As part of my series featuring inspiring Indie Authors, I’m delighted to welcome the very talented Michelle Muckley to my blog. She has proven, after self-publishing three novels with another one on the way, how authors can build their own writing career from scratch – with no small amount of commitment, passion and downright perseverance! Here she is to discuss her writing journey and a few things she learned about self-publishing and herself along the way.
When I first started writing I’m not sure I ever had the intention to publish a book. Perhaps there was a little bit of hope that one day it might happen, but I didn’t start with the intention of being the next J.K. (Rowling, not the dude from Jamiroquai with the dodgy hats). But the more I wrote, and the more that my work started to resemble a book, the more my goals started to shift. They changed from a desire to try to write a book, to the idea that I could finish it. And if I could finish it, then why couldn’t I publish it? So once I reached the stage that I had a ‘finished’ book, I packaged up my three chapter samples and made them look as fancy and as writerly as I could. I then wrote to a small army of agents, each of which wrote back to me rejecting my work. I was disappointed, and reluctant to acknowledge that my work wasn’t up to scratch. So instead I tucked it away in a cupboard and forgot about it for eight months. In the meantime I moved to Cyprus, got made redundant, and started to remember there was at one point, something more that I wanted from life.
So I got the manuscript back out, recoiled at the mistakes, and realised that I takes a lot more than writing ‘The End’ to call a piece of work finished. So I knuckled down and worked hard until it really was finished. I now had a manuscript, polished and gleaming, and absolutely no clue what to do with it. Start querying agents again? From Cyprus? I was convinced that not only would that be hard, but most likely impossible. But then I came across an article singing the praises of self publishing. Not vanity press, it reassured me. Something else, where you keep all the control of your work and publish to Kindle yourself. Now for a control freak like me, there was an obvious appeal. Reading that article
was day one. From there I set out to self publish, and in July 2012 released my first book, The Loss of Deference. Since then I have released two more, have another full length novel at the editors, and a five book series of novellas set to be released by the end of the year.
So you might think I have learnt something in the last two years, and I guess in some ways I have, about both the publishing world, and myself. With regards to myself, I am impatient, a workaholic, classic Type-A personality who suffers from a tendency to procrastinate. About the traditional publishing world? It’s a tough place to break into, expects a lot back from you, and doesn’t always deliver on its promises. But what did I learn about self publishing?
One of the best aspects of the indie author community, in my eyes at least, is the willingness to be open and helpful. Very few indie authors are secretive about their successes and failings, and anything they can do to help out a fellow indie, they do it. They are supportive and you always feel like you have somebody on your side. This helps so much when you are learning. I made a friend on Kindleboards who offered me so much advice at the start of my journey. I was, and still am, so grateful for all that she showed me.
I have also learnt that professionalism is everything. If you cover is crap and your work is littered with mistakes and grammatical errors, your readers will soon let you know. Did you spot the mistake I left there on purpose? If not, you are probably like me and can’t spot them easily. Some people were born with the eyes of a hawk. Let them find your mistakes for you. I released my second book too soon because I was impatient, and it was full of mistakes that I didn’t find. But you just have to learn from something like this. I found a better editor and released the book again with an updated file. So yes, professionalism is everything, but so is knowing where you come up short and where to enlist help. I cannot edit my books if the future of the world depended on it. I need help, so I get it. Same with my covers.
Be nice. If a reader gives you a bad review, ignore it. Do not complain or contest it because they will just think of you as a whiny author. I have only ever replied to a review on one occasion, and that was when I commented that the book had since been reedited. But I also thanked the reviewer for highlighting the need for improvement and moved on. Nobody wants the reputation of a whiner, right?
Learning to self publish was a bit like learning Greek before I moved to Cyprus. I got here thinking I had to know everything, or had to have learned it within the first few months. That mistakes were a sign of failure. But I was wrong. Mistakes are a sign of willingness. Willingness to put yourself forward and try where others wouldn’t. Applying this principle to learning Greek means that I often sound ridiculous.
Once, I was trying to describe a snowball fight to my future in-laws. The Greek word for snowball fight can easily be mispronounced, and let’s just say by making that mistake you end up describing a very different game, one best not discussed with your potential mother and father in-law. But people make mistakes. You will make mistakes, just like I did, and just like the next writer after us. Be prepared to learn as you go.
But most importantly of all, what I have learned is that a reader doesn’t care how hard it was for you to write your book, how many cover designs you tried, or how many times you cried during the edit. All they want to read is a well finished book with a good story. Give them that, and eventually the readers and good reviews will follow.
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