Publishing, social media and the writing fraternity
Ok. I know it’s late at night, but in all fairness, I do some of my best thinking late at night, and most of my best scenes are written in the wee hours. But tonight I felt, given an email I just read, that I needed to say certain things (no, not a rant at all, but an acknowledgement, at the least).
I am – and some of you will snort or laugh at this – a remarkably shy person in reality. I am the sort who clams up and gets all coy when someone says something nice. When introduced to people I will invariably make a horribly inappropriate seafood joke or badger scrotum related comment that seems funny in the very instant that I panic about being told I am standing next to ‘hero x’ but later seems the height of buffoonery.
So in some way, I would say that the greatest advantage social media has given me is the ability to appear glib (while floundering amid a pile of terrible jokes) and to get used to folks enough that when I meet them, I am not quite such a buffoon as I might otherwise be.
I started writing because I was stupifyingly bored with my job and while careers like ‘gameshow host’, ‘royal executioner’, and ‘leader of the free world’ all had their advantages, I enjoyed writing, had an imagination, and felt that it was something I could do without ‘putting myself out there for ridicule’.
10 years (almost to the day) down the line and how much more wrong could I have been? Not a lot. It seems that writing a book is maybe 30% of the job description. The rest is all advertising and media based self-promotion. Left to myself in such a situation, I would have disappeared without trace – despite the fact that my lovely and resourceful wife takes it upon herself to promote my work at every social occasion :-)
But I managed a few forays into the media/advertising world back in 2009 when Marius’ Mules and Interregnum came out. And I was somewhat surprised at what I discovered. The writing world is not like the job market or the commercial high street. It is not heavily competition-led!
One of the first connections I ever made (and he will always have a place in my personal pantheon for it) was Angus Donald. Angus was producing Outlaw at the time I was producing Marius’ Mules, and his well-timed words of encouragement (and even a mention on his blog) really made a difference.
Then I discovered forums (fora!) and tried to involve myself in several, but overstretched. Because of my forays, I met Robin Carter (Parmenion Books) who was the second person ever after Angus to take an interest in my work, and who actually encouraged me enough to push me into the limelight, and who has since become a firm friend. Also, at this time – though I didn’t realise it because I’d overstretched – I first met Ben Kane.
Fast forward at little, and I was socialising with the lovely Prue Batten (your fault, Prue: this blog), who had come up through the same website as I, Tony Armitt and Gordon Doherty (and others), who I met on my first forum extravaganza, and a lady in the states called Julie Richards. (Julie, I seem to have lost touch with you and am tremendously sad about it. If you read this, please do get in touch.)
I realised that what I’d initially suspected was truly the case. The writing world (at least certainly in the case of Historical Fiction) is very much a fraternity. Competition is pointless. Readers will read what they like, and cross publicising with other writers of a similar genre is by far more valuable than trying to outdo them.
I began to explore the world of my genre and I have met so many excellent people that it would be hard to list them (many of them with the elusive ‘traditional’ publishers). Some have been startlingly friendly (witness as a prime example Robert Low, of whom I was initially in extreme awe). Some have been truly supportive and fraternal (witness Douglas Jackson, whose opinion I hold most high these days). Some have been constructive and aided me tremendously (Ben Kane and Anthony Riches!)
I have made friends galore (many more than are mentioned here). People I hold in very high regard and take every opportunity to meet with (Giles Kristian, Manda Scott, Mike Arnold, DE Meredith and many more).
But the upshot of all this is that I have become well aware that I owe a great deal of my current success to people who I would – in my naive early days – have considered the competition – and also to a number of stalwart friends in the reviewing and publishing trade who deserve my thanks, too! My eyes are open these days, and I am grateful to each and every one. I am proud to be included in peoples’ tweets alongside them, or to be invited to events by them. As an indie writer (the poor cousin) I am overwhelmed by the level of acceptance I encounter every day. And I hope to share a drink with you all at History in the Court this month.
So that’s it. Rather than being an awkward, shy (borderline loonie) on my own, trying to write books and hoping someone will read one, I seem – almost accidentally, or at least through the designs of benevolent others – to have become part of two fraternities (cannot off the top of my head think of the non-misogynistic term for that). One of writers, and one in social media. A lot of my new friends are in both, but that’s just greed! ;-) Kudos for the world of Historical Fiction and the level of friendly cooperation. Long may it reign, and if only nations were governed in the same manner, Syria would currently be playing backgammon with Israel while sharing cake!
And now, I go to re-read the email that triggered this pile of verbal blancmange and smile at the fact that I have made good friends in the most unexpected of places.
Then: to bed.
See you all anon.
Happy writer, of Yorkshire.
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