Reviewed by Jon Owens
I once had something of a mantra as an aspiring novelist – that I would push all efforts into conventional publishing routes and try desperately to get my work into print. Weather the inevitable storm of “thank you, but no thanks” responses from Literary Agents and Publishing Houses until I finally cracked it. However with this particular novel, A Terrible Beauty is Born, that process started over a year ago. After dozens of automated replied, many with nothing back whatsoever, and several more encouraging “we really like the concept but we’re not taking on new writers” I finally succumbed. Initially to the waves of self-deprecation and rage that I’m sure most new writers encounter, and then to an admission that self-publishing might be the way to go.
One of the main reasons behind this was that as a writer I like, wait for it, writing. I poured many hours into Terrible Beauty after completion during the dreaded process of ‘editing’. I was even fortunate in having the input of my writers’ group for additional thoughts and corrections, especially that of Mark Dolphin (another nudge reviewer) who edited the manuscript from start-to-finish. And once that’s all said and done, what I really wanted to be doing was writing my next novel. So I came to the conclusion that Kindle, and some suitable engagement with social media channels, would at least put my book out there rather than rotting in a figurative drawer.
Which leads neatly onto the process itself. In all fairness to Amazon, the process of uploading is pretty much as straightforward as it can be. Part of me rebelled at the simplicity, as surely if there was this little challenge in having your work online then it’s less of an achievement. Though doubtless had it been a horrendous trial of html formatting and swearing then I would have had other complaints.
So I now have a novel (self) published. And I now have cause to appreciate how complex a role the marketing department of publishing houses have. I can tweet about it, but with a distinct lack of followers that’s a hiding to nothing. Message Facebook groups that are relevant (in my case Irish community websites, especially in the US and Australia). But that doesn’t mean anyone will read it. Email e-magazines, irritate my editor here on Nudge, and demand that friends and colleagues share it on their walls.
All of this merely leads to a semi-obsessive checking of the month-to-date sales, much sighing, and a desperate scrabble around for another route to market. Which is ironic, given the intention was to free me up to write rather than thrust myself into the foreign world of sales and marketing.
Overnight expectations shift. When I first decided to self-publish the idea was never that I’d gain thousands of sales overnight and never have to work again (though there’s always a tiny part of your brain quoting back to you every news story like that you've ever read). But I did not count on two things. First, the utter gut-churning terror of strangers now being able to read your work. I’ve been writing for over ten years now, and have had friends and family (and friends of family) reading from the best to the worst of my work. This novel is the best to date. Yet now anyone can read it? Truly terrifying. I now have a new appreciation of the impact writing a negative book review can have on an author, whether it’s deserved or not.
The second thing is the obsession with checking the Kindle reporting. Anyone bought it yet? Anyone? Yes! Anyone else? Haven’t checked it for an hour, maybe it’s sold a million? No. Maybe in the next hour. And so the cycle continues.
I approached self-publishing as an easy alternative to doing nothing with my novel ever again. With a laissez-faire attitude that would mean I could rapidly move on to the next grand idea. Little did I realise the subconscious impact by work just being ‘out there’ would have. How many people have now read it, and crucially how many enjoyed it? It’s changed my whole outlook on the process, and entirely undermined the hope of moving on and not thinking about the last novel whilst working on the next one.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I just need to check my reports again…
Jon Owens works in the Electricity Industry, and as a possible reaction to its tedious nature has been reading and writing extensively since University. Jon's favourite genre is Historical Fiction, as even after four years of reading Military History at Aberystwyth University learning about new periods has never lost its allure. And what better way than through the medium of well researched fiction? As such Jon's bookshelves are littered with novels that cover over 2000 years of history, as well as a smattering of Sci-Fi and Fantasy.
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