To expect instant success is to court instant disappointment.
That was my mantra at the start of this voyage into my own vanity. And now, six weeks after I began this quest fir literally acknowledgement, it is a message that is as true now as it was then. So what is new about the situation, and what have I learned so far?
Well, the main thing is how much more difficult getting noticed is than I expected. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not stupid, and I’m jaded enough by life at this point to understand that things don’t just happen because you want them to. After 20 years in hospitality I know what shattered dreams look like! So I didn’t expect to just publish my debut novel and suddenly be heralded as the best Welsh writer since Roald Dahl.
Though I’m still awaiting that call if anyone does think so!
But the reality of the minefield of just getting seen has become more like looking at the Rainforest, rather than a clump of trees at the local dogging site. Not that I go dogging, but a friend of a friend heard something, that his friend told him she’d heard … never mind. The point is that the marketplace is so crowded, even getting your name out there as something free is quite tough.
Now I did all my research prior to this, took all the advice for snazzy covers and text and titles. And it sort of works. My novel is titled The Emerald Tablet – in case you missed the shameless promo above! – and when I run advertising campaigns and search for the term, it actually ranks almost at the top of the Amazon/Kindle search. Which is great … if potential readers were looking for that specifically.
Which, lets be honest, they’re probably not. And if they are, they probably aren’t looking for a fiction story.
Which brings me to the next point … the niggle of self doubt.
Now if you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ve probably gathered that I’m a cynical, sarcastic, egotist who is more arrogant than I’d ever be comfortable admitting in public. All of that is true, which is why when I published the book I was confident that if I could get it read that some people would like it.
I drew this opinion from several sources. The first one being my general popularity with my fan fiction audience. And yes, this is a deceptive metric to use, as it’s basically plagiarism in legitimate form. But my readers generally comment that they not only like my stories but my writing style. It was that which I took as my ego-fuel, not necessarily that maybe I could give JK Rowling a run for her money on writing her own stories.
Then there was my own plot itself. It was decent, I thought. My characters are fleshy and complex, they have nice development arcs, there is a dose of threat and drama, and a bit of humour and deep world building. Ticks a lot of my own boxes. And when I read my First Edition I was quite engrossed in the story … once I stopped swearing at all the typos I’d missed (that took five reposts to correct!).
And it started quite well, with a slew of downloads and free reads, not that anyone left a rating (thanks friends and family!!).
But now, after a fortnight of inactivity, doubt is starting to creep into my arrogant mind.
As a comparison, take my real life career. I would be confident enough to walk into any style of pub in the UK and make it a success within a reasonable time span, say 6-10 months. It would be profitable and a great location to socialise (maybe not right now, but more on that later). But with writing, I have only a spurious foundation for belief, one grounded in the worlds created by other writers. I have done alright there, but here … I have no reason to believe what I’ve done is any good.
Which is part of the problem of being a writer/artist. It is a solitary, often lonely, way to spend your time. And you have no validation that what you are doing has any merit. It’s why fan fiction is so attractive, because you have the possibility of instant gratification by a waiting audience. Oh for a shard of that! It would be great to have to many raving fans.
And that formed part of my plan. Build up my fan fic audience then post my original work and hope that some of them tried it. But so far, that plan is falling flat. I post on the writers platform Wattpad. At time of writing I have around 70 subscribed followers, who get alerted whenever I post something new. If I post Potter fan stories, it gets instant reads. My debut original work … almost nothing.
I say almost, because I’m trying to cheat the system. Each click on a chapter counts as a story read, and the higher the number of reads the better ranked a book is in certain tagged categories. My scheme? Click on EVERY CHAPTER of my story to boost my hits and rankings several times a day. When I first posted the book, I had about 500 hits. Now … I’m approaching EIGHT THOUSAND. And they are all me! No-one can say I haven’t been busy during lockdown!
Which is what inspired this post. It seems I will be lifted from my furloughed state sometime in the next week or two. I cant say I’m chomping at the bit … the pub trade will be a very different place when I return, with a raft of limitations and restrictions that will make the pub experience a very different one to the norm. It will be very much a ‘fit and function’ type scenario, with limits on movement, no entertainment or sport, nothing to attract customers. And this could last for months.
Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? But I’ll post updates about that as I go. Till then, better go and click on the book again. Who knows, I might actually attract a real readership some day!