ON BEING A VIRTUAL AUTHOR - Pauline Fisk
A month ago, after twenty years in publishing, I launched my first e-book. Now it's feedback time. Three words spring to mind when I ask myself how it went. Panic. Exhilaration. Exhaustion. In that order.
Even the most careful planning can go awry. Everything was lined up to happen at the push of a button. Book launched on Kindle, click. New look Pauline Fisk website launched with fabulous new ‘Midnight Blue’ artwork, click. Authors Electric posting launched entitled ‘Why Now, Why an E-Book and Why Kindle’, click. Mailshot launched to two hundred and fifty addresses, click.
But you can’t launch anything without the internet. At five in the morning [yes, so keen was I to get launching that I was up at five] I was to be found on the phone to a BT engineer trying to figure out what had gone wrong. After an hour of phone calls back and forth, involving crawling under my desk, pulling out plugs and reinstating them and being sent to obscure corners of my computer to click the ‘this’ and ‘that’ options, the engineer discovered that the problem lay at their end, not mine. Twenty seconds later, internet connection was reinstalled, followed by my first click and Midnight Blue was officially launched.
So far so good, I told myself. Problem dealt with, now enjoy the rest of the day. But then I made a fatal mistake. Before doing any more clicking, I decided to take my dog for a walk. Not only that but, because it was still early with no cars on the road, I decided to take him without his lead. Mistake Number Two.
The walk was good. No problems there. The River Severn is great for walks at any time of the year. Afterwards, I dropped in at my daughter’s house, and sense of celebration filled the air as we clinked our coffee cups to my success as a published e-book author. Then I returned home to bring the rest of my carefully planned launch to life. And found I was locked out.
I had my key. I hadn’t forgotten it or anything like that. But I didn’t have a front door that would open, or the office that lay behind it, or my computer, or the precious passwords that would enable me to click my clicks. They were all inside the house, and I was on the doorstep watching my key going round and round refusing to engage.
To make matters worse, traffic was beginning to fill up on the road, and Biffo, my small, brown, hairy joke of a dog [minus his lead], was racing up and down eying it with enthusiasm. Then an email arrived on my phone informing me that my Authors Electric posting hadn’t appeared as scheduled, followed by another asking where was the fancy new-look website that I’d been going on about?
The next few hours passed in a blur. I won’t bore you with the details of phone calls to husband [the guilty DIY ‘expert’ who’d been playing with the lock the night before to make it work better – his words, not mine], bank, building society and finally [when I’d tracked them down] insurers. Then there was the long, boring wait outside my house for the locksmith to arrive. But by midday, [yes, midday] I was back inside. And by some miracle I’d remembered my Authors Electric password and launched my post via my phone, and the Mailchimp mailshot went off only ten minutes later than I’d planned, and the pillars of civilisation didn’t crumble just because my website artwork happened a bit late.
So, there you have it. My book launch. The way it really happened in the real world beyond my computer screen. The e-book revolution might be cutting edge, but there are still frazzled authors behind those fabulous new e-books, locking themselves outside their houses, losing their dogs [yes, that too], forgetting their passwords, cursing at their computers and generally [I’m speaking for myself here, chaps] holding their lives together with paperclips, sellotape and rubber bands.
And it’s those real live authors, frazzled or not, that I want to celebrate. I may have entered a virtual world with my first e-book, but the people I’m meeting in it aren’t virtual - they’re very real, and their support is real too. From the age of nine onwards I’ve been a solitary writer, too busy on the next project/book/poem/whatever, to do anything else. When I went to the Smarties Award ceremony, I found a vast gang of chattering publishing people in the centre of the hall and a sprinkling of lone souls around the edge, whom I quickly discovered were ‘the writers’. In other words, other solitary people like me.
Well, not since going online, meeting other authors and joining Authors Electric. During the launching of ‘Midnight Blue’, the kindness of other authors, their encouragement and generosity of spirit has been overwhelming. And the online book tour that a group of reviewers and authors helped me put together has proved every bit as stimulating and exciting as any real one I’ve ever done, asking questions which have challenged me, made me think and drawn out of me some of the fundamental aspects of what - and why - I write.
So, perhaps it’s not such a virtual world after all. Certainly Authors Electric isn’t just virtual. As a community of authors, it’s very real. And the people I’m writing for aren’t virtual. They’re real readers, and their tweets, thumbs-up on Facebook and words of encouragement are real. And ‘Midnight Blue’ is real, with real dilemmas and characters, all breathed to life by the power of imagination.
But then being real is what it’s all about. That’s what we writers are trying to do. When I go into schools, children are amazed to meet a real author, as if books were written by beings from another planet. Well, my desk may resemble another planet, but every day this real and very fallible writer gets up, plonks her aching limbs in front of her computer, starts typing with her freezing fingers [my office is the one room in the house without central heating] and makes stories happen, makes them grow, brings the characters to life, hears inside her head what they want to say and tries to get it down the way they’d want it. That’s largely what my life’s about.
For one of my birthdays, instead of a badge with some terrible number on it, somebody gave me one saying ‘I’m a Successful Writer’. I took it as a joke, but nevertheless stuck it on my computer where it remains to this day, reminding me that a successful writer’s only as good as their latest book.
And that book, currently, is ‘Midnight Blue’. So go on Amazon. Buy the book. Buy it for your friends for Christmas using Kindle Gift Certificates. I hope you enjoy it.
A few days ago I found the original short story that lies behind ‘Midnight Blue’. ‘Ben the Balloon Man’ it’s called, and I wrote it getting on for forty years ago. It’s going to be my website for the week between Christmas and New Year, posted as a Christmas entertainment for my readers. So do look out for it. And have a Happy Christmas.
And may the year to come be full of good stories for us all.