It has been a few days over six months since I self-published my first book, One Year In Wonderland, to Amazon using their KDP service. It has been an interesting half a year, there can be no doubt about it. I have sold 2,300 copies of the book, and now have 16 reviews on Amazon UK and US, with a further 3 on Librarything and 5 ratings at Goodreads, with an average rating of between 3 and 4 out of 5. As a first-time writer, I can't be too unhappy with that. My second book, "You Are My Boro", came out in December, and it has sold 300 copies so far.
The sales figures have been interesting to follow, with the huge increases I saw in late September and early October then a little dip before I redid my cover and blurb, which took me into another little climb. I trawled all over the internet looking for ways to publicise, using Twitter, Facebook and various forums and blogs to spread the word. Then there was the madness of the Christmas week, where I sold 200 copies in a week. For three months the book never left the top 1500 (UK overall) in terms of sales ranking, and has consistently been number 1 in the Travel>Middle East category.
Following the reviews has been interesting as well. I had one or two nice ones from on-line "freinds" who gave me glowing reports to get me going, as you'd expect, but soon had real reviews coming through. A couple of 4-star reviews with some constructive criticism were nice to read, including one saying I was a good writer who should travel more (well, I think I might be able to see to that soon...more later). Then there were one or two negative reviews. At first I was stung by them, especially when they were so dismissive and almost personal. I took it personally, and felt like making comments, particularly when someone said I was "racist and sexist". On a writer's web forum I was warned that this was not a good idea, so held my tongue/fingers. One has to develop thick skin and try and learn from these things, they told me. OK, thought I. I draw the line at people completely misquoting and misrepresenting my work, though, and have posted a comment after one very recent review showing the actual words I wrote, nothing more.
What I have learned and picked up is that the style I wrote OYIW is maybe a touch too informal and chatty for some. Whilst the light, bloggy style was OK for most, I think it jarred for a few people. Some were looking for a more serious and considered critique of Dubai, I think, and although I do talk about some bad things I saw, I know that there is far more to the place and far worse that could have gone into the book. I am currently in the process of writing something else about Dubai that will make OYIW seem like a glowing holiday brochure. It's not all my own work; it comes from someone else's experiences. I can't say too much at this stage until we decide how to bring it to the public eye.
I will also write about my time in Libya, where I spent 6 months in 2010. It will not be blog-based this time, so I hope I will be able to develop a more "mature" style or writing, although I'll definitely include some of the lighter moments of my time there.
And now there's the chance to use my career as a platform for writing material once again. More my accident than by design, I am going on my travels again. I have been unable to secure long-term QSing work in the UK, so have had to accept an offer to work in Cambodia for several months in Contracts Management...which CAN actually be a bit more interesting than plain old quantity surveying. In the family sense, it is far from ideal, as I will be leaving the wife and kids again (I am dreading the goodbyes already). The rotations aren't terrible (9 weeks on/2 weeks off), and I should be able to make some much-needed improvements to my finances...if my health holds up (that dreaded phrase I have been son fond of in the last decade). I have been to the Far East before (Taiwan in 2002/3), but Cambodia is a fascinating country with a troubled recent history, and I hope I will be able to craft some worthy words to describe my experiences there. Hopefully what I write will show that I am developing as a writer, if not (corn me up now) a person...
We shall see!