• Natasha Boydell

A book publishing deal – one year on

After the emotional rollercoaster of finishing a novel and sending out submissions, I thought that getting published was the ultimate goal. But, as I soon learned, the game had only just kicked off…

I haven’t blogged for a while – I’ve been busy writing, keeping up with my freelance work and raising tiny people. But when I realised that it’s coming up to a year since I signed my first publishing deal, it inspired me to look back on my journey over the last 12 months.

In October 2020, my dream came true. I was offered a publishing deal for my debut novel; a domestic noir called The Missing Husband. In a previous blog post, which I wrote just after I signed the deal, I said that I hadn’t managed to peel myself off the ceiling yet. Well, I’m still up there.

Since then, my debut has been released in paperback, audiobook and e-book and made it into the Amazon Kindle top 100. I’ve signed a further two-book deal with my publisher, written and submitted my second novel, The Woman Next Door, and am finishing up the first draft of my third.

There has been joy, elation, fear, anxiety, despondency. It’s given me the validation I craved while also making me doubt myself and my writing. God help me, I’m about to go through it all again with my next novel. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

My publishing journey

Once I’d signed on the dotted line of my first ever publishing deal, I was told that The Missing Husband would be published in seven months’ time. So, I had to come back down to earth and continue grafting on my second novel while I waited for the production process to kick off.

I’m fortunate to work with a wonderful publisher, Bloodhound Books, who involved me in everything from the cover design to the marketing blurb. Seeing my first ever front cover, with my name printed on it, was a serious wow moment.

After that, I waited for my edits. I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect, how much ‘red ink’ there would be on the page and whether my editor would, well, hate it. I was also worried about seeing my manuscript again. Absence had not made the heart grow fonder and part of me never wanted to see the damn thing again.

When the edits came though, I actually really enjoyed reading the manuscript. This book ain’t half bad, I thought proudly, as I worked through the pages and saw how much more clean and polished it was, thanks to my wonderful editor who had whipped it into shape. I made the necessary amends and sent it back to the publisher, tired and elated.

Next, I got the proofs back for a final read. I steeled myself to read it one more time. Perhaps it was because I knew I could no longer make any changes or maybe it was just my insecurities playing tricks, but this time around I thought, oh no! This is terrible! I hate it! But by then all I could do was sign it off, cross my fingers and hope that the reviewers were kind to me.

The early reviews

The paperback was available on Amazon before the official launch date for the e-book (which is the prominent driver of sales for my publisher), which meant that early reviews started coming in from advanced readers and close friends who had bought the book as soon as they could.

Knowing that my friends and family would be buying and reading my book was one of the most frightening parts of the whole process. Thoughts raced through my mind. What if my friends hate it? What if it’s totally awks because they don’t know what to say to me? And now that I know my dad’s actually going to read this book, why the hell did I put that damn sex scene in?

But at the same time, I knew that I had to put myself and my book out there and publicise it as much as possible because I needed the support of my nearest and dearest to help get my debut off the ground. So, I diligently posted across all my social media channels, announcing to anyone who has ever known me that I’d written a book and that I’d quite like them to buy it please.

It worked. People did start to buy it. I hid under a pillow and hoped for the best.

I never asked anyone if they had bought, read or liked the book. That way I hoped that my friends wouldn’t feel under any pressure. Of course they all bought it and over the next few weeks sent me wonderful, positive and encouraging messages which meant the world to me. And hey, if they were telling porky pies, I love them for doing it so convincingly.

And then of course the official reviews started coming in from the advanced readers. The ‘pros’. The first one I read was terrifying. He was very positive and gave me four out of five. A solid start.

Then launch day happened and my baby was officially released into the world. The day itself was a bit of an anti-climax. The kids were at school, my husband was at work, and so I sat alone at the kitchen table, staring at my computer, not sure what to do with myself. Eventually I went to M&S.

I knew that it was a bad idea to read the depressing one and two-star reviews that start trickling in soon after book launch day. I’ll stay away, I thought, with a firm nod. Five minutes later (and every five minutes thereafter) I was on Amazon and Goodreads like a crazy stalker, my heart soaring every time I saw a good review and sinking every time I saw a bad one.

This obsessive checking lasted a couple of weeks until I was able to prise myself gently away from the reviews. I had enough positive ones to tell me that the book was credible. Books are subjective. Some people will like them, some won’t. Others will leave terrible reviews purely for the sake of it. You won’t learn anything constructive from the repeat offender one-star crew.

So now the book had officially launched and I had some great reviews. The next step was to see if it actually sold.

Book sales

I’ve been shopping on Amazon for years, but I don’t think I’ve ever once looked at the ranking of a product. But the minute my book was released, it was all I could see. Rankings everywhere.

As this was my debut novel, I had nothing to compare it to and therefore nothing to lose. In all truthfulness I’ve always seen writing as a long game, and I didn’t expect my first attempt to do brilliantly. All it had to do was keep my publisher happy enough to want to keep working with me.

So I celebrated each milestone – top 5,000, top 1,000, top 500. At some point I started to realise that the book was doing rather well, far better than I had thought it would. A week after it was released, it became an Amazon UK top 100 bestseller. I had no idea what this meant in terms of actual sales, but I suspected that more people had bought it other than my dad, husband and bestie.

I got my first royalty statement a couple of months later and I was delighted. I’ll definitely not be buying that yacht any time soon, but it was my first pay cheque as a published author and a moment I’ll cherish forever.

The next book

During this rollercoaster of a publication journey, I’ve also written a second book, signed a further two-book deal and started working on my third. Because as tempting as it is to stare at Amazon rankings all day every day, life goes on.

Being published doesn’t make the act of writing a novel any easier. The Woman Next Door, my latest novel, was just as challenging to write as my first (you can read more about this in my blog post about second novel syndrome).

But I got there and it’s released this month, so I’m steeling myself to go through the emotional rollercoaster again. This one is even scarier than the first as I’m no longer a rookie with nothing to lose. I can already imagine the negative reviews. The disappointment if this book doesn’t do as well as the first. And, after rallying behind me when I launched my debut, I can’t expect all my friends and family to do it again with the same gusto. My book will have to stand on its own two feet, as will I.

I keep telling myself the same thing though. I did it. I wrote a book. And it got published.

Looking forward

As I creep towards the end of the first draft of novel three, I can say with certainty that writing is tough, whether you’re published or unpublished. I guess it has to be otherwise everyone would do it. Sometimes I wonder why I’m doing it. But the truth is that I have to. It’s an urge stronger than any other (except the one for chocolate).

There have been lows and there will be more to come. But the highs, oh my, they’re the best. I feel so grateful to have had this opportunity and I’m going to enjoy it for as long as it lasts.

Until then, I will leave you with my stages of writing. Good luck folks x

The stages of writing

0-10k words: This is the best thing I’ve ever written.

10k-20k: hmm. How much back story can I add to pad this bad boy out?

20k-30k: well, this is a bit shite.

30k-40k: I hate it. I HATE IT.

40k-50k: Cutting my toenails would be more fun than this.

50-70k: So close, but so damn far.

80k: *weeps piteously*. My new baby is born. I love it. And it was so worth all the pain.

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