Reflections on a busy year

As the end of 2015 approaches, it seems timely to reflect on the year’s events and the lessons learned to take forward into 2016. After all, it is the festive season; a time to spend with family, to catch up with friends, to drink just a few too many sherries and snowballs (amongst other things). It is also a good time to stop and think about everything I have achieved so far on this ever-so-slightly-surreal-and-crazy-journey, and perhaps just as importantly, those elusive matters which either continue to challenge me, or remain outside of my grasp altogether.

Undoubtedly, my biggest achievement was publishing my first novel. Months later, I still feel super proud when I see its front cover shining from my bookshelf. It was a pleasure to research and to craft; it was a labour of love. Indeed, I enjoyed it so much, I’m doing it all over again!! Writing and publishing a book was a goal I set for myself a couple of years ago, and to have achieved it is still immensely satisfying. In addition, it is equally wonderful to read or hear great feedback about my book – so many people have told me that they enjoyed it, either verbally or by leaving me a nice review on Goodreads, Amazon etc. For a writer, I don’t think there is anything better than that.

Inevitably, there have been less positive moments. The first third of 2015 I focussed very hard on trying to muster some agent/publisher interest in my book. Now, I will say that I had no illusions of success when doing this. I knew it would be tough, that my chances of getting my book ‘picked up’ in the traditional sense were probably about as good as the odds of winning this week’s lotto. Nonetheless, I  researched agencies and picked out those whose interests matched my novel, worked hard on my pitches, and jumped through all the various format hoops required to get my work to be merely glanced at. And the result was…a handful of rejection letters, some polite and considerate, others sloppy – in my opinion, phrases such as ‘thanks but I think I’ll pass’ don’t belong in a professional rejection letter, but maybe that’s just me. And those were the ones who replied – quite a number of others didn’t even bother.

But do you know what, I published my book anyway. The beauty of this modern age of self-publishing is that agents and publishers no longer get to decide what work sees the light of day and what is doomed to linger on the proverbial dusty shelf. Self-publishing means you get to circumvent that entire process, that you are empowered to put your own work out there (with the potential for increased royalties per sale, I might add). So, next time, when it comes to publishing book two, I’m skipping those well-crafted pitches, those polite but persuasive pleas for consideration. This is my work; I’ll take control of it.

Of course, empowerment is all well and good, but the downside to self-publishing is that you don’t have a grand machine behind you to do the marketing. This is something which continues to challenge me, and which I am aware I will need to become more creative about as I head towards publishing my second novel. It’s great that you can put your own work out there, but how do you get people to know about it? I’ll be honest; I’m pretty useless at self-promotion and I know it’s something I need to work on. But on the bright side I’ve also learnt a lot this year, some of which I’ve put into practice through Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads giveaways, other things I still need to work on, such as using my blog more effectively. I’ll get there in the end, I’m sure.

One thing is for certain – 2016 will see the release of my second book, the sequel to The Gisburn Witch. I will see you all along the road. Best wishes for 2016.

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