Cue starting a blog article with a massive understatement…
Well, it’s been a while.
Thanks for that…
Such a while in fact that, apart from the fact that I could have had another baby in the time since I last wrote a piece (well, not me obviously, my wife) it would be a good idea to start with a summary of what has been going on in the book world of Chris Thomas over the last year or so.
Firstly, the self-publishing journey began. The Red Room was released on 28th February 2017 to an international fanfare and widespread critical acclaim (well, in my parents’ house anyway). The first couple of months were a whirlwind of hassling friends and family to buy it, attempting to generate some sort of social media presence, generally bitch and moan about how self-publishers have no chance in the real world… Oh and watch as the paltry amount of money I was generating was swallowed up by Ingram as more and more people pointed out grammatical errors forcing me to continually re-upload the files at 30 quid a time. But in there was also an interview on local radio, which was great fun, especially as I was allowed to pick the music. Although it was slightly strange knowing whether to be “Chris Thomas” or my real name.
And then, in May something magical happened. My book was accepted for publishing by the wonderful Bloodhound Books. A new cover, a blog tour, social media presence all awaited. Basically all the things that, when you are self-publishing you know you should be doing, but are practically impossible to achieve in reality. Anyone who read my earlier blogs about the realities that all of a sudden dawn on you when you embark on a self-publishing journey will appreciate just what a difference it makes having this at your disposal. Or more precisely, how difficult the task at hand is when you don’t.
The blog tour was quite something. Every day over seven days, two different book bloggers, people who know more about what makes a good book than I ever will, who read my book, will post a review of it to all their subscribers and Twitter followers and so on. The fact that Bloodhound had signed it gave me a huge confidence boost that, actually, I had maybe written something worthwhile, but it was still a nerve-wracking experience waiting for the next reviews to be posted. And some of the reviews and the statements that were made about the book absolutely blew me away and I couldn’t paste a screen shot of them up on my Facebook and Twitter profiles quick enough. Generally, they were all positive. Some more glowing than others, but I felt it was important to take any constructive criticism on board. With so many fantastic reviews, it would be easy to dismiss the less positive ones as not knowing what they were talking about, but then if you’re not prepared to take the rough with the smooth then writing probably isn’t for you.
Everyone’s a critic
With the increased exposure afforded by the backing of a publisher, next came the independent reviews on Amazon and Good Reads. During the brief self-publishing phase, generating reviews on Amazon was like running through treacle. It was a case of asking people who you knew had bought it to please, please, please, leave a (nice) review. Maybe the review counter would increase one a week, but when it did, it made a massive difference.
After Enter The Dark was re-released, the reviews appeared a lot more rapidly. And more surreal than that was an ever-increasing number of reviews on the U.S. Amazon site. It was crazy to think that in a country the size of America and a choice of books the size of Kindle’s, that these people had independently chosen to buy my book, read it, and then put a review on line. I felt Enter The Dark had some very English peculiarities which I weren’t sure how they would translate across the pond, but luckily the strength of the storyline appeared to see it through.
But with more reviews comes the risk of more criticism until finally it happens…
You join the:
I imagine that receiving a scathing one-star review from a total stranger affects different authors in different ways. One of the things I have discovered from being welcomed into the world of published authors, and probably indie-published authors more specifically, is that there is a massive support network, a proper community where it is possible to vent spleen about good and bad things that everyone experiences. And most of the other Bloodhound authors ( or ‘Hounds’ as we collectively refer to each other) I have seen react to one-star reviews with good humour and an acceptance that you will never, ever, please all of the people all of the time.
My personal approach to Amazon’s star system is as follows:
5 stars: “Thank you, thank you, thank you” mixed with “Well done, you got it.”
4 stars: “Many thanks. But would it really have hurt you to just make it five?”
3 stars: “Meh.”
2 stars: “You didn’t hate it enough to give it 1 star, so secretly I think you must have liked it?”
1 star: “You’re the worst author I’ve ever heard of…” … “But you have heard of me…”
One star reviews are a reality, and you really shouldn’t be scared of putting a book out there in fear of receiving them. Treat them like a badge of honour, something to learn from and thicken the skin. But if you are embarking on the self-publishing journey for the first time or the tenth time, if you enjoy doing it all yourself then kudos to you. If you would like extra help, there are lots of indie publishing houses out there to submit to. Even if your book is already out, keep submitting because you never know what might happen.
All in all, the last twelve months has been a huge learning experience and one that I wish I could dedicate more time to. But the reality of having a regular full-time job make it hard to do as much as I would like.
Saying that, I have been keeping busy on the book front and there will be more news to follow on that in the very near future…
Thanks for reading.