Right, I’m going to talk about my recently published book. Don’t worry, not in a, ‘Look at me, Look at me! Read my book, it’ll change your life!’ kind of way. Nor in a, ‘Hear all about my pretentious writer’s journey’ kind of way. No, this is more a, ‘Oh bugger, I’m not sure I should have done that…’ kind of deal.
I’ve had the idea for the book in my head since teenage years; it was a spin-off from something else I had written as a late teen. So I finally sat down to the computer to write it for a grown up audience in 2004. It was finished comparatively quickly, just a few months. I sent it off to a couple of publishers back in the day, but I don’t know why I did because it was in no way ready, so the refusals should have been of no surprise. Then came the ten years of editing and tinkering (and rattling off a couple of sequels in the meantime). So I was finally ready to self-publish, to ‘upload’ in January 2015. My husband was the one who pushed the button (me being the technophobe I am), but in a few short clicks my book was no longer a more-or-less secret manuscript on my laptop, it was live, it was available – and it was gone.
Okay, those first few weeks were a bit of an anticlimax, because even though the book was now available to download, nobody knew it was there and it could be withdrawn at any time (oh, how tempting!). There was nothing else for it; I had to tell people. At first it was just a small mention to a couple of friends and family members who had expressed an interest in my writing. But then I had to do the unthinkable – the whole marketing thing had to start; a Twitter account, a blog (hello, here I am!), and FaceBook. FaceBook was the hardest of all – that’s everyone, everyone who knows or ever knew me. Suddenly the realisation struck me, I wasn’t that fussed about strangers buying and reading the book, but actual friends and family – that thought was mortifying.
The reality of publishing a book is so very different from how I imagined it would feel. I thought I’d be pleased or relieved but I just wasn’t prepared for how lost I’d feel. Something that was mine, only mine – has now gone out into the world and isn’t mine at all anymore. And it’s made me come to understand something that I wasn’t quite aware of before. I wasn’t actually writing books in the hope of becoming an author, I was writing books right from an early age as an escape. Better than any movie, better than any reading book. Writing took me to a different place, a world that didn’t have to come to an end because my imagination was the thing that kept it alive. Writing saw me through the toughest times, escaping to that secret place in my head when the enormity of real life was just too much. And now that ‘great escape’ doesn’t belong to me anymore. What’s more, it’s now up for public criticism which was never really what it was intended for; I didn’t create it for feedback on how good or bad I am at something, I created it to get away from my problems. But you can’t have your cake and eat it (which always seemed like a bit of a shame to me!); if you want to be an author, you have to man-up and be prepared for other people’s reactions.
So, what’s done is done. I guess I had to do it or I could never really call myself a writer (how could I be if my work was for my eyes only?). I don’t really call myself a writer now, I’m still getting up every morning to go to work. Nothing has changed, only the secret is out. And now I’m in limbo. Do I begin editing the sequels? Do I write something new, something that is maybe more indicative of me? Or do I plug away at the toe-curlingly humiliating job of marketing? I don’t know, I was always my biggest critic and never had a great deal of faith in myself (I’m really selling myself here, aren’t I?). Maybe I just need to sit back a while and see where this new chapter takes me.