Here’s to embracing my inner tortoise. Hello Mr Hare, would you like to try some Mogadon?

Hello and today it’s time for a rant. It’s the end of August. Tomorrow it’s back to zero sales, the brown band of shame will be mocking me from my KDP reports page. I’ve long since abandoned hope of selling a single book anywhere but Amazon – despite my best efforts.

You know, I believe you can make your own luck. Except that I also know that, in reality, the only thing you can control in your life is the way you react to what happens. But I think that if you can delude yourself you are in control, you’ll probably make a better fist of it.

On to my books, or significant lack thereof. One of the many things I’m doing wrong, not writing a book every month. Instead, I’d like to share my frustration, if I may, at my complete inability to do… well… anything. Because if the Not Very Good Club of Great Britain hadn’t become so successful that it was no longer not very good any more and had to shut own, I’d put forward my online bookselling skills as my reason to join.

You see, my books have stopped selling. For the last two months I’ve made one sale. Thank you, whoever you are. Obviously, this is my fault but the more I read around to see what I can do to improve, the more obvious it becomes that the thing you need in self publishing, on top of talent, in abundance, is time. So that’s me fucked. I seldom have 2 hours a day to write, let along to do social media.

Time, for me, is up there with unicorn shit.

So, writing a book takes a long time. Seriously though, I’m particularly short of time at the moment, there’s been no social networking, I’ve not sorted any reviews and the sales free months do point to a correlation between doing those things and er… not. Oh dear, so, interfacing with my readers. Mmm… there’s a box left un-ticked.

While we’re at it. Another piece of frequently given advice. Write what sells. So that’s vampire novels, erotica and thrillers.

Oh bollocks. Double jeapordy – a quote from the Constant Gardener there (check me, I’m highbrow). The fact is I can make more money writing corporate puff so if I want to write something I’m not really fired up to write, I’ll write web copy, thank you very much.

So… what can I learn by picking through the twisted girders and dust that comrpise the Ground Zero of my literary aspirations?

Thing 1: Don’t start with a trilogy, not right off the blocks. Trilogies are really hard to write because basically, what you’re looking at is a 400,000 word book. That’s like telling your cookery teacher, at your first lesson, that you won’t cook jam tarts, you’ll cook that thing with the smoke and the iPod to listen to that Heston Blumental serves.

It’s hard to keep track of who has done what, when and to whom, in a book, especially when it’s 400,000 words long. If you are bringing up a small child at the same time – which, as anyone who has attempted it knows – is the equivalent of having your brains stirred, constantly with a giant wooden spoon, it’s monumentally stupid. The more you have to remember, the longer it takes to get back into it again when you stop. Which I have to. A lot.

The secret then, is to write lots of shorter stories. If I hadn’t published the first one in blind panic, afraid that I’d be last to market, that’s what I’d have done. Ah. Never mind. It’s a good plan. One I fully intend to exploit when I finish this wretched trilogy. So, my own advice, write short things and for the love of God, if you must write a trilogy out of the gate and don’t publish ANY of it until it’s FINISHED. yes, I published my first book in 2010. I should have been publishing it next year.

Write a series if you must, but go for stand alone books. Trust me on this one, Aunty MT has well and truly stuffed this up so that you don’t have to.

Then there’s the working hard thing. The fact is, I am a stay at home Mum and I write… well, actually I write because I can’t not. That’s why I call myself an authorholic; because it’s like a bad crack habit. If I worked at it like a job, 9 – 5 it would probably take me a bout 6 months to write each book, which is lucky because doing the Mum thing I have much less time than that. So to find the ‘six months’ required takes me about 2 years. Not feasible for a publisher then.

Even so, it seems sensible to do something with the crap I spew out, and so I get it professionally edited, get ritzy covers done and then I publish it myself. I hope to succeed, no, scratch that, I hope to write a book that is so good it will succeed on its own merits. Hey, I actually KNOW I’ve written a decent book but heaven knows, though I give it my all, I’m piss poor at selling the bloody thing. Let’s qualify that, I can sell it to random strangers on the street, at social events, signings etc but online? Nah.

Which brings me neatly onto the social networking aspect. OK I have a smart phone now so Twitter is easier but bloody hell. How do these people do it? Write a well conceived, sensibly thought out blog post every day while being a full time carer or a full time parent and publish books on top. Jeez. I’m in awe. I’m floored. Hats off folks you deserve to succeed. I just… I mean… how  is it possible?

There is a way around social networking hell. Skim, drop in the odd post, queue up lots of blog posts when you have the time. Put a timer on it – an hour, morning and evening, say and hey that’s a couple of hours left to write. However, I still find that exploiting social media (sod exploiting it, it exploits me, let’s be realistic, I’m just talking about getting the ruddy stuff to work) takes hours longer than it should. Hours. A commodity I do not have. Me, I’ve done it all wrong. I’ve made friends on line and now I spend my time talking to them. Hmm….

Having had my rant, I have to say, I’m at peace with my choice. But sometimes I feel slightly put upon, as if I am being judged for trying to write and sell my own books and have a life at the same time. But I have family and sometimes there are crises, or people are ill and they need me. Then there’s the annoying fact that I need more than 4 hours sleep a night and just… don’t have the time to pack everything into my day. But I can’t give it up. I know hard work is the answer but not at the expense of the people I love. And I know that, sure as eggs are eggs, while I strive to succeed, I am competing with people who have probably written a better book than I, who have the whole sodding day and… well… let’s say my stuff is less likely to make it big.

I’m an ex marketing manager, I know how to promote stuff and I’d say I’m quite placid and relaxed but, sometimes, even I find it hard to take the realisation that even if I cracked it with a really good novel, the difference between success and failure is, above everything, to do with the time I do not have.

So, let’s cling to the belief that I’ll manage to buck the trend; prove to the world that you can succeed in slow motion. Because lord knows that’s the only possible chance I have. I don’t begrudge anyone their success. I appreciate how hard they must have worked for it, but the fact that I do what I do in a very short day, and everything stops in school holidays, doesn’t make me any less committed, or serious. Although it might make me a bit more frustrated.

The fact is, you can set yourself deadlines but if Real Life gets too hectic you have to re-evaluate; the deadlines have to give.

Here’s to embracing my inner tortoise. Hello Mr Hare, would you like to try a Mogadon?

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14 Comments

Filed under General Wittering

14 responses to “Here’s to embracing my inner tortoise. Hello Mr Hare, would you like to try some Mogadon?

  1. Somewhat hesitantly I would like to address a factual inaccuracy here, and reassure you that even writing a large number of smaller books doesn’t necessarily work either. Unless you invest (read waste if you prefer – I do) considerable time on FB and in the Amazonian bear pit fighting with the hostile tribes and their poisoned arrows you won’t get the sales. Sadly just writing books as good as yours is no longer enough.

  2. I’m not sure writing an amazing book was ever enough. Any book that has ever been successful owes its success to people knowing about it, which essentially comes down to marketing. The problem now is that so many more people are trying to market things. When there were only about three publishers and they told us all what to read, marketing was easy, but lots of good books never saw the light of day. Now many more of those books are available, but a reader’s chances of ever finding out about them are slim. So in a way, in terms of anyone except a small handful of authors with vast marketing budgets poured into them actually getting read, nothing has changed. And on that happy note, I will end my comment 🙂

    • You two are not helping me to delude myself! Phnark. Although I absolutely agree that these days one is required to spend the day ‘networking’ or build up a ‘following’ by giving reams of your stuff away free on a site like Wattapad – which works a bit like Authonomy ie to succeed you have to have NOTHING else in your life and sleep patterns that would make Maggie Thatcher look like a slug-abed.

      AFE I agree absolutely with your take on it, too. It’s still the people with the 100,000 marketing budgets or who know someone who’s already famous that get the in… Or the people like that bloke who wrote Wool, who just release it without doing anything but who are so plastered in fairy dust it all falls into place. Sigh.

      Ho hum…..

      Cheers

      MTM

  3. MT, I’ve put both your books onto my blog Fantasy Bookcase to try and help spread their visibility, but I have to tell you that you first book ‘Few Are Chosen, K’Barthan Trilogy: Part 1’ KOBO link is not showing it and I can’t find it in the Kobo Database 😦

    Your books are at the following links on my blog:

    http://www.thestoryreadingapefantasybookcase.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/few-are-chosen-kbarthan-trilogy-part-1-by-m-t-mcguire/

    http://www.thestoryreadingapefantasybookcase.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/the-wrong-stuff-kbarthan-trilogy-part-2-by-m-t-mcguire/

    The link to the article I did about you on 10th July is at:

    http://www.thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2013/07/10/m-t-mcguire/

    Maybe it’s time for you to send me a promo for yourself and your books, that I can use in a Guest Author slot 🙂

  4. Strange, I’ve only been reading your blog a little while but I’d presumed you were a dad 🙂 I don’t have time to read anything at the moment and have to admit that if I hadn’t crowdfunded and promised to have my book out for Xmas, that it just wouldn’t happen. I need deadlines but I also need 7 hours of sleep a night. Am currently negotiating terms with the kids to do all the ironing and folding and sorting of socks !!

  5. Lynne Comery

    Hi Mary – love the blog, I found that this link to Amazon on Goodreads doesnt work – http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8732892-few-are-chosen

  6. This is a really interesting post that I think sums up the sort of frustration that many self-published authors feel. I don’t have kids, but I do have a stressful full-time job that generally involves 10 hour days and it is hard to find the time to write and edit and promote.

    Although I’d love a bit of extra time to spend doing book things, I suspect there’s a degree of diminishing returns. I’m not convinced that people who blog daily end up selling more books that people who manage it once a week, or that extra reviews add much value once you’ve gained a certain number. Once you’ve got the basics in place, I suspect a lot of the secrets of success come down to how well the book catches on with readers (which can be a very different issue to how objectively good it is) and an awful lot of luck.

    I was also interested in your comment on trilogies. Sometimes I regret having launched straight into a trilogy too, as it really does tie your hand and there are things I’d do differently if I was starting my series from scratch that it’s too late to change now. That said, I’ve found that it makes selling books quite a bit easier. A lot of people who buy my first book (or download it for free) seem to go on to buy my second without any further effort on my part. I think that effect is a lot more pronounced than that of readers buying an unrelated book from an author they’ve enjoyed. Maybe the best solution is a two part series!

    • That all makes perfect sense to me. I have found that broadly speaking, people who buy the first book read the second. I have shot myself in the foot for the duration with 1 cliffhanger endings and 2 the fact it’s incomplete. I hope and pray that when it’s done, probably about this time next year, things will be easier.

      That said, the conspicuous thing missing, these past two barren months, has been any review blog mentions which suggests that these kinds of reviews are what’s driving my sales.

      Cheers

      MTM

  7. texasdruids

    MT, I tweeted and shared your post. I sympathize with your situation. My kids are grown and most days I spend the biggest part of my time, not working on my WIP, but reading email, visiting blogs, writing articles for my own blog sites, etc. Last winter when I was pushing to finish book three in my Texas Devlins trilogy — yes, I also started out with a three-book beast — I pretty much dropped out of the social networking scene and my sales dropped through the floor. Now that I’m promoting again, the books are selling, far from well but at least a few every day. So, my advice: write as much as you can, tweet and share your blogs, and make guest appearances on other blogs.

    That said, I’d love to host you on Monday Author Meetup sometime in October or November. Please email me: lynhorner@outlook.com

    • Mr Ape 🙂 Will do. Lyn, I’d be honoured. And everyone, while I’m at it, one, I’d love to host your posts so any guest posts are welcome and two. Box 010 is open for business as of next week. So Lyn, you’re welcome to give it a go.

      Cheers

      MTM

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