Today is World Book Day. Authors, wave your books in the air! Readers, tell us about your favourite books!
I’ve always loved reading although I admit I have not been quite as voracious the past few years as I have previously. I’ve also seen a shift in my reading habits – where I used to focus on fiction, I now read a lot more non-fiction. This is usually in specific genres – in a bookshop I’ll toddle off towards what they call the ‘smart thinking’ shelf. It sounds a bit of a twee category for such a ‘deep’ thing, but I love reading about how the brain works, how we think and why, what affects our thought processes – including the impact of the digital age – and how we are shaped by our culture… you get the kind of thing I mean. That and theology, with a smidge of psychology and philosophy.
My writing probably reflects that too – because I write about the things that interest me, the things that I’m passionate about. Hence Forgetful Heart looks at how memory works, but links this in with the biblical notion of what it means to ‘remember’ God – so in writing that I blended the interests together to create something new.
I’ve been thinking lately about the ‘next one’ – it’s now shifting from the percolating/brewing stage (your choice of coffee or tea analogy) and onto the page. Planning, structuring and… gulp … writing.
I’ve been asking myself: what should I do differently this time?
The main answer: Write a better book.
I’m not saying Forgetful Heart is not a good book. I poured myself into it; it has a personality all of its own. All I mean is – I would expect, as I mature as a writer, to get better at writing. Hence, the next book should be a better book – the writing should be sharper, brighter, more profound (I hope).
There are many books I have read that I call ‘good books’, even ‘very good books’, yes, even ‘excellent books’.
But then there are the ‘wow books’ – harder to find, delightful to discover. I dream of writing a wow book.
And once I’ve written ‘the next one’? I’d be more aware of publicity, marketing etc. I did work at publicising Forgetful Heart but was hampered by a few things: 1) it took me a few months to even believe I’d really done this 2) I didn’t like to be too ‘in your face’ and keep bothering people about it and 3) I didn’t really grasp how hard an author has to work these days at publicising his/her own work (plus I was exhausted from writing the thing!).
I figured all this out, but by then the magic ‘first six months’ had passed. These are the months which are supposed to make or break a book. I’m not sure that is always the case, but I now wish I’d planned ahead a bit more.
Next time – if anyone still wants to publish me, that is – I will try and set up things like blog tours, create ‘shareable’ visuals in advance, ensure that there are some people who will review it for me on blogs and retail sites. This last was an eye opener. Lots of review copies can be sent out, but the number of reviews can still be very small. I’ve been so blessed with reviews in different publications – but getting reader reviews has felt harder (I had assumed it would be the other way round!).
But writing a review is the best way to support an author. It ups their profile, encourages more sales and in turn makes a publisher more willing to publish them again. Everyone bangs on about Amazon reviews and algorithms but there are plenty of other places to review your favourite book, if you’re not a fan of The Big A. I was going to list some here, but that would make this post too long – I’ll try and do that another day.
In the meantime, happy reading – and for the writers, happy writing!
(The Loving God through Prayer extracts will continue tomorrow)