Things I wish I’d known…

While scrolling through Twitter recently (ever the procrastinator!), I have noticed a number of tweets that have referred to the difficulties that a debut author might experience after he or she has signed a publishing contract or been offered representation by an agent. Of course, achieving what you have worked towards, perhaps for many years, is exciting and something to be celebrated, but the path to having your novel or short story collection published can also be paved with huge amounts of anxiety. Indeed, Jade City and Zeroboxer author Fonda Lee recently summed up her own experience in a series of tweets:

Perhaps, for a new author, being prepared for the sometimes-stressful journey to becoming published is the answer, so I recently asked a few authors what they wish they had known before they were published that might have made their experience a little easier.

Winner of the CWA Debut Dagger and Luke Bitmead awards Ruth Dugdall stressed how important a social media presence can be for a new author. She said, “I wish I’d known just how important social media is. The relationships an author has with book reviewers and bloggers can make all the difference to the success of a novel, and I didn’t realize this initially, so I didn’t devote as much time to Twitter and Facebook as I should have done.”

Ruth also stressed that a debut author can make connections in other ways, for example in their local community: “I also wish that someone had told me just how important it is to contact local groups and try and build a local following. WI (Women’s Institute) groups are my all time favourites, and, once they get to know you, more invites will come. Every opportunity to meet a potential reader should be cherished.”

Much as a debut author might relish the idea of signing copies of their beloved book, Ruth stresses that bookshop events can often have a downside: “Book signings suck! Standing next to a whopping pile of books in Waterstones is the most demoralizing experience, and some of the stores won’t even offer you a cup of tea!”

Ruth’s seventh novel, The Things You Didn’t See, is out on 24th April.

Daniel Culver, whose debut novel White Midnight has recently been released by Manatee Books, agrees with Ruth about the importance of becoming involved with social media and of making connections with readers: “I never realised the value of having your book reviewed and rated. I don’t know if this would have changed anything, knowing how important things like Amazon and Goodreads (and Twitter, of course) are beforehand. I never did social media before, so only signed up to Twitter because of the book.”

Daniel also stressed how debut authors need to factor in how promoting an already published book might impact on writing the next. He said, “I always thought once the book is done and out there, that would be it, but the work to promote it is endless.”

Author of Between You and Me and Tell Me No Lies Lisa Hall agrees that signing a publishing or agent’s contract is just the beginning: ” The real work only starts after you have signed a book deal, what with editing, polishing, tweeting, promoting, writing articles…”

Lisa also stresses that debut authors shouldn’t be put off by negative reviews, “One-star reviews are not the be all and end all” and that authors should always remember that their agent or editor is on their side: “Your editor is your best friend. Ditto, your agent, if you have one.”

Lisa’s new novel, The Party, will be released on 26th July.

Finally, Manatee Books author James Stansfield, who has recently released his debut novel Anaconda Vice, and Orenda Books author Louise Beech nicely sum up a writer’s experience after signing a contract from different perspectives:

James said, “One thing that has surprised me is how much having a novel published has messed with my sleep patterns. I’ve not had this little rest since my daughter was a newborn.”

Whilst Louise states, “I only wish I’d known that it would happen for sure, then I could have been as excited as hell…”


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