelling a few Russian stereotypes at the same time.

The publishing rollercoaster

When you publish a book there will always be ups and downs. Maybe it doesn’t sell as well as you would like, maybe it doesn’t sell at all. Maybe a promotion flopped, or you received one or more 1-star reviews. These things will knock anyone’s confidence, especially when it involves something you’ve spent months, or even years, pouring your heart into, and our first reaction is to either curl up into a ball or rage at the sheer unfairness of it all.

I’ve seen many posts and tweets by authors complaining about this or that aspect of their career. We’ve all felt like it at times. I’m an optimistic person at heart so I always expect things to go well. An old colleague of mine was the complete opposite. When I asked him why he had such a bleak outlook he told me “because then I’m never disappointed.”

I don’t suggest you all become pessimists overnight but at the same time, without trying to appear heartless, moaning about a particular situation is a pointless exercise. When you do this, the only person you’re hurting is yourself, not only by gaining a reputation of being a complainer, but because you’re doing nothing to change what’s happened.

A successful author is an unsuccessful author who never gave up

new-mrs-d-cover-design-smallerOne of my author friends, Heather Hill, wrote a wonderful book called The New Mrs D (you can read my review of it here). She tried for a long time to get it published but was turned down because the subject matter “would put people off buying the book”.

She managed to find an agent who believed in her but not a publisher, so the two decided to self-publish. This went incredibly well – at one point The New Mrs D was at no.1 in Amazon Australia – mostly through the work Heather did to promote the book, build a mailing list and following on her blog, as well as utilising twitter and instagram to spread the word. She hadn’t taken no for an answer and proved everybody wrong.

For various reasons, Heather and her agent parted company and Heather retained the rights to her work. Unfortunately, her book was then unpublished, vanished from the Amazon store losing all the sales ranking and visibility. It was devastating. All her hard work from the previous months had disappeared, all of the time and money she’d invested, gone. At this point most of us would have given up.

Not Heather.

She re-published the book, organised a campaign of social media promotion and spent what little money she could afford on a bookbub promotion. Her book was downloaded 29,000 times and at one point she was in the top 10 free books on amazon.co.uk and top 20 on amazon.com. Since then she has remained flying high in the paid charts, all due to how she reacted to adversity. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.

This is what it takes to be a successful author.

If you would like to buy Heather’s book, The New Mrs D, you can get it from amazon.com by clicking here, or from amazon.co.uk by clicking here.

I can also recommend her blog, Hell for Heather, and following her on twitter @hellforheather. Say hello, she’s very friendly.

Recommended Reads: The new Mrs D. by Heather Hill

new-mrs-d-cover-design-smaller

One of the best things since starting my Pay it Forward campaign has been reading new genres and styles of books that I would never have looked at previously. I’ve read literary fiction, memoirs; short-stories of every genre and some great horror and science-fiction. For my next recommended read – having met the author Heather Hill on twitter and finding her very funny – I got a chance to enter the world of chick-lit.

It’s safe to say I’m not the target demographic for The new Mrs D but that didn’t stop me from really enjoying the book. In it we follow the eponymous Mrs D. as she embarks on what she thinks is the start of her honeymoon but soon becomes a voyage of self-discovery. While I may not have been able to relate to the main character directly myself, I know a number of people that share some of her characteristics and it didn’t take long to get sucked into her adventures. While reading I smiled a lot, even laughing out loud on occasion.

The book generally has the light touch but Hill isn’t afraid to explore some tougher themes in an open and honest way. For the most part, though, it stays true to its roots – a good, light-hearted comedy. Yes, the plot is heavily signposted at times, there are one or two clichéd characters and the story occasionally strays into the area of cheese, but this is cheese in a good way, like Dirty Dancing or Abba Gold. If you enjoyed Bridget Jones or Shirley Valentine then this is the ideal holiday read for you. Highly recommended.

To buy The New Mrs D from amazon.co.uk click here
To buy The New Mrs D from amazon.com click here

I’d also recommend you follow Heather Hill on twitter @Hell4Heather

Recommended reads are independently published books that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.