From writer to author in under a year

Part 10: An author at last!

I’ve always been a writer……………….
Holding the first printed copy of a published book , seeing your name on the front cover, leafing through the crisply white, beautifully laid out and typeset inside pages, and breathing in the distinct smell of ‘new book’ – that’s the best thing ever for any writer. In fact, that book in my hand, my first book, meant that I was not just a writer, but an author at last, defined as ‘an originator of ideas, things, events; a writer of a book, article or document ….’

I ripped through the cardboard, sticky tape and bubble wrap packaging in mid-September 2017, and it was a thrilling moment in my life. Of course, as a single person living on my own, there was no-one else on hand to record a video or take snaps of my (frankly moving) squealy reaction. My attempts to take a selfie of me with my first published book only resulted in a photo of my chest as a boob with a book, or of a book growing out of the side of a face anxiously staring at the selfie stick button. A later attempt by me and a friend to reconstruct and reprise the thrilling moment on camera was, sadly, also unsuccessful. However, with hindsight, it was more fitting that no You-Tube record exists of a live-alone solo, opening a package containing her own book about how to become a successful solo.

My author journey began almost a year earlier, in November 2016, when I embarked on a series of webinars under the tutelage of Mindy Gibbons-Klein, aka ‘The Book Midwife’, who promised to help me and my fellow students to ‘bring our ideas to life’ in a work of non-fiction. The course was about identifying the why, what and who we were writing for; clarifying key messages; planning; and crucially, the writing process: writing every day for a scheduled number of hours and/or until a target number of words had been written. It was tough. By the end of the 10 week course (with a short break for Christmas), I was the only student who had a complete first draft of a book. It was February 2017 and time to get feedback.

I was lucky to get feedback from 12 of the 13 people I asked (known to me or strangers recommended by friends), all of whom lived alone (whether single, divorced, separated, widowed or in a relationship), all aged in their forties to sixties, and including men and women: a great representation of my target group. I was also lucky with the feedback they gave, which was positive and constructive. Acting on that feedback, cutting, redrafting, adding to the original draft, and turning it into a manuscript ready to go to the publishers, took around two months.

I chose a partnership publishing package, whereby I paid for specific, services through a single contract, rather than have to find, and contract individually with, a range of service providers. At the end of April I sent my final manuscript to Panoma Press, a highly regarded business and non-fiction publishing house. Throughout the publication process I was consulted at every stage to approve everything to do with the tone, look and feel of the book. It was a true partnership. The end result of all of this was my ripping open the aforementioned book parcel.

Alongside all of this, I was also entering new territory with my own website, a social media strategy and new identity (cjisolo) across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts. Not to mention preparing a book launch event, a party for the following night, and a series of media events over a month long period with my publicist. It was all go and no mistake! The journey that started in mid-November 2016 ended with the launch of my book on 28 September 2017 – that’s right, less than a year later. And for a few hours that day, my book was an Amazon best-seller.

After all the hoo-ha, I knew my life would change. Keeping my website up to date, maintaining a social media presence, looking for and delivering promotional opportunities (and meeting the costs) take hard work and commitment, and sometimes feel like a full-time job. But the real changes, and the ones that have benefitted me the most are that, since the publication of Solo Success! You CAN do things on your own, I’ve developed my ideas (for example solo lifestyle skills are skills for life), and a clear subject brief (anything and everything to do with the single/solo/ live-alone lifestyle), tackled new genre (magazine articles, ‘thought pieces’, blogs), challenged or agreed with other writer’s opinions and, as a result, become a better writer and one who enjoys every challenge. Yes, I’ve always been a writer, but I had to become an author to become a better one. I hope to keep getting even better and enjoy it even more.

I have to admit to thinking that, in modern usage, an author is the term used to define a writer whose written work has been published. Hence the title, ‘From writer to author in under a year’, for this specific blog series. But it turns out that, in all the dictionaries I consulted, the terms ‘writer’ and ‘author’ are almost interchangeable these days: a writer describes both an author and someone who writes for a living. Which I think rather robs me of a sense of achievement, of having gone up in the writing hierarchy. Or maybe, the compilers of the Oxford English Dictionary haven’t caught up yet with the difference in the definition of ‘author’ being used on the street – well, my street at least. My campaign to affect the definition of the term ‘author’ starts here – by being the originator or author of new usage of the word to mean’ a published writer.’