Wednesday 30 October 2019

8 Things I've Learned Since Being Published - Guest Post Vikki Patis

As mentioned in my last post, during the next few weeks I shall be having some great guests on my blog from the psychological thriller genre (the genre I write in). Today's guest is Vikki Patis, an author I got to know this year as we both have novels out with Bookouture. Vikki's always been very generous with her time and has been a great supporter of my own thrillers on social media so I'm delighted she's joined us today on Wendy's Writing Now.

I asked Vikki what things she'd learned since being published and this is what she said...

Next month, my debut novel will have been out for a year. An entire year! Two years ago, I was desperately trying to get the words down, using NaNoWriMo to write over 50k words in a month. And now I’m working on book four, having just signed another contract. Publishing is a whirlwind experience, and sometimes it’s worth sitting back and remembering your journey. When I wrote what would become my debut novel, The Diary, I had no idea whether it would be published, and I certainly had no idea what would come with it. So here are the things I’ve learned in the year since signing my first book deal.

There are so many paths to publication

My first publisher is a digital first publisher, which means they focus more on ebooks. I learned that I would get paperbacks via print on demand, and that audio isn’t always guaranteed. While digital first publishers are becoming increasingly popular (and they work incredibly well), the experience is somewhat different to what I thought of as the ‘traditional’ route – agent, publisher, advance, bookshops, book tour. I’ve learned that there is no ‘right’ way to be published. There are options that work for some and not for others, and contracts will vary.

You (probably) won’t get to choose your book title

This was a real eye opener for me. Titles are in no way my strong point, but I was surprised to discover just how many authors don’t get to choose their titles, and so is everyone else I tell who doesn’t have experience in the publishing world. I explain it like this: everything you see on the outside of a book is done by the publisher. Of course, editors have a huge impact on the writing too, but in general, the title, cover, tagline, and everything to do with marketing, is controlled by the publisher. And that, I have learned, is how it should be. They know what they’re doing, after all.

You still have to promote your own work

Okay, so you don’t have to, but it definitely makes a difference. Writers should focus most of their time on writing, and your publisher should have a marketing plan for your book, but dipping your toe into the scary world of social media can really help your book succeed, and keep your name in the public eye while you furiously write the next one. The lovely and fantastic psychological thriller author Rona Halsall once said to me ‘a tweet a day keeps bankruptcy at bay’. If only it were that simple, but Rona is absolutely right. Do what you can, when you can, to keep your book in the spotlight.

Reviews are the bane of your life

And also the sunshine filtering through the window as you struggle through edits. Negative reviews can be awful, and I remember taking my first ones really hard. It took every ounce of my self-control not to respond to them on Goodreads (which is like the dark, shadowy place you should never enter), and my spirits would sink every day I looked at Netgalley. I’ve since realised that my debut is a bit of a Marmite book. Some readers love it, and really get the meanings behind the story, and others just don’t enjoy it. And you know what? That’s absolutely fine. I don’t like every book I read. I don’t fully get every book I read. You can’t please everyone. That was a hard lesson to learn, but now, negative reviews don’t really bother me (except for when they tag me on social media!). And the positive reviews, or even neutral reviews that really got what you were trying to say, make it all worth it.

Readers are the key

Seems obvious, right? Authors write books for readers. But it isn’t always as straightforward as that. I didn’t write my debut for readers; I wrote it for me. I write because I have to, because I can’t not write. But while editing my second book, my editor urged me to take note of the criticisms from the first book, and to try to mould the story in a different way. I raged against it at first, feeling like I was pandering to others, but then it clicked. Of course I can’t please everyone, but I can take their comments on board and consider them from a logical (not emotional) point of view. Publishing is a business, and although almost every author feels a very close connection with their books, sometimes we need to put our emotions aside and listen to what the readers want.

Your editor is your champion – and your reality check

I don’t have an agent, so I deal directly with my editor. When I first submitted The Diary, I had no idea that I would be in almost constant contact with this person, directing every question to them, and relying on them in a big way. It must be such a huge responsibility, guiding and supporting their authors, excitedly sharing the good news and tentatively breaking the bad. An email from my editor could make or break my day, and it took me a while to learn that you have to take the rough with the smooth, just like with everything else in life. Publishing is a roller coaster, and your editor is your seat belt, on the ride with you while keeping you anchored.

The struggle is real

I don’t think I’ve encountered an author who doesn’t panic over their edits or Amazon rankings. Authors big and small worry about how their books will do, not just in terms of sales (though authors need to eat too!), but also in the eyes of their readers. The last thing we want to do is let our readers down by producing less-than-perfect books, or let our publishers down by not selling enough books, or let ourselves down by being unable to focus and produce more books. And it is so easy to become envious of other authors, of the books that fly to number 1 and stare mockingly at you from every shelf. Writing is a tricky balance, and it can sometimes become unhealthy, both physically and mentally. The why not me mentality is so easy to slip into, wasting time panicking about things beyond your control instead of focusing on the most important thing: writing.

But you’re never alone

So many authors are keen to support you, ready with words of wisdom when you break down over structural edits, thumbs poised to retweet your exciting news, commiserating and holding you up when things don’t go your way. It’s a fabulous community, full of kind, down-to-earth people, and I’m so lucky to be able to consider these wonderful people colleagues and friends. 

Vikki Patis is the author of psychological thrillers The Girl Across the Street and The Diary, published by Bookouture. When she isn't writing, she can usually be found with her head in a book, baking gluten free cakes, or walking in the Hertfordshire countryside.  

Twitter: @PatisVikki 

Thursday 24 October 2019

Times Are A-changing

I've been thinking about this blog and how over the years since I started it (can you believe it was really 2012?) it's evolved.

When I wrote my first post, I'd made one story sale to a women's magazine. I can still remember how excited I was. I can also remember how determined I was too. I'd made that sale... now I needed to make another.

What I didn't foresee was what an amazing journey I was about to embark on. How exciting it would be and what wonderful friends I'd make along the way. For example, how could I have known that one day the Wendy Clarke who had sold that first story, would become a published author of psychological thrillers and that my debut novel would become a kindle bestseller in several countries.

Wendy's Writing Now has been my companion through all the highs and lows. It's celebrated my achievements - the competition wins, the story sales, the writing of my novels and the eventual publication of them. Its also where I've shared my disappointments and anxieties (because, believe me, there have been many). 

Does anyone remember the 'rejection T-shirt?'

What has always remained the same though are the wonderful guests I've had over the years. Guests who have written in all genres and given my readers a greater insight into their writing lives. Some of these guests have even come back... up to four times in some cases. I hope it's because I've made them feel welcome.

The full list of my guests is in the sidebar... how lucky I've been.

And this leads me to my exciting news. Because it's a genre close to my heart (it's what I read as well as write) the next few months are going to feature guest posts and interviews from some of the fabulous psychological thriller writers who are thrilling their readers at the moment. Some names will be familiar to you, some new... but all will be welcome.

Here are a few of the people who'll be visiting in the next few weeks: Vikki Patis, Lynda Stacey, Louise Mangos, Rona Halsall, Jenny Blackhurst, Nikki Smith, Libby Carpenter and Lesley Cheetham. 

I can't wait!

Wednesday 2 October 2019

Whoop! What She Saw is Finalist in Joan Hessayon Award.

Am I looking rather proud? Well that's because this photograph was taken at the RNA York Tea where I accepted my certificate for being a finalist for the Joan Hessayon Award.

Actually, I feel a bit of a fraud calling myself a finalist because, in reality, everyone who was up for the award was a finalist. Still, it's what it says on my certificate so I'm using it!

So, what is the Joan Hessayon Award? Well, its a competition for a debut author who has had their novel accepted for publication after passing through the Romantic Novelists' Association New Writers' Scheme. 

Each novel submitted on the scheme gets a critique from a published author. When I received mine for What She Saw, it was the confirmation I needed that my book was ready to be submitted to a publisher... Bookouture obviously though so too, as it was published by them in May!

I live on the South Coast and, as most of you will know, I'm not a keen traveller, but my husband very kindly suggested we turn the visit to York into a mini break. I LOVE mini breaks!

Unfortunately, due to lots of holdups on the motorway, the drive up took a lot longer than we'd been expecting. But, when we eventually arrived and saw the lovely Airbnb we'd booked (with it's beautiful garden) we knew it had been worth it. Here's a picture of Bonnie enjoying the sunshine. 

The following afternoon, my husband dropped me off at the Merchant Taylors’ Hall where I collected my name badge and had my photograph taken, along with the other Joan Hessayon contenders. Then all the guests sat down for a delicious afternoon tea. I can't begin to tell you how lovely it was (how did the organisers know they'd picked my favourite sandwiches?).

The good thing was, I could relax and enjoy the afternoon as I didn't think my psychological thriller (with a romance entwined) could stand a chance when competing with the twelve fabulous 'true' romances that had gone through the scheme. Although, a little nervous when the time came to collect my certificate, I was delighted that the judges thought What She Saw 'hooked the reader and kept them wanting to read on'.

The ultimate winner was Lorna Cook, with her novel, The Forgotten Village. Lorna was sitting at my table and it was lovely to meet her for the first time. I can't wait to read her book. 

The next day, my husband and I explored York and also Castle Howard where the original TV series of Brideshead Revisited was filmed. The weekend had been a great success. My novel may not have won, but I had a wonderful time meeting old and new friends and going back to a city I hadn't visited in over thirty years.

You can find out more about me and my Joan Hessayon Award nomination on the RNA website here.