“I can conclusively say at this point that it’s not just people who have met me or are blood related who are buying my books.” - New blog post on hitting a few key milestonesRead More
"Tell them you published it yourself and they’ll do a cocked-head puppy look coupled with an ‘awww’ sound like you’re a toddler who’s announced they can go poop on the potty."
Some thoughts on why I’m still calling myself a Punk Publisher.Read More
There’s a new press on the block…Read More
Finally, the feral beast known only as the Bastard Year of Twenty Eighteen is drawing to a close. Its successor, the enigmatically titled Twenty Nineteen, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born, its hour come round at last.
Ignoring all the vaguely apocalyptic rumblings this year has delivered, the arrival of December on our calendars is a pretty good arbitrary marker in the sand with which to reflect, drink stock -- no, wait, ew. Take stock, that’s the thing, right?
One of the best things about having a blog that’s been running for eleventy billion years is that I’ve gotten into a pretty good habit of marking down my aims and goals for the year, and revisiting them twelve months later. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do right…
The first thing to note, before I bring up the bullet-pointed list, is that 2018 has been a year of tremendous upheaval in my life. This time last year we had moved to Whitby, aka the most loveliest place on Earth, and were looking at moving to Switzerland with my job. Then the world got flip-turned upside down like I’m the Fresh Prince of somewhere, and I had to find a completely new job, and a new place to live. I managed both, and now live at the opposite end of the country, in the quite lovely Cotswolds, with a brand new job. Thankfully the move has gone really well, but it was roughly akin to someone carving a giant chunk out of the year and throwing it in the bin. So, with that caveat in place, let’s look at the list.
No new books. Relatively straightforward one, this. After two years in which I’d released three novels, this was giving myself a pass from feeling the pressure to release any new ones. In which case, mission achieved. Well done me! That’s not to say I’ve been resting on my laurels, or any other part of my anatomy, but more on that in the next exciting bullet-point.
Break even with my writing career. Slightly tricky this one. I had decided, with this being the third year of my being an indie author, that I would try and break even, which is to say make as much back as I’ve put in. On that score, I missed the target by some considerable margin. However, I have made a profit within the year, and that’s despite making quite substantial further investments on courses, software and loads more besides. I also feel like that I’ve taken some huge strides forward this year, redesigning my own covers, branching out to Wattpad and Patreon, and understanding a great deal more about this business we call writing. So, while I’ve failed to hit that metric, I have realised it was a pretty meaningless one in the long run, and I’m in a pretty decent place now, with a foundation that I can hopefully use to springboard to future success much more easily.
Engage with the blog and my mailing list more. I did this one! I’ve been emailing my mailing list every week since about halfway through the year, and that list has grown from a few hundred to over three thousand readers. If you’re one of those, thank you so much for your engagement and support over the year, even though I’ve not had any new books out.
Retire music writing. Another tick. I miss music writing (and my next post will include my top twenty albums of the year), to the point where I’ve had to restrain myself on several occasions from trying to restart it, but it’s not what I want to be doing, long term. I still might redesign the cover to Welcome to Discovery Park, though, that little sucker deserves better.
Increase my writing productivity. This is a constant battle, one which I’m sure all creatives trying to keep a work/life/art balance struggle with. But I’ve done pretty well, I think. I’ve completed NaNoWriMo once more, completed a few hundred thousand words, and knocked my once-incoherent next novel into some semblance of shape. But it’s a difficult balance to strike, and one that plays directly into the next item on the list.
Get healthy, both mentally and physically. Given the year I’ve had -- full of stress, travelling, moving house, changing career, shepherding children through a second relocation in a single year – it’s perhaps unsurprising that I’ve not had the healthiest of years. I’m basically at the point where the only thing between me and post-gum Violet Beauregarde cosplay is a shave and a tub of blue paint. On the plus side, this time last year I was feeling quite fragile, beaten up by the world while also feeling that I was getting off far too easily from its harshness. I was addicted the to the news, and I was tired. Run down. I don’t feel that way now. Okay, I don’t feel like that all the time. I still look at the news far too much to be healthy. But I’m feeling much more positive and determined. I’ve got a lot of plans not just for the next year, but for the next few years, and I’m struck through with positive energy toward reaching those goals. Which is progress, no matter what my slightly (*ahem*) expanded waistline says.
So there you have it. Not a bad year, all told, even though I feel a little more battle scarred now than I did before. As always, the only reason I’m able to keep going on so many fronts is my wonderful wife. She’s an absolute ace, and has not only taken this whole year in far more elegant stride than I, but has also become my first Beta reader, and she’s currently reading through my next book and giving me a thousand notes to make it infinitely better. She’s the best, and I’m lucky to have her.
So there goes 2018. Fare thee well, you unscrupulous bastard.
Blood on the Motorway: An apocalyptic trilogy of murder and stale sandwiches is out now in ebook and print from Amazon and all other good bookstores. You can get the first book free by joining my mailing list or read along at Wattpad. Oh, and I’ve got a Patreon.
One of the things that taxes me most at the moment, as I look out at the no-doubt glittering career as an indie author ahead of me, is the marketing. I don’t think I’m alone there, since almost every message board and writing blog is about 50% people running around screaming ‘argghghggh’ and invoking the ghost of Bill Hicks to strike down whoever invented marketing, or at the very least, ship them an envelope full of glitter. As I sat down for my first marketing planning session of this year, it dawned on me that before I can do any of the nitty gritty platform building, I have a decision to make.
What the hell am I going to call myself?
Don’t get me wrong. I like my name well enough. It’s a good, functional name. I like the idea of identifying with my work, because I’m proud of it. I want the world to know it’s been done my me. Not only that, in order to launch with any semblance of success at all, I’m going to need basically everyone who knows me to buy it, which will most likely only really happen if it has my name on it.
So what the hell am I talking about? Well, I have a fear, and not the usual one about a bathtub full of spider wasps, but that ‘Paul Stephenson’ is not a great name to put on the front of a book. The two words are completely different lengths for one thing, and the surname is the longer, so if I were to double up I’d need to have the PAUL huge and the STEPHENSON in tiny writing. Just a bit weird. Of course, I hear you say, you could just do it on one line. You’d be right to point that out (if a bit of a pedant), but that means a small name, which is harder to read at speed. You need to stand out on your cover, and you’re unlikely to do that if people have to strain to see your name on the thumbnail of your book. It’s a fricking minefield, let me tell you.
So what are the options? Well I could go the initials route; PR Stephenson. But I’m not convinced on that, either. Seems a bit, I don’t know, wanky for me. I’ve toyed around with a few other options, but none of them feel entirely right. Since my good-lady-soon-to-be-wife is going to be taking my name in all probability, I quite like the idea of taking her surname in some kind of tit-for-tat name swap, but I’m not sure Paul Green is all that better than what I have already. Besides, there’s a few of them on Amazon already, which would make it a riskier proposition than my real name, which is so far unclaimed.
‘Why the hell are you worrying about this now’, you may be asking. ‘You’re not publishing for ages yet, and you haven’t even finished the first book yet. Concentrate on that.’ You may say that (although that sounds a lot harsher than I imagine my readers to be) but the truth is that I need to start doing things like building author platforms in the next few months. I need to decide on the name of my author platform, for one thing, in order to buy the domain and start building the website.
I need to get moving on the marketing now, so that there’s some vague hint of an audience out there when I launch. This is doubly important if I’m going under a nom de plume, since any vague cachet I’ve built up through the likes of this blog, DP or the Rolling Stone challenge will no longer count.
So I need a decision. I need help. I might need an exorcist. What do you, dear reader, think?
The quest for reinvention is going pretty well so far. I’m aware that posting such a statement on the 13th day of the year is asking for trouble, not because of any specific fear of a random number, but because I’m less than two weeks into a full year reboot of my entire life and 13 days is conspicuously early to be calling anything. But it’s going ok so far. On the health front, I’ve been sticking pretty well to the meagre calorie amount afforded to me by my popular brand of calorie counting mobile application, and have even managed to rouse my carcass onto a fitness machine on a couple of occasions. The net result is that I’ve lost five pounds, even though I took ‘Saturday night is treat night’ a bit too literally this week and got fish and chips before emptying the drinks cabinet. No, we don’t actually have a drinks cabinet. Not any more, anyway. I even managed to resist free cakes being waved in front of my face today.
*fans face* I’m ok.
The wedding planning is now fully underway too, with weekly planning meetings in the diary (and you must respect the diary) and all sorts of things getting achieved. We’re wedding planning machines, albeit ones who cannot yet decide on whether to have a chocolate fountain.
I’m also really happy with the way the writing sessions are going. I’ve got scheduled sessions every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, for an hour each day. I’m not going to lie, some of those have been extremely hard to motivate myself for, but every time I’ve sat down and committed myself, I’ve gotten shit done. I’m focusing mainly on the third draft of Blood on the Motorway in January, and then it’ll be going out to beta readers. I’m on track at the moment, and increasingly feel like it’s not so dreadful that I’ll be embarrassing myself when I publish.
I had my first ‘non writing’ writing session last night, investigating some options for the promotional side of things. This mainly consisted of looking at the Bookbub website, picking a hosting service to set up a platform on, and biffling about on KBoards, the Kindle user message board that is chock full of indie authors giving each other advice and support. I posted a question there that’s been bugging me last night and already had over 30 responses, which is really pretty cool. I’ve not been a big forum user since the glory days of the Raw Nerve forum, bit I can see me getting pulled in by this one.
One of the big questions I need to answer, however, is what the hell to do with my blog. You may have noticed that my last post on here was a bit different to my usual waffle, in that it was probably the first blog post I’ve ever written that had an eye on trying to write copy that was ‘marketable.’ I figured it was a skill I need to pick up if I want to build an author platform that would drive potential readers to my books (when they’re out) or my mailing list (once I go ahead and set one up).
It was pretty dreadful, really. It took three times as long to write, and was noticed by precisely nobody. Not a single interaction, which is pretty poor. So rest assured I won’t be doing that again. What I will be doing is continuing to write whatever the bejeesus I want, whenever I bejeesusingly want to. I just need to try and work out how to apply that to the good advice I keep hearing about author platforms, most of which is ‘don’t write for writers.’
More on that, I’m sure, in due course.