For weeks now I have been following posts on the internet, devouring anything to do with publishing your novel and getting your baby out there. From all this reading, time and time again (please excuse the cliché), a simple message has been delivered.
“New authors: Don’t write your first novel.”
Now the words are not these exactly, more often they are diplomatically masked as;
- “Do you have a Platform?”
- “Do you know your Market?”
- “Do you know how to Promote?”
- “Do you know how to write a query letter?”
- “Are you strong enough to take criticism?”
- “Have you a business plan?”
And more of the same.
Often I came across the phrase, “Once the book is written, then the hard work starts.”. I wonder if many new novelists actually believe this? Let alone take it to heart?
I know you are on fire, your soon to be novel about a new legal eagle is so incredibly good. Plus you are going to serialise it, one book for each decade of his/her life over seven books, each taking the… Everyone will love it, the film rights alone will…
The reality is that you are in for a series of hard knocks and hard lessons on subjects that you might not have a natural talent at. Worse if you don’t pick up these lessons quickly then your baby might be hurt and your reputation harmed.
Time for an analogy. You want to take up motor racing and although you already drive very well on the road, lessons are required in race lines, tactics, V8’s, tyres, fuel, race circuits, engine management, telemetry, weather… the list is very long. No one would expect to get into an F1 car for the first time and perform in any way other than very badly. After all, the top drivers didn’t, most of them started out in saloon car or kart racing.
A novel is an F1 car, heavy on investment, performing against world class competition. A novel might take years to finish and it is impossible to not be emotionally attached (which is why criticism hurts so much). The stakes are high and lessons costly.
So should a new novelist just give up?
NO, of course not.
Time to take up karting. Put your book on the back burner and find the literary equivalent of a racing Kart to work on. A small work that you are interested in, preferably passionate about. A small collection of shorts, history of your town, review of the new British Olympic village, the plight of sharks.
From the research on your novel, take some interesting facts and weave an “Info booklet” from them, even promote your proposed novel in the cover or tail notes.
There are almost unlimited options for small snappy booklets. One writer I know recently produced a children’s book. Just consider that it has all the publishing and distribution issues of a novel but that it requires significantly less commitment of time to be produced. A children’s book is arguably the most perfect medium to learn the associated trades.
Once you have your kart, start promoting it. Learn to podcast, send it to e-book sites, is print on demand an option? If so, find the contacts and costs. Use it as bait at the end of articles written about it. Will you give it away free? Or charge a small fee and so learn about money issues? Could any proceeds go to a charity? How would having a product, or few, affect your platform?
Use your Kart to learn the associated trades.
Then when you have produced your novel and arrive on the starting grid, you arrive self taught with the necessary knowledge. The hardest part is no longer new, it is still hard, winning is not certain, but it is now more of what you already know.
“101 Ways to Discourage New Novelists” by Andy Shackcloth will be out later in 2009. Bookings for copies, speaking engagements, sponsorship or re-branded copy, are obtainable by contacting the author directly.
(Please note: The above “101…” promotion was an attempt at humour, it’s not real and it won’t be out in 2009. Just needed to add this to stop further confusion.)
Photo, IMG_4468_080607_40D, cc BigTallGuy