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 


  1. What honest, fascinating points, Vikki - thanks for sharing them with us. You are so right about publishing paths being different. All the best with your career - it sounds very much as though it's going strong!