Earlier this year something rather unusual happened to me; I had a 150,000 word unpublished story on my hands. Certain facets of this manuscript were different from every other story I had ever written in my life before, the most notable difference being that it was a finished novel. Prior to its completion, the only stories I had ever successfully completed were short stories and the occasional novella; all previous attempts at novel writing resulted in abandonment, usually because I unceremoniously tore up or deleted the offending work. It was also different in that it was the first story I had written with the explicit intention of having it read by persons other than myself. And perhaps the most unusual thing about the manuscript was fact the that I was actually happy with it, which shouldn’t have been possible; I am never satisfied with my own writing.
It wasn’t long before my excitement at having a finished novel that I was pleased with prompted my spur of the moment decision to self-publish the book immediately. Since I had already reached the conclusion that traditional publishing was not an attractive option to me, there seemed little point in holding off until some indeterminate future date, so a few short days later my debut novel entered the world with no fanfare. Looking back, I find it funny just how little thought I put into the release of my book, but given the ultimate goal I had in mind for it, I’m not convinced that it really matters.
It has now been approximately three and a half months since the publication of, The Exercise Of Vital Powers, and yesterday I was pondering what (if anything) it has accomplished in that short time. You’ll probably be unsurprised to learn that I don’t have a runaway smash hit on my hands, making me the envy of the J.K. Rowlings of this world. Fortunately, I was clued up enough to know my first book would not be a bestseller, let alone make me a billionaire, so this was never a goal. Aside from wanting to get my story into the hands of other readers, the principal objective I had in mind when I published the book was to make the publication of a second novel much easier on me when the time comes. In theory, having one book under my belt will mean that in the not too distant future I won’t be a completely unknown quantity when the follow up novel emerges (I might even have acquired half a dozen fangirls or fanboys by then), so I won’t be starting at rock bottom; plus the time in between the releases will hopefully allow me to learn enough about how to properly prepare an effective and successful launch of a new book. As objectives go, it’s certainly much more achievable than matching Rowling’s sales figures, though whether this goal is accomplished or not I won’t know for certain until next year.
In terms of how things have progressed up to this point, the best development to have occurred since publication day was entering The Exercise Of Vital Power’s into the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off contest. When author Mark Lawrence issued his call for submissions for this year’s competition, barely two weeks after my book went on sale, I quickly realised it was a great opportunity to get some free exposure. Yet having said that, I was initially reluctant to submit my book because I had no expectation that it was good enough to win. But after a little thought, I realised it wasn’t necessary to actually win in order to derive some benefit; just being involved would make entering worth it, so I went ahead and entered. Since that moment, I cannot say with any certainty that I’ve gained anything that I wouldn’t have without it, but I strongly suspect that most of the downloads from the Kindle store thus far are directly attributable to being one of the three hundred SPFBO entrants. And if this assumption is correct, the competition has already served its purpose, even if my book gets eliminated before the final phase.
With regard to my book’s journey for the remainder of the year, there is still one destination I am waiting to reach, though it shouldn’t be very long now until I get there. You might have noticed that there are currently no reviews for The Exercise Of Vital Powers, and that’s mostly my fault given my meandering process for determining which book bloggers to send review requests to. Obviously it would have been easy to simply spam a hundred blogs, including all the most popular ones, and hoping against hope that they would all jump at the chance of receiving a review copy of a self-published novel by an unknown, first time author. But I didn’t see the point of blindly sending out requests without having some idea of the likely outcome, so I refrained. Instead, I decided to be much more deliberate about choosing potential candidates, and spent several weeks coming up with a list of book bloggers. Yes, it was time consuming, but it was necessary to increase the odds of my review requests being accepted.
The process of researching the blogs, and viewing the Goodreads profiles of their owners allowed me to identify those who were open to reading self-published books, those who were primarily fantasy readers, those who had enjoyed books similar to mine, therefore likely to be interested in reading The Exercise Of Vital Powers, and those who were regular readers without being too prolific that they wouldn’t have time for new requests. The effort proved to be worth it because when I eventually started sending out my review requests, only one person didn’t reply. Everyone else promptly got back in touch with me, only one of whom was unable to accept my request (though it wasn’t due to lack of interest), and as she left open the possibility of accepting the request at a later date, I don’t consider it an outright rejection. I’m now expecting some reviews to start showing up sooner or later, although my insistence that the bloggers can take as long as they see fit will probably mean later rather than sooner.
So that’s the journey so far. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but I knew very quickly after I stumbled out of the blocks that this indie author lark would be a marathon rather than a sprint. Once I accepted that, I set myself a target of five years to reach my ultimate destination and I feel like I’m on course to accomplish that.
Thanks for reading,