Blog 35: Coming out as a writer – the truth about your friends and family

I must say it always amuses me when new (and indeed not so new) writers are encouraged to publicise their books to friends and family in order to create interest in their work – as in my experience that only actually works in a small percentage of cases, and can even cause significant damage. Yes, it’s probably different if you’re published with the mainstream press as people are then dazzled by what they imagine to be ‘fame’ (ho ho). However, the majority of writers aren’t taken on by mainstream publishers, and are either with the small (and therefore unknown) presses or are self-published.

In that situation, I’d be very reluctant about sharing anything with friends and family who have known you before you started to write. This is, I think, partly because they feel let down if you’re NOT in the bookshops (which you probably aren’t) and partly because it’s hard for people who already know you to accept a big change in your life. And writing is as big a change as any.

When I first became a published writer (self-published and small press), I obeyed all the instructions given by so-called writers’ guides, and so told all and sundry around me about what I was doing and where they could get hold of my work. Most of their reactions were polite surprise, promises to buy books in the future (NB this never happens so don’t stress it) and confused embarrassment. Possibly a mixture of all three. Yes, a minority loyally bought copies and sometimes still do (for which thank you …), but on the whole my impression was that my friends and family would rather the problem of me being a writer went away. All the more so in view of my ongoing lack of success.

This might also be because I write about sex, and more often than not about gay men, when I’m an English woman and we (apparently) ‘don’t or shouldn’t do that sort of thing’. I also write about crime, depression, murder, child abuse and a huge variety of other aspects of life that they had never associated with me before. So it was very hard for my old friends and most of my family to understand it. In fact, some of the older or more strait-laced members of my family asked me to stop writing or stop talking about it to them as they didn’t want to know about it on any level – which was of course very upsetting indeed, but I’ve done the latter and we’ve all moved on. Kind of … These days, I don’t really ‘do’ family or as little as I can get away with, anyway.

Because the issue I’ve found is that my concept of myself as a writer (however rarely read) is a key one, and drives a great deal of who I am and how I see myself in the world. It’s almost like ‘coming out’ if you like, though obviously the last thing I want is for that phrase to be insulting to anyone at all. If I can continue the analogy, however, once I’d ‘come out’ as a writer, it was difficult – if not impossible – to take it back. And over the years, I’ve noticed that those friends (and family) who found it hard to accept ‘the new me’ have become gradually more and more distant, and now I rarely see them at all.

Instead, new friends have taken their place. These friends might or might not like or even read my books but at least they know who I am and what I do. And it’s that which makes all the difference.

So, my advice is when you become a writer, be prepared for a negative response from those who’ve known you a long time. But, above all, DON’T look for or expect readers amongst your old friends and family. Instead look for readers elsewhere if you want to keep your long-term friendships or even your family intact. Good luck …

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Blog 32: Giving up and moving on

Well, I’ve had more than enough of Publisher No 1’s agonisingly slow responses to gay fantasy The Taming of the Hawk, so I’ve, as promised previously, given up on them entirely, and have just now sent the whole caboodle out to Publisher No 2. I hope their response is more positive, or at the very least speedier! It certainly couldn’t be any slower as surely that’s not humanly possible.

Meanwhile my authorial popularity flags apace, as they say; since I gave up on the other set of publishers and self-published quirky crime novel The Gangster’s Wife this week under my Anne Brooke Books line, only 1 kind person has actually bought it (thank you, whoever you are …). Sigh. Therein lies the answer as to why nobody wants to take on my books, though, as nobody actually wants to read them, oh well …

Nonetheless, proving that, whatever else folks might say about me, I still do faintly believe in the triumph of hope over experience, I am struggling on with comic romance The Old Bags’ Sex Club. Up to about 11,000 words now and writing about the end of Karen’s first affair. All very painful. Hell, she doesn’t have my troubles though – at least she’s a success at what she loves doing, lucky her.

Writerly Confidence Rating: 3

Blog 30: The Frustrated Writer

I’m HUGELY frustrated with the whole publishing business right now, I must say. Yet another rejection today for crime comedy, The Gangster’s Wife, so I’ve decided not to bother any more. I’m utterly fed-up and depressed about the whole business. Really, there’s no point as it increasingly feels as if I’m just spitting into the proverbial, and some. So I’ll self-publish it instead and then I can move on and forget it, hurrah. Which will, at least, be something.

In other news, I’ve finally had the courage (go, me!) to gently chase the publisher who still has the exclusive (as if I even merit such a professional term) on gay fantasy The Taming of The Hawk. I’ve advised them that this week I’ll contact other publishers too, as having an exclusive look at anything for 9 months is just ridiculous – though I of course didn’t entirely put it like that … They came back to say they’d be looking at it as soon as possible, which is what they’ve said twice before, so I’m taking it with a large pinch of salt.

However, I’m happy to say – that after a great deal of writerly begging (oh, I’m so classy, you know) – I managed to persuade 20 kind readers (thank you!) to download the free copy of gay fantasy The Executioner’s Cane from Amazon over the weekend. Which is more than double the number of free copies of fantasy Hallsfoot’s Battle which were downloaded the weekend before, hey ho. Progress indeed!

Writerly Confidence Rating: 0.5

Blog 28: Whatever you do, don’t be a writer …

Hey ho. Still waiting for publishers to stir themselves and send me the inevitable rejection letters for The Gangster’s Wife and The Taming of the Hawk. The Hawk possible publisher promised me a quick response to my resubmission over two months ago now, you may recall, so evidently their understanding of ‘quick’ isn’t mine. There’s a surprise, eh. I’m way too scared to send another reminder though, as they’ll just say they don’t want it and I don’t think I can take another writing fail moment just now.

Talking of which, it has seriously annoyed me this morning when I was reading my “How to be Confident” book that it suggested you should make a list of your dreams and then plan to do them as this would make you happier and more confident. All well and good, but the very first example they used was the mythical case of ‘Jim’ who’d always wanted to be a novelist but had never had the courage to go for it. If only Jim could take steps to fulfil his dream and start writing now, they say, then he’d be a more confident and rounded human being, they say. Huh! As if, eh! I snorted and threw the pesky book across the room. In all honesty, I was a lot happier, more confident and fully rounded (in a good way) human being before I took the steps to try to be a writer. Over the last twenty years, it’s actually made me a whole lot more fragile, easily depressed (in a medical sense), less confident and hugely frustrated as books come and go, get torn apart by some, read by the blessed few (for which thank you) and largely ignored by anyone and everyone else.

So my advice to Jim is: if you want to be confident and happy, put the pesky pen down, keep your dream as a dream, turn your back on the spiky and difficult world of writing and go and do something else more joyful instead. Anything else … If you don’t, you’re in for a huge amount of disappointment, jealousy, rage and despair, and I’m not sure, if you’re being used as an example in a book about How to be Confident, that you can actually cope with that. I certainly can’t.

Sigh. Anyway, in other news, I’ve now written 10,000 words of The Old Bags’ Sex Club – so that’s 10,000 words of a book no publisher will so much as glance at and probably only about 3 or 4 people will ever read. Run, Jim, run for the hills …

Writerly Confidence Rating: 1.5

Blog 27: Half price book sale and Amazon disappointment

From today until 16 Septemberall my Amber Quill Press books are in the half-price book sale so don’t miss out! 

You have a choice of gay thrillers:

Or you could try erotic comic menage (now, there’s a genre to get your teeth into!):

Alternatively, you can go for the quirky romance option:

Or maybe you prefer a touch of the paranormal?

All that and more! What are you waiting for? Happy shopping and even happier reading.

Turning to more ordinary matters, I was disappointed at the weekend that only 9 free copies of fantasy novel, Hallsfoot’s Battle, were downloaded in the Amazon giveaway. Oh the disgrace of it all, eh. I couldn’t even shuffle into double figures. I really do have absolutely no idea how to encourage any readers out there to give my work a try. It’s a mystery. 

My mood isn’t helped either by the continuing lack of any response to any of my novel submissions. I actually do feel as if I might be turning entirely invisible, and nobody can hear my screams. Hey ho. It’s all very exhausting indeed at the moment.

Writerly confidence rating: 4