It’s been a great week. I've never had this much time to dedicate completely to writing, and I feel like I've gotten lots done even though I've not actually written a word. I've gone through the whole novel from start to finish and have extensive character notes, timeline fixes and general improvements to the book. I also have a shiny new bit of software that’s going to make it a hell of a lot easier to implement those changes and come out with something on the other side that I’ll be pretty happy with. Just need to knuckle down and get it done. I'm already into reworking the second chapter, so only another 24 to go. As well as the work itself, however, I've also been doing a lot of thinking about my potential writing career and how I want it to take shape. My assumption always was, as I've said before, to go down the traditional publishing route, however hard that happened to be. As I've done more and more reading (and podcast listening) though, it seems that it’s more and more a closed system, an impenetrable bubble that now only exists to service its established authors and big brand names.
Yesterday we went to our local ginormo-shopping village to buy a coat (I know, the excitement, right?) and I took a stroll into WHSmiths to have a look at the books and try and avoid yet more clothes shops. I wish I’d taken a picture of what I saw in there, because it totally summed up my view of the state of traditional publishing right now. There were two long aisles of books, along the shelves of which were big cards sticking out to make the big brand authors stick out. Stephen King, Dan Brown, Lee Child etc. When you looked at the shelves themselves, the books of these big names accounted for at least 80% of the books on offer. There was no room for the little man, unless you happen to have made it onto the shelf marked ‘Richard & Judy Book Club’ or ‘Booker Nominees.’
Thoroughly depressing. But it confirmed what I've suspected for a while now. I need to go down a different road. I'm going to self publish.
Thinking about it, committing yourself to the traditional route at the expense of all other options is a bit like forming a band and only ever releasing an album if one of the major labels come and pick you up. If I only listened to bands that did that, well shit, I’d never listen to music again. My own sensibilities in music, art, reading and pretty much everything else run to the more independently minded, so why the hell wouldn't I be an independent author? Live and die by the quality of your work, put the effort in and give it a shot, on your own terms.
So that’s the decision; but of course off of that come a whole range of other decisions. All the advice I've seen says that in order to market yourself properly that you need more than one property to market. At the moment I don’t even have that. So the first decision I'm taking is to do NaNoWriMo this year. I’ll put aside the work on Blood on the Motorway for the whole of November and try and thrash out the bulk of a first draft for its sequel. Then I’ll have one book close to completion, one at least under way, and perhaps I can think about launching the both of them by the end of next year, along with a third book, a non-fiction book based around my 500 album challenge.
It’s a lot of work, and there’s an awful lot of research I need to do to work out how to do it right. Ideally, I’d like to be looking at being able to do this full time within a decade. How feasible that is depends on a ridiculous amount of factors, but it’s good to have a goal.
Thankfully the self-publishing crowd seems to be one that’s really open to helping new authors. It looks from the outside to be a community that’s determined to help the whole grow. From The Self Publishing Podcast (I’ve made it 20 episodes in now, only another 140 to go), to bloggers like David Goughran and Joanna Penn there’s a hell of a lot of advice out there to go on.