#writing community #becauseofbooks #debutauthor #scottishauthors  #scottishfiction #mental health  #success

Being a published author is great- I’m over the moon, but… I now realise that publication is the beginning of a hard and rocky road to find readers. It’s like climbing Everest only to discover no one will know you’ve done it unless you climb an even steeper mountain: marketing. Having just turned 69, I fear I lack the necessary stamina.

Writing the novel was fun: inventing people, scenes, plots, moving them around at your bidding, getting lost in your imagination with a keyboard and a cuppa in the study of a wet afternoon. Mind you, some days the output was turgid drivel needing decimated later. An early memo to self: writing is not improved by Sauvignon. (Now as for my piano playing…)

Satisfyingly, after editing and mentoring approval, I saved NOT THE LIFE IMAGINED, final version, composed my Bio and Synopsis (unbelievably tricky!) and scanned the online presence of agents and publishers to target pitches. Unsatisfyingly, the rejections came: ‘not what we are looking for at this time.’ Or worse: silence. In fact when finally the ‘we love your story- let us have the whole manuscript’ came, I was so jaded that I didn’t open it for two days as the subject line only said ‘re submission.’ After a whirlwind of contracts, editing and cover-design, ‘Hey Presto!’ my book was in my hand. My old Dad would have been thrilled.
Now the rub. There are an estimated 100,000 books out every year. Like graduating, being published is no guarantee of success. How to make your literary voice be heard in the social media buzz is as baffling to me now as Higher calculus was at 17. Facebook I can handle; a nice way to find and keep up with friends old and new, but Twitter? Where do people find the time to scroll endless Twitters (sorry tweets) and threads? Doubtless it suits POTUS, (no grammar, wee words and acronyms) but for an oldie like me there are so many baffling posts to plough through! Should I follow to be followed? Re-tweet or love a twit? Or comment? Or visit @randomwhoever? And Instagram: I get that you need a visual, but you also need 5 dots and lots of #s hoping to pick up followers like an old-fashioned flypaper (hopefully I’m less toxic). There may be something in it: I’ve acquired a delightful dancing doctor follower from Russia but also some strange men with curious names. Plus a jeweller offering bespoke bracelets. Hmm.

Please don’t think I want to put anyone off writing: we all have stories to tell, issues we want to air. My old psychiatric boss was a big fan of writing down our thoughts to maintain mental health. For me, I wanted to entertain, amuse, move and intrigue readers by the life trajectories of my characters torn between their NHS and private lives. The book was hard work, so I’ll do my utmost to get it out there. But I am wary of relying solely on second-hand, truncated communications from ethereal beings on the net- however rapidly ‘memes’ and ‘hashtags’ and ‘shares’ can ricochet round the globe and boost sales. I’m more attracted to the real world I’ve found out there of book talks and festivals and author events and am about to dive in. My lovely publisher is non-profit so it’s up to me to promote and raise royalty money for children’s charity Plan International who further girls’ well-being and education. Unashamedly, I love signing my books- still amazed someone’s bought it! There may be more royalties from e-books- but I hope to see lots of readers buying it from a bookshop. Sadly its miles to my nearest one. Use them or lose them.

I will never be a best seller or have a big celebrity prize, but it was great to be in the top 100 for medical fiction for a bit, and runner-up in the Scottish Association of Writers Constable Award. I doubt I’ll make 1,000 followers for my website or Instagram, but it’s all been worth it – I have a published book!  Good luck to all submitters.

Back now to editing book two… or maybe I’ll just scan Twitter for a bit first…

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