One Year On: happy first birthday to “Little Gidding Girl”

One Year On: happy first birthday to “Little Gidding Girl”

This week marks a whole year since I released Little Gidding Girl.” A year. I’d like to say it’s flown by but it hasn’t. Not really. It’s staggered, limped and crawled by at a considerable speed.

This is bitter-sweet, really. Every author who releases a book back into the wild has high hopes. You shouldn’t really let a book fly free if you don’t hope for it to prosper, though I do wonder how many authors now shrug and stop themselves from hoping because it hurts too much to have those hopes dashed. Most authors also generally (and quite understandably) quietly fudge the issue of that awkward question people sometimes ask: how many has it sold? We fudge because it’s a question we don’t want to answer, don’t want pinned down so that our scanty sales do not point to the “product” being inferior. That’s what people think, still: that poor sales point to a book being, frankly, crap. There’s a belief fostered by a whole host of entities, that cream rises to the top, that quality will out and so on. It’s not true. I could point to a thousand excellent books, both historic and contemporary, which have not sold well. It doesn’t matter. Best-sellerdom is the thing every author is meant to aim at, and the small triumphs like getting into the top 100 in an Amazon category, or even top ten or, wonder of wonders, getting the number one spot, are sneered at. It’s just Amazon, they say, you cannot really call yourself a best-seller if that’s all you’ve managed.

Little Gidding Girl” has accumulated 23 reviews on the UK ‘zon so far. There’s one that’s a very meh three star, but the rest are glowing. Have a read some time; there’s a few on the US site, one on the German site, and so on. I’m pleased that the book has touched people so much. But the hard figures, the ones authors don’t like to share when they’re so far down the food-chain as to rank with the small fry, are sobering. In the year it’s been out, the book has sold around a hundred copies. To some authors, that’s a risible number; to others, unobtainable. To me, it’s saddening.

Like many, I have railed and wailed about the vast ocean of books and the holy grail of visibility (that is probably a myth, because it boils down to three things: money, luck and connections. Four if you add in determination) but it makes no odds. Readers like what they like, and that’s only right. I still harbour a tiny sliver of hope that something might shift in my favour one day but the other reason why I’m mentioning this birthday is that it means a whole year has gone by without me publishing another book.

There’s something being chipped away at, atom by atom, virtually. A collection of short stories, subtitled Modern Fables for Sensible Grown-ups. I’m at the editing stage, but there’s nowhere near enough energy in me to get it done any time soon. And there’s a big part of me that doesn’t want to launch another baby into the void, to disappear and be eaten up by indifference.

I considered doing a flash sale on LGG for the anniversary but I keep thinking, no. The times when having a book at 99p resulted in loads of sales is over, and I think that like the free books that lurk on almost everyone’s devices, unread, there’s a real chance that at less than a quid, it may not be read. I’m tired of devaluing myself and my books, just to try and gain some traction.

It’s over half way through this month of June, and we’re almost at midsummer, and this is my first blog of the month. I didn’t want this book-birthday to pass unmarked, though, because it’s a good book. If you don’t believe me, read the reviews. But it’s not a beach book and it’s not an easy book, either; it demands something of the reader. That may be where I am going wrong, but perhaps not. We are living in strange times, terrible times, and I wonder if my reaction to those times is fueling something deep inside me. If it gets out, gets written, it took will doubtless sink without trace, but it will be done. That’s all an author can do in these times: write what we’re given to write.

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5 thoughts on “One Year On: happy first birthday to “Little Gidding Girl”

  1. Happy Birthday, and thanks for the honest post! I know exactly what you mean. My own books sold slightly more, but still I felt the sense of indifference. I tell myself that’s not why I write, but still it’s hard to ignore the figures. You’re right, though – we can only write what we’re given to write. The market may prefer vampire thrillers to demanding books with TS Eliot allusions (I assume) in the title, but that doesn’t mean that your book doesn’t have value. Keeping in mind the distinction between value and popularity is, I think, one of the most important tasks of the social media age. Keep telling your stories!

    • Thank you.
      All the others sold a lot more (law of diminishing returns, I guess).
      You are right that the distinction between valuable and popular is one that is a challenging one to make in this era of “likes” and so on.
      I will try and keep telling my stories, though at present, it’s all done long hand and therefore solely for me.
      And yes, you are right about the T.S Eliot connection; took me a lot of rewrites to remove the quotes and keep the meaning when i discovered (almost too late) that copyright was not what I had previously assumed (50 years after death of author) as the foundation that looks after the Eliot estate had extended it.
      Keep on keeping on, Andrew. It’s all we can do, I think.

      • Wow, I didn’t know it was possible to extend copyright like that. Must have been a lot of work to revise it. Ah, that’s a coincidence—I’ve been writing longhand recently too. It’s early days, but so far I find that my writing is more considered, somehow, and less automatic. Not looking forward to typing it up, though! Maybe I’ll hire someone to help with that. Anyway, yes, here’s to keeping on keeping on 🙂

  2. You’re right – it’s a massive struggle to get our books read, these days. The fact you have over 20 reviews and with one exception, they are glowing is a testament to the quality of your writing. I have no glib, quick answers to your post – I’ve only recently started self-publishing and confronting this issue. I’ve heard that the way to make more is to write a series quickly and build up a readership that way. The trouble is, I’m not able to do that. While I’ve been able to release my first series fast – it’s because I’ve written them over a period of time. Oh well… I still prefer this option to continually pouring my soul into manuscript after manuscript that never sees the light of day, because I kept ‘just’ missing various editors/open submissions.

    • I have heard the same advice. I can’t do that either and I am dubious about a) whether it’d work NOW (because it did work once…) and b) whether selling my soul is worth it.
      But yes, being able to release books now without the say-so of the Great High Priests of the Gatekeeping is brilliant.
      I can also say that as I have read the first book of your series, it’s a book that should not have been lost because of those Gatekeepers. Am looking forward to the next one.

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