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Bookish. Publisher at Louise Walters Books. Reader, writer, and editor.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Don't look down...

Last week I wrote about my tussle with vanity while deciding whether to self-publish my second novel. I've kind of got over worrying about vanity now... well, all right, I'm still a little worried about it. And the reason is, I have nobody backing me up with this project. With my first novel, while most publishers weren't falling over themselves to buy it, one of them in the end did, and it felt absolutely amazing. The publisher, although I wasn't truly aware of it at the time, provided a huge safety net. There was that oh-so-important validation from a publisher willing to take a chance on the book and pay to publish it. It's the one thing that scares me about self-publishing more than anything else. With a commercial publisher the writer gets that first seal of approval: we like this novel, hell, we love it. We believe in it. We are going to stump up the cash to publish it and what's more, we are going to pay you the author an advance and royalties.

As a self-publisher, it's just you and nothing much beneath you but solid ground. I can forgive myself the odd spell of dizziness, nausea and weak-kneed terror.

Don't look down...

Once A Life Between Us is out there, I'm prepared for the reviews citing my work as a self-published vanity project. I know that accusation is going to be thrown at me, and I'm prepared for it. It won't be nice, but it will be expected. In one sense it matters not a jot... every book ever published gets one star reviews from readers who, for a myriad of reasons, just didn't enjoy it. OK, our first one star review is bewildering, hurtful... even a little bit soul-destroying. Actually, all our one star reviews hurt, but I've learned not to take them personally. I also remind myself that I don't write my novels for those particular readers. I write for the readers who enjoy my writing and who sometimes kindly leave 4 or 5 stars, or even 3.

I've also learned to tell the difference between a genuine one star review - somebody who reads but doesn't enjoy the book - from a fake one star review: those "readers" who would give it one star regardless, those who in all probability haven't even read the book, the plain trolling one starrers... they exist, sadly. My first novel received a two star rating before the proofs had even been printed, let alone sent out.

Yet, commercially published authors have a sense of refuge. Our publisher brought out the book, not us. We can blame the publisher if sales and reviews are poor - they didn't market the book properly; they didn't market the book at all; they didn't work hard enough on the editing; they picked an awful cover. Whatever. There is somebody else there, often the might of a Big Five publisher, and the burden of responsibility is shared, or even lifted completely. Not so when you go it alone. Even with assisted self-publishing, there is little validation. OK, assisted publishing firms don't take on every single manuscript that comes their way, but nor do they have acquisition meetings where an editor fights tooth and nail for a novel they love and believe in.

So what to do about this lack of validation? I think all I can do is ensure I bring out the very best novel I'm capable of. Nobody can ask for more. Some readers will enjoy it and that will be the most valuable validation of all. It's all about the readers in the end; they are who we write for.

Next week I'll talk about my experiences of the self-publishing process so far, including my favourite task to date... helping to choose the cover image (but no reveal just yet...)

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