Last Saturday I shared again a piece I wrote in 2015, about why we blog, and mentioned that I had followed it up back then with a companion piece that I would also rework for you. This is that post, which on re-reading needs some further comment from me, so I’ll return at the end to put things into their current context. From 10 November 2015, this is:
WRITING, FOR MORE THAN FUN
Last week, I wrote about why I write and what I and, I imagine, other bloggers aim to get out of doing this. The post generated a fair degree of interest, and has today been featured in the Blogging and Tech section of the Post-40 Bloggers website. I guess I must have said a few things that others recognised! The responses and subsequent conversations have got me thinking about my longstanding ambitions to do more with my writing. Blogging is great, don’t get me wrong, but being told that you write well – by someone who knows what they are talking about – is a huge encouragement to take it to the next level, to take some tentative bigger steps. For some time I have had an idea for something I want to do, and have been thinking about it much more in the last week.
In that previous post I mentioned the undeniable buzz that I get from seeing my words on screen, and from knowing that anyone in the world with internet access could potentially see them too. I’m sufficiently grounded not to get carried away with this, but I do want to see if I have it in me to publish something. When I retired, my boss – a man I respect and admire hugely – gave me a personal present in addition to the general gifts that I received. It was a beautiful fountain pen, and he told me it was ‘for your first book signing!’ I’d worked for him for nearly 10 years, and he knew me well! I’m not going to give any details of my plan just yet, largely because I’ll look a complete idiot if it comes to nothing, but I have already started work on what I hope will be a piece of published work. And I’m hoping that it will be my first, rather than only, piece.
What I have in mind is very much a vanity project, and I know that it is likely to be appreciated more by me than by any potential readers. But I have a slowly burning desire to see if I can actually do it and hopefully find a wider audience. The traditional route into publishing was always to find a publishing company prepared to invest in bringing your work to life in a physical book, which would then be available in bookshops, supermarkets, charity shops, remainders bins etc. The huge growth in electronic publishing over the past 10-15 years has made it much easier to get work into ‘print,’ though I imagine a great many ‘books’ never see the light of day now as tangible copies. Looking through the websites which offer these, it is obvious that the absence of a publisher’s critical, commercial eye has lowered the bar considerably. Any old rubbish can now be self-published, so why not my rubbish too? Joking aside, there are also a huge number of authors who can now publish excellent work that they might have previously been unable to do, though, and I’m a firm believer in the freedom of writers to be enabled to offer their work as widely as possible.
Knowing absolutely nothing about the process I thought it best to do a little research. I’m nowhere near completing my masterpiece, but I wanted to know what I was letting myself in for. The two formats I know best are Kindle and iBooks, so I started with them. Well, that was the plan. I ventured onto Amazon’s website and started to work my way through the copious pages of advice on how to get my writing onto every Kindle in the world. To say there’s a lot of it would be an understatement! The first potential stumbling block was that I would have to choose a price and royalty rate. But I’m not sufficiently deluded to think that anyone would ever want to pay to read anything I’ve written, so the two royalty options of 35% and 70% would amount to the same thing for me: nothing. I couldn’t see how the system coped with that, so I gave up for now and didn’t even bother looking at the corresponding Apple pages. Words like ‘cart’ and ‘horse’ were looming in my brain, anyway.
Looking ahead, I have a huge task ahead of me to get my work into a state that I regard as fit to publish. But at least when I’ve done that I can just sit back and wait for the readership figures to explode, can’t I? Er, possibly not! I follow and am followed by a number of authors on Twitter, and now have a growing band of Facebook friends who are authors. The majority of these only publish electronically, and it has been an eye-opening experience for me to see how hard they have to work to promote their books. Electronic publishing may make it easier to get your work out there, but you lose the visible, tangible route to sales in shops and need to find other promotional routes. Working on tiny budgets, paid-for advertising is usually a no-no, so how do they do it? Is this something I really want to commit myself to? I guess the big difference is that I am doing this for fun and to satisfy my ego and ambitions. Plenty of others are doing this to earn a living, with the ever-present threat of having to get a ‘real’ job if the writing doesn’t work. Clearly, the use of social media plays an important part in marketing e-published books: it is, after all, complementary. If you are aiming to sell your work online, market it online in whatever way is available to you! We’ve all seen the ‘sponsored links’ on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram et al, and virtual ‘word of mouth’ can be very advantageous. And you can try other ways too. One of my Facebook friends has recently added a YouTube video to the marketing armoury for her latest book. I think this is stunning in its use of images, music and the spoken word:
And the book is very good too!
Do I want to do this? I’m probably many months away from the time for it, but it’s an exciting prospect. Why not feed my vanity as much as I can, although I doubt I’d ever get myself onto YouTube! I’ll revisit this post as a reminder to us both if I ever get there. Wish me luck!
As is often said about politicians’ (and, recently, cricketers’) tweets, that one didn’t age well, did it? There are several points that need some updating. In order, they are:
1. I have edited out the link that took you to the Post-40 Bloggers website to see my previous effort in all its glory, as the site has closed down. I do hope it wasn’t anything I said. The web domain is apparently available for a fee of $3,395, though. How come a British website is now available for purchase in US coinage? And if its previous incarnation failed, who in their right mind is going to fork out cash for it, in any currency? But I saved the screenshot, as proof of my 15 nanoseconds in the spotlight, and it does look rather nice.
2. Are there any other self-publishing sites other than Kindle or iBooks? Six years on, I haven’t even begun looking!
3. As you may have guessed from that video, my friend Lexie writes books that fit the definition of ‘adult,’ including one she dedicated to me, so be warned if you venture into her world! Torn was her last publication of a long run throughout 2015, after which nothing was seen of her until a similar rush of publications through 2020 into January this year – she is an object lesson in writing when you feel like it! She hasn’t followed up on her promotion though: her Facebook page has gone, and she hasn’t tweeted since her latest publication in January. No doubt she’ll make her presence felt again when the spirit takes her.
The real take away for me was that it has been six years since I originally wrote that piece, and that project I mentioned has still to see the light of day. There have been numerous false starts – a good thing it isn’t a race or I’d have been disqualified by now – but the sheer enormity of the task I was taking on tends to overwhelm me each time I try. I still have all the files I created for it (thank you, One Drive) and have been looking through them again in the past few days to see if they do actually comprise the making of something or whether I was just deluding myself. I have also long harboured the germ of another idea too, and I need to see if that is worth my while taking any further. Knowing that we are approaching December, which is my busiest month on the blog, this doesn’t feel like a good time. I’ve never been one for New Year Resolutions, either, but I’m making one for myself: 2022 will be the year in which I either complete what I’m doing, or give up all hope on it. Six years on, that is the least I can do. Many of you are authors, and I’m wondering if this vacillation is familiar to you, or if it is just me being my usual indecisive self. There are several questions on which all help would be welcome and gratefully received:
- How do you judge when an idea is worthy of further effort, and what gets you through it to completion?
- And how do you ever know when it is ‘complete?’
- And if I should manage to do it all, and eventually self-publish something, how will I use my fountain pen?
‘Writing, For More Than Fun’ indeed: is it worth it?