Where I live in Cornwall, England, there are plenty of old mineshafts that you might inadvertently fall down if you don’t watch your step (and they’re not fenced off). Since I haven’t blogged for a loooong time, you might have wondered whether this fate had befallen me.
Well, fortunately, this is not the case. However, there’s a good reason for my absence from the ‘blogosphere’. And why shall become clear as this post unfolds. So if you want to know the long and the short of my author journey over the past few years, and where things are at today, you’d better get the kettle on (‘cos this does go on a bit!)…
OK, so firstly, in 2017, after about 6 years of writing & self-publishing my own books, I started showing signs of burnout.
Not an unusual phenomenon!
Readers are usually quite unaware just how much work goes into being a self-published author – especially if you actually hope to earn any money from it (let alone support yourself on the proceeds).
In a nutshell, not only is there a huge pressure and expectation for us to publish books at a phenomenal rate, but there’s also a ridiculously-long list of to dos – hoops we need to jump through – in order to market our books and get them out there onto the huge publishing pond, where other authors are also floating their books. Oh, and of course, that’s after the spend-out on great covers and some decent editing.
In 2015/2016, I published three books in the Campervan Bushman Mystery Series, plus a free series prequel and some short stories. By then, I’d been on the ‘indie author’ treadmill for quite a while and was feeling the pressure to ‘knock out books’ and stick with writing a series – as per the ‘received wisdom’ you get on author podcasts. Obviously, there’s a reason for this – if you can write in a series and people like your stories, you need to market less, because you get sell-through from one book to the next.
Logically, it made sense to keep writing in my series, but I was feeling the need to do something else and ‘freshen the palate’. Unfortunately, I just don’t find it easy to stick with one genre, as many authors do. I’d written travel tales, fiction as well as non-fiction set in the cycling world, plus other short fiction. And then I moved on to mysteries.
Talk about spreading yourself thin!
Anyway, the point came where I finally had to take stock of what I was doing. I was making money writing, but not enough to live on – and I wasn’t selling wheelbarrow-loads full of books, as is the dream (although that may have something to do with the fact that I mostly sell digital books rather than physical paperbacks!).
After spending three months taking part in a multi-author mystery boxset and putting in a lot of effort to promote it, I was run ragged (no one was at fault in this regard, I hasten to add!).
By now, my inner voice was shouting at me to STOOOOOP!!!!
STOP the struggle
STOP trying to push ahead
STOP following all the author advice out there
If a sane fellow author had been coaching me on earning a living at this gig, they would have slapped me round the chops, thrust me back in my writing chair and told me to ignore my feelings and knuckle down with my series, I imagine. But something was telling me to get back to listening to my OWN inner guidance, to forget trying to earn a living as an author and just follow what felt like fun or inspiring to write…
No schedule, no market strategy, no trying to work out how to get sales.
So a short way into 2017, I finally listened to that inner voice and put my mystery series on hold. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the stories and characters, but I’d been giving myself word count targets each day, with a view to publishing every few months – and I only realised in hindsight how much this approach was killing me – even if it got results!
Yep, it was time to surrender!
Looking through my filing cabinet of writing ideas, I pulled out a project that I’d really fancied working on, and started writing…
No word count goals, no targets!
Just the pure act of getting back into the flow with my writing again.
It was heaven!
During the summer, I finally booked tickets for me and my partner, Steve, to go to Australia and visit friends, family & old haunts where I’d lived a few decades prior. I had no intention whatsoever of writing while I was away, but en route, I just couldn’t help myself – ideas poured out of me. By the end of our trip, I had a notebook chock-full of scribblings.
Towards the end of 2017, we were back in England, but despite our winter colds, I’d typed up the notes I’d made during our month away in Australia. Going into 2018, then, my writing mojo was back with a vengeance.
But then the business side of writing reared its pesky head again.
I considered doubling down on trying to whip my mailing list into shape. But after doing a reader survey, I realised I’d accumulated a LOT of readers from multi-author promotions who just weren’t engaged with my work. They just wanted freebies or to hear about free/99c promotions (this from their very mouths via the survey).
To be frank, it was a bit of a downer, and it finally dawned on me just how much energy I’d been throwing down the toilet by trying to schmooze readers every month who would never be interested in anything I did.
Anyway, in the end, instead of doubling down on my mailing list, I did an about-turn. So I had a ruthless clear-out – after all, I was paying for those guys to be there, right? – and by the end of the process, I was left with readers who I hoped (or assumed) would be the more engaged of the bunch.
Next, I changed my newsletter to ‘new releases only’ and told my remaining readers that I was focussing on writing instead of putting out monthly newsletters (which used to feature promotions by fellow authors and the occasional free ebook/story I’d written).
Now, I don’t know if that was the ‘right thing’ to do. Yes, I know, I know – ‘received wisdom’ in the author community would tell me to beef up my onboarding emails (the sequence of emails you send out after someone signs up to your mailing list) and really go to town by schmoozing and trying to engage new readers. Also, I ‘should’ have separate email lists for all my different genres (you know, all err… I’ve lost count of them). And on top of that, I need to send out at least one newsletter a month.
I confess, one of my biggest problems (in terms of wanting to make a living doing this gig) is writing in too many genres. Judging by my past performance, I might not even publish a book in the same genre for a few years. So what was I supposed to do? Have separate mailing lists for each genre and email people on a monthly basis? And say… what, pray tell? Apparently, anything that might remotely be of interest – just so long as readers don’t forget you! You have to keep trying to hold readers’ attention – that’s the idea, anyway.
Yikes! I’m exhausted just thinking about it!
One source I came across said that it doesn’t take much time to organise and run multiple newsletters, but in my own experience, I’ve found that it takes quite a bit of time to implement even one monthly newsletter – and a lot of energy, too. But that’s just me. All I know is that, after going back to a part-time day job to fund my writing habit in 2018, I found that my spare time was even more valuable to me. Juggling multiple email lists just didn’t appeal! Besides, I couldn’t help thinking…
Isn’t life supposed to be simpler than this?
Surely I’m not the only one who feels like they’re running round like a headless chicken in this game!
For a long time now, I’ve been challenged to check in on an ongoing basis with my own inner guidance with all this. Does it feel light or heavy? A drudge or an inspiration?
I know there are times when we have to do things we aren’t keen on in order to support what we’re doing, but little by little, I feel like I’ve been learning some valuable life lessons, asking what’s important to me and what success really means. But the most important lesson of all, I think, has been to listen to that small voice that’s been trying to guide me along. Instead of living in resistance, I finally had to cave in and hear its plea.
I’m not a carbon copy of any other person on the planet, so my author journey isn’t going to be the same as anyone else’s. I think sometimes, in trying to model ourselves on others, we end up overlooking what’s meant for us as individuals and ignoring our inner guidance.
What unique gift might we have to offer the world that won’t emerge if we don’t heed our own call?
I said at the start that I hadn’t fallen down a mineshaft, but on reflection, perhaps I had – just not a physical one. For a long time, I was in a dimly-lit place, trying to figure a way back out and up to the light. Anyway, as I said, the process is ongoing – so I go back and forth a bit with it all. In fact, just the other week, I considered doing monthly newsletters again. But after taking a few steps in that direction, I looked at all the things I had on my plate, and realised doing the monthly newsletter thing was just a recipe for driving myself crazy again.
Anyway, now that I’ve sort of ‘rescued myself’ by listening to my inner voice, you might wonder just what I’ve been writing lately. Well, a book about my adventures in Australia, of course! It’s called Up a Creek Down Under and comes out on 1 February 2019.
Maybe I’ll never ‘hit the big time’ or be able to make a good living with my writing (that remains to be seen!), but at least now I feel much happier with the process. At a hefty 110,000 words, Up a Creek Down Under was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun to write. And I finished the book without thrashing myself or giving myself daily word count goals.
So, how am I moving ahead?
Well, I’ve realised I don’t have the time – or, indeed the inclination – to keep ALL my platforms updated & happy. And blogging is one of those things I’m giving up for the foreseeable future.
So for those of you who want to keep in touch with what I’m doing, the following will be the absolute-best ports of call:
I’ll be keeping it regularly updated to reflect my latest work.
This is a pester-free zone (no spam/floods of emails) featuring news about upcoming books, early discounts on new titles, and a few other goodies which are exclusive to my Readers Group. Does what it says on the tin!
I’ll occasionally post on my Facebook Author Page (and only rarely on Twitter), sharing promotions by fellow authors and so on, but my energies will mostly be focussed now on writing books, updating my website and letting my cherished readers know what’s in the pipe via my New Releases newsletter.
If you’ve subscribed to this blog in the past, you won’t get any more posts in your inbox for the foreseeable future. So if you’d love to know what I’m up to, why not sign up and be the first to get my latest news, hot off the press?
By way of a quick update of recent news… My travel book, Up a Creek Down Under, is coming out on 1 February 2019. I also recently published a free companion read called Sardines Might Fly: Could Air Travel GET any Worse? and will soon be launching another freebie called Off the Rails: A Train Journey to Grouchville, which is exclusive to members of my Readers Group – so you’ll need to be signed up to my New Releases newsletter for that!
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for your attention – you must be exhausted! Go on, make yourself another lovely cuppa!
Righto, all the best, and if you join my Readers Group, I’ll be in touch again soon after posting this blog.
aka ‘The Pyjama Writer’
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“I’m a British-Australian author who currently lives in Cornwall, England with an obsessive cyclist. I write ‘across the board’ and love bringing a sense of fun to my work. Since 2011, I’ve published mysteries & short fiction as well as travel tales and satirical portraits about life’s foibles (some still in the pot!)… Join my New Releases mailing list to keep up with my latest work.”