This time, I thought it might be good to share with you the 'ups' and 'downs' with publishing my latest novel, the final instalment in my The Girl in the Mirror trilogy.
When I started writing The Girl in the Mirror back in 2012, I didn't think I would still be working on it four years later. In fact, I imagined it would take just a couple of years to complete. But here I am, in December 2016, only three months after editing the final instalment, and just a couple of weeks after the release of it. Boy, I must attest, it hasn't been the easiest thing to write! I have no one else to blame but myself. Foolishly, I set a tight publication schedule, so the pressure to deliver was of my own making. I always planned to have a quick turn-around in releasing the trilogy, believing that I owed it to those who bought and read the books; I didn't want to keep anyone waiting, I know what it's like. I remember waiting two years between reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and although I doubt the eagerness was quite the same for my work as it was for J.K Rowling's, I still didn't want to disappoint.
When The Sons of Gyges was published in March, I was only a third-way through writing the final instalment. My editor - Laura - set me a deadline to complete the manuscript by end of July. Because of the slim time available to edit the book, she asked that I send it to her 'piecemeal'; which meant I needed to forward her chapters as I was writing it. Which was fine; except, when I wanted to revisit earlier chapters to rewrite parts of it! The process got a little messy, and I now hasten to add, it's an exercise I don't wish to ever revisit. However, it was necessary, and surprisingly, seemed to work. My poor editor stressed over finishing her job, and managed to have it complete towards the end of the third week of September... (I dedicated the book in honour of her!) leaving me just a handful of weeks before the final version of the book had to be submitted for typesetting.
Beyond the production of The Whisper of Persia, I spent a lot of time thinking of ways to promote and marketing it. Unlike a year ago, I had some experience with regards to marketing. I'd spent money advertising both The Girl in the Mirror and The Sons of Gyges, and although people were becoming aware of my name and my work, paid advertising didn't get the results I was hoping for. But, not seeing those avenues as a waste, I had learned what did and didn't work.
I'm often told Twitter is a good place to to get your message out; and it is, if it's organic - which, I mean, natural (someone following you likes your tweet and shares it, and then someone else does the same, over and over, eventually resulting in it going viral). If you pay someone to tweet an advertisement, most likely the only people following that company are like-minded individuals who are trying to sell a book, and not buy one - therefore the only winner in this type of campaign is the advertiser who takes (what appears in most instances) a very reasonable fee (but all those fees from gullible authors - like me - add up!).
Book Subscribing services (like BookGorilla, eBookBetty, to name just a couple), are good, but seem only to generate sales for very low-priced, or free books; their audience is the frugal reader.
Another social media outlet is Facebook, which, using tailor designed targeting, should get results, but doesn't; you get plenty of views, but very little uptake.
Doing book giveaways are good for generating publicity, on sites such as Goodreads, which helps build book awareness, gains social media follows, etc., but again, do not translate to book sales; my experience of these gets the author nothing, and from the books I loving posted to the recipients of said competitions, haven't even the courtesy to give any feedback.
I considered using a PR company, but the fees demanded are just crazy (even the lowest priced ones!), most promising the earth, but contradictory with no guarantees of success.
So, dismissing most options, what did my deliberating lead me to? Bricks and mortar selling.
On Monday, 21st November, I unveiled The Whisper of Persia to two classes of thirty students at Westbourne, spending an hour-and-a-half with each, meeting and discussing the joy of writing, and carrying out a presentation, which I called An Author Workshop. As well as answering many questions and passing on my ideas on how to write a novel, I gave the students a chance to buy all my books, including my latest novel, signed and dedicated. It was a very enjoyable experience, so I may consider doing a few more of these next year, visiting different schools around the region. There's nothing more rewarding than talking to people who read your books and want to learn something from you. I also understand a good many authors supplement their book earnings from doing school visits and social appearances, so that would be a bonus!
The following Saturday, I was in Waterstones, speaking with customers and signing books. It's the most rewarding part of the job and makes the many hundreds of hours sitting in a room on your own worth while. During my time at Waterstones, the local press turned up and I carried out a ten minute interview and then had five minutes being photographed, feeling special, being manipulated into several awkward poses. During the interview I was asked many questions, and one inevitably came up with regards to what was next. "Well," I said, "for now, The Girl in the Mirror is finished, I have no immediate plans to follow-it up with another part, though may return to Sophie Jennings some day. But in regards to writing, there's still a few tales left in me. Next up is a horror novella, which I plan to bring out sometime next year. I'm also working on a 'how to' book, on novel writing and self-publishing."
As I mentioned in my interview with the East Anglian Daily Times, the next book I publish will be a horror story, which I hope to release either in the summer or around Halloween next year. I've been working on it for a little while now, and it's based on a short story I wrote more than twenty years ago. It's started out as a novella, but may stretch into a novel as time goes on; I've written two chapters so far and it's already over 10,000 words in length (to put into context, The Whisper of Persia was 140,000 words in total!). I'm keeping schtum on the title for the time being, but expect to announce it sometime early next year (along with it's cover - which has already been created).
In respect of the 'how to' guide, it's more of a manual on publishing a novel independently, using my experience as an author, highlighting the pitfalls of publishing, and 'laying down thick' what you should expect if you choose to follow your dreams as an author (like me). It will be a brually honest account, unlike many manuals and guides on the market today which seem to paint such a rosy picture for the humble novel writer.
Beyond next year, who's to know what's next. I have a great idea for a new action adventure series, but it all depends on how well The Girl in the Mirror series does in sales. Although I love writing, and I'm very happy for just a couple of hundred die-hard fans to read me (and money does not motivate me), thus far the cost of producing the books vastly outweighs the income generated, so it all depends on financial constraints. Maybe someone can set up a fund-me campain to keep me going; better still, tell all your friends how great my books are and encourage them to buy them. The eBook of The Girl in the Mirror only costs 0.99p/0.99c at the moment... a couple of thousand sales of that would easily keep me going for a while longer...