Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Guest blogger Pauline Holyoak shares lessons she's learned since becoming published

Please welcome guest blogger Pauline Holyoak, author of Merryweather Lodge: Ancient Revenge, "a supernatural thriller that keeps you on the edge.” Today Pauline shares lessons she's learned since becoming a published author.

Although I have been freelance writing for many years, Merryweather Lodge is my first published novel. Since its publication in October, I have been inundated with questions and demands. I know now that being a published author isn't as glamorous or as easy as one might imagine.

Here are some of the lessons I've learned along the way:

Years ago you would write a book, get it published, then sit back and collect the royalties. But it’s not that way anymore.  Most authors are not salesmen, public speakers or comfortable being in the limelight, but we are expected to promote ourselves, as well as our books, even by the big publishing houses.

I’ve already participated in three book signing events, been interviewed by a newspaper reporter and was a guest speaker at our local library. It’s all a little nerve wracking, for an introvert like me. But I know I must come out of my shell and face the world if I want to promote my book.

The internet, of course, is the most powerful tool an author has and not nearly as intimidating. There are literally hundreds of sites that will promote one's book; some are free and some are very costly.  I blog, do online interviews, reviews, Facebook and try to keep a consistent online presence. It can be extremely time consuming but I know it’s an important element in establishing my writing career.

I’m learning that it’s not wise to criticize another author’s work, argue with my editor or debate with critics. As my dear grandmother would say, “Be careful of the words you say, keep them soft and sweet. You never know from day to day, which ones you’ll have to eat.”

I know now that unless your name is Margaret Atwood or Stephanie Meyer, chances are you’re not going to get rich from your writing. Even some of the authors I know, who have a dozen or more published books, barely make a living on royalties alone. And a lot of us spend more money on advertising than we make on our books. I must write just because I love to write, not with the assumption that I’m going to get rich.

I've been asked, “Do you consider yourself successful now?” Well, that would depend on how you define success. It may seem clich√© to say that ‘success’ isn’t just about money or fame, but obviously that’s the way the world defines it, including the publishing industry. But if that’s how we define our ultimate success, most of us are going to be doomed to disappointment.

Ever noticed that the ‘top ten’ bestsellers list, by definition, only have ten spots? JK Rowling usually has at least two of those spots. Ask anyone on the street to name a successful author and they're likely to mention Steven King or JK Rowling, yet neither of these authors strike me as being any happier than the average Jo and certainly not as people who have been ‘made’ happy by their success.

I have this quote framed and sitting on my desk. “Successful is the person who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much, who has gained the respect of children, who leaves the world a better place than they found it, who has never lacked appreciation for the worlds beauty, who never fails to look for the best in others or give the best of themselves.” If and when I become that person, then I will be successful.

People ask me, “Do you have a routine for writing?” I write long hand in my purple room, at my antique desk, under a large picture window. Then I type it into the cold inanimate piece of equipment I call my computer and edit as I go. Young people think this is weird, but the blank screen does not inspire me to write; the view outside my picture window does. I tend to compare my writing routine to my eating habits. Sometimes I graze, jotting down tasty morsels throughout the day. Other times I binge, feasting greedily at my desk for a long period of time on something scrumptious, devouring every delicious word that comes to mind. Then I find myself looking down at my work or my waistline and having to edit and revise.

I have learned that it can be, at times, extremely difficult to work from one's home; there are so many distractions. You have to be determined not to let anything tear you away from your desk. Not the phone, not the washing machine, not the door bell. I try to be oblivious to it all, but it isn’t easy.

I’m learning to sieve through the numerous bits of advice from so-called experts and well meaning people. We are all different; we all have our own way for deciphering information, our own idiosyncrasies and different writing styles. What works for me might not work for you. So I read and listen, keep what works for me and disregard the rest.

I have leaned that rejections are part of the writing life, and I've learned how to cope with them and how to move on. At first they were like nagging little gremlins, suggesting that I didn’t measure up. I had to learn how to distinguish myself from my work, to set up boundaries between myself and my creation. My writing was like a child to me, but like my own children, I had to send it out into the world to succeed or fail on its own merit. We all get rejections. JK Rowling received 14 rejections before finding a publisher for Harry Potter. I wonder what they're thinking now. Steven King's first book Carrie was turned down 31 times; it took him ten years to get it published. And look at him now.

I have discovered that perseverance, patience and bold determination are what most published authors have in common. So I write, not for success, not for money, not because it’s easy. I write to explore my inner world. I write because some mystical magnet draws me to my desk. I write to escape the mundane world of people and things. I write because I need to write. To me it’s a sort of innate longing, to get my thoughts, wild fantasies, opinions and stories on paper. I write because I love to write.

I grew up in Southeast England, in a coal mining village my husband calls, “The place that time forgot.” It is nestled between the notorious city of Canterbury and the medieval town of Dover. I came to Canada as a nanny when I was 21. This vast and majestic country has served me well, but England will always be home. I live in Alberta (western Canada) with my sports crazy husband, adorable Sheltie dog and cantankerous ginger cat. We have two grown children. They are the gems in my treasure chest. I love this part of the world, except for the winters. It can be a chilly minus -30 for days on end. Burr…..

You can learn more about Pauline and Merryweather Lodge by visiting her website at: 


jrlindermuth said...

Even veterans can nod in agreement and acknowledge reminders of these lesson you've learned are worthy and true.

Pauline Holyoak said...

Thank you for taking the time to visit me here John.

libbarnes said...

read your blog at 7 this morn. I finished reading Ancient Revenge late last night, could not put it down and so looking forward to the next book in your trilogy.
It is nice to have some personal insight into your life. I now have a better understanding of your writing technique. I had to smile when I read about writing in long hand, you are so correct in that it is much easier to pen your thoughts then keystroking....I also agree that working from home can be difficult and requires alot of self discipline.
In my case, Facebook was an excellent advertising avenue for you, as I would not have known who you are or had the opportunity to read an excellent novel.
Keep pushing the pen!!! Waiting in eager anticipation for your next novel.
Libby Brett
Newmarket, Ontario

Pauline Holyoak said...

So glad you enjoyed my book Libby. And thank you for leaving me a comment. I will enter your name in my draw for a signed copy of my book. Nice for a gift if you've already read it.

libbarnes said...

It would make a lovely gift for my youngest daughter, Bobbi, who is an avid reader and prefers books to e-readers.