This year has been difficult for a lot of people, which is why I’ve decided to share my failures and successes of 2020. Hopefully, they will inspire others. If I’ve learnt anything, it’s to take opportunities when you find them, because you never know which ones will lead to something.
Firstly, I was slowly building up my freelance writing, and the pre-orders from my novel “Ghost of Me” looked promising. Then in March/April my work dried up and the book sales plummeted not long after the release date. I could be writing this and focussing on this year being a complete failure, but I’m not. I’ll admit it’s been a series of struggles and I still haven’t rebuilt up my work to achieve a full-time living. What I have done is to look at other ways to promote myself and find work.
My charity book (Words to Remember)
This one isn’t just my success. It was only possible because of all the poems and stories other writers sent in, and those writers who helped promote it afterwards. Even so, I felt proud of myself and them when I made the £130 donation to Marie Curie with the first batch of profits. There’s more pending for other cancer charities at a later date. I know other people have raised more money for charity with less work involved, but I’m still pleased with this. At one point, I was trying to work out how much we might have raised by looking at the book rankings and thought we’d be lucky to raise £20. Finding out the first royalty payment was £130 was a nice surprise.
I started guesting on a lot of podcasts. After co-hosting my book review podcast since January 2018 and guesting on a few others, I stepped things up and began actively looking for podcasts I could appear on. Out of those, I had a couple of good experiences and some not so good. The worst was a guy who talked to me for fifteen minutes, clearly found me boring and wrapped up the podcast. It was never aired.
Some of the best experiences included having a poem broadcast on BBC Radio Manchester (followed by a short interview) and being a guest on Midnight FM where I talked to Tim Weisberg about my interest in the paranormal and how it inspires my writing. The poem broadcast on the BBC was the third I’d sent them, proving to myself that sometimes you have to keep trying. The Midnight FM interview came about after I guested on a paranormal podcast. I didn’t think it went that well, but the producer of Midnight FM got in touch with me and said one of their listeners had suggested me as a guest. I assume it was someone who heard that podcast.
Awards and sending out work
I came across the Author Elite Awards. It was free, so I entered Ghost of Me into it, but didn’t want to bother anyone by asking for votes to get it into the final. A few months later, I received an email saying it was a top ten finalist in the thriller category. I was surprised because I hadn’t asked anyone to vote for it, but obviously someone did. It didn’t win, but I get to add top ten finalist to my blurb.
Later in the year, I wrote a short story for a submission call in Divination Hollow’s Horror in Hollywood contest. Even as I sent the story, I didn’t think it had a chance, but again I was surprised to receive an email saying it was one of ten they had shortlisted. I don’t think I was one of the final three winners, as I would have heard by now, but it’s something to add to my writing CV and it encourages me to keep going. If I had listened to my own doubts about the story, I wouldn’t have sent it and it couldn’t have been shortlisted.
Finding other ways to make money from writing
I recently got paid for having some book reviews published. While it wasn’t much, I enjoyed reading and I love writing, so to get paid for combining the two is great. If things had been normal, I probably wouldn’t have gone down the path of writing book reviews. But while searching for opportunities, I came across Joyzine. Although they are predominantly a music zine, they were happy for me to volunteer to write book reviews. This gave me the experience and confidence to look for paid opportunities elsewhere. And again, it looks good on my CV.
And the failures…
Other than those I’ve already mentioned, I’ve had plenty of failures. I’ve run book giveaways where nobody has entered or the winners have never responded to claim their prizes, as if they’ve realised what the competition was for and they don’t want the prize. I’ve also tried to make use of my creative writing experience by co-running some paid workshops, but despite only charging £1.67 they sold very few tickets. Worse still, I offered tickets to a live reading on my Santa Claus book (with a free digital copy of the book) again for just £1.67 and had to cancel because it only sold one ticket. These are definitely my most embarrassing failures of the year, because I was sharing them so publicly. I thought they would fail, but I tried anyway. The point I’m trying to make is, sometimes you have to try something and take opportunities. You might fail, but you might not.
And to top the year off, I managed to sit through the first six seasons of American Horror Story, so it wasn’t a complete failure!
My plans for 2021
It will be a while before open mic poetry and spoken word nights return, but in January, I plan to take advantage of Zoom by reading at a few nights I’ve never read at before, ones that would normally be too far to travel to. I’m also going to look for more podcasts to guest on, more submissions calls and for any other opportunities. I’ll still write books, but this will be more of a hobby because I know they won’t help pay the bills. I’ll be focussing more on getting book reviews published, copywriting and pitching articles.