Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Not yet... nooooot yet....

I swear I'm not planning to blog every day forever. I'm just setting out my starting position in chunks as manageable as I can manage. If I discover I've got enough material to blog everyday, great, I'll keep it up, but somehow I doubt it.

A lot of these initial posts are probably going to sound quite defensive (I know the last two have). This has to do, mainly, with my mother, who's in the bad habit of assuming that I rush senselessly into everything I do, particularly if it's something she disapproves of (for example, diverting time and effort away from my PhD research to pursue a career as a novellist). What I want to establish, more than anything else, is that I'm not rushing in, and that I've heard - and listened to - most of the common arguments and problems faced by new ebook authors. I know I can't just photoshop together a cover. I know I can't expect to sell like Amanda Hocking. I know that getting published - by any means - doesn't mean instantly making a living.

I'm not self-publishing because I believe any of the 'miracle myths' about it. I'm self-publishing because I believe that conventional publishing no longer has any right to behave as a gatekeeper to publication. I'm self-publishing because I want the only condition of my success, ultimately, to be my ability to write books that people like me want to read.

Which brings me (finally - sorry!) to the topic of this post: the reason I didn't start my sell-a-thousand-books challenge now. November 1st is a slightly arbitrary date, but I know that it's going to take me at least six months to get 'Bad Romance' and 'The Death of John Collins' ready for publication. The professional authors who I've read on the subject have seemed to agree that it takes at least six months to take a book from completed first draft to self-publication. Given that I'm probably not as good (yet) and certainly not as experienced, I know I need a bit longer than that to get things ready - factoring in that 'Bad Romance' has existed since late November and 'Collins' since January, and I've been working on polishing both of them since, I hope that that 10-12 months is going to be long enough.

The reason I picked November 1st, by the way, is that it's the start of NaNoWriMo. There are sentimental reasons for this - mainly that NaNo 2010 represented the rebirth of my love of writing, so the start of NaNo 11 is a kind of birthday for it - but there are also practical reasons. Firstly, my plan is to write the first sequel to 'Collins' for NaNo 11, and secondly, NaNo is an opportunity to meet other writers and therefore an opportunity to network a bit. I can see both of these things being good for drawing attention and building presence, provided I'm careful (and yes, I know that during NaNo people are going to be focussed on their own writing. Doesn't mean that any of us can afford to slack off on networking/self-promotion).

I want to go into a bit of detail about the current state of play with both novels, and sketch out a program of what remains to be done with them.

I finished the first draft of 'Bad Romance' last November and immediately asked for some alpha readers. One of the first people to answer was an acquaintance from the local NaNo chapter, who it turns out does some freelance editing work. She offered to give the book a full thorough going-over, and, not one to turn down free professional services, I accepted. A series of disasters have meant that I'm still awaiting her feedback, but it's now due very soon, and that's going to form the basis of a full revision on the novel.

The revised novel will go to beta readers as soon as possible and I'll carry on refining over the summer. The big issue with BR is figuring out how to position it from a marketing standpoint. It's at best a very idiosyncratic novel - part romance, part philosophy of aesthetics and (however obscurely) the start of a sci-fi epic. Obviously, it will be difficult to decide on a cover and marketing copy until I've reached a decision on that front; this will be a major secondary goal of the beta-reading process.

'The Death of John Collins' has already had one thorough prose edit, and hefty redrafting on the first couple of chapters, though it needs a good deal more. There's a section early in act 2 which needs a huge amount of work, and my last beta wasn't completely comfortable with the ending, and probably a hundred smaller things. I have another beta in progress at the moment, but I'm contemplating getting a professional edit on the whole thing - I have a little bit of money which could go towards this purpose.

'Collins' is easier to position than BR - I think it more or less fits a 'hard sci-fi' label, and I think if I market it as such it will stand up. I don't think it's necessarily typical hard sci-fi, in that the 'hard' ideas in it are more philosophical/metaphysical than physical, but it takes its concepts systematically and seriously. The challenges with 'Collins' are getting the book up to scratch - I think it probably needs more work overall than BR - and networking with the right people. I don't really know who's writing in hard SF at the moment or what sort of stuff they're writing. Finding similar authors to cross-promote with is obviously going to be a huge part of any indie marketing strategy, and that's going to require me doing some serious leg-work.

Obviously, 'Collins' is going to need a cover and blurb too, but these aren't such complicated tasks - a cover is a matter of finding and paying the right artist, and developing an intelligible concept, and I hope I'll be able to find someone willing to help me learn the art of blurb writing. I'm not dismissing the tasks or their importance, but getting the books into position and polished to standard is the first concern.

My resources for the task are primarily my intelligence and enthusiasm. I have a little bit of money stashed, as I mentioned, which I may be able to use for the purpose of buying an edit for 'Collins' and paying cover artists, but everything else is going to have to come by wit and the generosity of friends and strangers.

I know I've got a mountain to climb, but seven months should give me time to give it a serious go.

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