Reflections on being an author
It’s a year since I became an author, the culmination of three years of hard work putting pen to paper (well, fingertips to keyboard) and scraping together the story of my 4000 mile bike ride around the coast of Britain. I wrote a couple of blogs about the writing process at the time: Writing a book and Which was easier, writing or riding?
In the past year I have given numerous talks about the book, mainly on my book tour, which saw me pedalling from Land’s End to John O’Groats, putting on talks and events in each of the towns I passed through. I have sold upwards of 3000 books – an incredible achievement that surpassed all my expectations.
I’m immensely proud to be a published author – if I never write another book, I wrote this one, and that’s a huge achievement. People ask if I have another in me – I might, but not just yet. Writing a second book would certainly be an easier process, but this one took an awful lot of time and effort to produce, and I’m not ready to make that commitment just yet.
An obvious part of becoming an author is having a public profile – anyone can look me up on Amazon and buy and read my book. They don’t know anything about me apart from what they read online, or the impression they get of the person I managed to portray in my writing. Everyone will interpret that differently. I receive emails and tweets from people who have enjoyed the book, and I am so grateful for these comments – this is why I wrote the book in the first place, so people would enjoy hearing about my travels and perhaps feel inspired to explore a bit themselves.
Of course, there is also the other side of this: the negative reviews. I managed to make twelve 5* reviews before the first 1* review came in. I have a screen-grab of those 12 perfect reviews, and I’m holding on to that! I am absolutely realistic about my book – I know not everyone will like it, and I don’t expect it to be to everyone’s taste. We are all different, and wouldn’t it be awful if it were otherwise? One only has to look at the Amazon reviews of a book they have really enjoyed/disliked to find there are just as many people who have the exact opposite viewpoint.
But when people are writing negative things about something you have worked so hard on, it can really hurt. I started off reading all my reviews – no matter how much you know you shouldn’t, you just can’t help it. I was amazed at how mean people could be! Dismissing my work in just a few cutting words. I wanted to riposte each and every one. I responded to a couple with what I judged to be fair responses, but you risk getting into a debate with someone whose viewpoint you are not likely to change, so I stopped.
I thought about why people write reviews. It’s a compulsion that we should express our opinion, especially if others have expressed an opposing view. You want your voice to be heard, and to present your argument in such a way that will convince others. I’ve done it myself, and I feel awful – I gave a fellow cyclist and adventurer a 1* review for his book. I simply didn’t realise he would read it – I just wanted to express my view. But of course he would have read it. In the end, the only person who really cares about your review is you, and the author. Other potential readers are going to look at the average and use that the inform their purchase, if they use anything at all. I went back to that 1* review and deleted it.
Now, I don’t look at what people say, good or bad. I am pleased with my book and that’s good enough. Other people can take it how they want, and are free to express this however they please. It’s taken a while to feel comfortable with this – it’s so easy to let those negative comments get to you, especially if, as with one man, they are sent direct to your inbox! Why he thought sending me a personal email about how much he hated my book would be productive, I have no idea. It took a while to get over that one!
So, if you’ve enjoyed my book, please, let me know. Not to massage my ego, simply to let me know that writing it in the first place was worthwhile. For this is why one becomes an author – for people to read and enjoy your work. And if you don’t like it, fine – just be aware that’s not just a book you’re dismissing, it’s a person.