Yesterday Journalism.co.uk posted part one of Maria McCarthy’s guide to getting a book deal. Freelancer Linda Jones has already done just that, and here she shares ten ‘blindingly obvious things’ she has learnt in her first year as an author.
The post was originally posted on her blog at Freelancewritingtips.com. Get in touch with your own stories: judith at journalism.co.uk. Here’s what Linda learnt, following the publication of the Greatest Freelance Writing Tips in the World.
1. A book launch may be more hassle than it’s worth
: This time last year, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. My first book, the modestly titled Greatest Freelance Writing Tips in the World
had just been published. Holding some initial copies in my quivering hands, I’d felt a rush of pride. Now here I was, preparing for my very own book launch. Then one by one, more than half the confirmed guests dropped out. My heart sank. Even though local paper reports and reviews followed and those lovely guests who did come along were overwhelmingly positive, I was disappointed. In hindsight I can see my expectations were unrealistic. But I hated feeling like Billy no-mates.
2. Authors don’t always want to discuss sales
: Go on; guess how many my book has sold. Bet you can’t. I’d rather not say, if you don’t mind. Of course if you know anything about publishing it won’t surprise you that my figures may not even rival David Blunkett’s
. This wasn’t the outcome I was hoping for. I was so naïve. Wary of upsetting a PR team, sacred of jinxing future sales or plain embarrassed, other writers I know also prefer not to join this potentially humiliating ‘show and tell.’ Yet this ‘smoke screen’ allows wannabe authors to cling on to unrealistic dreams – creating a vicious circle of silence followed by dashed hope. Seriously, how many do you expect your book to sell?
3. They don’t always want to talk about rates either
: My advance and royalties are modest by any standards. I was paid £1,500 in advance and have royalties of 10 per cent on further UK sales. Finding out how indicative this is of current rates
, initially proved as effective as Russell Brand at a True Love Waits meeting.
4. However many positive reviews you get, you should be prepared for the possibility that you’ll care most about the bad one
: I was bowled over when one reviewer said my effort was ‘the only book a writer will ever need.’
Then someone slated it.
That’s the conclusion that lingers in my mind. I’m not sure why one negative comment is felt so much more keenly. Can anyone explain this phenomenon other than saying it’s basic human nature?
5. On the subject of reviews – they don’t sell books
: The resoundingly positive reviews may have given me a warm glow inside but aren’t doing a thing for my bank balance. I’m advised they may help me if I ever go in search of an agent. But that’s a terrifying prospect. (See point number seven) I’ve learned that reviews are only a small part of the post-publication story. Without a prime time chat show or reality TV career, even the most wonderfully received non-fiction books from small publishers may be destined for an underwhelming future.
6. Checking out where you are on Amazon is pointless:
It’s depressing to ride the roller coaster ride of Amazon rankings. I can sometimes make it to the top of a list of bestselling books by (ta da!) authors with the same name
and some days I manage to hover around the 2,000 mark. I don’t think I’ll crack open the Aldi champagne just yet. But it’s pure vanity, desperation or complete madness anyway. It’s just one bookshop. I’m just glad I’m not alone.
7. Agents are scary:
Who’d have thought I could have so much in common with John Prescott,
apart from the waistline? Yet I feel bound to flounder as a working class outsider when it comes to understanding agents
. I’ve read they prefer young Oxbridge graduates with a media profile. That’s enough to put me off. The one time I got over my nerves and was told a more recent proposal was ‘excellent’, I was later dismissed with ‘Sorry Dahling, I read it too quickly’. I rest my case.
8. Publicity and blogging is a long hard slog
: I threw myself into promoting my book. Pieces have popped up in radio shows, newspapers, magazines, websites
. I laughed my head off when a magazine called me a ‘celebrity’. I keep people up to date in a Facebook group
. Funnily enough, each time I send an update, coupled with details of new opportunities for writers, someone drops out.
9. That thing in the movies where first time authors go misty-eyed over their book in a shop window, doesn’t happen to everyone
: Yes I really did think about that. When a reader emailed me to say she had bought my book from Waterstones in central London, I was cock-a-hoop. When my publisher emailed to explain that really, major retailers weren’t that interested
, I was crestfallen. I should’ve listened to Craig
who said I should give the book away to create more of a ‘buzz’.
10. I should have known this stuff before my book was published
: If you’re an aspiring author, please learn from my mistakes. Look past that joyous moment when you’re told your book has been commissioned and get real – it could be a rocky road ahead. Find out what you can about how book marketing, distribution and sales really work now to help you through the inevitable potholes later