I’ve done a lot of things wrong in my life; seriously, a lot of things.
There was the time I fell into a rubbish skip when drunk.
The time I jumped off a bus that was doing twenty miles an hour and hit a lamppost that wasn’t.
Or maybe the time I confronted fifteen teenagers vandalizing a wall (I came off better against the lamppost.)
Trust me, I could go on all day, so let’s just agree: I’ve done a lot of things wrong in my life.
One of the few things I have done right (eventually) was managing to get a deal with Harper Collins and having my debut novel “The Darkest Hour” published in the USA and UK.
Finally, I did something right.
Except I didn’t.
I made a ton of mistakes as a debut author, honestly, a ton of them, so I thought I would list them here, just in case you are ever in my position and you want to avoid being as big of an idiot as I am:
I love twitter, but I don’t use it properly. I joke around on there, chat, make friends and occasionally plug the book.
Sound like I was doing it right?
I should have created more of a pre-book buzz. I should have been sharing more of my journey to publication with other writers and those all too elusive readers. I should have made more use of hashtags, rather than just sticking them on occasional tweets. I should have been searching for them, reading them, re-tweeting them, and engaging with others who were using them. I should have been forging links, having conversations, helping people with their launches and then getting people onboard for the big push when mine came along. The one thing though, the one thing I should have been doing most of all: I should have been sharing and learning with the Twitter community at least thirty minutes a day, every day.
So you should be doing that right now. Go on, do it, I’ll wait here.
Remember when Facebook was fun? Before it got all political and pluggy? Back when your friends would talk about their cats, and then post pictures of their cats, and then post videos of their cats, and then tell you when their cats died?
It was fun (unless you were allergic to or hated cats, or even worse, were a dog.) Back before Facebook became worth billions and started going through your garbage and leaving secret messages for you (Facebook may not actually do that) I set up a Facebook writers page. I got my sister to go there, and two of my friends, and I put up pictures of a cat (much to the disgust of my dog). One day Harper Collins came along and waved a magic wand (money) and I suddenly had a lot more people looking at pictures of the cat.
Every day I would go there and put another picture of a cat (who knew there were so many cats?) and then the book came out and I said: “Here is another cat, please buy my book or I will kill it…” (I’m joking, I like cats). Time went by and I kept pretty much saying this over and over. Occasionally people would send me messages saying “I like the book” and I would say “thank you so much…” and that would be it. What I should have been doing is shouting “tell the world about my book please I need your help. Share my posts!”
But I didn’t because I am English, and polite, and an idiot.
I should have engaged with other pages, I should have commented on them, I should have been talking to writers' groups, book clubs, offering them advance copies, I should have been in every nook and cranny that even smelled of book on Facebook in the run up to publication, and every day after that.
And I should have posted more cats.
I wasn’t honest about myself and my work.
I have a terrible habit in interviews and blog posts of using the phrase “I just banged it out…” when talking about my books.
I did it again this week on BBC Radio:
Interviewer “How long did it take you to write the book?”
Me: “I just banged it out in about six months I think…”
I didn’t, I lied.
I did write it in six months, that much is true, but I didn’t “bang it out” like some guy in a bucket factory. I sweated, I had sleepless nights, I thought about it hour after hour, day after day, I lived it, I dreamed it, I became it, I suffered, my relationships suffered, my life suffered and other people’s lives suffered.
I didn’t bang it out, it banged me out.
I don’t know why I play it down so much (any psychoanalysts out there?) but I’m going to try to be honest about it from now on, and so should you. Writing a book is damn hard work, be proud of your hard work and tell the world when it asks, and tell the world when it doesn’t.
You deserve praise, you’ve earned it.
There you go, some of what I did wrong (well, about half the things I did wrong - there are lots more but give me a break, I’ve got a book to write).
I guess what I’m trying to tell you is: you are part of a community, you are a writer, alone you will get nowhere, honestly, you’ll get nowhere being selfish and trying to shoulder people off the road.
It just won’t work.
Enjoy the community, work with it, learn from it, and try to help it. Be honest with it, and with yourself, but most of all share, share your work, share the work of others, and you won’t make the mistakes I have made.
The Darkest Hour (Harper Collins) is Tony Schumacher's first novel. It took him forty six years to write, of which nine months were spent typing. The rest of the time was taken up being a failure at school, travelling the world, being a builder, a bar man, a bin man, and a British Bobby (he's also had lots of jobs that didn't begin with the letter "B" but they are far too many to list here). He's written for The Guardian, the Huffington Post, and both Liverpool and Manchester Confidential magazines. He's been a stand-up comedian, acted in a movie you won't have seen, and made some films for the BBC Politics Show North West. He can often be heard on BBC Radio, LBC radio and singing in the bath.
His second book, The British Lion, is released worldwide October 2015.