Debut Novel Release: Three Months On.
So, it’s been three months since I announced the release of my debut novel The Lyons Orphanage. The sites will say it was out since 8th March 2017 but it wasn’t until the end of March that it was available everywhere and when I started to mention it to people I know. So how have things been since then?
The first few weeks were tough, knowing the book is out, not knowing the sales figures and not being able to get instant reviews from the first lot of people to receive the book. I thought not knowing the book sales would eat away at me but in truth, I stopped thinking about it after a few weeks. The early flurry of people saying they can try and help you out gives you a lift and lots of hope but really you have to realise that a lot of these plans and ideas don’t go ahead no matter how well meaning they are; the important thing is not to feel down about that fact.
It is also a strange feeling to have people congratulating you on the book at a point where people haven’t read it. The people congratulating are my friends, family and colleagues but for all they knew, the book could have been absolutely terrible. That’s why I almost felt like saying that people should save their praise once they’ve read the book so they really know whether to congratulate me or not. I wanted to get the initial meetings with different groups of people I’d have to tell about the book out of the way quickly. People like to ask me to tell them what the book is about but I usually just point them to the blurb since I have always been better at writing than speaking; if my blurb got you interested in it, hearing me explain it to you would probably make you lose interest. Obviously, if I’m telling as complete stranger about my book, I’ll have to put more effort into speaking. I wanted to sweep aside praise of me and just switch everybody’s focus to the book itself; It’s the book’s writing and story I want to be praised; not me personally.
Speaking of which, the slow rate at which reviews come about ate at me for the first month or so. Waiting for reviews from people you know is a mixed bag of emotions as well. On one hand, you’ve got people you know will definitely read your book and leave a review but how honest can they really be? They’ve spent the whole time telling me I should be proud of my book so if they think the book is terrible, they wouldn’t dare say it given how much hype they gave me before. It’s strange to think that my Mum might be the most impartial reader in terms of people I know; she’s never sugar-coated anything for me so she pointed out small mistakes in my book but overall, she was impressed and I believe her.
There were small grammatical mistakes that could be easily fixed but I started to worry about potential holes in the story that can’t be changed. So far, the only major issue that has come up (pointed out by a family member as well) has been the fact that it is set in an orphanage in the modern day when they don’t exist anymore. This is something I made reference to early on in the plot where the owner says (in the 90s) that orphanage numbers are dwindling but I wish I’d made more of a point about it. The idea is that the owner grew up in an orphanage and so he stuck to his plans to run his own orphanage at a time when orphanages were almost a thing of the past, and the reason it stays open is because of his influence. This will be explained in the sequel but my worry is that potential reviewers could be put off by this setting and so they won’t give the book a chance and thus won’t be interested in the sequel either.
Another worry I have had when contacting reviewers is trying to explain exactly what the book is. I have labelled it a mystery novel and I would agree with that but when you tell reviewers that the main character is a teenager, some aren’t sure if this is a Young Adult novel or not. The plot becomes a bit more sinister than the blurb would suggest but I can’t give that away to reviewers so they may think this is a novel about teens for teens. This novel is suitable for teens but it is suitable for any age over that as well as it is for most mystery novels; trying to convey that message is harder than it seems. But there is no love interest for the teenagers involved and they don’t ‘find themselves’ either so I would say it is not a Young Adult novel.
So what’s next? For now, I’m going to take my mind off how the book is doing by getting on with writing the sequel. I will still be looking at different avenues to get as much attention as possible for my book but it won’t consume my thoughts, I just need to stay patient with the knowledge that nothing like this could ever be an overnight success.