Could I Really Be An Author?

Posted at 17:02pm on 26th June 2012

Self-published novels and indie authors abound these days.  In another guest blog - while I am in the throes of moving house - I invite you to take a look at how one new writer launched his debut novel in an innovative way, and began to realise that he is, indeed, now an author.

I AM A WRITER

I am a writer. According to Jeff Goins in You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One), an essential part of being a writer is to declare that fact with boldness and in as many places as possible, and so here it comes again: I am a writer.
 
It should be a simple enough truth to declare; I carry out the act of writing and so I am a writer. In fact, I might even go so far as to say that I often write with the intention of the words being read by others, which gives me even greater claim to the status of being a writer. I think about writing, I talk about writing and I am increasingly finding myself reading and writing about writing.
 
Being a writer is something I can just about get my head around and I agree with Jeff Goins that it is important that we confidently declare that this is what we are if it is what we long to do and what we enjoy doing. What I find harder to accept though is whether or not I can truly lay claim to another title, a title that threatens to establish me in a whole new realm altogether – author.

INDIE AUTHOR

For years, the word author has simply been another title on the list of jobs beginning with the letter a that I would never be able to get – Astronaut, Australian Rules Footballer, Agronomist (no, I didn’t know what that was either…) – and yet it seems as though the times they are a-changing. All of a sudden, authors are popping up everywhere and, if you’re anything like me, you probably have dozens of tweets clogging up your Twitter feed each day from people sporting the hashtag #indieauthor or something similar.
 
When I began writing my debut novel, Accidental Crime, over three years ago, it seemed as though there would be two options awaiting me when I finally completed it:
 
1)      Send the manuscript to as many publishers as I could, biting my nails furiously for months on end while I await a flurry of rejection letters.
2)      File it away in the ‘I might enjoy looking back at this in a few years to have a giggle but no-one else is going to want to waste precious moments of their life reading a single word of this’ folder, make myself a nice cup of tea and settle down on the sofa to read a real book by a real author.
 
When I put the final full stop in place in June 2011, those options still seemed to be my best bet and option number 2 was becoming increasingly attractive with every passing day. However, whilst it was indeed tempting to continue rolling out the ‘I’m working on a novel’ line to anyone who asked how my writing was going, I couldn’t help but wonder what it might be like to respond to that query by informing them that my novel was not only completed but was actually available to read. Had I been making fragrant drawer-linings for the past three years, I’d have been quite within my rights to store them away in cupboards, but I’d chosen to indulge myself in a craft that was ultimately characterised by being public and so what was the point, I found myself asking, to dedicate myself to this project if I didn’t at least do something to discover whether someone out there might like to giggle along with me (or, at least, nod along in all the right places)?

ONE BLOG AT A TIME

The problem was that nobody knew who I was. I barely knew who I was. And so I blogged. And then I blogged some more. I blogged about my cat, the bins outside, the fact that I’d successfully remembered my wedding anniversary. As soon as each blog post was completed and uploaded, I sat with the ‘Stats’ page of Blogger open on my web browser and pressed the refresh button again and again, just in case another page-view had appeared. I posted the links on Twitter and Facebook and sat back waiting for the thousands of visitors to pour in.
 
Unfortunately, they never did pour but they did at least trickle and so I began to have some semblance of an audience. On Twitter I began to use 140 characters as my means of creating a personality that reflected the sort of writer I was and I did everything in my power to avoid telling the world that I was drinking orange juice while watching Neighbours. Every now and again I would drop into a blog or a tweet that a novel existed and would soon see the light of day. ‘Soon’ became a very flexible word and I found myself thanking readers for their patience even though, to be honest, I doubt many of them were tapping away their fingers in frustration that another day had passed without a Sam Lenton novel dropping into their laps.
 
To put it simply, the water had been tested and, from what I could work out, the water was good but far too shallow for my liking. I was sure that I could count on my wife and my cat to read my novel but did I really have loyal followers desperate to crown me with the title of author and establish a five-star Amazon realm in which I ruled?

30 DAYS AND NIGHTS

Having been inspired by Jesus’ 40 days spent in the wilderness, I came home with a plan for novel promotion on my way home from an ACW Writers’ Day. I would spend not 40 but 30 days (and nights, for my American followers in a different time-zone) posting sample chapters of my novel so that it could be experienced by people, like me, still struggling to come to terms with the idea that I could be an author.
 
In 2011, I discovered the world of Amazon Kindle and even more exciting than the device itself was the revelation that anyone – that’s anyone – could upload something they had written onto the website so that others could read it. The downside, and it seemed a pretty big downside, was that you would be in control of everything: pricing, proofreading, publicity, and numerous other tasks beginning with p. All of the things a traditional publisher would do would now fall at our feet and we could make of that what we would. The prospects were enormous but the reality was that if anyone could upload any old bit of writing they’d thrashed out over the years then what would make mine stand out from the crowd and how would I be able to convince people to take my work seriously even though it hadn’t been traditionally published?
 
In establishing the 30 day blog plan, I felt that I was showing that I’d been taking note of how the internet was changing things. For example, if I want to listen to a new album I no longer take an expensive punt on something I might not like but rather I head over to Spotify or YouTube and I check out as much of it as I can before deciding whether or not to buy. Why shouldn’t it be the same with novels? Could I really expect people to buy a book from an unknown author – I was now daring to use that word, having updated my profile on Twitter – without testing it out first?
 
I was also excited about the idea that people would check back daily to find out what happened next. I wanted to generate interest, hype, buzz – whichever word fits best – and show my potential readers that I understand that I’m asking a lot of them to part with £1.99 without knowing what they’ll get for their money. It may seem strange to question whether people really would part with so little money for something that could potentially be so enriching and enjoyable and yet the reality is that there is simply too much out there to buy and so how do we choose what is worth our hard-earned cash?

I AM AN AUTHOR

A confession: I have used the hashtag #indieauthor to attract attention to my novel on Twitter. I’ve leapt on the bandwagon and I’ve sought out the most comfortable seat. You see, whatever now happens with the 30 day blog plan and the success of the novel itself, by publishing my writing and by making it available for people to read and critique I have left myself with no choice but to accept that I am in fact an author. No, I don’t have an agent planning a cross-country book-signing tour and nor does my cover appear on the billboards you’ll pass by in your car when you drive to work tomorrow morning, but what I do have is this: I have a book and I have readers.
I may have made the cover myself, organised the printing of the paperbacks with a few clicks of a mouse and shouted from the Twitter rooftops that Accidental Crime has risen from the lavender-scented drawer and is now ready to be slotted onto bookshelves around the country, glanced at with disinterested nonchalance or tossed away into the dirty rainwater. Whatever the response, the book exists and no-one will be able to take that away from me.
 
And, I’ll tell you something, there are few moments in life more incredible than when you open up a box of your books, printed and ready to sell. Amazon and print-on-demand companies may well have created thousands of authors who would never have got anywhere ten years ago and yet I for one would not want to take away that feeling of joy and satisfaction from them that opening a box of your own books gives you.
Whether or not self-published novels are equally worthy of being read as traditionally-published novels is for each of us to decide. One thing’s for sure though: I will never tire of typing these words…
I am an author.
 
Accidental Crime is out now on Amazon Kindle and in paperback from Sam’s website: www.samlenton.co.uk
Sam’s blog can be read at http://samlenton.co.uk

ALL PROCEEDS FROM MEL'S NOVEL, A PAINFUL POST MORTEM (NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE) ARE FOR CHARITIES HELPING CHILDREN WORLDWIDE, WHO ARE THE VICTIMS OF AIDS.  EVERY COPY YOU BUY, IN ELECTRONIC OR PAPERBACK FORM, WILL ALLEVIATE THEIR SUFFERING.

A MULTI-PUBLISHED AUTHOR (UNDER DIFFERENT PEN NAMES) WITH A SUNDAY TIMES NO. 4 BESTSELLER TO HER NAME, MEL MENZIES IS ALSO AN EXPERIENCED SPEAKER AT LIVE EVENTS, AS WELL AS ON RADIO AND TV.

 

Your Comments:

27th June 2012
at 9:16am
You have an excellent attitude Sam. I wish you every success.
27th June 2012
at 10:05am
Sam, Your honesty made me smile. I certainly recognize many of your doubts and misgivings, particularly that of feeling ever so slightly fraudulent! Then I read a few things by people with obviously far more brass neck that I, counted the typos, and took heart.
I wish you all the best with your writing and marketing.
Sue
S.L.Russell The Leviathan Trilogy
29th June 2012
at 10:41am
A very inspirational post Sam. Getting your work 'out there' is half the battle in writing these days. I've taken notes on your methods :-)
29th June 2012
at 2:43pm
Thanks for the encouragement everyone!
Mel Menzies
4th July 2012
at 10:23pm
Sam is a young man. He's dreamed a dream and made it a reality.

I've just come across the following quote on Facebook: “It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”
Gabriel García Márquez

Seems to me that this statement is true of any of us, young or old. Well done Sam for reminding us of this truth.
16th July 2012
at 9:38am
I’m still learning from you, but I’m trying to achieve my goals. I absolutely enjoy reading all that is written on your blog.Keep the tips coming. I liked it
11th February 2013
at 6:44pm
Thanks for this post! As someone still working on my novel whilst pondering how to get it published, I found it it was thought-provoking to read about your experience.

Post a comment:

No HTML allowed. Web URLs will be auto-linked. Please stand by your comments; anonymous posting is permitted but not encouraged. Your email address will not be published, nor will it be distributed. Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the editor has approved them. They may also be removed without notice or explanation.

Related Posts

My Latest Book

Chosen?

Available in paperback from my books page, Amazon and Waterstones
Buy Your Copy

Find the Real You...

Start Now
Take a FREE
Personality Test

BBC Radio Devon Interview

Listen to me chatting to Dave Fitzgerald about my latest release, Chosen, on BBC local radio.

Recently On Twitter

tweeted by Cymraes44
on 21st September at 00:41
Lesley Regan: RCOG Must Not Permit Abortion at 7 months or Up to Birth - Sign: https://t.co/YyVqS49ORM
tweeted by MelMenzies
on 21st September at 00:18
tweeted by BoostTorbay
on 7th September at 23:40
Follow Me on Twitter

Who's online?