November 5th 2018
Today, five years and four days since I first started writing it, I finally self-published my novel to the Kindle store. That’s not to imply that I’ve been working on it for five years straight. Because I haven’t. In fact, the first draft that I finished exactly four years, eleven months and four days ago is largely the same as the draft I have now.
For five years I’ve gone through sporadic periods of drafting and re-drafting, editing and re-editing. The overall quality has probably improved a bit in that time, but that’s not why it’s taken so long to publish.
In all honesty, it’s been ready to self-publish for years. I was just scared of pressing the button. On multiple occasions I’ve had the manuscript, cover art, blurb, pricing, distribution, licensing and whatever the fuck else set up in Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, and I’ve never pressed the fucking publish button.
Because I’m scared. I’m scared of somebody reading it and not liking it. I’m scared of somebody reading it and pointing out that I’m a shit writer and that everything I’ve worked towards over the last few years of my life has been for nothing.
I’m so scared.
I’m scared of failure. Or, more accurately, I’m scared of mediocrity. I don’t want to be average. I don’t want to still be in this position in five years time, with nothing to show for my time on this earth. And, weirdly, that fear prevented me from publishing. Because if I published, and it turns out that I am a fraud, then I’ll have to accept that I’m not going to achieve anything.
But, if I don’t publish then that inadequacy won’t be confirmed yet, and, to misquote my favourite poem, I can still “have the audacity to think that I’m special.”
For years I’ve found reasons to put off publishing. I’d tell myself “one more edit, just to make sure”, Then I’d take six months to re-edit it. Or I’d say “I need the cover to be perfect”. My ex-girlfriend was creating the cover for me, and it’s not her fault that it’s never been finished. It’s mine. Because I didn’t want it to be finished. Because if it wasn’t finished, then I’d have an excuse not to publish.
Then, after I’d uploaded the text and a cobbled-together cover to Kindle’s publishing tool, I fucked around for ages with the marketing. I subscribed to a bunch of YouTube channels to find out the perfect way to do a self-published book launch. I looked into the analytics of the best time of day, of which day of the week, on which week of the month, it’s best to publish a book. On the surface, that seems like an effort to get more people to read the book, right? But that’s not it. It’s just a distraction. It’s a way to put it off a few more months until, well, until today I guess.
I don’t know why it was today. I don’t know what spurred me to do it today. The button has been there, ready to press, for months, and realistically, before the button was there it’s a five-minute job to make the button be there. It’s not difficult, or arduous, or time-consuming. It’s just pressing a fucking button.
Today, I pressed it. And what emotion did I feel after I’d pressed the button? What did I feel after successfully publishing my first novel onto the Kindle store?
I felt nothing. Complete ambivalence. I didn’t feel pride or joy or even relief. I felt nothing. I’d had a shitty day, and I figured “what else could go wrong?” so I pressed the button. And I felt nothing.
I don’t know how I was supposed to feel. I don’t know what I was expecting. Actually, let me check what I was expecting…
The reason I created this blog in the first place was to document my journey from that first NaNoWriMo novel writing month back in 2013, to becoming a published author. So thankfully, I have documentation of how I was hoping to feel in this moment.
When I finished writing it, in November 2013, this is what I said: https://jacn.co.uk/2013/12/12/finished/
When I typed the last word on the last page, the feeling that poured out of me was one like no other I had ever felt. I had set myself a massive task, one that I thought I would never achieve, but I did. I wrote an entire, coherent, not-too-shabby novel. And I felt so proud of myself, I did. It gave me the “If you can do that, you can do anything feeling.” and I want to feel that again, and I know that to get there I have to finish this thing properly. And I promise you, I am going to.
So young. So naive. Well, James, you got there. Congratulations. You published it. But it doesn’t feel as good as you’d hoped.
At this point, I should probably plug it. There are at least three people that read this fucking blog, so one of you might be interested in at least taking a look. Fortunately, Amazon has prevented my ability to be able to plug it anyway. It takes 72 hours after pressing the button for the book to be live on the Kindle store. If you pay enough attention, you’ll be able to find it.
At this point, I’m fairly confident in saying that writing that book was the worst decision I ever made. Because in doing so I framed my entire life around it. My optimistic side would swear that one day my life would change overnight when someone discovered my amazing debut novel and handed me seventy trillion pounds.
The pessimistic (/realistic) side of me knew that was never going to happen, but I still put pressure on myself. And for what? Five years later and, probably, three sales on Amazon from people who aren’t direct members of my family yet somehow stumbled on it.
Until tomorrow, what an unbelievable waste of time, effort, and mental wellbeing.
edit: I just realised the sweet, sweet irony that “ambivalence” is not the word I was looking for. Ambivalence implies mixed feelings about something, when what I have is apathy. Or indifference. The word I should have used to title this blog was “apathetic”, but I’m going to leave the mistake, because in a way, the fact I made the mistake kind of sums up the entire tone.