Just over one year ago, my novel, The Forest King’s Daughter, was published by Pilrig Press. The publication of the novel was a tremendous achievement for me. Prior to sending the manuscript to them, I’d done the rounds of numerous literary agents and was just starting to think about making changes to the story when a friend recommended I try small publisher, Pilrig Press. After sending through my initial query letter, synopsis and opening chapters, I quickly received a response: the publisher enjoyed what he read and wanted to see the full manuscript. To say that I was elated would be an understatement. I quickly read through the manuscript again (just in case I had somehow introduced a typo when opening the document for the umpteenth time), attached it and pressed ‘send’. This happened in summer 2014, and prior to this I’d spent almost four months sending the manuscript out and receiving rejections (at the time it had never occurred to me to self-publish).
I then waited several weeks before sending a gentle follow up email. I held my breath, expecting yet another rejection. But, soon after, I received a reply to say the publisher was interested in obtaining the novel and would be sending me a contract. I read their email several times over, unable to believe what I was reading—had my novel really just been accepted for publication? It had. I broke into a series of loud cheers, shouts and hurrahs, thereby amusing my neighbours and baffling my cats. I’d done it! My novel would be published! Woo hoo, three cheers for me (and even more cheers for Pilrig Press for agreeing to take it on). This was in November 2014.
Of course, once the novel was accepted, there was still work to do. For one, I needed to set up my author platform—something I’d been putting off doing as the prospect intimidated me. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy reading online, but the vastness of the internet and my near-phobia of technology didn’t help matters. I decided to start with a blog, as that made the most sense to me—I knew people who had blogs and enjoyed them, and a blog would surely be the best place to showcase my work as it would be my space alone. So, after doing a bit of research (which included invaluable reference to the lovely Molly Greene and Belinda Pollard’s ever-helpful blogs, which were recommended by Marianne Wheelaghan), I decided on a free WordPress site. After several days of trial and error and much online research, I managed to have the site up and running–possibly an even bigger achievement than my novel 😉 .
Next on the list was Twitter—ugh. My only knowledge of Twitter was through the much-publicised News International scandal. To me, it seemed like something gossipy journalists and celebrities used, nothing a writer should ever have to go near. But, after much discussion and advice from writing friends, especially Ruth Hunt, I gave it a go. How else would I let anyone know about my amazing blog posts? 😉
And, you know what? It wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was kind of fun. I got to ‘meet’ and chat with other writers, and I found out about all sorts of amazing literary goings-on as well as discovering new authors, and books, and book blogs. I tweeted my blog posts–and got retweeted! And I retweeted and shared others’ content in return. Of course, this all took a bit of time, and I quickly discovered just how much time–but that didn’t stop it from being a useful tool (not so much for selling books as for networking with other writers, for more on this, read: http://www.smallbluedog.com/why-emerging-authors-need-twitter.html ).
And then the big day came—publication. Of course, having a small publisher means there are no publication day parties (thrown by the publisher anyway). Still, the hubby and I had a drink or two to celebrate, and, perhaps, a chocolate brownie (or two). On the day of the launch, I did an author interview with Ruth Hunt on her blog, The Single Feather, to help promote the novel.
So, what have I learned from my publication process? Well, for one, that it takes time to find the right publisher and then to prepare a manuscript for publication. This is something that can’t–and certainly shouldn’t–be rushed. Also, I’ve learned to try to be more understanding of the potential benefits of technology, which includes the innovative ability to meet people from all over the world without ever leaving the comfort of my own living room. But, most importantly, if I could do it over again, I would have gotten started building my platform much sooner. I think if I had, it may have helped me to better promote my novel in the run up to publication. Having a book published is only the beginning. You still have to market it, and the better understanding you have of this and the less shy you are about telling others about the wonderful book you’ve written, the easier it will be (who’d have thought that things like Amazon categories, metadata or how many friends you have on Facebook could influence how many copies of a book are sold?).
I remember attending a literary event last year in which one of the panellists likened publishing to entering a giant funnel. Once you’ve published your novel, you come through the end of one, small(ish) funnel only to enter a second, much larger one, through which very few authors ever emerge. My advice to unpublished novelists: persevere but be realistic in your expectations. Celebrate every small victory, because you’ve worked hard for it, but then move on and write the next novel, not only because research shows that novelists with more than one book sell better (http://annerallen.com/2015/03/how-do-i-sell-my-book-6-tips-for-new.html ) but primarily because writing is what writers do (or what they should be doing anyway). Also, be eternally grateful for your friends and those who’ve supported you along the way, be it by helping with research, reading and commenting on your drafts, retweeting your blog posts, or even giving you the space and time you need to write. I know I am. Because, without them, novels can’t be written, let alone published and promoted through social media.
Are you a published novelist? If so, what was your experience of being published? And, if you’re not yet published, what do you expect from it?