Writer’s Retrospect

To date I have published one science fiction novel in five parts, three contemporary fiction books for different age groups, and a non-fiction series. Yet none of them do particularly well in the sales department and at times that leads me to wonder if it is all worth it.

Luckily, my non-fiction focus deals with the psychological types and therefore the natural talents of people, and so it is always there to remind me that I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.

Any independent writer knows how difficult it is to bring a book to completion, not just with regard the actual writing, but with publishing and marketing. You own your project from the first line to the last comma, from the original scribbles on little pieces of note paper to the lay-out, the press releases, the blurb and the cover image – everything is your responsibility and there are hundreds of possibilities of making mistakes.

And if you’re like me, and your books are like your children, you care for every bit of them and want nothing more than to ‘raise’ a perfect book without any flaws – preferably one everybody likes.

Therefore, discovering that you missed a comma or typo, that you didn’t target the right audience in your first press release, or worse, realizing you should have ended the book differently, is not only frustrating – or even depressing – for a writer who has no support network, it can also be very costly.

After all, it is expensive to produce a book – you pay an editor, illustrator, manuscript assessor, printer, eBook converter and possibly a distributor – and to advertise it; never mind all the hours of work that go in the writing itself, and starting over is generally not an option.

So what to do if you find out you weren’t as perfect as you wanted to be?

What if, in retrospect, you shouldn’t have used that particular name because it is mispronounced, or not written that prologue because it confuses people, or what if you find out that your blurb is not as attention provoking as you had hoped?

What you should not do is stop writing or trying.

First of all, you should remember that even those who have been in the industry for a long time make mistakes. There are plenty of books of big publishing houses on the market with mistakes as bad as having repeated paragraphs or wrong page numbers. And the same applies to all other products; even the greatest electronics companies regularly market something that doesn’t work.

Secondly, every writer, no matter how revered, has some books that are not as well received. Most writers look back on their early works and believe them to be less than perfect. Most writers don’t get their recognition with a first book – not unless they have relations within the publishing or marketing world.

Thirdly, do not celebrities and politicians retain their fans, no matter how many stupid mistakes they make? And do not many readers love the character in a book, exactly because they recognize those minor flaws and insecurities in them. They recognize that people are not perfect and it is a lot easier to relate to somebody who is just as imperfect as you are.

And don’t forget that, it is to be expected that people make more mistakes in those aspects of the process that do not fall in their natural talents, and fiction writers are generally not natural editors, illustrators and marketers. Nobody is talented in all those fields, which is why publishing houses came into being in the first place. Therefore, as an independent writer, forced to go it alone, you should not consider yourself a failure if you make a mistake, but focus on all those things you got right, despite them not being part of your natural talent.

Making mistakes is human and, even if a mistake cannot be rectified, it is not a reason to give up writing or even give up on a particular book.

Instead find a creative way to utilize your mistake.

This is what I have decided to do with my science fiction book, which I spent ten years writing – so it is a little like my children to me – and like I tell my children to try and try again if they don’t immediately succeed, so my book deserves a second chance.

Thus, after asserting – with the support of the wonderful people in the Science Fiction readers, writers, collectors and artists LinkedIn group – that I wasn’t targeting the wrong market because my work strongly focuses on the human aspect and not on space battles, I have decided to use my blog as a vehicle for reintroducing my book by rewriting the prologue.

The prologue, after all, is the very first bit of the book anybody reads and if it doesn’t attract the attention, the rest of the story won’t even get the chance. In retrospect, the book would have been better off without the prologue – which introduces some of the main characters in a for them life changing event, but without their names, because I wanted the reader to have the chance to work that relationship out for themselves. Maybe that made it hard for people to get into the story, but I cannot now simply remove the prologue, since what happens there is referred to later in the book.

However, what I can do is rewrite it – using my blog – and insert the names I had wanted to keep until later. Maybe it will make it more personal and recognizable for the reader if they can make the connection to the characters in the next chapters immediately.

And if that doesn’t work, I will find another creative way to try and get some attention to my book, because, like my children are dear to me even if not perfect, so are my books and I will never give up on them.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Astrid
    Aug 25, 2013 @ 23:06:35

    Vergissingen zijn geen fouten, Ze zijn het fundament onder je bouwstenen. Als je de imperfecte versies niet zou hebben gemaakt, zou je het gewenste versies nooit kunnen bereiken.
    De ‘vergissingen’ zijn de bodem onder wat je nu weet, maar waar je alleen door de eerdere ervaringen achter kon komen. Je zal de boeken dus nooit beter kunnen maken, als je ze niet eerst in de ‘niet-perfecte vorm’ had kunnen schrijven. De eerste versies zijn de traptreden, die je nodig hebt om latere, betere versies te betreden. Zonder de ruwe versies heb je geen kans om latere versies te polijsten.
    Net als kinderen groeien boeken. Ze ontwikkelen zich, veranderen, maken metamorfoses mee en moeten zichzelf uiteindelijk accepteren zoals ze zijn geworden. Perfect in hun gebreken. Gebrekkig in hun perfectie.
    En wat geeft ze kans om te groeien? Bereidheid tot inzicht!

    Veel liefs, Astrid


  2. Herbert Grosshans
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 02:12:40

    I agree. Just because a book doesn’t sell is no reason to give up writing. Most of us write because we love it not because of the money.


  3. PJ
    Aug 28, 2013 @ 08:47:14

    Wonderful! Your courage and perseverance are an inspiration to all writers. I utterly agree and have often found an error here or there in a major publishing house work. I love your idea of inserting your prologue in your blog – a great idea to expose more readers to your work and perhaps also get a little feedback in regards to its effectiveness in pulling one in.


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