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.

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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.