I started this blog in 2015 to document and share my experiences as a self-published writer. I hope that readers can benefit from these pages as I continue to learn, and to write. With the collapse of my Challenge to myself, to write a novel in one month, I’m rethinking my process. I’ve gained some new insights into the process and understanding of my writerly self.
When I wrote ‘The Obeahman’s Dagger’ more than a year ago, I had a good idea of what I wanted from the book and a very clear understanding of why I was writing it. I was already over sixty (sixty-six) and this was going to be my first book, the first of the six or seven I wanted to write before making my final exit from life’s stage. Till then, I felt that I’d been one of those poor players the bard of Avon wrote about,
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Staring down my death, I wanted my life to mean something, especially to my children and what better way to do that, I thought, than to write a book that would convey some of the ideas that were important to me. I didn’t want to write an autobiography but I wanted them to have some understanding of the ideas, that were important to me. That would take several books and writing them would be how I would spend the rest of my life. But nothing in life is ever that easy. We decide things, we want this or that but it’s complicated, no?
Well I gave the matter a lot of thought and decided that I’d write ‘Dagger’, market it assiduously, and make enough money to finance the writing and publishing of the rest. After all, I thought, ‘Dagger’ won’t require a lot of research; it was to be about Trinidad and Carnival and Obeah and Religion and I knew, first hand, about all those things. I thought. Well I was wrong.
Yes, I had experienced a few strange, mysterious events; I was a witness to things you wouldn’t believe if I were to tell you. Yes, I had read a bit of the historical record on Carnival and Stickfighting and I had grown up Roman Catholic in Trinidad, surrounded by miracles, magic and the mix of vestigial African traditions and religions with Christianity that characterized the belief system of Trinidadian Obeah. But as I started to write and to call on my supposed knowledge I found that it lacked depth in some places and I was forced to go back to the library and read,; additionally, I searched out people who could answer some of my questions and provide more detailed information.
In the end, ‘The Obehaman’s Dagger’ turned out to be a colorful excursion into the Carnival of life in Trinidad and Tobago. It was a reminder, to natives, of the better times of the past and an admonishment, with its understanding of the heavy responsibilities of the present. It was an intriguing, tantalizing glimpse of the pleasures that await visitors in the paradise that Columbus stumbled into centuries ago. It warned all that things have changed significantly. In all its characterizations and story-telling, it kept it real. I was happy with what I’d done but what happened next was completely unexpected.
Before I started to write the book I decided to self-publish. I felt that this was a rational decision, based on my assessment that the book would not appeal to the mass market and would therefore not find a traditional publisher willing to invest in it. I read as much as I could on this new trend in book publishing and felt that I was up to the task of writing, designing, publishing, and marketing my book. I understood (or thought I did) that Marketing was a major part of the whole process. The notion that book sales depended on Marketing was very clear to me. I developed a Marketing Plan that would distribute my book widely. I researched Indie bookstores, even visiting a few to see for myself what the terrain was like out in the wider world. Before the first draft was done, my Marketing Plan was ready to go.
Sadly, it never went. ‘Twixt cup and lip something slipped. No Marketing was done and more than a year later, ‘The Obeahman’s Dagger’ remained stuck in the virtual limbo of self-published books that nobody reads.
You should know that I’m not a quitter. I’m a lifelong casual runner with a couple four-hour marathons to my credit. I wasn’t ready to give up on my writing goals so I decided to write a sequel to ‘Dagger’, turning the story into a serial, as so many writers have done. I’d do a better job with the Marketing, I told myself, and sales of the second book would draw the first out of oblivion and into the marketplace. With the record of my failure in my mind, I began a refresher course in Marketing and a few days ago I found a book by Tim Grahl that gave me a whole new insight into the business of publishing.
The book is titled ‘Book Launch Blueprint: the step by step guide to launching a bestseller’ and it is exactly as described in the title and more. Much, much more.
Grahl begins by identifying two things that get in the way of marketing your book, one a limiting belief that you must release and the other an essential belief that you must acquire. There is nothing new in this idea. What he’s saying is that you’ve got to let go of your tendency to be negative and affirm your conviction in what you’re doing but in placing these ideas so centrally, and articulating them so clearly and convincingly, Grahl has done something new and important to anyone interested in self-publishing.
“You have to believe”, he writes, “in the deepest part of your soul, that it is a good thing for readers to buy and read your book. If that idea doesn’t ring true for you, then your book launch is going to suffer. I can give you all the proven frameworks, strategies, and tactics I’ve ever used, but until you come round to believe this one thing, you will constantly circumvent or undermine your own success”.
‘Book Launch Blueprint’ goes on from there to take you, step by deliberate, convincing step, through the development and implementation of a book launch and marketing initiative.
Grahl’s method is to identify and define, with amazing clarity, the problems a self-publishing writer will face. Then he describes the solutions, again, in clear and simple terms. He demystifies the process with prescriptions that are firmly grounded in the real world and that are derived from practice. He is an advocate for making decisions only on the basis of verified data and throughout the book practices what he preaches. All his advice and recommendations are tested and verified in the real world; all his recipes are tested and tasted in the kitchen and they all taste of success. This is a well written book that delivers what it promises.
So I intend to put those ideas into practice and attempt to apply Grahl’s principles and method to a new marketing initiative for The Obeahman’s Dagger. We’ll see how it goes.