I was scared. There, I admitted it.
I finished writing Voyager on 30th January. It’s now 3rd April. Release date is tomorrow. And I’m tense. Really tense. Fingernails gnawed to the quick tense. Anyone who’s done this on their own knows the feeling. What did I do wrong? What needs doing? Is the manuscript formatted correctly for all the different formats? Did I get all the typos? How many extra typos did I add trying to reformat the manuscript? What about marketing?
And, of course, is anyone going to buy it? Read it? Like it? Review it?
When I see tweets from published authors talking about their new book release, they all contain the same sort of language. “So excited!” “Can’t believe it’s going to be released tomorrow!” “So happy it’s finally hitting the shelves.” Etc. If one of them says something fatuous like “So scared/worried/anxious about tomorrow!” I literally pee my pants with ironic laughter.
For me, Release Date Eve brings only fear. I’m not worried about the story, or the writing, or the quality. I am confident Voyager can hold itself up as a plucky outsider to anything currently doing the thriller rounds. I’m not scared of sending it to agents and publishers due to the odds against acceptance – that’s simply a long-winded chore that frankly doesn’t appeal right now.
I am scared of how it’ll be received as a (presumably) substandard self-published novel. I’m scared of what the content says about me to the outside world.
Ultimately I’m not that scared it won’t sell well because I expect it not to. There’ll be a flurry of sales around release day, and then it’ll sink to the lower 300,000s on Amazon and occasionally bother me with a few quid in royalties from time to time.
No, I’m actually scared that it might do well. (Probability is slightly better than zero, but only slightly.) There’s always the chance it might be one of those lightning strikes of self-publishing that might take me to places I’m not prepared to face just yet.
Seasoned self-pubs will probably spit out their drinks when they read this. It’s like being worried about winning the lottery. Sure it’s possible, but the chances are miniscule.* And surely winning is a brilliant success?
With the lottery, up ’til the draw, everyone holds a potentially winning ticket. Anyone’s numbers could come up. But unlike the lottery, your self-pub book “ticket” is not the same as everyone else’s. It gets counted last. You don’t get to pitch your new book to the big hitters of the literary review world. You don’t have the marketing reach of the Big Six. The Guardian Review of Books isn’t interested in your paltry offering. There’s more chance of impressing Punch and Judy than Richard and Judy.
And yet, amazingly, somehow the occasional self-pub nips through the net like a sleek, oiled bullet, finding a fertile audience and skyrocketing out of all proportion to the author’s expectations. It’s what makes self-publishing magic and wonderful, like a lottery win when you least expect it.
But as with the chav lottery winners, I have literally no idea what to do if I win. The fun for me at this stage is the process of writing a book, polishing up the story, grappling with all the things that make self-publishing a challenge, and then trying different marketing and promotional techniques so that every tiny success is a source of extreme self-gratification.
The systematic chore of sending out manuscripts in exchange for rejection letters several weeks later does not appeal, even though it may be a much better route to success (it plays lottery odds of its own!) At the moment I’m happy to be a self-pub, because it’s an exercise in self-fulfilment without actually paying the bills. My dream and ambition is to be a jobbing author, self-contained and self-regulating, deriving a modest income from writing and remaining the sole controller of all I write.
But looking at the leading lights of the literary world, I’d have to come to the conclusion such paltry ambitions would be silly, wouldn’t they? It’s time to reach for the stars, oil that bullet and shoot to win.
Voyager is released on Amazon Kindle and paperback tomorrow. If you need me, I’ll be packing for my imminent move to Monte Carlo.
*“Looking at the Corpus, we’ve discovered that the spelling ‘miniscule‘ now makes up around 52% of the total use of the word. This includes examples in printed sources such as newspapers and periodicals as well as in chatrooms or unedited personal blogs.” – Oxford Dictionaries. So ner.
**Since this blog post originally appeared, Voyager had a successful release and remains my best-selling novel at about two copies per day, mostly in America.