So here I am, no longer in the world of generous advances. My book will have to work quite hard to earn its keep. But at least it's out there. Amazon is criticised for undermining bookshops. But if more novels see the light of day and more readers get to read them, that surely has to be a good thing, doesn't it?
I'd never wanted anything like I wanted to be a writer. I remember spending whole days sitting around and moping about how I'd never be good enough/would never manage it/would never get to be an actual writer. I realise now that this was somewhat pathetic... but it did half lead to some very vague experiences of publishers before the competition.
Times are changing. Self-publishing is no longer 'vanity publishing' - a vaguely embarrassing exercise in assuaging one's writerly ambitions by paying large sums of money for a small run of leather-bound copies of a book - but a very real and increasingly credible alternative to mainstream publishing.
Self-publishing is a double-edged sword because, whilst it provides people with a direct route to market, some of the cheaper, automated publishers offer their services to absolutely anyone, regardless of the quality and presentation of the written work. This is where the problem lies, as it's not the content or the idea of self-published books that often lets it down, but the delivery...
Today, more books than ever before in history are being published. Thanks to self-publishing, over 10 thousand new books are hitting the shelves every month. 20 years ago, if you'd written a turkey and couldn't find an agent or find a publisher, then you'd just have to go off into some dark pit, lick your wounds, and write a better book. Not any more though.
You see, for most people who aren't literary fiction fans - reading is an intimate activity to be done at home on your bed with next-door's cat and an open packet of Twirl Minis. It goes hand in hand with being able to get up and go to the kettle. Reading is not a social activity, and yet book events are still fixated on the author's mouth moving.
My writing straddles too many genres to be categorised. So I turned Indie. However, when my self-published, first novel made it to the Amazon bestseller list, I realised I had a niche: a group of readers around the world who liked what I wrote. They wanted to know what it meant to come of age in a complex environment like India.
Of course I could just go and seek out a pirate version of the book. I'm sure that someone has already ripped the Kindle version of the book and made it freely available on a pirate website, but I'm a writer myself. I know that people who put months of effort into books deserve to get something for their efforts.
What's needed isn't bestselling feminism, or even radical feminism, but an ethical humanism more radical than feminism. A movement that actually demands change of the existing cultures and tries to get every human to act towards it, rather than the sort of change that inspires people to buy a different brand of beauty product.
I didn't much mind Rowling when she was Pottering about. I've never read a word (or seen a minute) so I can't comment on whether the books were good, bad or indifferent. I did think it a shame that adults were reading them... But, then again, any reading is better than no reading, right? But The Casual Vacancy changed all that.
Last week, my first novel was published. I didn't, in all honesty, have any clue what to expect: it's not as though there's a training course called 'How To Be A First-Time Novelist' which lays out what's going to happen... I thought I'd share my top ten things every author needs to know before their first time.
Take a look in HMV and tell me what you see. For while the conveyor belt of the craven book publishing world rolls on, the art world preens and lumbers in search of the next concept, and our once glorious world of music has had its guts ripped out by the internet. Yet the musician persists in his efforts to have the cloth-eared hear his songs.