This is a guest post from Fran McNicol.
I have been writing all my life, ever since I could hold a pen. I have used that pen to record my misadventures and process my feelings, and I have had a few articles published over the years. I won a couple of prizes that led to print, and I submitted helpful free contributions to activity magazines, but I didn’t consider Becoming A Writer as a career because I didn’t think I was good enough. I didn’t get properly published early on, and I couldn’t imagine making any money from writing.
But I have always been compelled to write.
On an expedition in Mongolia, I sat next to a well-known travel author on an internal flight. She gave me a complete tutorial about how to get published by the traditional route; how to write a synopsis, send it out to 10 agents selected from the trade yearbook. If they find your idea interesting or worthy they will pitch to their favourite publishers.
And then if you are chosen, you write the book and hand it over.
I started a blog a few years ago to share the life lessons I was learning from my journey with the horses, prioritising their holistic needs over my ego. I was writing it all down as part of the processing anyway, and I hoped I might be able to spare other horse owners some of my pain.
Blogging is an innovative and disruptive medium, and writing a blog is a weird and different experience. You start off writing for yourself, from the heart, simply because you are compelled to write and the act of publishing a blog allows you to imagine that you have at least one reader.
In the beginning, you have no idea if anyone reads your articles or cares.
Then something strange happens and people you have never met, from all over the world, start reaching out, to say thanks if something has helped them, they leave comments and they ask you questions and suddenly you have a family, a readership, of like-minded virtual friends. It becomes an interactive process, a conversation.
One of my blog posts went around the world, with 42,000 views, and I was contacted by a hoof boot company to write a short series for them. This was the first time that a significant audience found me, on my own merits, and it was the first time that I made any real money from writing.
But the real lesson came in the middle of Corona.
A UK broadsheet is always asking for contributions; there is an email address for shared experiences and commentary. My writing friends and I have been submitting both ideas and full pieces for years. I often wonder which junior intern checks that email address? Our various submissions have never been acknowledged, except to have our best ideas coincidentally written up by staff writers, a couple of weeks after submission.
One of our hospital doctors wrote a lovely piece about her experiences on the ward mid-pandemic. But she sent it to a family friend, who happened to be on the permanent staff, and it was published two days later. I’m not bitter. It was a good piece of writing and it deserved to be out there.
But it illustrated very clearly that publishing is a closed shop, that it all boils down to who you know.
The cream will only rise if there is someone from the inner circle ready to help it along. But if your good work doesn’t find its way to the right person, it will just get lost in the white noise.
The same thing can happen in the self-publishing market of course. There is a huge amount of work out there now, some good, some bad, and some frankly ugly. The difference with self-publishing, like with blogging, is that the whole world gets to vote; that anyone and everyone can find your work. It might be harder to find, but once found it is then easier to share, and pass on and engage with. Your work will get the chance it deserves. Your virtual family will get to see your work, and if it is good enough, they will make sure it goes around the rest of the world too.
Self-publishing is the ultimate test of merit.
Fran McNicol blogs about learning to keep the sports horse holistically- healthy at Nelipot Cottage in the English countryside. Her forthcoming title from Sea Crow Press explores her ongoing journey with horses and the wisdom they can teach us.