A post on why I’m not posting that often

It’s October. And that, as everyone paying attention to their nearest supermarket’s seasonal items aisle since August knows, means Halloween is nigh. And in order to capitalise on this, I – as a writer of horror stories – should obviously be dedicating time and effort into some sort of month long programme of themed blog posts, book giveaways and a general glut of content across my social media presence.

At least I assume this is the case, based on how everyone else seems to be responding to this time of year. But I’m not, and there’s a reason for it. And it’s also the same reason I don’t post on here as often as I could. Allow me to elaborate.

I would love to post more on here. I really would. I want to spend time threading my way through Twitter holding multiple conversations across the world. I want to curate material on my Facebook Page that both interests, amuses and terrifies. I want to keep a regular schedule of interesting posts here on my blog for you all to read. But I also want to work on my actual writing, and I have almost all of my day taken up with either my day job or “grown up stuff” (meaning feeding myself, paying bills, preventing my house becoming a tip, etc.). There is a finite amount of time in the day and until we get those pills that allow us to go without sleep I simply have to make the most of the time I actually have.

There do appear to be people who manage to post all the time, but if I look closer, what do I see? Well in 95% of cases all I see are hundreds of people all yelling the same thing into the vast echo-chamber that is the internet.

I don’t want to be one of those people.

There are so many folk out there in the world trying to get noticed and establish themselves as the latest independent writing sensation. All of them have read the same tips and advise on how to do this as I have. They’ve been told they need a social media presence, to post regularly to build an audience, to generate hits, to connect with people. But the problem is that the more people that there are doing this the less effective these actions become. It’s overwhelming.

I fully admit that having a regular and/or frequent posting schedule would be a good thing. However, what’s more important is to post things of quality. Over the last couple of years I’ve starting following so many people online only to stop a few days later as they clog up my feed with so many repetitive posts and comments that it’s impossible to find anything interesting, let alone engage with any of it. I’m not trying to sound like snob or imply that I’m better than anyone who manages to post more often than me. I’m just saying that I think less quality is better than more mediocrity.

Essentially, in my eyes at least, posting hundreds of things online for the sake of posting something is about as useful as publishing a single short story on Amazon every couple of days so that you have a large back catalogue. You might create a huge online presence, but none of it is going to be any good for you. If I have nothing interesting to say, why should I say it?

I don’t want to be one more wannabe desperately shouting into the void for a sliver of the world’s attention. I don’t want people Following me just to repost what I’ve reposted from someone else’s repost. I don’t want to participate in Like for Like schemes. I don’t want to throw out hastily written 100 word blog posts every day that say absolutely nothing. I don’t want to comment on another person’s blog in the desperate hope saying “I like this post” will somehow equate to greater book sales.

I want to post when I have an interesting idea I want to develop. I want to post when I have news that I want to share with you all. I want to post when I’ve discovered something I honestly feel needs to be seen by more people. I want to feel that the people who Follow me do so because they share my interests and enjoy my work.

This is why I don’t post as often as I would like. If I didn’t have a day-job I would definitely put more up here because I would have more time to think up ideas and then develop them into something worth reading. As it is, I hope you don’t mind the sporadic schedule I am able to maintain, and that the work I actually post is worth reading.

Obviously this post is obviously inspired by the vast number of book-giveaways and blog posts and half-finished short stories I’m currently seeing strewn across internet forums, but I’m not saying the practice is necessarily bad. Just do it right. Plan ahead and think about what you want to do, and then do it well. It all harks back to that central point of the aspiring writing: it’s got to look professional.

But speaking of people doing the Halloween build up right, my friend Christopher Brosnahan has been undertaking something called #octoberphobia. Throughout October he has been posting short pieces of flash fiction, each themes around a separate phobia. Go ahead and have a read if you’re looking for some effective little horror stories this October. Then if you like them, maybe buy one of his books. They’re really quite good.

A few thoughts following publication

So a few thoughts on my first week as a published author.

I want to start with a big thank you to those of you who have downloaded The Serpent’s Eye already, and another to those who have been sharing it with friends. During the five days where the book was available for free it has had over 400 downloads! That’s just amazing. That fact that the number of people who have downloaded my book is pretty much double my Facebook friend list (which is pretty much what I expected my audience to be) is awesome.

I’ve even got my first review on Amazon. And people I’ve never met mentioning that they are reading my book of Twitter. It’s strange how little things like that seem to validate what you have done. The fact that I know have a book available to buy, an author profile on Amazon, and that strangers are leaving positive feedback, somehow makes it seem more real. It’s like I’m a real writer or something.

But I do feel a strange conflict. There is still a small part of me that cannot shake the feeling that putting something up myself as an e-book doesn’t count as “real” publishing. This feeling annoys me, as I’m proud of what I have done and in no way feel it is any worse than books that have been professionally published. If I didn’t believe it was good enough for publication I wouldn’t have self-published it. The reason I didn’t go down the shelf publishing route for my last book was that I wasn’t confident it was good enough without the input of a professional editor to help me out.

The fact is that the first hurdle in self-publishing is the easiest to fall at: believing your work is good enough without the work. You can look around the internet for five minutes and find hundreds of works people have self-published online that can’t even be considered half finished by any professional standards. People who seem to honestly believe that “My Mother said it was good” is enough reason to publish something. I swore I would never be one of those people, but that doesn’t stop them swamping the market.

A basic fact about today’s literary market is that if you seriously want to make it, the first step is to make sure that you stand out from the crowd half finished and poorly constructed drivel. The internet allows you to put your work out for people to find, but if you are lazy, hasty, make the same mistakes as others, or are just simply untalented, any publishers and agents who you manage to get to pay attention will dismiss you without a second thought.

And so my next step is to get an agent, and to get The Serpent’s Eye “officially” published. While I will always keep writing and putting out my work myself if that’s what it takes, I won’t deny that the end goal is to move into the field of traditional publishing. And if any one thing can help me get the attention of agents and publishers, it will be my book selling without any professional help.

The problem is I am not a publicist. Nor do I have any marketing experience. These are not things that you traditionally consider to be vital skills in an author, but in the modern publishing market they have become essential. If you want to stand out and be noticed, you’ve either got to (a) get working on the self publicity, or (b) pray that you’ll get reallyreally lucky.

So my work is set out before me; to grow word of mouth and build both book sales and blog-hits.

So, you know, start bigging me up to your friends. Suggest The Serpent’s Eye. It may not be free any more, but £1.53 is still pretty cheap.

Oh, and if you’ve still to get your own copy, you can download it here.

Jealousy and the success of others

I’ve written here before about the pains you have to go through if you want to be a writer. I spoke about rejections, and how the fact that they are something we must all endure does not make them any less painful. There are also other things that are part of an aspiring author’s life that are just as hard to deal with. I want to discuss one of them with you; jealousy.

One of the things that I have discovered about myself now I am trying to get published is that I find it very hard, for a short time at least, to be happy for those who manage it. I’m not proud of this. In fact I hate the way it makes me feel, but the fact is that every time I see an announcement about a first time author getting a publishing deal, or that an agency has signed somebody new, I get an angry stab of jealousy. It’s not pretty and it’s unfair. But it’s part of life.

It’s an understandable feeling. I’ll give myself that at least. As much as I don’t like it I am going to have to see other people succeeding where I have not. And I should be happy for them. I know only too well the pain of rejection and the desire to make it and get an agent/publisher. It’s almost certain that this other author went through the same things. Deep down I’m happy that someone has the things I want, but the overriding thought is that I’d rather it had happened to me.

And it’s not just strangers. A friend of mine recently won a writing competition. He’s a very talented writer and well deserved the win. Yet when I saw his name on the list of winners my first thought wasn’t happiness at a friend’s success, but jealousy at it. I didn’t even enter the competition and so can’t even claim to have been competing with him. The only thought that went through my mind was that he had achieved a measure of success that I had not.

I hate it when I feel like this. It’s a petty and mean part of me that I don’t like seeing. I was about to write that “it’s not who I am”, but clearly it is who I am. Is part of who all of us are when we want something badly. But I have to accept it and not let it make me bitter. It really doesn’t bother me more than a little while. I don’t dwell on it. People will make it, and hopefully someday so will I and then some other hopeful writer can feel the dark, angry stab of jealousy.

Like direct rejection, jealousy is something we all have to go through. As aspiring authors you have to keep an eye on social media and trade announcements to see what opportunities are out there, and so you are going to see the people who are getting ahead of us. It doesn’t make it any less painful, but you can’t let it become you.

I guess it’s all down to the same fear that rejection taps into; the fear that it will never be our turn. We all know that there are hundreds of people who want to be authors but who just don’t have the talent. We all have the fear that we are one of those. One of those people who just isn’t good enough. And every time somebody makes it it’s just another example of how other people are good enough to get published.

So all I can do is work on my thick skin and carry on. I don’t begrudge other authors finding the success that I want. I really don’t. I just really want some of it for myself.