As December draws the year to an end, it's a perfect time to reflect on the past 12 months. To celebrate the successes, and to take learnings from the failings or obstacles. Failures are part of the process of success - you only truly fail if you don't take part and don't learn from your mistakes.
So today, whilst I was pottering in my office, I took a video of what I was working on and enjoyed a little old-fashioned navel gazing.
There is so much more to publishing a book than just writing it. In fact, writing it is the easiest part so this post may be a little self-indulgent as I catalogue my success and failures from April 2018 to date.
House of Scarabs:
1. A finished book. I started the year with a manuscript and a huge dose of self-doubt. Now I have a completed manuscript that has gone through 5 rounds of edits and is about to be printed.
2. A shiny new book trailer. I learned how to compile a book trailer. It's a funny thing. A visual hint that teases the imagination enough to create interest. It may not be the best book trailer ever created, but I've learned loads creating it which I can use for Genesis and all my other books.
3. The skill of editing and taking criticism productively. When I first finished House of Scarabs I looked at the computer screen and thought now what? I knew the next stage was editing it myself and then finding a professional editor to work with me on it but I was so scared. Over the last 6 months I've honed a process for self-editing my books and found a wonderful editor who's great. Probably the hardest thing was opening her feedback for the first time - I was petrified. Now I can take her points and consider them without feeling attacked.
4. Cover design and genre. I used to manage a team of designers and I've always worked in Marketing Communications so I have an idea about design aesthetics. I felt confident I had enough design knowledge to create my own covers. Despite this, I knew next to nothing about book marketing and it's been a long journey to get to the point that I realise genre leads the cover design more than style or taste. I've gone through a long journey and a lot of cover options until I got to a cover I now feel is aesthetically attractive and meets the genre requirements. I'm happy with my covers but remain open to the idea that should they fail to attract the right reader I may yet have to change them.
5. A private members section on my website. It was important that my readers have access to the world of House of Scarabs beyond that on the written page. But it took me a while to work out how to provide it. I've learned loads this year about the vagaries of my website and how to stretch it outside the realms of your bulk standard site. I'm really pleased with the private section I've created and just need to finish populating it with information and images.
1. A reader giveaway. I created a short 11,000 word anthology of stories about my own experiences with the paranormal and how they've influenced my writing. I wrote this expressly as a free giveaway for my readers and potential readers. If you'd told me in April that I would have completed House of Scarabs and written two other books by the year end I would have laughed at you. If you'd said I would do that whilst learning the ins and outs of the publishing trade I'd have been sure you were crazy. But achieve it I did, and I'm so proud of myself. Next year I hope to speed up and write 3 books but they will all benefit from the learnings of this year
2. Cover design . With Vapours it's more of an autobiography so I was lost as to what to do for the cover. I asked my peers, and I got great feedback which also helped me appreciate elements of cover design I'd never considered before.
3. Creating a paperback. Although this was technically the last book to be started this year, I finished it before the others so I've been able to use it as a learning curve. I've learned how to put a book on Amazon and how to design the cover for a paperback. Getting the author proofs taught me a little about my preferences for internal book design - i.e. page numbers look better at the bottom of the page and I was able to test the difference between matte and glossy covers. To see this book in print was probably the best day of the year.
4. Advertising campaign. I got Vapours out just in time for Halloween so I created a video trailer to use in my advertising campaign and I hit my quarter targets for new email subscribers. I was so pleased with my results and look forward to using these new skills when I launch House of Scarabs and Genesis.
5. Subscriber email list and book giveaway. I had no idea how to manage a list of email subscribers or how to link an advertising campaign to an email list and then provide the subscriber with a free book. This was probably one of my biggest learning curves of the year - nothing was simple or intuitive but here I sit at year end understanding the process and able to replicate it for all my future book releases. That's a good feeling.
House of Scarabs:
1. Procrastination and self-doubt. These can kill a writer's creativity and flow. I'd been trying to write House of Scarabs for over 5 years and even though I loved the story, I doubted my abilities to write well enough not to make an abject fool of myself. It was only when I decided to write the book for myself that my block cleared and I could write something I'm now really proud of.
Learning: Write for myself and enjoy the story. Readers come later and shouldn't have any part of the writing process.
2. Writing the blurb. I've now written four books in total and yet when I sat down to write a 250 word description of House of Scarabs I totally freaked out. How could I condense my book into so few words and still capture the key elements? Answer: I couldn't and I shouldn't even try. Writing the description of the book isn't a precis of the book but rather advertising copy to lure a reader in, and boy is it hard. I tried for weeks and each attempt seemed to be weaker than the previous. These 250 words count. They make the difference between a sale and a walk on by.
Learning: I realised this was outside my current skill set so I commissioned one of the industry leading blurb writers to create mine. I now have a blurb I love and I've learned a lot from the construction of this one. Sometimes it pays to outsource - no one is an island.
1. Rushing at my like a bull in a china shop. The biggest failure of my year was to rush Vapours through writing, editing and production without stopping and thinking about the impact it may have on other members of my family. It is after all an autobiography and thus touches upon members of my friends and family. Although I checked with some people who were happy to be included , I totally forgot to check with others. This created a big issue after publication and has forced me to withdraw Vapours from the market. I took that decision out of respect for the individual who was hurt by my action and did so with a sad but certain heart.
Learning: Words can hurt if used carelessly, and it is my mission to hurt no one. I will follow a more organised launch approach going forward and implement fail safes within my processes to ensure that I don't inadvertently do this again. I also learned my boundaries for sharing my personal life are quite high. I now have a clearer picture for what is acceptable to share and the things I would prefer to keep private.
A Year in Review
I started 2018 with a book only half finished. A book I'd been writing for four years. I end the year with two published books and one in its final edit. 2018 has been kind and I'm excited by the prospect of my writing adventures in 2019.
See House of Scarabs on Amazon here
I wish you and your loved ones a , healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2019.