My debut novel “Blinded by the Light”, a young adult dystopian novel was published in October 2013 by Cillian Press, a Manchester based publishing company. The events in the book take place in the near future, 20 years after a virus has decimated the population of the UK. The story follows MaryAnn; an Alpha, born into a life of privilege and entitlement in a city protected by a boundary fence. She worries about the small things: her popularity, being seen at the right parties, having the right boyfriend and wearing the right clothes. These are the things that matter to her friends so they’re important to her too. Through a life changing event she’s forced to face up to reality of the world that she lives in and to question the foundations of the Neighbourhood that she was born into.
The book was the product of many hours spent hunched over my laptop at airports, train stations and in taxis while I travelled for my work as a business consultant. When I first came up with the idea for the book three years ago I never imagined that it would be accepted by a publisher. I submitted it to Cillian Press for review and fully expected that it would disappear into the ether of their slush pile. To my delight (and slight astonishment) they accepted my manuscript and this started my journey towards publication.
It was a fantastic experience working with Cillian Press. They claim to operate as a partnership with the author, and I can testify that they hold true to this claim. I was consulted at every stage of the publication process and involved in any key decision-making. Not only did this satisfy the obsessive-compulsive project manager in me, but it gave me a great insight into the publishing world. I feel that I’ve learnt so much over the last year; not just as a writer but as someone new to the world of publishing. I also feel that my skills and experience working as a business consultant helped me navigate the publishing world as a debut author. I thought that it might be useful to share some of these business insights with all of you.
Networking is a key feature of the business world, but I think it’s also essential for writers to build up a network too. I see lots of writers on social media platforms such as Twitter, churning out tweets that are just a variation of ‘buy my book.’ I’m not sure how effective this is as a sales technique, but in my experience people don’t want to feel like they’re being sold too. Instead they want to feel engaged. The best salespeople are those people who build up relationships based on respect and a trust in their product. Your story is your product, so make sure you market and sell it wisely.
Take responsibility for your work. Even if you’re lucky enough to get a publishing deal, resources are often limited. Smaller publishers in particular, work on very tight margins so you’ll often be expected to do a lot of the marketing work yourself. Be prepared for this. Learn about the marketing process, what works and what doesn’t. Create a plan. You publisher will often be involved in launching a number of books simultaneously, but you have your own book and your own personal best interests at heart. Don’t sit back and wait for something to happen, actively seek out opportunities.
Be a professional and keep your good reputation. I’ve recently read a number of blogs about author professionalism. Some of them discuss instances were authors have reacted badly to reviews etc. Obviously it hurts to get a bad review or for someone to criticize your work, but similar to the business world, a writer’s reputation can be ruined with a few misplaced words. It’s a small industry and word can spread pretty quickly. Sometimes it’s better just to walk away. I have a writer friend who once advised me after receiving a bad review, to choose a couple of my favourite authors and read their 1 star reviews. What I discovered is that there are actually people out there who don’t like John Green! Yes, it shocked me as well, but there’s no accounting for taste.
It’s also important to remember that, similar to many writers who are juggling full time jobs, family commitments and a writing career, book bloggers and reviewers are in the same situation. I always feel that there is a symbiotic relationship between the blogging/review community and writers. It’s in our best interests to treat them well and to have realistic expectations about the amount of time it takes to read and review a book.
Have a contingency plan. Again this doesn’t fit in with the romantic image of the published author, but the sad truth is that it’s hard for debut authors to make enough money from their book to make a full time living (. . . ,unless this involves pitching a tent in field and foraging for wild foods.) For every JK Rowling, there are thousands of authors trying to scrape a living on earnings that are often less than the minimum wage. Its good if you have other skills that you can utilise too. I’m lucky that I have a day job that I really like. For me it makes it easier to tap into my creativity if I know that I have enough money to buy food and pay the mortgage (plus I get a bit agitated if I’m hungry, which isn’t conducive to good writing.).
While I love the creative process of writing, I think my business background has really helped me both as an aspiring writer and a published author. I appreciate it’s not particularly romantic to talk about business and writing in the same context, but they really can complement each other and I think I’ve benefitted from bringing some business acumen to my writing. Obviously you don’t need to have experience in business to do well as a writer, but the great thing about writing is that it’s so versatile that you can compliment it with any other skills that you my have and build on your own experiences.
Blinded by the Light is available on Amazon as an eBook: http://amzn.to/15Yb3NZ or Paperback: http://amzn.to/1bHnXVw
You can also win a copy of the book by visiting: http://totalteenfiction.blogspot.co.uk/