It's hard to believe that Dogs of India was only released by The Author People in December 2015. It feels like that journey has longer legs, but here we are in February 2016 and i'm still immensely enjoying the experience of watching my book find its feet in the world, out of my hands and under the scrutiny of many others in the publishing, reviewing and retailing world.
I wanted to put together a post about the experience as an author of the bridge between writing and publishing, as I think for writers we have a deep understanding and control over our skill based domains, but are often unsure and out of our depth once we get past the narrative and into the commercial part of authordom.
I certainly initially tried playing manuscript roulette when I first finished Dogs of India in 2014. I selected the publishers most aligned with what I thought was the target market, and dutifully followed the path i'd been advised to send off the text and wait for 3 months for a response before sending to another publisher. This is truly a frustrating feedback free vacuum, I did get a couple of really great emails back from smaller indie publishers who liked the story but didn't have capacity at the time, and deafening silence from some of the bigger names like Penguin Australia and India.
This wasn't an entirely surprising situation. I knew it was a super tough gig to cut through all of the many talented Australian writers looking to get into the market. In 2015 I decided to self publish, mainly as I wanted to run a successful crowdfunding campaign so I could help my clients through real world experience, and secondly as sales of Dogs of India from an initial run would demonstrate some degree of market traction and response. I figured this would be a good start for future publishers for either Dogs of India or my next book.
When Dogs of India was picked up by The Author People, aside from the relationship being a beautifully synchronistic meeting of business and personal values, it definitely helped to have a solid product to show, a clear idea of my target market, and some sales and positive reviews. As an author for their stable, it also really helped to have a personal brand developed and established in other realms.
There are some sensational reviews coming in from bloggers and book reviewers as my novel gets out into the public domain. It's beyond thrilling as a writer to see other people really getting the story and finding it entertaining. Writing is for that purpose alone, if nothing else. Of course i'm hoping that the viral nature of today's digital communication assists more and more people to buy, read, review and love Dogs of India. And Bollywood producers and directors, you know i'm waiting patiently for the most perfect arranged marriage of a film and distribution package. Those stars are aligning right now, somewhere.
Here are my top learnings for writers who are getting to the part of their manuscript where the spectre of publishing looms.
1. Know your market. Really be very clear on who you are writing for, and be able to clearly and specifically articulate that.
2. Build a personal brand. Get social media channels set up, blog, write about your process, talk up your story and the story before it gets near the market, build some excitement and traction.
3. Look for publishers who model your values, really be clear on the publishing and distribution market in Australia, connect with the key people through social media, see what they are reading, buying and endorsing.
4. Get involved with the online writing and reading community, they will be some of your biggest advocates when your book gets out there - and can help you promote it. Offer them blogs, sample chapters, short stories, give value through content linked back to your site to others and they will return the favour.
5. Rejection is business not personal, accept that it will be a slog where persistence and a strong belief in your story matter, and be prepared to back yourself and start the process. And ask widely for help - you never know who will open the critical door.
Most of all, keep writing and keep creating, as ultimately that is what is lighting your fire and focusing your purpose and happiness. And if reading a copy of Dogs of India will bring you more happiness - well grab a copy here!
Dr Polly McGee is one part writer, and many parts assorted thinker, do-er, talker, eater, chef, explorer, yogi, kirtaneer and dog wrangler. She has worked in kitchens, bars and restaurants from frantic to fancy, managed multi-million dollar innovation grants programs, advised hundreds of start-ups on how to refine their business ideas and source funding, and championed causes from a variety of soapboxes, lecterns and stages. She is currently the Strategic Marketing Lead for Global Edtech Startup Prosper Education. Her new book, The Good Hustle, is coming out in February 2018