anticipation

As I write this, I’m still in the hinterland between submission to my developmental editor, Jenny, and receiving her notes. A strange, nervous time. Luckily I am still extraordinarily busy, otherwise I would be climbing up the walls and probably not much fun to be with.

It is time to focus again on mind-set. I must be ready for the notes.

To do that I will revisit a conversation I had with Joanna Penn at the London Book Fair earlier this year.

I had been wandering around the cavernous exhibition halls and looking at the great traditional publishing behemoths. The stands were impressive, in some cases enormous, taking up an entire corner.

But what struck me is how happy they looked. There was lots of raucous laughing, greetings made with hugs and kisses and earnest-looking conversations at their carefully designed open plan ‘social spaces’.

I didn’t understand why they weren’t all crying into their cappuccinos. Hadn’t they noticed the small space given to indie publishing upstairs in Hall 4? Hadn’t they seen that every session held in that area was overflowing with standing room only?

Didn’t they realise that their industry was on the brink of a fundamental transformation and that nothing would ever be the same for them again?

But Jo Penn calmed me down by telling me the most important question any new writer can ask about themselves.

“What does success look like to you?”.

It’s a question that I would have answered completely differently when I first put keyboard to Word document in 2010.

For me back then success would have been a deal. In fact, I think I had already come to terms with the fact that my book would not make me any money; after all, it was a first attempt. But to see the book printed and published would have meant everything.

Before contact with the self-publishing world, I was ideal fodder for the traditional industry. I would have been happy with an advance, ANY advance, and I had low expectations of sales after that.

But then I did have contact with the self-publishing world. And now I answer that question in a very different way. Today, success to me is financial. Getting my book side by side on Amazon with traditionally published titles, and possibly even into print is a first step on a focused path. The publishing is now an incidental (but crucial) part of a bigger journey.

To give myself even more clarity I have come up with a figure. By the end of 2018 I want to be making a monthly profit of more than $3750 (about £3000 from my books). This would be a basic income that pays the mortgage, living expenses etc, while my business income is elevated to loftier purposes, such as paying OFF my mortgage. This is a long way from the sorts of incomes indie authors I spoke to at NINC in Florida talked of (in many cases they were making $20k to $50k a month) but it’s a hugely ambitious from where I’m sitting.

Which is why it is SO important to define the answer to Jo’s question. This is not just about keeping yourself motivated with an attractive goal, it is about bringing purpose to every stage of the journey.

When Jenny responds and tells me that the middle part of my book doesn’t work (which I expect) AND tells me that I must lose a beloved character, how will I stop myself reacting badly (emotionally) and instead calmly set about implementing her advice as best that I can?

By remembering WHY I am doing this.

$3750/month profit by the end of 2018.

Jo was making the point that for some people a traditional deal IS success. They have no desire to make lots of money – they are happy with an income that just about allows them to be a writer. They get enormous satisfaction from seeing their book on a shelf with the badge of a famous imprint, just like I thought I would back in 2010.

Good for them, and, no, I don’t mean that patronisingly. I mean it sincerely.

But, on the other hand, if the aim of those authors is purely financial, then I suspect they are talking to the wrong people. Let’s face it, can you imagine the publisher who is interested in their books having this conversation with them? Focusing on the level of income they should be aiming for? No, because the relationship may look friendly, but it is based on a simple business equation: the more money the author makes from a sale, the less the publisher does. However generous and ‘pro-author’ a publisher is, they cannot get away from that simple fact.

The more I reflect on my hastily re-written book, the more I think Jenny will call for a major re-write. I took a LOT out from the earlier drafts. But I write in a different style now and to put it back in would almost mean starting from scratch.

It’s worrying. Daunting even. I’ll need to be objective. Distance myself from personal pride and focus solely on why I am writing this book. What is the purpose?

$3750/month by 2018.

Defining your idea of success brings clarity and purpose to your work.

I am braced for the next stage.

MARK DAWSON AS FEATURED IN: