Thursday, April 21, 2016

Facing Down THE FEAR

Everything was on track. I'd received the fourth version of the converted file of De Nada Nirvana. All I needed to do was a final, final proofread and I'd be ready to publish. At least, that was the theory. The reality turned out to be rather different. I'm going to talk through this part of the journey here. Let's get ready to ramble.

I can't say procrastination paralysed me. Instead, I suddenly found a huge number of things to do that needed to take priority. Except I didn't. Not really. True, I was running a self-edit course, but there was a lull in editing commissions and I didn't have my usual pile of MSs to work through. But there were Other Things getting in the way. I told myself my website had to be updated first. Emails that I'd usually consider to be non-urgent shot up the to-do list. I even cleaned corners of the flat that were shocked to see me.

My mood plummeted and the questions began to roll in. What if this wasn't just a lull in editing work? What if it had dried up forever? Had my career stalled? Was I going to go back to struggling to pay the rent? Eventually, the questions crystallised and I identified the big one, The Fear.

What if people HATED my new novel?

Yep, I'd been beset by the Doubt Demons, as a writer friend calls them. Only one way to deal with them. I had to call each of them out from the shadows and get them to state their case so I could come up with the answers to silence them.

The conversation went like this:

Doubt Demon: De Nada Nirvana is the first novel you've published in ten years.

Me: No need to rub it in.

Doubt Demon: Ah, but this one's different, isn't it. It hasn't been through a gatekeeper.

Me: That's not strictly true. My agent took me on, on the basis of this novel.

Doubt Demon: Wait. You mean you didn't have an agent for the first two? Are you mad? Or just stupid?

Me: Quite possibly both. What can I say? Hindsight's a bitch.

Doubt Demon: So let me get this right. You were signed direct by Orion without an agent. They didn't offer you a third book deal though, did they? Hmmm? Wouldn't you say that suggests it Just Wasn't Good Enough?

Me: Maybe. But it's also true that a lot of that might have been down to timing and circumstances beyond my control.

Doubt Demon: Yeah, yeah. Keep telling yourself that. Or maybe it's because the first two weren't that good either. Your sales didn't exactly set the world on fire, did they?

Me: Sales of Nirvana Bites were not spectacular, it's true, but they weren't disastrous either. Don't forget I had no web presence back then. It was much harder to build a buzz. But Trading Tatiana had a fraught journey before she even got to the published stage. There was a series of events at the publishers - some tragic - that meant she went through four different editors before she was launched. It was nothing to do with me, nor did it have any connection to my novel. The editorial team must have been in total disarray. There was no one in my corner, championing me.

Doubt Demon: Shame you didn't have an agent back then, isn't it, eh?

Me: Oh, do piss off. We've covered this one. Move on.

Doubt Demon: OK, we will. Let's get back to De Nada Nirvana. Your agent loved it but he couldn't sell it, so it hasn't been through any kind of professional editing process, has it. Answer me that one.

Me: I believe I can answer that, since you ask. I wrote De Nada Nirvana over ten years ago and only returned to it last year when I decided to self-publish it. In those intervening ten years, I've worked as a freelance editor, editing an average of 2-3 MSs a month. For the last five years, I've run an online Self-Edit Your Novel course with Emma Darwin, as well as teaching creative writing at events and to writers' groups. I believe I have both the skills and the distance to edit my own novels. In any case, De Nada Nirvana looks very different now from the version my agent was unable to sell. I know it's a better book. As far as I'm concerned, it has been professionally edited.

Doubt Demon: Yeah, but you have some worries about it, don't you. Go on. Spit them out. You've broken rules and you're scared you're gonna be called out on it. And then that'll undermine your reputation as a professional editor and tutor. You're done. This is the end, my friend.

Me: You're no friend of mine.

Doubt Demon: Go on then. Defend yourself against the charge that you've head-hopped.

Me: Right, I will. I've looked very carefully at the areas where some people might think that's what I've done and you know what? I think it works in the story. A newbie to the concept, looking for things to criticise when they read published novels, might spot it and go, 'Aha! Practise what you preach, Editrix!' but I'm willing to bet that readers won't notice any of the dislocation you get when the psychic distance spectrum hasn't been used to good effect.

Doubt Demon: OK, but while we're on the subject of breaking rules, you always bang on about how novels often struggle to sustain more than three or four. Remind me again how many POVs you have in De Nada Nirvana?

Me: Don't forget that I'm a huge fan of breaking the rules, as long as you have a good reason and do it well. I concede that there are several characters, some very minor, who have their own limited POVs, but I maintain that it's very clear that the story belongs to Jo and Jen. Besides, it's not that uncommon in the thriller genre to have brief scenes in minor POVs.

Doubt Demon: Ah, I'm glad you brought up the business of genre. What the hell is this novel? The politics are more in the background than in the two previous Nirvana books. De Nada Nirvana was the first you wrote in third person. There are two threads: Jo's, in Spain, is the crime thread, and Jen's in South London is ... is ... What the hell is that? Are you writing romance, Alper?

Me: Ha! Yeah, I know. It took me by surprise too. But I don't think I'll be joining the Romantic Novelists' Association any time soon. It's a very quirky sort of romance and I think it's the kind of thing that readers who are following these characters would expect and want to see. One of the reviews for Trading Tatiana, described it as an unorthodox mix of comedy, kitchen-sink drama and dark thriller. All I've done with De Nada Nirvana is throw a new element into the mix. The threads are interwoven. What can I say? I believe in the book. I enjoyed writing it and hope others will enjoy reading it.

Doubt Demon: You do realise that by writing this blog you're going to draw people's attention to the very things you're twitching about ...

Me: Sigh. I know. What can I do? I'm a writer. Lots of us have a tendency to over-share.

Doubt Demon: Right, howzabout this for the killer punch then. You're crap at self-promotion. You'll sell a few copies. You have loyal friends, many of then writers themselves, who will buy it because they know you. But you'll never spread the word beyond that small community because you have neither the will nor the skill to tell the rest of the world your books are out there.

Me: You're absolutely right. I'm not going to try arguing with you on this one. I'm fully aware that self-publishing also means self-promoting. That doesn't have to mean you should be ramming your novel down people's throats at every opportunity but there's an enormous gulf between doing that and doing sod all. I know I should be thinking about mailing lists and competitions and blog tours and special offers and all that but I'm not.

And you know what? I'm OK with that. It all depends on how you measure success and what it is you want to achieve. I wanted to write books I'd enjoy reading. I've succeeded in doing that. I wanted to make the rest of the Nirvana series available for those who want to read them. The job's in hand and making progress. I also want and need to balance being an author with my role in working with other people to perfect their novels. I'm simply not prepared to devote the time and energy it takes to do more than the occasional blog post, or FB post or tweet to promote my novels. But I'm cool with this. I'm not settling for second best. It feels right to me. De Nada Nirvana will be out shortly and then I'm going to start looking at Me, John and a Bomb. It's gonna happen.

Doubt Demon: Bollocks. Looks like we'll have to go off and find some other poor author to torment.

And there we have it. I've faced The Fear and I'm still standing. De Nada Nirvana will be published on 1 May. Because Mayday, y'know. Over the next day or so, I'll set it up so it's available for pre-orders. Meanwhile, Nirvana Bites and Trading Tatiana are still on special offer at 99p each. Let's get this show on the road.



MandyB said...

1st May - date's in the diary! Take that Doubt Demons!! :-)

Janette O said...

Good for you, Debi, to show us how you faced the doubt demons. It makes the rest of us see them for what they are, if they've got the nerve to harass the likes of you. I feel empowered to look my own in the face now, then kick their sorry arses. Looking forward to 1st May! Will pre-order my copy today.

Katherine Hetzel said...

Away with the Doubt Demon! May 1st's already ringed in my's (supposed to be) StarMark's date too! Now I will have someone else to think about and cheer on to take my mind off the Doubt Demon who'll be sitting on MY shoulder that day, chuntering 'it'll never sell' in my ear...
Can't wait to get my hands on De Nada Nirvana...

John T said...

May Day. Our singers have a few songs for that. And I'll be singing for De Nada Nirvana. No doubt demon has ever been known to stand up to my singing :-)

Debi said...

Zap. Kapow. Take that, Doubt Demons. Look at all these lovely authors I've got on my side. And when you said you'd find someone else to torment, don't you dare let it be any of my friends. Together, we are powerful.

AGL said...

Thanks for sharing, Debi. I chose the route of buying 150 copies of my own book for the various promotions I had planned (I was torn between 100 and 150). It's hard work selling copies, but quite fun, too. and I'm already over the 100 with Saturday's launch in England still to come, so it's as well I went for the 150. I'll probably have a couple of dozen or so left after Sat. which is fine for future dribs and drabs of people wanting a signed copy, and I can always do another sales drive if necessary, perhaps at a school or VI form college.

But as for online sales, apart from FB and the occasional Twit I've done little. I'm particularly aware that I ought to be somehow breaking into the Irish-American market given the topic of my novel, but apart from a few 'cold-emails' about whose effectiveness I have no idea, I've done little as yet, nor do I know what I could be doing. If you find anything that works, let me know, Debi and If I do, I'll pass it on to you :-)

Best wishes for 1st May.

Debi said...

Tony - you need to join ALLi, who have tremendous resources for self-pubbers. Click the badge at the top of my blog.

Debi said...
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Sandra Davies said...

Doubt demons ask the same questions of us all, but have that ability to tailor-make the script, don't they?
I totally agree with the pain of self-promotion (and overly self-promoters) and applaud your decision to do what's comfortable.
And the 1st is not far away - space already reserved on my bookshelf.

Whisks said...

Go Debi! You have more positive energy than anyone I know. Fierce in the face of frightening forces. Biff 'em on the nose. Atta girl.
Enjoyed the first two; excited about the next one. Everything crossed for you. x

Debi said...

Busy doing Passover prep but just popped in to blow kisses at you all. I had a threat of a new Doubt Demon, questioning whether I was right to go public about The Fear but the blog seems to have resonated with a lot of people, so I'm pleased I've done it. Take that, pesky Doubt Demon. This one is easily dismissed.

Kath T said...

I'll come and sit on your doubt demons, Debi.

Just seen that the third Navada is published on Sunday, I've thought about you and your great tales over the years and wondered about the characters and re read the first two novels. Also have felt a growing sense of frustration that it seems harder and harder for good authors to get out there and be published.

Must admit was feeling a bit low about having to work Saturday, but think I'll manage it with a bit of smile now - even if everyone else thinks it's wind!

Will it be coming out in 'proper book' form too? While I don't actually embrace technology I will shake hands with it (have got a Kindle).

Debi said...

Bless your heart, Kath. You've been so patient and have stuck by me over the years. I can't tell you how much that means. I hope you're not disappointed by De Nada Nirvana! (That was a pesky Doubt Demon whispering there. Quick! Sit on it!)

I'm afraid I have no immediate plans for bringing the books out as paperbacks. I would love to do that but, as I said to the previous Doubt Demon, I have to ration out my time. Top priority has to go to my paid work and then to publishing the rest of the novels as e-books. I simply don't have the time left over to do the techy faffery of creating print books. One day maybe.

Kath T said...

Ah thanks, Debi. I know I won't be disappointed, there are few certainties in life, and enjoying your books is one of them. You and your books will always have a special place with me. As the books were the first ones I'd read that were so different from what I'd read before and started widening my reading range, plus you were the first author I'd 'spoke to'.

Of course the paid work must take priority, just glad can get them in e form, hopefully they will generate enough to warrant 'proper' books.

All the best and roll on Sunday.

Debi said...

You've only gone and made me sniffle, Kath. How wonderful that we've been part of each others journeys for over a decade. Books are powerful magic and need both authors and readers. We make a good team. ;-)

Richard Sutton said...

This comes at a perfect time for me, Debi. Both of those pesky asshats have been visiting me lately after completing an historic fantasy novel running some 93K words. POV hopping in small doses is something two of the four Beta Readers have commented on, so instead of being energized, with a road map to follow, it paralyzed me. Just knowing that another writer in 'tween genres has been guilty as well and still lets the story take the lead, gives me renewed hope. This will be my seventh book, so I guess it never gets easier...

So, thanks for the slap on the back and the kick in the pants!

Debi said...

I felt quite vulnerable about fessing up about the demons, Richard, but if it helps other writers to face theirs then I'm glad I've come clean.

Re your Beta Readers, if they're writers themselves, their antennae will be tuned to pick up on things that yer average reader would never spot or find problematic. All feedback should be divided into accept, adapt, reject categories and, if you feel something works (after careful consideration, natch), then this particular feedback can safely be rejected. Good luck for the road ahead!

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