5 things that have surprised me about being a published writer by Jessica Redland

jessica-close-up-stripesWhen I started submitting my manuscript to publishers and agents back in 2013/2014, I have to admit that my only focus was on getting “the call” (or email) to say that someone loved my book and wanted to represent me. What I didn’t think about at any point during that process – or even at any point after I did receive “the email” – was what would happen next. Obviously I thought about my book being edited, a cover coming to life, and my ‘baby’ making his way into the world, but I didn’t really think beyond that. Therefore, there were some things took me by surprise and I thought I’d share them with you.

 

Surprise 1: Reviews

The surprise wasn’t that I would get reviews; the surprise was the content of the reviews. Before I became published, I confess that I never, ever read a review of a book as part of _MG_9715my purchasing decision. Quite simply, if I liked the sound of the blurb or the book was recommended by someone I knew with similar reading tastes to me, I’d buy it. Therefore, I had no idea that there are readers out there who will take the time and trouble to write an essay about a book they’ve loved. They’ll explain the plot in their own words, they’ll talk about the things they loved, they’ll share their emotional journey (laughter/tears) and there are even some who give their favourite quotes. Wow! That’s serious dedication. Book bloggers do this as part of their more detailed review process but it’s non-bloggers I’m talking about here. How amazing and incredibly flattering. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

The downside is negative reviews, but let’s not dwell on those 😉

 

Surprise 2: Reactions of friends & family

My mum and a small core of friends have been absolutely amazing. They’ve provided Printbeta-reading services, have promoted the book to other friends and family, and regularly ask how the writing is going, desperate to get their hands on my next release. This is lovely. And some friends who I didn’t expect to be enthusiastic have been. I’m a Brown Owl and some of my leadership team aren’t big readers but they bought my first novel and sent me texts raving about it, begging for the subsequent books. Another wow moment!

 

Surprise 3: The valuable support from other writers

When the Write Romantics was established 4.5 years ago, only one of the ten of us had a publishing deal. Now we are all either traditionally or indie published which is conf 2014 10incredible. As we’re based all over the country, we have a closed Facebook group where we chat to each other about the ups and downs of writing. I have to say, I had no idea that this group would be so valuable. Advice is shared, encouragement is given, and there are lots of virtual hugs when things aren’t going so well. I’m not sure where I’d be without my writing friends.

 

Surprise 4: How the goalposts have changed

When I first started writing, my goal was simply to write a book. Then it became to write a trilogy because my story lent itself to that. Then it became to get a publishing deal. I achieved all of these things but the goalposts kept shifting which I suppose is inevitable; you achieve your dreams so you create new ones.

P1070015I wanted to break the Top 10,000 on Amazon and, when I did that, I wanted to crack the top 1,000, then the Top 100 … Actually, that one still remains a goal for me and, if I’m really honest (which I always am), breaking the top 10,000 is still a goal most days for my books.

For a while, I became quite obsessed with sales figures and chart positions and it started to really get me down so I’ve stopped looking. Okay, you’ve got me, I haven’t stopped looking but I don’t look very often and I don’t obsess about it because I’ve accepted that there’s not a lot I can do about it. I’ve changed my covers, I’ve changed my categories, I’ve run promotions (free and 99p), and I’ve gone all out on social media yet nothing seems to make any lasting impact. Yes, a 99p deal and particularly a free deal will get a flurry of downloads, but it drops back to ‘normal’ after that and, as ‘normal’ is nothing to write home about, the only way I’m going to shift more copies is to permanently make my work free. Hmmm. And this nicely brings me onto the final surprise…

 

Surprise 5: I still have absolutely no idea what makes a book sell

I’ve had a successful career and have always prided myself at being really good at my day job. I’ve managed large budgets, sizeable teams, and huge workloads successfully. I therefore thought that I’d be able to emulate the same success as a writer. *Pauses to roll eyes and shake head at extreme naivety.* It hasn’t quite worked like that.

Ad3 (2017)The more I read and the more I chat to other writers, the more it becomes apparent that most writers can’t pinpoint why their books sell when other equally good books don’t. Is it the covers? The blurb? The title? The setting? The categories on Amazon? The length of the book? The number of reviews? Social media presence? Promotions? Who knows! Nobody can seem to put their finger on what specifically has led to success.

This is linked to the previous surprise and, therefore, you won’t be surprised to hear that I became quite down to the point where I thought about giving up. This thought circulated my mind for probably about five minutes because, let’s face it, I couldn’t not write. It’s who I am and I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t spend hours with my fictional friends, creating problems for them and then making it all better by giving them their happy ever after. However, I do think that I’m one of those writers for whom it’s not going to happen. Those who read my books and take the time to leave a review seem to love them so I’m obviously doing something right as far as the stories go. It’s just obviously everything else that I’m doing wrong! I’ll keep trying, though, and maybe one day I will be one of those who does achieve that chart-topping success and can’t pinpoint how or why I achieved it. Is it too early to ask Santa for this?

 

What about you? If you’re a writer, do you agree with my five surprises? What else has surprised you about becoming published? Even better, do you know the secret to why books sell? Please tell me. I promise I won’t tell anyone else! 😉

If you’re a reader, what makes you buy a book because I’d welcome any tips?

Thanks for reading my ramblings. Hope you enjoy the rest of your summer.

Jessica xx

You can access Jessica’s books on Kindle here.

Mega Monday: Remarkable Things are happening for Harriet!

‘The call’ from Laurence at Crooked Cat – well, an email actually – came on a Friday afternoon. I’d finished with the computer for the day, then later I happened to wander past it – no hand-held technology for me – and thought I’d have another quick check for emails and Facebook chat, like you do. And there it was.
To say that the call had been a long time coming would be an understatement. Not that Crooked Cat were anything but speedy. Once they’d requested the full manuscript of ‘Remarkable Things’, it was only a matter of a week or so before the offer of publication arrived. But behind that trailed a paperchase of submissions, each slightly different from the one before (the query letter never seems quite right, does it?) and each sent out with a big dose of faith and renewed hope. But that’s all in the past now, at least it is for this book, and how strange it feels to be saying that!
So what do you do after the call? Well, you jump up and down a bit, a lot, actually, and then you just want to be quiet, disappear into yourself and take it all in, or try to. At least that’s how it was for me. This is after you’ve saved the precious email and its attachments in at least two places and printed it out in case it disappears in a puff of smoke, leaving only a smirking ‘ha ha, got you!’ in its place.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the Saturday morning, feeling restless and still in a bit of a dream, I went into town and bought a new notebook and a shiny orange box file in which to keep said print-outs. I always buy a new notebook when I start writing a new book; new chapters call for new stationery, and I was certainly beginning a new chapter.
I’m not superstitious, at least the real me isn’t. But this Harriet person, she’s not averse to a bit of witchery, apparently, because it wasn’t long after I took her on as my writing persona that I got the offer from Crooked Cat. I wrote about the ‘real’ Harriet in an earlier blog post called ‘Harriet, writing and me’ and I reckon she was smiling down on me and sending me the luck of the black cat. Yes, all right, I know, but it’s a nice thought.
I’ve had such wonderful messages of congratulations from all over, particularly from the friendly authors at Crooked Cat. Already I feel like part of a family, and I think we’re a good fit.
The hard work really begins now. There will be edits, and all manner of stuff I’m not familiar with, and amid all the excitement, somehow I have to find time to write…
We cracked open the champagne last Sunday when the family came, and lovely it was, too. Cheers, everyone!

Harriet x

Six Year Badge of Honour – Jules Wake’s Apprenticeship in the NWS

We’re delighted to welcome Jules Wake to the Saturday Spotlight. As members and graduates of the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme, we’re always fascinated to hear stories of how other NWS members secure an agent, a publishing deal or both.

Between us, we range from Year 2 to Year Too Many To Recall in the NWS! Today, Jules is going to talk to us about her six years on the scheme. If you’re on the scheme now, we’re sure this will be great encouragement for you and, if you’re thinking about joining, it should help you make that firm decision too.

Over to Jules and some lovely pictures from her book launch …

Me at book launchAt the moment just having had my debut novel published, thanks to the NWS, I’m in the handy position of having four more complete books tucked away in my bottom drawer and I’m a quarter of the way through the sixth. This is my journey to publication via the wonderful NWS.

Year 1

One of the biggest mistakes new writers make is that they keep re-visiting and polishing their first work. I guess I was lucky in that my first submission to the New Writers Scheme, in the days when you were offered two reads, did get a second read. Both reports were glowing and suggested I try to get an agent.

It meant that if I wanted to stay in the RNA I needed to sign up for the NWS the next year. I was determined to submit a full manuscript so I started a new novel for that year.

Year 2

The feedback this time wasn’t so wonderful. When it first dropped through the letterbox a scant five days after I’d submitted it to Melanie Hilton, I felt that the report got it wrong. One of the reader’s views was that it was too much of a ‘cross-genre’ and there were various other criticisms. After such a glowing report the previous year, this was quite a set back and for a week I took it very personally.

CupcakesAnd that is one of the hardest parts of being a writer, taking and acting on constructive criticism. But, and this is a very big but, why bother asking an expert if you’re not going to act upon it or at least listen with an open mind to what they have to say?

After a week of feeling aggrieved, I re-read the report and applied myself to re-writing the ms and addressing the points my reader had made.  I learnt a huge amount from that report, although at the time I didn’t realise it. Today I re-read it and with what I know now, I can see that it was very honest, bang on the money and offered lots of constructive criticism that luckily I did take on board.

Year 3

The disappointment of Year 2 made me start a third novel, which again didn’t get a second read from the NWS but again I received several pages of hugely useful advice. Reading that critique now, it’s so obvious that its painful – the book suffered from a lack of clear understanding of the characters motivations and goals. I could write, I could plot and I could complete a 100K word manuscript but I just didn’t have a good handle on the technical aspects of novel writing.

Bookends 1Year 4

So onto year 4 of the New Writers Scheme and a new book. Again only one read but lots of suggestions and advice. This time I took notice.

Year 5

With other commitments I knew I wouldn’t get another book written ready for the August deadline, so I decided to focus on a re-write of book 4 addressing all of the points raised in the report. To my delight I received two glowing reports, along with that all invaluable advice and tips.

I made amendments and sent this ms out to agents. Lo and behold not one but two agents asked for a full. I was thrilled to bits … until they both came back with a polite rejection. One of them, however had taken the trouble to give a considerable amount of feedback. I wrote back thanking her for her time and expressing gratitude for her comments and asked if she would mind if I submitted my next book the following year. In hindsight this was a smart move. One it told the agent, I was serious about writing, two that I was business-like, three that I could write a book a year and four gave me an opening the following year with her.

Donna & IYear 6

I submitted my application to re-join the NWS in 2013 and then three weeks into January got the email! An invite to meet a publisher I’d submitted my first NWS book to. It had undergone a considerable re-write, principally because Choc Lit ask for the male POV and I’d written it all in first person.

Choc Lit offered me a contract and my debut novel Talk To Me came out in paperback on June 6 of this year.

I still had my NWS membership so decided to submit book 5 for what would be my last time. The report was the best yet, with the line ‘Frankly if you don’t find a publisher with this I’ll eat my hat!’

Again there were a few constructive points which I took on board and then I started submitting to agents. Three carefully chosen ones, all of whom I had been submitting to each year. I didn’t hear a thing. Three months later I decided to have one last shot at getting an agent and picked out five suitable targets. (I could write a whole other blog on targeting an agent)

I sent out five submissions on the Thursday. On Monday I received a call from a top London literary agent asking if I’d had their email. What email? Would you believe possibly one of the most important emails of my life had gone into my spam box! She wanted to read the full ms.

Would you believe it, two days later one of the original agents came back and requested the full ms? Unfortunately I’d just sent it off on an exclusive basis. What to do? Admit that? Would she then still want it, if the other agent subsequently rejected it? In the meantime another agent expressed interest … honestly it was like buses!

To cut a long story short (yes another possible blog post), both agents were at the RNA party a week later and I was able to meet and chat with both. I knew as soon as I got chatting to one of them, that she was someone I could work with.

So I now have an agent and one published book. I’d have achieved neither without the RNA’s amazing New Writers Scheme. I don’t know any of my readers but I offer a heart-felt thanks to every single one of them, for the time they took to read my ms and the detailed, honest and constructive feedback that they provided with absolutely no obligation.

Those reports can be absolute gold dust, I urge you to read, re-read and take note of the positives as well as the negatives. Most of all, I really do suggest you don’t keep re-visiting and resubmitting the same novel.

 

Thanks to Jules for joining us and sharing. We were delighted to have the opportunity to meet her during the recent RNA Conference and hear more about her personal journey to publication so it’s great to be able to have her as a blog guest.

 

You can follow Jules on Twitter @juleswake, link to her Amazon page, or read more on her website or blog

Jessica xx

The Wednesday Wondering – Let the Panic Commence!

Last week we explored the positives about becoming published by asking The Write Romantics, “What are you most looking forward to about being a published writer?” This week, we look at the flip side of that question and ask:

What worries you about becoming a published author?

Just like last week, there are some common themes. Here’s what the group have to say …

 

HELEN R:

Managing my writing worries me and the promoting aspect, but I think that this is because it’s something entirely new. It’s exciting at the same time and I hope that once I start on that road, it will become a lot clearer. I do admire writers such as Lynne Connolly who seems to have a good business mind as well as her creative mind. When I look at the RNA Romna chat it can be quite scary to see all the issues that we, as published writers, will have to face one day but the good thing is that the forum is so open and helpful and I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for help. 

 

DEIRDRE:

Yes, well, there’s certainly plenty to worry about…  I’m basically quite shy, though I’ve learned to hide it over the years.  Whether I can hide it enough not to appear a blithering idiot when I meet all those new people that will surely be required must be severely in doubt.  I don’t have a public face, I’m not photogenic and, quite honestly, the publicity side of things scares me more than a bit.  Then there’s the writing itself.  It isn’t one book that’s expected, it’s a whole bunch of them.  Can I write another as good, if not better, than the first?  Will the published book crash out and lead my agent/publisher to drop me like the proverbial hot brick before I’ve barely started?  And so it goes on… Somebody remind me why I’m doing this?

 

ALEX:

Deadlines!

 

LYNNE:

As a published writer I’d worry about my next book not being as good as the last. I was going to say I went to a boot fair and saw loads of Jodie Picoult books for 20p. At first I thoought that would worry me, cos she wouldn’t get any royalties from those sales, but then I thought she must have sold loads for them to be there in the first place and there must be many like me, who bought their first of hers for 20p then went on to buy loads of her backlist for my kobo.
 
 
JAXX:
 
What worries me most is not being able to keep up with the promotions side- blogs, facebook etc and heaven forbid that I have to do a book signing or a talk. I’m breaking out in a sweat just thinking about it.
 
 
HELEN P:
 
What I’m most worried about once it’s published is, what if everyone hates it and what if my second book is a load of old rubbish.
 
 
JULIE:
 
Very similar to Helen P’s, I’m worried about becoming published and my book not doing well; critiques panning it, sales figures being poor etc. Because getting published is such a huge deal in itself and can take years and huge numbers of rejections, the last thing you want to do is feel ‘rejected’ once you actually achieve your life’s goal!
 
 
Scary stuff eh? But I’m sure we’ll take it all in our stride if (WHEN!) we get there. Through Romna, the Romantic Novelists Association’s online community, there’s an incredible amount of support and guidance from those who’ve felt the fear and done it anyway … and usually come out the other side unscathed! 
 
If you’re published, please join in and let us know what you were afraid of and how you’ve overcome your worries. Or perhaps you’re still working on it!
 
Julie
xxx

The Wednesday Wondering – Let the Excitement Commence!

That’s it. Summer’s over. Well, for those with kids of school-age, it is. Personally, I think back to school is a fabulous excuse to buy some new stationery. Not for my daughter … for me! There are lots of gorgeous pads, pens and folders out there in great 3 for 2 offers or on discount. Heaven.

Anyway, I’m straying away from the point. This week I’ve set the question and The Wednesday Wondering asks us to imagine we’ve made it and have become published. I feel the need to think positively and want to believe it’s going to happen to us all. This actually isn’t too big an ask for Write Romantic Helen P whose debut novel, The Ghost House, will be released on 2nd October. That’s less than a month away. How incredibly exciting! For the rest of us, we’re at various stages from awaiting our first NWS report to preparing for our first agent submission to anxiously awaiting a “yes” from an agent or publisher.

The question is in two parts. This week, we’ve asked:

What are you most looking forward to about being a published writer?

Next week we’ll look at the other side of the coin and explore our worries about becoming published.

Here’s what eight of the Write Romantics have to say and I think you can probably spot a few themes coming out …

 

JO:

I am most looking forward to the increased sense of self belief I will (hopefully) get that things like that really do happen to people like me – not so sure right now!

 

HELEN P:

What I’m most looking forward to is the knowledge that my book is out there and there is no point in worrying about it anymore, but most importantly no more rewrites!!

 

JAXX:

I’m most looking forward to people finally reading the stories I’ve been writing for so long – and hopefully enjoying them.

 

JULIE:

Turning something I’m absolutely passionate about into my career. Being able to write every day and be able to say, “I’m working” instead of the expectation being that my writing needs to take back seat to everything else because “it’s just a hobby”. Seeing my book in a shop. Seeing someone reading my book (although probably less likely these days given the growing popularity of e-readers). I’m taking my first big step on the world to publication today. By the end of today, I’ll have made my first agent submission. Could that be one step closer to these things being a reality?! Eek

 

LYNNE:

I’m most looking forward to saying to family, ‘I’m not washing up – I’m at work!’ cos the housework gets dumped on me cos I’m home all day. Not sure it would if I was a man!

 

ALEX:

People taking my writing seriously and not treating it as a hobby that’s taken over my life. 

 

DEIRDRE:

I must say I admire Julie’s faith in posing this question.  But she’s right of course – we WILL be published, those of us who aren’t already, and we must keep the faith, otherwise, in the words of Private Frazer from Dad’s Army, we’re doomed!  This is one thing I look forward to as a published writer, the change of mindset from believing and hoping I can do this to knowing I can. It must be the best feeling ever.  There will be an element of ‘I told you so’ as well. We’ve all been confronted with the Doubting Thomases who, when they hear you’re writing a book, give you that head-tilted smile and tell you how great it is that you’ve got a little hobby. But the ultimate prize for me will be seeing that book with my name on it sitting on a shelf in a shop, although I shall probably pass out on the spot from excitement and have to be manhandled out of Smith’s by a paramedic. Oh, and making a bit of money, of course. Now that would be nice…

 

HELEN R:
Not mumbling “I write”…”I’m trying to write a novel”… or other such similar responses when people ask what I do. When I was studying it was an easy response, when I wrote freelance for magazines and got published it was easy to say what I did, so I look forward to the day that I can say in a much bigger voice that I am an author!

Your turn now. If you’re a writer, what would your answer be? If you’re a reader, what do you think would be the most exciting thing for your favourite author? Please join in by clicking on the heart next to the title to open up the comments box at the bottom of the posting. If you don’t have a response, perhaps you have a Wondering you’d like us to use in future weeks. 

Don’t forget to come back again next Wednesday (11th) to see what worries us most about becoming published.

Happy September!

Julie

xx