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Welcome, friends old and new, to my blog. This is the place where I can share my scribblings and thoughts on loving life. I hope you enjoy them, make suggestions and come back to read more.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Friday Five: Five things that make me feel like a proper author


Happy Friday!

When does a "hobby-scribbler" writer like me become a "proper" author? That's the question I've been pondering this week.

I would imagine that, if you follow the traditional publishing route, the precise moment is simple to pin-point. Surely, it's the moment when a publisher accepts your manuscript? You are now "published" and therefore "proper". You can give up the day-job and spend happy days in a cottage by the sea with a laptop and a terrier (or two), cooking up your next best-seller.
Us indies don't have that. We are our own publishers (as well as editors, designers, marketing team and accountants). Our books go on sale when WE decide they're ready, not when one of the Big Six validates us. We usually keep our day jobs, too. So, when does it become "proper"? It's not so easy to define.
*Warning- brief rant coming up*

Even when we do publish, many people don't consider it "proper"; even now, with so many respected and established authors making a deliberate and considered decision to self-publish, there are still some who will sniff and mutter something along the lines of "well, anyone can do that".
Yes, yes they can.
But they don't. That's because writing is HARD, and writing in the snatched hours between a full-time job and family/friend/dog commitments is harder. You have to love it, because the novelty wears off pretty quickly. You have to be dedicated, because all the other stuff like working, hovering and going to Tesco needs to be done too. You have to be a hard-ass, because there's no buffer between you and the reader who didn't like the ending, and leaves a review on Amazon saying so. You also have to be pretty good at it, because no one is going to buy my books just because my name is on the cover- reputations take time to build and effort to keep. Having said that, I'd buy a book on cheese sandwiches if Terry Pratchett wrote it, but he's a special case.
I'm not saying traditionally published authors have it easy, because they don't. There are a lot of downsides to that route, which is why I chose to self-publish.
That's right. I chose. I don't self-publish because what I write isn't good enough for a publisher- I self-publish because that route gives me the freedom and flexibility to do it how I want. I have complete control, and I like that.
Rant over, I still haven't answered my original question: When do I become a "proper" author? Well, as far as I'm concerned, it's already happened. Here are my five reasons why:
1. I hit 1,000 downloads of Late: a ghostly tale.
Back in October, when I tentatively published a short story I'd written for my own amusement, I was chuffed enough with the fact that I could read it on my Kindle. I thought maybe I'd sell a few, and 30 was my original target (selling 30 meant I'd get paid). That target was quickly exceeded and, a few short months later, I hit 1,000 downloads. Admittedly, more of a slow-burner than a best-seller, and a lot of them were from free promotional days- I never did this to become rich- but my little story has been downloaded every week by someone, somewhere in the world, since it was published. Allowing for shared devices too, that means thousands of people who don't even know me have read my ghostly tale. I think that's pretty awesome.
2. My neighbour, John, has a copy of my book.
John, over the road, is a lovely old gent who worries about me working too hard and eating properly. He often invites me over for dinner and we discuss politics, religion, education- and reading in particular. His house is full of books, on all the topics and from all the genres you can imagine. He was proud as punch about Late, but is a bit old-school in his reading habits and doesn't own a Kindle. When I made the decision to have Late printed in paperback, the second copy I ordered was especially for him. It was partly to say thank you for all the delicious meals and fantastic wine (he has an excellent cellar and a generous heart) and partly because he'd been so excited and supportive of my writing. My book takes pride of place on his shelves, next to the classics, and he said he thoroughly enjoyed it. Praise, coming from one so intelligent and well-read, doesn't get much better than that.
3. My friends ask me what I'm working on.
When I meet up with friends, we run through the usual topics of conversation: work, family, love-lives, health etc, before getting to the good gossip. One thing that made me feel like a "proper" author was when my friends started including my writing on that list of topics. As well as "How's work going?" I'm now asked "What are you writing at the moment?" It's like it's my other "proper" job now, and I love it. I remember how nervous I was of even telling anyone I had published a story; I was afraid they would laugh or think I was getting above myself. But they don't laugh, and they're incredibly supportive- even chucking in their own ideas from time to time. Every time they tell me how much they love my latest story idea, my confidence goes up 5 points and I get a bit more comfortable calling myself an author. They're my friends, but they're also readers, and their opinions count as much as reviews on Amazon.
4. Sylvia at the Post Office asked me to sign her three copies.
Two weeks ago, it was my birthday, and I had quite a few parcels- all of which were delivered while I was at work. I also had some copies of Late arriving (John's was one of them) and, each time I went in to the Post Office to collect a package, I hoped it was the one with my book. I shared this with Sylvia behind the counter, who was suitably impressed and, when at last my book did arrive, she joined me in a little squeeing (much to the amusement of the other customers). I was back in on Saturday, to post a copy of Late to the winner of my Goodreads giveaway. I was greeted by a mildly rude swear word from Sylvia, who had bought a copy for herself, her son and her daughter and had brought them in every day, hoping I'd be in for a parcel and would sign them. You know, like "proper" authors do. I was chuffed to bits, and have promised to return, with a pen.
5. Strangers leave me 5 star reviews.
Now I know I've just said that my friends' opinions count as much as reviews on Amazon but, as well as being an author, I'm a woman and thus allowed to contradict myself. 95% of my downloads and at least half of my published reviews so far are from people I've never met, who have no reason to be nice to me or flatter my ego. The fact that they enjoyed my story enough to leave feedback is immensely gratifying because it means, as far as they are concerned, I'm not Lou- slightly strange, often drunk, occasionally hilarious loser-of-everything-unless-it's-nailed-down procrastinator- I'm a "proper" author who writes books that people buy, read, enjoy and review. In their eyes, buying my book was no different to buying one from say, Thomas Hardy (my style has been compared to his) or Susan Hill (I squeed over that one!).
So to all the "aspiring" authors out there- wake up, look around at what you've achieved and allow yourself a little proud moment in recognition of your talent. I'm certainly going to, and when Strange Ideas is published I'll be popping the champagne like any self-respecting "proper" author would (although I'll be down the pub, not at a swanky launch party).
Question: What makes you feel like a proper author?
Strange Ideas: Death, Destiny and Decisions is available from Amazon as an eBook and paperback on Monday 27th May 2013.

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