I’m having writers anxiety.
Its different to writers block. I don’t even know if writers block exists anyway. Is it an absence of ideas? If you have *no ideas* then you’re not really a writer are you? I’ve read countless writers blogs over the past week and a recurring theme is the discipline required to actually sit for an amount of time and take your ideas from your head and put them on the page. Most people can’t do it because it’s hard. A writer is someone who can overcome this hurdle. If they can’t then they are just a person who has some great stories in their head. A raconteur perhaps. Someone who’s a laugh down the pub? All writers have acquired this discipline. There may be thousands of potential Rowlings or Dickens who died in obscurity who never managed to condition themselves to get the words down.
Anyway, writers anxiety is a new thing for me. When I wrote my first book I was remarkably unconcerned about what people thought. I had written three chapters which was enough to get me a book deal and an advance and then I just punched out the rest of it in a manic coffee fueled 8 weeks, sent the manuscript to the publishers and that was that.
Naively like many first time authors I really thought it would be a best seller. I got some good reviews, The Guardian, Daily Mail, even one of my entrepreneurial heros, Luke Johnson (pizza Express chap), is said to have liked it. I thought it was a dead cert and a new career awaited. I even got 30,000 words into writing a novel to capitalise on my new found success.
My publishers hired Raymonds Revue bar in Soho and they threw a big party with all sorts of press people and publishing bigwigs. Rachel Elnaugh, the Dragons Den lady came. My agent Gordon came. My Mum and Dad came. My old friend Bald Rich came. The gang from the Erotic Review were there, the people who the book was about, and we all got plastered. This is them below.
I started becoming obsessed with Amazon rankings. Even though Amazon rankings can’t really tell you how many you sold. I was in the top 10 business books at one point which was a good sign. There was speculation it might jump genres into mainstream “memoir”.
It wasn’t a sudden nothing either. It was a process of slipping away to nothing. There was no person that said “Gavin, your book has bombed”. People just stop talking about it. I stopped talking about it. I stopped checking the rankings every day or checking for new reviews. I did my day job. The dream of being a full time author slowly died and after about 6 months I stopped thinking about it. People would say things like “how did your book do?” and I would reply “oh, y’know, its in Waterstones”. As if some point in the future it might completely take off again. But this never happens. You’ve really got one big shot at making it with a book and thats to grab some big attention up front. It propels it along. Very rarely does a book come out, bomb, then get picked up again a few years later.
So I’m doing it again as an ebook. I held on to the digital rights and I am publishing it myself. I’ve scoured the internet for self publishing information. There are numerous websites that will help you self publish. Lots of people out there that will charge you £20 for a book to tell you how to publish on Amazon even though Amazon tell you exactly how to do it on their website. For nothing.
The technology bit isn’t that daunting. A bit of formatting, a bit of uploading. No the worrying bit is the rewrite. Four years have passed, I’ve got a slightly different perspective and so I thought it would be good to update it a little. But I’m finding myself agonising over each sentence. Is this the best I can write? Have I repeated that word? Am I upsetting someone by saying something unkind about them? Will people think my book is rubbish? Will it flop again.
I wonder what’s changed between last time and this time that makes me worry about what I write? Is it the spread of social networking? It seems only four years ago that everything was slightly further removed. Now your critics can reach right into your house, into my little study, my little protected corner of the world where everything is safe… and tell you you’re shit.
So the plan was to have the book published and up on Amazon by the end of the month.
It’s going to take a little longer.