Writer's Block

Well, the launch is done – phew! I’m a bit surprised at how tense I got – I thought I’d be more laid back. Too early, of course, to give a report, but the first impression is… mixed. Yes, it’s better than the last, but given that all I did then was post on my blog, that’s hardly difficult. This time I had a strategy – build up my mailing list and ask my subscribers to post reviews. I’d sent a free copy of Perfume Island to over a hundred, but so far none has appeared. Early days yet, perhaps – we shall see. But the only reviews so far have been from people I was in touch with before (you guys included – many thanks!).

On the other hand, it has been good to get a couple of messages from complete strangers telling me, ‘I enjoy your books so much.’ And it made me realise that I’ve never before experienced that sort of connection with readers. It gives me a glow inside that’s different from other satisfactions I’ve got from writing. For a couple of reasons, I think. Firstly, as I said, these aren’t people I’ve built an online relationship with – they’re people who’ve come across my books by chance or because they happen to like the mystery genre. And that’s the second thing – they aren’t writers but readers. Crucial as it is to engage with and learn from other writers, we’re not normal readers because we always have one eye on the craft of writing (‘Ah, what a beautiful / overblown / clunky sentence that is!’). So it’s rather strange to think that someone might be reading my book simply because they want to enjoy a good story. You might say it’s a bit late to be discovering only now what it’s like to have a few readers. Well, yes, I fumbled and faltered a lot along the way. But better late than never, you’re never too old to fulfil your dreams, yada, yada…

Will Perfume Island actually sell many copies? Probably not. But a few more than One Green Bottle (again, not difficult). And the prospect of having readers raises another issue: they’re following a series. What do I do with Magali now? Is she a brand? Do I owe it to my readers to keep her going? Well, here’s what Hugh Howie has to say: ‘A big mistake I see from too many aspiring writers is to follow up their first work with a sequel, and turn that into a trilogy, and write a fourth and fifth book while they plan their sixth and seventh. […] Plan on writing many great books about many awesome characters. Plan on writing three different trilogies in three different genres. Sequels aren’t bad; in fact, they can be critical to your success. What’s bad is only giving readers a handful of avenues into your imagination. Give them as many onramps as possible. Write short stories as well as novels. Write in different genres. Experiment and adapt to your sales and any critical feedback.’ (The full article, which covers many other points, is here.)

I found that reassuring. Because much as I like Magali, I don’t want to be wedded to her for the rest of my writing life. In fact, other ideas are barging to the front of the queue, demanding to be written. For the moment, though, I’m thrusting them back. A trilogy, at least – I can’t not write a trilogy. So this morning, with great relief, I stopped looking on Amazon every other minute and got back in touch with Magali and Charlotte in Mystery Manor (much darker, more thriller than mystery this time). Because if I don’t do that, I might lose my readers just when I’m starting (let’s be optimistic here) to gain them.

As for the marketing, I see no alternative to persisting with the mailing list. The first time people unsubscribed, I was dismayed. Now I’m pleased – it means I won’t be annoying them. And little by little, there’s a chance that of those that remain, a few will swell the number of that very select group I think of now as ‘my readers’.


10 responses to “Now, here’s something new – a reader!”

  1. GD Deckard Avatar
    GD Deckard

    Magali has grown from One Green Bottle into Perfume Island and I for one would like to see her develop in the future. She also develops positive relationships with the people she works with so that adds to her future resources. And enemies 🙂 yup, those too add to her future. And, she likes to travel! All this adds up to endless possibilities.
    & As long as you continue to add readers, it is not a mistake to keep her going.
    You can poke her nose into whatever issues, locations, peoples, cultures, religions etc that you want to write about. She can be a tourist or a UN representative or – well, enough of my ranting 🙂
    I like what you’re doing with her.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. curtisbausse Avatar

      Thanks, GD. Some nice suggestions there. Definitely worth thinking about…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. robakers Avatar


    So much here to dissect and all of it wonderful.

    1. I read somewhere, I have no idea where so please don’t ask for a reference, that it takes seven books for a author to begin to get real traction with readers. SEVEN! That is a big number but when you hit that number according to my inaccurate memory. The new readers of book seven will go back to book one and start from the beginning. Start with 20 new readers then 40 then 80 then 160 then 320 then 640 then 1280 then book 8 brings you 2560 readers…A bridge is built one pier at a time.

    2. On my blog, I have found readers who are loyal and dedicated. The wonderful thing is that I have never met them. I couldn’t pick them out of a line-up with a picture and still they show up when I write something. I like to think of them as embers that will start a fire. I think it is important to engage them, to reach out as you can with your new readers and to invite them behind the curtain. Ask them what worked for them and what didn’t. Maybe they would like to be on the advance team of the next book. Maybe you could include them in the next book as a character. Reward them for the reward they have given you. Build your tribe, protect your tribe and lead your tribe. And I am convinced the tribe will do the same for you.

    3. Take a breath and enjoy the ride. What a thrill to have a book actually published. You are a lucky man. You are in the top 1% of the population in terms of an accomplishment and you have done it twice. Not quite as rare has having walked on the Moon or playing quarterback in the NFL. But much more rare than a doctor, a veteran of Iraq or a airline pilot. I salute you.


    Liked by 3 people

    1. mimispeike Avatar

      “The new readers of book seven will go back to book one and start from the beginning.”

      My theory exactly. Hence my plan for a serial (of chapters) on Medium, and ultimately, a series of books.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. curtisbausse Avatar

      A lovely comment there, Rob, and some great advice also. As you say, it’s a matter of finding that tribe who like what you’re doing. And yes, it’s a very gradual process. The people who like cosy mysteries won’t be with me for long, I think, but that’s fine – there are others who like things darker.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. atthysgage Avatar

    I’m absolutely in favor of more Magali stories. I mean, look at Sue Grafton. Are you ready to write 24 more Magali books?

    Seriously, write what you want to write. I’ve never had a single book come out where someone didn’t say “Where’s the sequel?” And have I given them a sequel?
    No! Not once! And has it stopped me from becoming incredibly popular and successful and wealthy beyond the wildest Rowlingest dreams of …


    Liked by 2 people

    1. mimispeike Avatar

      I’m in favor of a series for anyone. But even Agatha Christie I gave up on eventually. They began to seem very alike.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. curtisbausse Avatar

      Ha, ha, quite right, Atthys! I had Sue Grafton at the back of my mind when I raised that issue – no, I could definitely not do that. But I can carry on as long as I have the enthusiasm. We’ll see how long that is…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. mimispeike Avatar

    The more I read about the difficulties of attracting a readership – read the testaments on Scribophile to get really discouraged – the more I am confirmed in my original (and it’s never wavered) belief that we are doing this for ourselves.

    In my case, I can say that is absolutely true. I’ve written for thirty years and I never seriously thought any of my stories would be published, until self-pub/ebooks/Amazon came along.

    And that is why I insist to do it my way, despite mountains of criticism. Kris, who has given me a marvelously intensive line edit on Sly, says: This is not for everyone. But the people who like it will love it.

    Her comments have lit a few light bulbs in my head. I suddenly see one particular complaint (by an earlier developmental editor) as not really valid, but spurred by another issue which is more easily addressed.

    I’ve acted on many of Kris’ suggestions. Thank you, Kris. My thing is, essentially, ready to go. Now I struggle with illustration.

    It’s going to be painful, I haven’t drawn in years. But I went to art school on a scholarship, thanks to my drawing ability. I’m scared to death, but I’ll get past that eventually.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. GD Deckard Avatar
      GD Deckard

      Oh, you’ll do it alright, Mimi. Look how far you’ve come, beginning with that art training that you will use next. Quite a journey 🙂


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