Almost end of year wrap up
2017 has been quite a year. It’s been full of ups and downs, successes and failures, and I’m fortunate enough to say overall it was a good year. Certainly better than 2016!
April – well, technically 31st March – marked my passing from writer to published author. The Moroda eBook went live on Amazon on 31st March, and I responded by having a panic attack.
I remember it very clearly. People. Actual people. Strangers and friends alike would be able to finally read the novel I’d harped on about writing for years. Messages flooded in from people who’d pre-ordered it and now saw the eBook on their phones or kindles. Posts were shared on Facebook and Twitter, and congratulations sprouted throughout LinkedIn.
Not all smiles
I just felt a sense of dread. What if people thought differently of me after reading about my world and characters – something that had always been “hidden” within me? What if it was rubbish? What if people hated it? What if people “pity bought it” and didn’t actually care?
One by one, very slowly, reviews trickled in. When they came in from people who didn’t know me, who didn’t feel obliged to review, that’s when it hit me that this publishing malarkey was real. People liked the book on its own merit. They liked the cover and blurb enough to part with a few pounds and give it a read. And they enjoyed it. Actually, maybe, Moroda was a decent novel. The “biased” feedback I received from friends might actually be accurate. My confidence grew – both in myself and in my skills as a writer.
Even now, eight months on, I still get butterflies every time someone tells me they’ve bought a copy, or are reading a copy, or leave a review! Honestly those reviews are like the best chocolate ever. I can’t accurately describe how much they mean, or how much they help.
Goodreads and Amazon are the two best places for book reviews. Goodreads because that’s where a large chunk of the internet reader community lives and actively posts, and Amazon because more reviews are fed into their algorithms and result in more sales. Fifty reviews is often cited as “the magic” number on Amazon, where it actually starts pushing your book to people. I’m slowly but surely inching towards that (I’m at 22 reviews on Amazon UK at the time of writing), and hope more will come through.
Goodreads is a bit more active – Moroda has 50 ratings and 31 reviews at the time of writing, but it’s a much more engaging platform and it’s easy to strike up conversations here. But both are hugely important.
If you have read Moroda and left a review, I’m eternally grateful. If you’ve left a review on either Goodreads or Amazon, could I ask a favour? Would you be able to duplicate that review on the other site, please? They are the best way readers can support authors and books (as well as purchasing their books, of course!), and they really do make my day!
If you’ve read Moroda but haven’t left a review, please could I ask you to take a minute or two and pen one? I know both Amazon and Goodreads requires you to register, and that’s a big ask. But it would allow you to go on to connect with other people in the Goodreads community – readers and authors – or leave further reviews on both platforms.
While the eBook went live at the beginning of April, in May, I took delivery of my paperbacks. My initial print run was for 150 copies. The excitement of tracking the shipment on the van and finally seeing them all in their glory was overwhelming. Most people who’d said they wanted a copy of my book wanted it in paperback, so I spent that evening going through and signing those who’d asked for it, and shipping all my paperbacks out to those early buyers.
Having stock of paperbacks printed for a debut author is typically advised against. I don’t have an audience yet, I don’t have any guarantee they’ll sell, and it’s an incredibly high outlay of money. But I was adamant I wanted stock rather than using a print-on-demand (POD) service like Createpsace or Ingramspark. It meant I could keep a lot more control over the details and finish of the book (I could choose exact paper thickness, colour, overall size, and details such as embossing on the cover), I could self-distribute them and avoid paying a distributor’s fee, and I could take them to conventions.
(Not sure if you have a first or second edition print? First editions contain a number of typos that slipped through and my old website in the front matter [theartoftellingstories[dot]com], and second editions are more cleaned up with my current llmcneil author website in the front matter).
By far the most fun I’ve had this year is going to conventions. I’ve been to three now, and I’ve had an amazing time at every one. Plenty of nerves, of course, but at the end of the day, I’ve been exhausted and in awe at the incredible community that makes up SFF. From the other writers and readers, to people who roleplay, play tabletop games, are artists and illustrators, cosplyers, other vendors, and everyone else that makes this “genre” such a wonderful, warm place.
I dipped my toe in conventions at Exeter Comic Con in October this year (see my review of the event here), and have since signed up to loads more! I went to London Gaming Market in November, and recently, Dragonmeet in December. My aim is to attend at least one convention a month in 2018, preferably two. The biggest convention by far will be London Film and Comic Con, which is in July, and runs for three days. I have an Events page where you can see all conventions I’ll be attending!
I sold out of stock at Exeter (which meant all my first edition prints had gone!), but thankfully I’d done another order of paperbacks, which I’m now about a quarter of the way through selling.
To bring the World of Linaria to life, I had artwork commissioned of the eight main characters, which I then printed and bound into both A4 and A5 booklets as a kind of companion guide. They also make fantastic colouring books! I also turned the designs into bookmarks, and now give one away free with every paperback sale. I’m working on an eCommerce widget for my website so you can browse and purchase these pieces of “swag” using PayPal.
Moroda was shortlisted for a “Best 50 Indie Books of 2017” in November. The final stage went to a public vote, and Moroda reached number 21! I’m over the moon at being in the top 25 and hope the success will continue! It has only been made possible to those of you who voted, so you have my eternal thanks for supporting me!
Looking ahead, I’m feeling confident and positive about 2018 and beyond! NaNo wasn’t quite a win, but I wrote 42,000 words that otherwise I wouldn’t have, and that’s the skeleton of book three (Amarah) now penned.
From here until the New Year, my primary focus is on completing my edits of book two (Palom), ready to send off for editing in January, and will be published in April. Pre-orders will go live in January at some point, and again, the eBook will be exclusively on Amazon, and the paperbacks through me. I’ll of course be bringing these with me to future conventions! If you haven’t yet seen it, below is the eBook cover reveal!
I’ll use my time off over Christmas to catch up on my reading, as I’ve slipped woefully behind on this! I’m halfway through Valour, by John Gwynne, and hope to complete it and make a start on Ruin, the third book in the series. I’ll also be starting The Dragonbone Chair as part of a buddy read!
I’m also going to work on a series of YA urban fantasy books all about demon slaying. Think Buffy and Charmed meets Men in Black and Constantine (with a little of Blood The Last Vampire thrown in for good measure). It’s just something fun, fast-paced and easy to read, and much shorter at around 50,000 – 60,000 words, to pull me out of the depths of epic fantasy every now and then!
Writing in two (similar) genres will help strengthen my writing and will help my World of Linaria series, too. I won’t start writing the new series until after Palom is published, but I’ll post regular updates on where I’m at with both series. I still plan to release one World of Linaria book each year in spring.
Final Thank You
I wanted to say once again that I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has supported and encouraged me. There are learnings from Moroda that I’m applying to Palom and beyond (and in all my writing, in fact), as I constantly need to improve. For the people I’ve met online or at conventions, you’ve made the whole author experience all the richer, and I do consider many of you to be my friends.
There’s still a few weeks left of 2017 but before I completely wind down for Christmas, I wanted to write an article to recap the year and my plans for 2018.
All of you readers and writers make this possible, and fun, and I thank you for being part of my journey!