Learning To be An Author (In Praise of Book Bloggers)

So I’m a new author. I’m not a new writer, I’ve been writing for years, but now that I have published a book I have taken that step into the unknown, flung myself off the precipice and declared myself an author, because I am serious about this. Before, I used to write and it was a thing I did, it was comforting, enjoyable, and I didn’t have to admit to anything. Now though I have given myself this title, put myself out there, invited ridicule and its scary, and I’m one of the biggest learning curves of my life …. I’m learning to be an author.

Learning to be an author is very different from learning to be a writer, I’ve masses to learn about this too, but that’s another story. I’ve done half of it wrong of course, I mean who publishes their book on a Sunday (because I had some free time?).

Social media for one. I knew I had to do it, but which platform to go for? I didn’t like the idea of Facebook and so I dipped my toe in the Twitter waters and I love it. Twitter is now my friend, in fact perhaps because it’s my first relationship it’s a bit like a crush, you know where you worship the ground beneath them; hang on their every word, that sort of thing. And this is where the steep learning curve comes in as you begin to realise that the ocean is very incredibly big and that you are very incredibly small, and I can shout as loud as I like, but it’s hard to make your voice heard. So I’ve learnt about author profiles, and websites, marketing tools, Goodreads, Net Galley and I’m getting very joined up as the weeks go by. Trouble is though there’s a little voice in side my head that’s saying, erm… shouldn’t you be writing?

I tweeted this yesterday ‘Website done, author profiles done, marketing madly, submissions, trying to be proper joined up everything.. please can I go and write now?’ Tongue in cheek perhaps, but also a referral to strange juxtaposition between writing and being an author. There is so much to do and so little time to do it in…

I love to write, I've always written, and like most writers I have an indefatigable belief that I can write. At times I become almost tortured by the intensity with which I want to write; I say tortured because I consciously have to stop myself from doing so, otherwise I know that I would do nothing else, and the more I write, the more I want to write. I work full time as a finance manager for a group of three (soon to be four) schools. It's a demanding job, and every minute of every day, and some of my nights too are filled with thoughts of what I have still to do, and must not forget to do. I’m lucky to have some of the school holidays free and I find that I have to restrict most of my writing to these periods or I get so consumed by it my other work suffers, you know the one I actually get paid for.

So here’s the rub; because, quite simply if I want to appease this ferocious yearning to write, I have to write successfully. If you've read my twitter bio you'll know that I'm on record as saying I love my job, but (please don't tell my boss) I'd give it all up in a moment if I could write for a living. I'm not naïve enough to think that you write a book, put it out there and it just sells itself, after all why take my word for it that it’s a good book, you need proof, and the proof as they say is in the eating, or the reading in this case. Ergo I need to convince as many of you as possible to read my book, either by myself or through an agent or publisher, which brings me back to this yesterday’s tweet and doing all those things which might make this possible.

I'm serious about this, so I'm learning all I can, as quickly as I can, about the mechanisms of doing this very thing, of making myself and my book as accessible, as available, and as desirable as I possibly can. To be honest much of what I learned recently as been through the wonderful book blogging community. Who knew? I did know that they were out there, of course I did, but I really had no idea how devoted they are, how unfailingly generous and supportive they are, not just of writers but of each other. I’ve seen them get behind a new book, or a new promotion, and watched the author’s sales on Amazon go through the roof.

When I first saw this happening my immediate thought was to get a bit of the action, after all they do it for free, all because they love reading as much as we like writing. As a writer they are definitely people to have on your side, and yes I've made some polite enquiries and I've had some promises to review for which I am over the moon, and when a review comes in I'm pathetically happy, doing silly dances round the room. I hope I'm considerate in my tweets and emails, and I hope they realise just how valued they are. I am humbled by their devotion, and frankly also in awe.

It sounds like a fab thing to do doesn’t it, get tons of free books from authors and publishers, get to read them before publication, and then blog your review? Trouble is they're all getting swamped by requests, and are so involved in all the other activities they organise, that they become victims of their own success if you like, and worryingly in the last few days I've noticed quite a few posts from bloggers giving up, quite simply because their reading feels pressured and they no longer get any pleasure from it. They want to return to a time when books were savoured, a treat, and one of the best things in life. I'm an avid reader too, and it's a strange symbiosis, the relationship between writer and reader, we depend on each other for our existence after all. So just as the book bloggers do what they do so that they can read (more), I do what I do, tweet, make websites, market, badger, and submit enquiries so that I can write (more).

Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned then is that is in all of this mad, wonderful, and exhilarating journey we’re on, not to lose sight of the thing that you love doing, and to remember that you do it because you love to do it and for no other reason. When it becomes a chore or a burden, I for one hope I can remember this, and in the meantime, happy reading, happy writing, and happy blogging.

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