Sunday 19 November 2017

Adapting a Lifelong Dream

This is one of my longest breaks between blog posts during my nine years of blogging. For some weeks now I've been feeling reluctant to dish out another opinion when the online world seems so saturated with them. Even Twitter, which forced people to be concise, has upped its word count from 140 to 280.

Not wanting to bore you with unenlightened views about things I'm no expert in, I took to doodling with sharpie pens instead. My new hobby explains my latest blog header which I fear makes me look like a kids' author! (I'll bash out another one more in keeping with my novels at some point.)

Although I haven't been blogging, I do write every day. The dream of making a living from writing did quietly come true thanks in part to being a big fish (published, bilingual author) in a small pond (Mallorca). I'm currently working on a What's On guide for abcMallorca, which hopefully means I'll stop staring blankly at people when they ask me for recommendations on what to do on the island! 

The title of the blog refers to my childhood dream of becoming a published author with an agent and a traditional publisher. To cut a long story short, I did get all that and at the time it was so thrilling. Yet, as I explained in my interview with Paul Teague of Self-Publishing Journeys podcast, in the end this dream really was a huge disappointment that has taken me a while to come to terms with.  

I was so eager to be published that I accepted not being paid any money for the books upfront. I assumed I'd make money because such a big company was bound to sell thousands. But the big publisher did minimal marketing and low royalties meant that two years of work for two books barely earned me enough to pay a month's rent.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results... So this summer I published The Hen Party under my own brand Little Cactus. To date the book has sold more in three months than my traditionally published books did in a year. 

The experience proved to me what I could achieve if I invested time and money into not only creating a good book, but into advertising and promotion. A number of local publications featured the The Hen Party and although it's difficult to get reviews, the ones so far have been very positive. I have to thank all my readers who trust I can write and couldn't care less who publishes my books!

Knowing I could succeed independently made me desperate to recuperate my rights for my other novels, The Temp and #PleaseRetweet, and relaunch them with better covers, and in the case of The Temp, with the original title Spray Painted Bananas, which was so successful on Wattpad.  

For a time it looked like the publisher weren't going to give me my rights back. As long as the books made 100 pounds a year they could keep them. Rarely have I felt so furious. I would find myself awake in the early hours composing angry emails. How dare they prevent me from earning a living from books that I had worked so hard on?

That rage has since passed. I said what needed to be said. Next April, I'll get my rights back for both novels and I will release them with new branding and covers that more faithfully reflect my style of writing and myself as an author.

It has been a period of limbo... but I'm finally coming out the other side. I could write a letter to my younger self advising her not to be blinded by the traditional dream, but in the end I know I would do it all again, because my dream was so strong.  

If I don't make The Sunday Times Bestseller list, win a literary award, or have my books in Waterstones, then so be it. What matters to me now has become quite simple. I want to write great books which satisfy my readers, earn a decent wage for my work and enjoy the creative process from beginning to end.