Ten things I’ve learnt since publication
My website has recently had a make-over and I’ve decided to set up a new, integrated blog. I’m super-excited because this is my first blogpost in ages and there are lots of new features in the pipeline. What, then, have I learnt over the last few months?
1. Even a fire alarm won’t ruin a brilliant book launch.
In March, I shared a launch party at Waterstones Piccadilly (London) with fellow HQ author, Roz Watkins. We had a fabulous turnout of people to help us celebrate with prosecco and pink gin. It was fun introducing my friends to my agent and editor, and I think I spent most of the evening with my mouth open for one reason or another! Suddenly, the fire alarm went off, prompting a bewildered evacuation from the building. Undeterred, however, we quickly reconvened elsewhere and continued merry-making.
2. You can’t control what people think of your book.
I think what’s helped me to accept this is knowing from my own reading that views on books are extremely subjective. Because we each bring ourselves to what we read, and filter the story through our experiences, when we discuss a book with a friend, it’s often as though we’ve read a different text. Overall, I’ve been thrilled with the response to Turn a Blind Eye and appreciate every email, tweet, quote and review because they all take time.
3. I love doing events.
Since April, I’ve been lucky to be on panels at Newcastle Noir, CrimeFest, Bradford Literature Festival and BeaconLit. I’ve been on local radio twice, done a Facebook Live, done a Q&A in my local indie book shop, Harbour Books, and did a fun event with fellow crime writer, Rachel Amphlett, at Waterstones, Canterbury. I’ve also read at a local spoken word night and at several Noir at the Bar events. The best part of all of these? Meeting readers and other authors, and introducing my writing to new audiences.
4. Luck does figure.
Occasionally things occur by chance but often people think they do when actually there’s been a lot of grafting behind the scenes. The psychologist and Buddhist in me has always believed that things tend to occur for a reason, although often we don’t know what that is. In the last few years, I’ve had good and bad luck and the thing I’ve learnt is that sometimes it’s best to simply accept whichever it is with gratitude or grace rather than look for reasons.
5. Editors and agents rock.
There’s a reason why authors mention their editors and agents so much and that’s because they’re invaluable. I genuinely like and respect both my agent and my editor, and we have fun working together. I was over the moon when Clio brought the first ARC of Turn a Blind Eye to Whitstable. I was less excited, however, when she got me having an editorial meeting at 9am the morning after the HarperCollins party.
6. Kindness often comes when you’re looking the other way.
When your book is published and begins appearing on bookshelves, it’s wonderful, and many people are pleased for you. It is a privilege to be published. It is a privilege for your book to be read. What’s been a gorgeous surprise is that I’ve experienced extraordinary kindness from people who don’t know me. Readers have contacted me, saying how much they’ve enjoyed Turn a Blind Eye; authors have read the book and wanted to give a quote for the cover; event organisers have offered me slots; authors have invited me to share panels with them; readers, bloggers and reviewers have put time and effort into supporting my book. Genuinely: a huge thank you from me.
7. Success is whatever you define it to be.
I write to explore ideas and make sense of the world. So, if I’m writing, I’m achieving those things but there will always be ‘success’ and ‘failure’. I don’t want to live by someone else’s version of what those two things mean, and comparing my situation to other people’s isn’t helpful. In fact, I’m not keen on either word. They both seem so judgement-laden. Buddhism says that most events are neutral until we ascribe meaning and value to them. I like that. It’s not easy when disappointments arise but sometimes wonderful, exciting developments can be just as unsettling. The thing that keeps me grounded, in touch with what’s important and doing some exercise each day, is my dog, Lexi, who likes to be paws-on with all aspects of my writing.
8. Life is more enjoyable if I don’t check Amazon.
As Turn a Blind Eye is my debut novel and the first in a new series, I wanted to know how the characters, setting and plot were being received by readers. When reviews began appearing on NetGalley, Goodreads and Amazon, I pored over them. I was re-writing Out of the Ashes at the time, the second book in the series, and I found it confusing that one person said they loved ‘x’ and someone else didn’t. What did that mean? Should I change book two? No. I get much more writing done and fret less if I’m not checking Amazon daily.
9. Book-buying has changed and will continue to.
This isn’t news. As readers we’ve known this for years. What’s changed is that I’ve seen what some of the implications are for me as an author, my books and my career. Whether we like it or not, authors are dependent on either Amazon or supermarkets, often both. In turn, both Amazon and supermarkets influence book pricing and what readers are prepared to pay for hardbacks, paperbacks and e-books. What this means for me is that I’ve had to re-think aspects of my writing.
10. Booksellers rock.
I’ve spent my life scouring bookshops but recently I’ve visited ones I never knew existed. I’ve been bowled over by the energy of the staff and have found that they respond to author enthusiasm and enjoy hearing about things that link me to their shop. I recently scampered around Waterstones Bradford like a caffeinated rabbit, and one of the booksellers took pics of me while the other (who comes from the same city in Bangladesh as my main character) advised on the best location for selfie-taking. Huge thanks to all the bookshops who’ve supported me.
So, life as an author continues. I’m doing edits on Out of the Ashes and am drafting book three in the series. The paperback of Turn a Blind Eye is out on December 27th 2018, and Out of the Ashes is out in April 2019.