My very first blog is some kind of milestone, I guess, and it seems right to look back over the last three years since I gave up the day job and started writing seriously. It has been an extraordinary journey. You hear people talk of a steep learning curve – well, entering the world of writing has been one of the steepest I’ve ever encountered. Precipitous even. Not that I’m falling over the cliff – not yet at least – but sometimes I feel I‘m hanging on with just two fingers.
When I had my first Regency romance accepted by Harlequin I had no idea of the publication process. Years ago in my youth I worked in the sales department of a West End publishers but I never entered the hallows of the editorial department – publishing was very hierarchical then and people from sales were seen as only marginally more acceptable than those from publicity! So when I began working with an editor for the first time, I came to it as a complete novice. I was happy to take her advice and suggestions (all of them resulted in a far better book) but I still found it hard to mould my writing to a particular audience’s tastes. Or in other words, to think commercially. There were things I didn’t like - having my title changed, being given a cover which in my opinion didn’t reflect the book, having my punctuation altered by a copy editor. But I knew that if I wanted to write to be published, I must live with it. In any case, there were other aspects which were thoroughly enjoyable – meeting people online who shared my interest, attending stimulating conferences, being taken out to lunch by my editor!
Publication was just the first step on the road and a whole load of learning was to follow: how to read a contract (no, I’ve never managed this one), how to understand royalty statements, signing up for PLR (Public Lending Rights) and ALCS (fees for photocopying your work). Then I needed a website and stuff to put on it (Google loves content apparently) and a way of gathering statistics for how it was being used.
And then there was all the other social media: facebook and twitter and linked-in and a hundred other things, including a blog, that I should be able to manage. I have to confess it hasn’t come easily but when I self-published my Victorian mystery novel, Walking Through Glass, I knew it was essential. Self-publishing, of course, is whole other learning curve. If you’re not technically adept, and I’m not, formatting a book for Kindle becomes a monumental task. But I managed it and more recently my confidence level has risen sufficiently to design my own cover – and leave me pleased with the result!
The latest step on the curve is preparing a ms for an American epublisher and right now I’m knee deep in different punctuation and different spelling. That’s simply the mechanics but there’s also a cultural divide to jump because I’m learning too that some ideas just don’t translate well. I describe my Regency hero in this book as having a lazy charm or lounging lazily against the wall. For a British romance reader that would be an attractive image, at least I’m guessing so, but for an American audience ‘lazy’ has negative connotations, ‘not an attractive quality’, the editor has said. And so the learning continues…..