Self-Publishing is About Growth

Originally guest published over on Bookwraiths.com

When I was writing my first story all I could think about was how people would love the characters. It had a kickass kid, time-travel, dinosaurs, swearing, and random acts of senseless violence.

My teacher hated it. 7 year old Matt Knott was distraught.

Then again 7 year old Matt also got stuck up a 2 foot tree. He was an idiot.

What I didn’t understand was that my teacher didn’t hate it. She just saw something in it that was beyond my years and wanted to nurture that through criticism. A few years back my mother made mention that the now retired hatemonger had asked if I’d carried on writing.

She was genuinely curious to see how I’d grown.

What many Self-Published authors tend to miss is that our readers are teachers. What we put out there is on us to make the best tales we can, but also accept that the best we can do today is not the best we can be.

Over the past couple of months I’ve seen a whole lot of Self-pub guys pushing for good reviews or only acknowledging praise.

For close to a decade I’ve worked on huge projects in gaming. They’re collaborative global efforts that I’m really proud of. I’ve learned so much and grown as both a person and a professional. When it comes to writing I wanted to go it alone. Put into practice all I’d learned over the years.

I wanted to own my growth and destiny. Have something that is completely mine.

Part of that is accepting that I’m starting out on a journey. That I need to be ready to ache and challenge myself. I’ve always loved writing. Genuinely loved it and to love a skill is to suffer for it.

Self-Publishing is a way to grow as a person and a writer. Engaging with people who have legitimate, well placed criticism is rewarding. It helps you to get to firm up your own beliefs in where you should focus on improvement.

It also guarantees that person will be invested in your journey and come back to see where their guidance has led you. Your most valuable readers aren’t those who love your words unconditionally. They’re not fans.

They’re people who saw something in your work that holds promise and encourage you to live up to that.

What you deliver should always be the highest quality you can provide and we should feel pride at what we’ve achieved. Accept the praise! Feel great about it. Just know that we can always do better and owe it to our readers to strive for growth.

That’s why I encourage everyone to take the time to write thoughtful replies to criticism and to not only acknowledge it but embrace it. Be self-aware

As writers who chose to go it alone we owe it to ourselves to be open and honest about our flaws. We owe it to our readers to live up to their expectations.

Self-Publishing can just be pure vanity projects, or it can be a place for us to hone our craft and surprise our readers and ourselves with every new page.

That old teacher is reading my first book now. I’m looking forward to my first F since I left high school.

Insecure Authors and the Grim Wasteland of Self-Publication

The other day I got a message from someone telling me that the busiest period of the year for book buying was coming up. I couldn’t miss the big marketing opportunity they had for me, apparently.

For only a handful of coins they’d transform my life with some great Amazon and Goodreads reviews.

What absolute bollocks that is. I can understand there’s a market for it. Self-Publishing is a world of getting shunned by everyone and working hard to have people give your work a chance.

It’s a crowded wasteland, we’re all hungry, and the sun is setting.

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Paying for lies isn’t going to protect you from reality. A few more strangers might give it a look, but it’s tainted meat.

Reviews don’t come easy. That’s what makes it worth the work and waiting. A four star review from a stranger was the most satisfying thing I’ve ever logged into Amazon to read. It blew my mind and made me get excited to keep working.

I’ve had a couple of friends post reviews unsolicited after they’ve hit me up, and I’m glad they enjoyed it. When I see one posted by them on Amazon, something feels off. They’ve done it of their own accord and I know their enthusiasm is genuine; thing is the satisfaction isn’t there.

A paid for review posted up would send me crazy. My dad posted a review and it gives me palpitations. It looks sketchy as hell, I feel oddly cheated. I even dropped a message over to Amazon that’s yet to have anything done.

Those are just personal feelings though, do I have facts and data to back up why it would be bad to do this? Luckily I created this handy graph.

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As you can see it’s great for skiing in the clown shoes that come part and parcel with the service.

What if the intended effect happens though and you make mad cash from it?

*Imagine I’m doing a shrug with a confused look and my palms pointed upwards like a bit in a 70’s comedy*

I get why people do it. I don’t blame them for wanting to try for an edge. Lying to your potential readers and trying to shortcut hard work isn’t the way to do that. You can grab hold of that first piece of bushmeat you find out on the plains and stuff the rancid, raw morsels in your mouth.

You might be fine at first, but the myriad diseases are going to wreck your innards.

Don’t compromise your integrity and dignity by paying someone 15 bucks to have their kids write you an Amazon review. Self-Publishing is risky and you need to be secure enough to be in for the long haul, if you’re so insecure that you’re trying to rush things along then stop to consider the whole.

Are you dependant on book sales to eat? To change your life? To get laid? Maybe there’s better ways to achieve those things without spending cash on gimmickry.

Not all authors will survive the wasteland of self-publication. My work will likely end up as bones on the trail.

It’ll make one hell of a smug, honest skeleton at least.

Forging a Sword

At around 3am one morning I figured that my living room needed a medieval weapon to make it complete.

The next step was deciding I needed to make it myself.

The third was finding a place that would let me do this quickly before sanity and sobriety got home and asked what the fuck was I thinking. Fortunately the internet was there to help and I came across the Forge of Avalon.

I fired a mail and booked in before telling my boss I needed a few days off to go and forge a sword. He was in agreement this was a thing that should happen.

I had no idea what to expect. I figured that at the end of day one I’d be lauded as a an exceptionally talented prodigy and flush with success be retroactively added to the history books as the greatest smith the world as ever known.

On a more honest level I knew that I’d suck.

I flew over to Glastonbury and met with Kate who handles the front end of the business. She’s an absolutely delightful woman who just looks mischievous and has an accent that can’t help but bring stories to life.

Then I met Richard, the Master Swordsmith and got a new found appreciation for why Kate is so good. Rich is not a PR person. He’s bellicose and booming and intensely protective of his craft. Shaking his hand was like meeting a mountain. I had an instant respect for him and by the end of the first day an absolute awe of smithing as a whole.

A professional

Long hot hours spent hammering on steel and being bellowed at for my incompetence were not in the brochure but they were appreciated. This wasn’t a simple task, it wasn’t fun. It was hard work and every criticism and moment spent watching as Rich, roll up in hand, inspected my work was draining.

At the end of the second day we got roaring drunk and smashed cans with a sledgehammer. I challenged Rich to hammer flat empty cans of Carling. The loser would have to down several full cans. Unsurprisingly, I failed and got even more intoxicated. We talked long into the night. Arguing and agreeing and giving me perspectives on my own life I hadn’t even considered.

At 5 am I walked back to my bed and breakfast through pitch darkness and decided to scale Glastonbury Tor with a gas lamp. There are llamas there and they scared the shit out of me. I was found passed out and babbling on the doorstep of the B&B and a few hours later I was back at the forge with a legal obligation not to use any machinery.

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A drunken fool halfway up a hill

I sweated, I shuddered and I kept at it.

When all was done I was immensely proud and exhausted. There’s so much cheddar in what I’m about to write that mice all across Dublin are heading to my house but it’s so true. It wasn’t about forging the sword it was about breaking down myself.

I named the blade Trust because you can have faith in humanity. You can trust people to be good. You have to have belief that against our biases and weaknesses there is something brighter. Trust in people.

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Ready for war

Kate and Richard are two exceptional people and forging Trust was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.

It wasn’t fun and it wasn’t easy but it was time well spent and treasured. The most fulfilling things we do are sometimes crazy and ill advised and we can’t even really explain why we wanted to do them in the first place.

Go a little wild and seek an adventure. It’s worth it.

Trust
           Trust