Not long to go

Proofreading

Avid fans will remember that my first novel The Wave at Hanging Rock comes out in September (and is available to pre-order now here). But since I don’t have any avid fans, I feel justified in reminding people. And with just a few days to go until the ‘big day’, perhaps you - avid fan or otherwise - might be interesting in some insights into the experience of self publishing in the modern, Amazon-dominated world, otherwise known as ‘what I’m up to’.

Right now I should be feeling pretty relaxed. In the last week the manuscript was proofread. Proofreader number one (thank you Maria Lopez) has been through it with her fine-toothed comb, leaving any remaining errors, typos and huge gaping holes in the plot to be picked out by proofreader number two (thank you Allegra Gee). All the hard creative effort is done. The book is written, the website and cover are there. I’m rolling out what passes for my marketing plan. And quite a lot of people actually seem genuinely excited about the book coming out. All is going to plan, so why am I feeling anything but relaxed?

Basically because I’m not sure whether it’s any good. I don’t mean I think it isn’t any good. I mean I’m not sure it’s good. Back when I wrote articles for a sports magazine they were short enough that I could hold each element in my mind to know whether it passed or failed my quality test. I knew they were ‘good’, or at least, I knew they were the sort of thing I would like to read. With a 100,000 word novel, it’s just too long to really ‘know’ it all at once. I can be happy with the first third of the book, but then start to worry about the last third. But by the time I’ve reacquainted myself with that section, I’ve forgotten whether the first third is ‘good’. That left me two choices, I could have kept on forever re-reading alternating sections, or just get on with it and learn to trust that when I’ve mentally signed off a section as OK, the words haven’t rearranged themselves into saying something completely different. And I’ve had to learn to trust others who have read it, and said it’s OK. But it’s unsettling, sending something out there that I’m not quite sure about, and it seems, cannot ever be quite sure about.

It’s unsettling too because it’s all beginning to feel very public. I’ve tried to write for some years, but back when I started I wouldn’t even admit to people that’s what I was doing. It took some time, and a lot of self-rejected words before I agreed to let a few select people see it, now this is the final stage - to release it to basically anybody in the world who wants to read it and criticise and post their criticism online for the whole world to see. I know that’s irrational, I know that most people will simply ignore it, and those that do see it will at least applaud the effort. I’m doing my best to hide my deep held, irrational fear about this by putting jokes in these blog posts, but sometimes a bit comes out anyway.

But enough of irrational fears, and onto rational ones. As I’ve moved closer to publication date I’ve learnt more and more about just how many books are released on Amazon, and how few are really ever heard of again. Did you know there’s over a million books released onto Amazon each year? A million. How many have you read or heard about? It’s becoming clear that writing a book, even if by some miracle it happens to be a half decent one, is only half the job. The second half is to get it noticed among the hundreds of thousands of other books coming out at the same time. My plan for this is beginning to feel very inadequate, my ‘budget’ laughable.

It’s hard too, to know what success looks like. I’ve really no idea how many I need to sell before I can consider the book as being successful. The extremes are easy to define. A million copies sold is obviously ‘a success’ (I’ll be on my yacht), while selling three copies, with one of them being to me to test it works, is rather less that I’m hoping for. But a few hundred? A few thousand? I don’t know what to expect.

One thing I hadn’t mentioned before was this: Although the book is released on September 10, it has to be uploaded to Amazon’s servers before then. Actually before 23:59 on 30th August Eastern Standard Time. And if I fail to meet this deadline I face all sorts of terrible Amazon retribution. I’m not sure exactly what, suspension of Amazon Prime free one day delivery? Drone strike? I’m not sure, but Amazon isn’t a company I feel comfortable getting on the wrong side of. After all they know where I live. I also can’t work out when that time is in UK time, so I’m disappointingly not going to be able to risk going down to the final seconds before pressing the button to upload it.

I’m also, by some miracle, ahead of schedule, so I can exclusively reveal here that the final version of the book has now been emailed to Amazon, on time. That’s right. As you read this Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO) is deeply engrossed in chapter seven (probably). Or the company’s highly automated systems are checking the text for hidden bomb threats or whatever they do. Anyway, the point is: The Deadline is Met. Those brave and kind souls who have pre-ordered a copy will soon feel their Kindle’s tingling as the book zips through the air towards them. My house is safe from drone strikes.

Actually I can reveal something else. Because I got a bit carried away with the deadline-meeting celebratory drinks last night, I noticed I could now bring forward the publication date. So, I pressed the button, you know, just to see if it worked. And now I can’t un-press it. Which means that although the official publication date remains 10th September, it will be available to buy and download (in other words, it will be published) on 1st September. I’m not expecting that anyone out there has saved the date, but just in case they did and my drunken meddling causes confusion, that’s the explanation.

So, to anyone reading this, please buy a copy (or even two - you can’t have enough ebooks after all) and please leave plenty of glowing reviews on Amazon.