Susan Grossey

Getting my priorities straight

I find myself in limbo.  I have a full-time job (although I do work for myself and therefore have more flexibility in my working pattern than do traditional employees) and my main hobby during my free time is writing historical fiction.  But writing is no longer the solitary and focussed activity it once was.  The advent of self-publishing (which is gradually renaming itself “independent publishing” – I suppose to remove the suggestion of vanity and self-indulgence) means that those of us who fail to find an agent and traditional publisher can still publish our books, but this leads inevitably to a vary crowded marketplace.  Even taking as a tiny and unscientific sample the “indie authors” whom I “know” through my own membership of the Society of Authors and the Alliance of Independent Authors, hundreds of books a day are being published.  It’s marvellous, in that there is going to be the perfect book for every reader, but as an author, how do we elbow our way to the front and shout, “Here it is, your perfect book – it’s the one I’ve written!”?

And this is really the nub of my post today: how can the hobbyist author – as opposed to the full-time professional – find time to do what is necessary to stay afloat and visible in the publishing world?  Before you get out your notepad, I should confess that I don’t have the answer – or at least, nothing more revolutionary than “you just have to find the time – as with most human endeavour, effort in will lead to results out”.  For myself, I concentrate on my monthly Sam Plank update distributed via Mailchimp to my mailing list of (I’ve just checked) 43 subscribers.  It works for me because (a) I’m doing the research anyway and it’s fun to distil some of it into an update, and (b) all the received wisdom about book marketing says that a mailing list of loyal readers is more important than anything.  But I know I’m dabbling in an amateur fashion, and when I see what full-time authors can do – probably ably supported by publicists and publishers – I am green with envy and mournful with inadequacy.

In my darker, more envious moments I remind myself of two things.  One: when I retire from full-time work (hah!) I will be able to do all this publishing and promotion properly.  And two: if I have an hour or two to devote to the author side of my life, I should spend it on writing and not on worrying about publicity and marketing.  After all, I could have the slickest sales campaign in the world, glitzy enough to make John Grisham weep into his inkwell, and it would be worth nothing without having the words between the covers, ready to sell.  So that’s my moan for today, and I’m off to write a scene where poor Wilson has to tell a mother that her son has died.  Cheery.


  1. Roy McCarthy Avatar
    Roy McCarthy

    I admire writers who continue to work hard and aspire to commercial success despite all the odds. It illustrates very well the innate human instinct to always press on, improve, never be satisfied. Without this instinct the human race would never have evolved and we’d still be living in caves.

    For myself I’ve long realised that I’m not good enough a writer to realistically battle away chasing sales. Better to spend my time in other pursuits while still enjoying the act of writing for its own sake.

    1. ihatemoneylaundering Avatar

      I know you’re right, Roy, but there’s still that little commercial gremlin on my shoulder, saying “If mindless slebs from soap operas and illiterate vloggers can sell their books, surely I can too!”. It’s an unpleasant side of my character, but I do want the validation of people buying, reading and enjoying my books.

      1. Roy McCarthy Avatar
        Roy McCarthy

        No not a bit unpleasant Susan and more power to you and others who chase the dream. Your writing is way better than many others who have, somehow, made the big time. I recently stopped reading a Booker prize winner in despair – you (or indeed I) could have written the story in much more readable style.

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