My Dirty Secret

 

By day I work in an office.  I’m happily married.  I put the rubbish out on the designated day, I’m courteous to my neighbours, and I pay my taxes.  I’m a straightforward guy – a good citizen.  But I lead a double life.  After dark, I change into somebody else.

A writer.

I’ve been writing fiction for around 20 years.  In that time, I’ve been through what feels like three phases:

AGE 20-28:  I write in secret, nervous about being found out.  I write a crap novel, and countless abandoned short stories.  Despite all this, I am still convinced with a semi-religious zeal that I will one day be a bestselling author (embarrassingly, I seem to spend as much time imagining the film versions and soundtracks of my as yet unwritten novels as I do actually writing).

AGE 29-33:  Out of the blue, I win a short story prize and see myself in print for the first time.  Meet other writers.  Join a writers’ group.  Get more short stories published.  After years of slogging through multiple drafts, I finish my novel The Vodka Angels.  I find an agent.  It feels like I’m on the brink of something big…

AGE 34-40:  The Vodka Angels fails to sell.  I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start work on a new novel, Amsterdam Rampant.  It takes three years of writing after work and at weekends.  Amsterdam Rampant fails to sell.  It is shortlisted for the 2012 Dundee International Book Prize (one of the world’s leading prizes for unpublished novels) but still fails to sell.

And now, after much reflection, I’ve decided to commence Phase 4 of my writer’s life: self-publication.

I’ve been researching the possibilities for the last few months, and my overwhelming feeling is that it’s extremely difficult to get the truth about self-publishing, specifically epublishing.  On the one hand the establishment – traditional publishers, agents, other writers – tend to view the growing industry of self-published ebooks as a sprawling flotsam of terrible novels, an ocean of debris through which the occasional gem is washed ashore.  Meanwhile, self-published authors evangelically herald the beginning of a new age, promising untold riches and fame for the brave souls who choose the self-publication route.

Who is telling the truth?

This will be the purpose of my blog – to find out the truth about epublishing.  In principle I wrote a good novel which made it to the last 13 out of 475 entries in a top prize – so it should be sellable, right?

My manifesto is as follows:

  • I will self-publish my novel with the goal of selling 1,000 ebooks in 1 year from date of publication
  • I will use the money I’ve earned from my 20 years of writing (2,070 GBP) as my war chest for marketing the novel
  • I will not write any sock puppet reviews or solicit fake reviews
  • I will be 100% honest about the experience – even if it’s an abject failure
  • I will blog every 1-2 weeks and will report all data openly (eg. Sales, money spent etc)

 

Next blog – sourcing cover art for my ebook…

 

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8 thoughts on “My Dirty Secret

  1. Well, this should be fun.

    “On the one hand the establishment – traditional publishers, agents, other writers – tend to view the growing industry of self-published ebooks as a sprawling flotsam of terrible novels, an ocean of debris through which the occasional gem is washed ashore. Meanwhile, self-published authors evangelically herald the beginning of a new age, promising untold riches and fame for the brave souls who choose the self-publication route.”

    Not sure those two positions are incompatible, tbh. Most independently published fiction is poor and sells poorly, certainly, but the occasional work does breakout, and very occasionally one of those is pretty good.

    But I’m highly sceptical about any comments from the fiction establishment about self-publication. Don’t want to blight your first post with another rant on this subject but suffice to say, the conglomerates and their agent pals aren’t exactly giving us a Ulysses or Lanark or Pale Fire every week, are they?

    I’ll be interested to see how your project progresses, especially the fact that your writing is so polished. Not sure there’s been a breakout self-published novel from the UK yet that’s genuinely well-written.

    • Thanks to everyone for your support!

      Sean – it’s a good point. Publishing is a broad church and big enough to squeeze in all denominations. But I think it is a very interesting stage in the industry’s lifecycle, because arguably not much had changed in publishing between Gutenberg inventing the printing press and the advent of digital books. All content was in the hands of a gatekeeper of some description (church, government, newspaper magnates, and more recently the marketers that told us what was missing from our lives was Ashley Cole’s autobiography). And you’re right – the quality on offer through traditional channels has diminished so much in recent years that perhaps a tipping point is on the horizon (if it hasn’t already tipped, what with ebooks outselling print books by unit in the US last year).

      A future blog will focus on my experiences in the traditional system… I won’t be holding back…

      • ‘with ebooks outselling print books by unit in the US last year.’

        Wasn’t aware of that. Most interesting.

        Here are a couple of things that would be really useful for the rest of us: (1) info on what *doesn’t* end up working for you promotion-wise; and (2) approaches that seem particularly effective for literary fiction. Information on both of these is still sorely lacking.

  2. Oh – this is very exciting. I’m looking forward to following your journey and hopefully, soon, reading your work. Good luck and with my blind support… X

  3. interesting Neil – good plan – curious to see what comes next – count me as one of your readers/followers as well. Good luck and cheers /Albana

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