An aspiring writer friend asked me; How does it feel, being a published author? Where to begin… It’s been just over a year since Wicked Games was published. In that time, it’s sold a respectable few thousand copies and I’ve signed a major book deal with Thomas Dunne in the US, published a trilogy of historical novellas with Mills and Boon, had a paranormal novella series accepted with Xcite Books, got a contract with Harlequin for my first crime novel, and written two writing guides on the back of being taken on as a writing tutor for the Writers Bureau. Modesty aside, that’s pretty damn good. Especially considering that I was lucky enough to get an agent and a book deal within a few months of deciding to try my luck at ‘being a writer’. So I didn’t have to go through the horrible round of rejections before getting that first deal (though I’ve had a few since). So yeah, that’s pretty life-changing right?
Well, kind of. The thing with being a writer is that it is, by nature, a solitary pursuit. Getting your first deal is the best feeling in the world, that ‘I’ve made it!’ moment that personally turned me into a crying, gibbering idiot for a few days.
The thing is, nobody much cares but you. And of course, your family and friends, but they will soon get fed up of hearing about it. Getting your first deal is like winning the X Factor, only the audience has gone home and the judges have fell asleep.
Then there’s the hard work. Writing a book isn’t easy, as I’m going to discuss in the next post. It can be downright torture. And there’s the long wait between signing that contract and seeing the book on the shelf. Not to mention the fact that you’ll be waiting a long time for that royalty check and, in an economy where publishers are paying smaller advances and are running scared from the indie press/self-publishing/ebook era, you’re not going to become a millionaire overnight. If ever. I wasn’t really prepared for all of this, and there have been times over the past year when I’ve wondered if being a published author is all it’s cracked up to be, and if dreams aren’t sometimes better remaining as just that.
Then, there are those defining moments that make it worth it. Seeing my book in the library, in the major bookstores, even on my grandmothers shelf. In my local Waterstones…
Having usually reticent family members get all emotional and tell you how proud they are. Getting interviewed for the papers and radio, if it’s a big publisher. (I made the Daily Mail in the end, but started with the local Telegraph, which is more usual). Reading good reviews (let’s not talk about bad ones….) getting a stall or even a speaking slot at literary festivals, your book launch (mine was at the Alley Cat club in London, see below) and having people you may never meet, in different countries, Tweet or Facebook you to say how much they enjoyed your book. Meeting other authors you’ve long admired and realizing you’re now one of them.
So there are highs, and there are lows. There’s an emotional cost, especially when you’re in the middle of writing a book and your children think they’re orphans and your partner feels like your having an affair. Some people will amaze you with their pettiness and jealousy. I personally had a sister-in-law who has never been particularly fond of me decide to post horrible reviews of my book all over the internet (without actually bothering to, like, read it). She still hasn’t apologized, and probably never will. Such stories are far from rare. Other writers who have yet to be published may hate you. In short, you have to grow a thick skin pretty quickly, and as most writers tend to be ‘sensitive types’ that’s not easy either.
But I’m not trying to put you off. A year in, I’m not bailing any time soon (I’m on a deadline and under contract for a start). I’m just warning all those chasing that first deal…it will change your life, but not in the ways you might expect. Will it be worth it?