Is there anybody out there?

Wren1(To be read with Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” playing softly in the background; side three of the LPs for preference, that’s the first half of Disc 2 if you’re listening to the CDs, “Hey You” through “Comfortably Numb” if you’re using MP3s.)

It’s a month since I launched my website. I’ve had exactly three comments, all of them spam. According to the statistics from the service that hosts the site there have been hundreds of hits, but for all I know they may have all been from Internet search engines.

I’ve done nothing to promote the site, nor my book, in that time. This was intentional, I’ve been waiting for the book to appear on reseller sites so that when I do start getting visitors they will actually be able to buy the thing. But it still feels strange. Kind of a let down after everything I went through to get this far.

One of my side-line hobbies, as part of my career with computers, has been an interest in computer security. As part of that you read horror stories of unprotected computers being infected with virus or trojan software within minutes of connecting to the Internet. You read terrible news stories about innocent kids being targeted by strangely disturbed men. I receive dozens of spam emails every day offering me Viagra, or suggesting I get in contact with some pretty Russian girl who wants to get to know me better. Hell, once I even got an email offering me access to child pornography (just the once, and it was quickly passed to the appropriate authorities). But put up a site that I actually want people to notice and … nothing. Just crickets singing in the emptiness.

Now I’m not quite the complete fool the previous paragraphs may make me seem. I do know that this stuff takes time. One self-published author told me that it took a year before he saw sales pick up on his first book. In other places you can read that the secret to success in being a self-published author on the Internet is having a good back-list of books (or better yet, a back-list of good books) – and such a back-list takes a lot of time to create.

Those horror-on-the-Internet stories come about because there are people out there actively pursuing specific targets: script-kiddies trying out their first hacking project, commercial and criminal entities looking to expand their operating base, and perverts looking to get their rocks off. But then there’s the rest of us, the vast majority we can hope, just normal people using the Internet to find things of interest.

Wren2At this point, however, no one is specifically looking for my book, and that’s not going to change in a hurry. My first book is only just out, the second is written but still months from release, and I’m struggling away at my third and fourth books. So, if a back-list is important, then I guess I should be busy working on those, rather than rambling away here. I’d better pull the finger out. But let me get this off my chest first.

I may know better, but that doesn’t stop it feeling strange. I’ve been working hard for months toward releasing Dryad, in between doing what I get paid for. From the time I finally decided that I really would do it, that I’d really try to self-publish my book, until the day the final manuscript went through to the distributor, it’s been a busy and stressful time; constantly worrying over what mistakes might still to be found, what important steps I might overlook … and what people would make of it when it appeared.

I can just hear you all lifting those tiny violins between your thumb and fore-finger, playing them just for me. Oh, that poor man. So it was stressful was it? If only all our problems were so insignificant.

All right. So I get worked up about such things. I’ve always been that way. I worry away at the details, sometimes to the detriment of the bigger things in my life. I know I’m not the only one. I’m coming to believe that obsession is a necessary part of writing. If you were not obsessive you’d never bother with it, there are more relaxing ways to spend your spare time.

The thing is, that after you’ve gotten yourself all worked up over those months, you finally launch your website, you send off your completed manuscript and then you just sit there, staring at the screen wondering what you should be doing next. (Yes, I know, I should get writing on the next book.) It’s such an anticlimax. All that time, all that effort, and so much of myself that has gone into what I’ve sent out, and then nothing. Not even an echo.

Wren

I’ll get over it. Intellectually I realise that it’s not the big deal that it feels like to me right now. The worst that might happen is that readers won’t like what I’ve created … and perhaps I may look like a fool to some. It’s happened before. Not on such a global scale maybe, but I try not to think about it like that.

If my books are good enough to ever become well known then I guess I might look back at this post with amusement, perhaps remembering the good old days when there were only three spam comments on my blog in a month. But in these early days of releasing my book I feel rather like Pink, trying to peer beyond his wall, wondering: “Is there anybody … out there?”

2 comments to Is there anybody out there?

  • All of ’em spam huh?

    Love the Floyd man!

    I’ve been on-line for about 2 decades now, through thick and think, spam and praise, it’s much like life, take it as it comes, leave it where it lies. (my most recent step is to actually start a blog … we’ll see how that goes)

    Enjoy!

    • gmw

      Wow! A real comment. And a Pink Floyd fan, no less. I should have got out of bed earlier. Thanks for visiting Kenny, you’re officially down in the annals as my first real comment.

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