Stepping into the unknown…

Back in February 2013, when I started this blog, I was also a good way into writing/editing a children’s book. I can’t actually remember when exactly I began writing it, but the year 2011 keeps popping into my head. So, I spent a couple of years writing and editing said book. The editing, of course, far outweighed the initial writing but if you write, then you’ll know this is the way of it!books-20167_1280

After the umpteenth edit (and having left it to rest several times) I finally sent it out to a few agents and publishers – those who would accept unsolicited manuscripts anyway. I waited to hear back from them and got replies from all but two as far as my memory serves. (I blogged about some of this process so when I get around – very soon I hope – to categorising my blog posts, these will hopefully be easily found!)

The good news was that rather than just a ‘no’ (and I did get a no from all of them), some publishers were kind enough to offer their feedback, which is a little bit like gold dust and a definite softening of the blow. I was told by one of the bigger publishers that I had a ‘great talent’ and ‘a brilliant ability to weave a story’. Another said they could see the potential in my writing and liked the charm of the concept of my story. Yet another added that there was much to like in my manuscript (they called it ‘an interesting work’!), but that it wasn’t quite right for them.

I tell you all this not to gloat – I assure you not – but to give an overview of the journey this manuscript has taken to date. It’s also been viewed by a few traditionally published authors in Northern Ireland that I very much respect, who all also gave me positive feedback on the writing, as well as being edited on and off by myself (still!) since I submitted it way back when (it seems an absolute age…)

Anyway, I’ve spent years working as a journalist and in the past two years, also as a copywriter, after establishing my own business, which has impacted upon my creative writing. (Ever set up and tried to maintain a business? Well, it’s a whole lot of work and that work NEVER stops. But it’s a great thing to be earning a living as a writer as your own boss, after years spent training, and working for other people. However, I digress.)

When I set up my copywriting business (the link to my website is here if you’re interested – no worries if you’re not), I also the very SAME month, got news from the Arts Council NI that I’d received a grant to write a collection of short stories and poetry. This was brilliant news (someone wanted to pay me to write short stories and poetry!), though it totally knocked the children’s manuscript on the head for the next year. And then the year after that, as again – building a business at the same time.

It can sometimes be difficult to switch into fiction writing mode after a day’s constant copywriting (and emailing!!) and this past year I’ve definitely put managing my business ahead of my creative writing work. I’ve still written the odd short story and poem, along with dabbling with another manuscript, but the work output just hasn’t been the same. Nor has the blogging, though I think I’ll keep up with posting fortnightly, or even monthly going into the future as, if it gives me more time to write fiction, then so much the better.

To the present then. I can’t remember how I discovered Catherine Ryan Howard (her blog is here and well, it’s brilliant, so do check it out), but I think it was probably by chance as I was Googling something. I then heard her speak at a self-publishing event in Belfast a couple of years ago (can you see where this is going now…?) and was really impressed by how she spoke and how down to earth and well, sensible, she was. She didn’t beat about the bush (as her blog readers will know) when it came to talking about the realities of self-publishing (SP), and she laid it all out there using examples from her own experience, about what you could expect. It made me think very differently about SP and I realised that, done properly, this could be something to consider.IMG_20160814_164807

Fast forward to now and I’m finally at the stage of – you’ve guessed it – thinking of self-publishing my children’s novel. I recently started re-reading some of Catherine’s blog posts about SP but then remembered she’d compiled all this info in a book, so I hopped over to Amazon to buy what is hitherto going to become known as my SP bible. Self-publishers-to-be – if you don’t have this book in your life, I recommend you get it pronto. It will save you trawling the internet for info which Catherine has collated in one very easy to read volume, it’s self-published, so will give you an idea of what YOUR book might look like, and it’s very handy to turn to when you’re at your computer, rather than flicking between multiple web pages and getting confused.

I read it across two nights and afterwards, my head was swimming with information. However, despite the immense job that self-publishing is (and yes, it takes a lot of hard work to do it properly – and some money too!), it’s spurred me on to really consider SP my own story. I’m either a glutton for punishment, or I could just be someone who’s always dreamed of being a published author, know I’m a fairly good fiction writer (you have to think so to consider SP or publishing in general!) and am willing to invest the time and money into the project to create a book I can be proud of.

This means hiring an editor and a cover designer (read Catherine’s book or blog for her advice on this. You will either laugh or cry but hopefully, you’ll see the sense). I’ve written full-time for the past 10 years and I write short stories, poetry and manuscripts but… when it comes to editing your own book, you cannot do it yourself. You’re just too close to it and, given that it’s been about two years since I read my children’s manuscript in full, once I started reading it again this week (too many edits over the years to count and I’m still not done!), it was as if I’d never looked away from it. I.e. I know it too well.

When I heard Catherine speak in Belfast, I knew I couldn’t afford to SP as I couldn’t afford an editor or cover designer at the time. I think I’m now at the place that I can, so this week, I’ll be emailing people for quotes. Both exciting and scary! I will also be going through Catherine’s book: Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing – with a much finer toothcomb, as I prepare to navigate the world of SP and try to get my book to a publishable form.

Even sharing this news here on my blog feels a little bit too much like commitment (does my book really need to be published…?), but the answer to that is for me, yes, I think it does, and you don’t have to buy it or read it when it comes out (though it would be pretty cool if you did). Perhaps by this time next year, I’ll be posting pictures of me with my SP children’s novel, but if you’re interested in seeing how (or if!) I reach that point, then stick around and you’ll find out here.

In the meantime, I’m also going to be looking at updating this blog a little bit – using Catherine’s book of course (and no, I’m not getting commission from her – it’s just really good and is step-by-step advice). So, wish me luck and sure – we’ll see how it goes…

Have you SP and if so, what have your experiences been?

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2 Comments

Filed under Self-publishing

2 responses to “Stepping into the unknown…

  1. seanmaguirewriter

    Well done Claire with the Arts council
    grant and the feedback from the publishers.
    I have mixed responses from literary journals and publishers most of it
    negative. Constructive feedback is
    invaluable to help develop your writing.
    The best of luck.

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