#GuestPost – The Backstreets of Purgatory by Helen Taylor @TaylorHelen_M @annecater @unbounders
Today, I am really lucky to have Helen on my blog with her guest post about Crowdfunding. Before we tuck in, check out her debut novel!
Finn Garvie’s life is one spectacular mess. He spends most of his time fannying around a makeshift Glasgow studio, failing to paint his degree portfolio, while his girlfriend Lizzi treats him like one of her psychology patients, and his best friend Rob is convinced that the tattoos he designs are the height of artistic achievement. To top it all, Finn is worried that some stinking bastard is hanging around, spying on him, laughing at his cock-ups and eating his leftover curry. Fortunately, he has plenty of techniques to distract him – tackling the church hall renovations with the help of his alcoholic neighbour; pining after Kassia, the splendidly stroppy au-pair; and re-reading that book on Caravaggio, his all-time hero. Things take a turn for the strange when he finally encounters the person who’s been bugging him, and it seems to be none other than Caravaggio himself…
What is it like to crowdfund a novel?
I wish I could say that crowdfunding my novel was easy and that I ran a very professional campaign without any hiccups, but the truth is I made almost every mistake in the crowdfunding handbook.
For The Backstreets of Purgatory to be published, I needed family, friends, friends of friends, and their families to pledge to buy my novel in advance — all the people who I hope would have bought it had it been published in a more conventional way. Once my network had supported it, somehow the rest would follow. Or so I thought.
Ignorance is bliss.
It didn’t occur to me that without a social media presence it would be very difficult to attract supporters. All I had was a few Facebook friends. I had no web site, and a Twitter account that had never been used.
Undaunted, I planned my strategy. Completely ignorant of the etiquette (or futility) of such things, I decided that a tweet from a famous writer would more or less guarantee campaign success. I began tagging (a trick I had only recently learnt) and messaging writers I admired. Of course, that tactic was never going to work.
At the same time, the Beyond Caravaggio exhibition was on at the National Gallery. Working on the principle that Caravaggio fans were bound to be interested, I messaged everyone who had commented on the official exhibition posts and sent them the link to The Backstreets of Purgatory. At least, that was, until Facebook blocked me for spamming. I was so daft, I didn’t even know that was possible. And I was on a roll of daftness. In a flurry of enthusiasm, I messaged a well-known artist from Glasgow explaining that while he didn’t actually know me, he would certainly like my novel (art, Glasgow and all that business) and, anyway, we were as good as best mates because once my brother-in-law had been to his flat, drunk all his whisky, and then (I surmise) thrown up. Hilarious. A few weeks later, and much wiser, I cringed in retrospective embarrassment. A mortified letter of apology followed. He was very kind when he replied. I didn’t deserve it.
While I look back in horror at my mistakes, at least I learnt from them. Perhaps I should have been better prepared before starting out. In hindsight, though, my naivety probably served me well. Perhaps had I known exactly what it would entail, I would have been daunted by the task. There are no short cuts. Crowdfunding is slow, hard graft. Some days I panicked that I would never reach the target. What worked in the end was dozens of personal emails, messages of thanks to supporters, regular updates about the book, doing reading events wherever and whenever I could, and gradually developing my blog and social media connections.
Thank you so much for stopping by Helen, it has been an honour. It is interesting to read about one person’s journey in to getting their book published and to help future authors too.
Helen Taylor is a writer living in France. The Backstreets of Purgatory is her first book.