I Wrote This

iwrotethis

So…finally published. Tantamount, my debut. I guess this is the post-mortem, the debrief, acknowledgement, that chance to step back and take a look at it. Can you tell I’m stalling?

How long did it take? Well, three years from getting the idea to getting published, more or less. Ten years from when I came back from my OE (that’s overseas experience to all you foreigners where we Kiwis basically kick around your neck of the woods with just a backpack til we run out of money) and started writing seriously with an eye to getting published. Fifteen years since I wrote my first original novel(la), it was 36,000 words, in less than a week and I was meant to be studying for an English exam. I wasn’t so great (I got better, right?) at creating characters at that point so each and every one then was not only based but named after a friend. It had vampires in it so it wasn’t completely autobiographical. Over subsequent sequels (I think I got up to half a dozen at one point!) the characters all got renamed and evolved into more complex creations with less Mary-Sue-isms, but it was a learning experience.

What can I liken getting published too? How about a sports analogy? It’s like making the team, you think it’s making the team and then being told you have a whole pre-season of torture (training) ahead before the actual work starts. We call that editing. And then there’s the actual season (launch, reviews, sales) the playoffs (awards, nominations, bestselling lists) and maybe even the championship (you might actually win something/get paid actual money).

What are the odds of being published? Less than 1%, probably a lot less, to be honest. Pretty good, right? Sarcasm? Not at all, that’s way better odds than the lottery, you’ve all bought lotto tickets, scratchies, lucky dips, played carnival games, gambled at a casino, gone up to that pretty girl in the bar and tried your luck with a cheesy pickup line? I’m going off on fairly obtuse tangent (does that make sense?) here but the point is the odds are a lot better than some of the things you’ve probably already tried.

Would you prefer the cliché? Everybody has a book in them. Not everyone is capable of writing it. And thank heck for that because it means more work for ghost writers. You didn’t think all those celebs actually wrote their own autobiographies did you? Puh-lease.

Do I feel a sense of accomplishment? Yes, but the excitement for me wore down the closer we got to launch day. It was strange. The real excitement came with the an email from Tyche Books that said something along the lines of ‘Ok, we’ll take it.’

I read that email on my phone and thought ‘Hey, that’s pretty cool.’

Then I rolled over and went back to sleep. I work shift work, sleep is kinda important.

When I woke up I had that ‘damnit! Another dream!’ feeling. I actually hit the bed in frustration. Then I found the email again. And read it. Again. And again.

I was convinced this was some elaborate practical joke or hallucination. Any second now I was due to wake up from that dream within a dream, damn you Nolan and your Inception clichés. This couldn’t actually be happening, right? This thing I’d been working at for how many years that I never actually thought would happen but went for it anyway? I mean, what were those odds again? Infinitesimal! (Imagine this being said by Vizzini from the Princess Bride).

Then the contract came through. It looked legit, but straight to the lawyer with it. The lawyer happened to be in the Caribbean at the time, on a boat, halfway through a two year odyssey. She was busy riding sharks.

You heard me.

Laptop batteries and internet coverage in the Caribbean are both in short supply so I was surprised to get a prompt response.

OMG OMG OMG I am literally jumping up and down!!! this is soooooo amazing. HUGE congratulations!!

That’s pretty much my lawyer’s response, verbatim. And then there was some legal speak, but that was the important part. My lawyer is also one of my best friends, at least in this case.

At this point I was still keeping this to myself. I was only checking my phone a couple of times a day to re-read that message to make sure it wasn’t just my imagination. Like you would if you had that winning lottery ticket in your wallet but hadn’t made it to the Grants Office yet. You’d have to check, just to make sure it hadn’t gone missing. You’d check a lot.

And then came the rewrites. The publicity questionnaires, blurbs, websites, blogging, social media, cover art. All that stuff you hadn’t thought about before making the team. The hard part was over right? I mean I wrote the book, you guys have got it from here, right? Right? Right…

No.

There is so much more work to do after signing a contract. And believe me when I tell you I am glad one of us had a very good idea of what they’re doing. Because at that point I didn’t. Typesetting? Cover art? ISBN? Printing, e-formats, you mean there’s a difference? Amazon, kindle, itunes, kobo, book depository, Barnes and Noble, the Fish Pond, I hadn’t even heard of some of these but Tantamount was going to end up on all of them. That’s why you should have need a publisher, because they get things done, things you didn’t even know needed doing.

Like author hangouts. Wait, you want me to front up and go on (web)camera and talk about my book? To…actual…people? Publishers can be ruthless sometimes. And Twitter. You mean that social media nonsense, the worst part of Facebook, those annoying status updates, that inane nonsense in minimalist character count, that thing? You know I wrote a novel, right? Six figure word count. As in I’m not actually capable of writing the short form of anything and…what? Krista said what? Give me that keyboard!

As if I needed more distractions…

I said something earlier about not getting excited about the actual launch, right? It might be because by then I’d already celebrated half a dozen times. Milestones. Telling friends and family. Signing the contract, not necessarily in that order. Making the announcement on social media. Launching a website. Unveiling the cover art (special mention James Beveridge for that masterpiece), the final rounds of edits (and yes, there are probably some minor, very minor, minute typos still left in the book, it happens! As long as nobody reverts to their first draft name, age, personality & geography we’ll be fine!), announcing the actual launch day, being ambushed by friends and co-workers with celebratory cakes and champagne on multiple occasions. And then it launched. And people started to buy it. People I’d never met were buying and talking about it. Saying things like #3, then #2 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases for Steampunk. The book was in the Steampunk category? I mean, that’s awesome! Unless you try and say that three times fast. Then you just sound like a prat. Through it all there were two negative feelings hidden deep in the back of my mind. The first was a sense of obligation to Tyche, for taking a chance, and if I’m being shameless in promoting Tantamount and their other works it’s not for my own benefit, it’s out of genuine gratitude, I’m still more or less convinced there was an element of pity and ‘if-we-publish-this-do-you-think-he’ll-maybe-leave-us-alone?’ to our contract. Big mistake on their part but I can finally say that as it’s far too late to take it all back now. But like I said, there’s a debt there that needs repaying and it only works if you all buy lots of books. Hint hint? You all like to read, right? Don’t know how you got so far if you don’t.

The other one? That sense of being an absolute fraud and of being found out any minute now. Apparently this is quite normal. Actually I have this in my day job now. I get 5-star and A+ performance reviews and have so consistently for the last six or so years. I’m still nervously waiting for them to figure out I don’t actually know what I’m doing and have no real business being employed in anything remotely resembling a position of responsibility. People tell me otherwise but what do you all know?

We’re getting near to the end here. What’s left to say? Probably a lot but that’s what the edit button is for, you can do that with web publishing. Handy feature. But what do I wish I’d known about this publishing business?

Signatures. I’ve signed a few books now and I still haven’t settled on one. I feel the same way about my signature as I do at photos of myself. I cringe. I critique. I want a do over. With photoshop. And a stand-in. Hopefully I’ll also look back in a couple of years and think ‘Actually, that doesn’t look so bad.’

Publicity. Beg, borrow or steal it, take it anyway you can. I wrote obsequiously, shamelessly fawning letters to all my old schools and academic institutions pleading for mentions to their catalogue of email addresses and newsletters. It makes you look good when former students and residents do well, you’re allowed to take some of the credit. That’s how this works, from a local up to a national scale. Do well and watch everyone else jump on the bandwagon. Have a contact who runs a site or works at a library? Hit them up, nobody is going to do it. On a side note, make friends with teachers. Seriously, they’re awesome people, underpaid and overqualified. And they have access to thousands of impressionable minds. I mean they can recommend books to libraries. That second one. Yay, teachers.

Also, it turns out it’s really hard to get people to write reviews. I certainly never have for books I’ve written so I haven’t quite cracked this conundrum yet. I’m thinking all books, certainly E-books, should come with an automatic recall if the reader doesn’t lodge a minimum three-star review with two weeks of reaching the last page. After all, if they didn’t like it why keep it? There may be reasons why this hasn’t been put into effect. Notice I said recall, not refund.

I said something before about milestones. There were a lot of rewarding little ones along the way. Hitting that word count. Finishing a chapter. Completing the damned manuscript (yeah, right.) Completing the damned manuscript for the twelfth time. Being asked for the 50th time how many books I’ve sold. I genuinely do not know and aovid asking so I don’t sit there hitting refresh watching some sort of counter. Again, the lottery analogy, until I check I’ll just assume I’m winning. Getting one of these things published was a life long goal, but let’s be honest, there was a hell of a lot of luck and timing involved in it. And a lot of work from more than just me. But a lot of luck from my part. And the only way to prove it wasn’t all luck…is to do it all again.

But for now, I get to actually hold an actual, physical, legitimate copy of my own published novel. And leave it lying around conspicuously. Actually it’s in the trunk of my car right now. If only so if I ever get pulled over by a police officer I can say ‘You’re not going to look in the trunk are you?’

To be continued…



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