Friday, 26 July 2013

Quest for success

This is quite a difficult subject to write about, and part of me wonders whether it is even something I should write. I've always felt that the quest for fame selflessly pursued by the type of people on reality shows is rather vulgar is some ways, much preferring the quiet life out of the limelight.

However things have changed somewhat for me lately. I realise that most of those people are just looking for their fifteen minutes of fame. In some cases e.g. Big Brother it is not even about talent.

The fact is though, whatever the merits of any of these people, we all deep down would like to be famous or at least recognised and respected in our field, whatever that may be. In most walks of life this simply isn't possible. You don't become famous for being an amazing estate agent (if such a thing is possible). A few select experts in their fields e.g. gardening can become household names on TV but generally the main route to fame is through either the sporting or entertainment genres.

When I started writing all those years ago, silly letters, plays and emails, and even my blog in its infancy on MySpace six years or more ago when hardly anyone read it, I had no inkling that my writing could take me as far as it has done. I knew that I enjoyed writing and that I could write material that I personally found hilarious, but I had no idea that the wider world would.

And in fact, many didn't. I have come to realise that I am a bit like Marmite when it comes to my writing, and myself in general really. Some people don't get me, others do.

It's really difficult to write about oneself without coming across as egotistical or showing off, in fact this is partly why I use a lot of self-deprecating humour in my writing to try and offset any hints that I might be boasting. Because boasting is not something I do. I recognise what I am good at, and try to let that come through in my writing.

And bit by bit, it has done. My writing has gradually built up an audience and I have gained a lot of what I can only describe as fans. Again that sounds egotistical, but it really isn't meant to be. You have been there for me, encouraged me and been with me all along the way and I have come so far in this past few months in a way that I could never have done without you.

On my readership list are lifelong friends, local acquaintances, and people I have never met. All of you have contributed in your own way to the inspiration that led me to launch my book and the initial success of that overwhelmed me.

Three months on, sales have tailed off somewhat, but I remain undaunted. The approval and interest from people, not only for the actual writing, but in how I live my life has continued.

Dear readers, I do wear my heart on my sleeve and know you are with me for both the highs and the lows. I feel the book was a great success, but if I could go back, I would have taken a little longer over getting it perfect. Now I am working on the sequel, which I am getting quite close to publication. I have high hopes but I still need to get some more exposure. There is a step jump I need to get over from being a local writer selling a few hundred books to people locally to one where I'm getting some national attention.

People have shown interest in me - my blog has already brought me to the attention of one major radio station which I appeared on in May. I've also been featured in the Bicester Advertiser and Oxford Mail and have attracted attention from others. I recently spoke with a researcher from one of the main TV channels who are planning to make a documentary about karaoke. Nothing further has come of that, but the point is that all of these things even if they don't come to fruition are potential opportunities.

I completely believe in myself and what I am doing and a great deal of that is down to you. The number of you out there who have encouraged me and made me believe I could do this and go far with it has led to me really starting to believe I could fashion some sort of career out of this. I know by saying that I am potentially setting myself up for a fall and there will always be people out there just waiting for me to fail but I am not turning back now.

I thought long and hard about whether to tell you this next bit, but then I decided I would, but without any names of people involved. It's all true and is something that could be seen as ending in failure for me but I have always been completely honest with you, so why not share my experience.

I have just come extremely close to being featured in a major national newspaper. I was contacted by a very well known and respected national journalist a few weeks ago following my appearance in the Oxford Mail. This person (I'm not going to identify him/ her for reasons of confidentiality) felt that my whole story of being a stay-at-home Dad and writing an on-line diary had massive potential.

This story almost made it to print in a major daily national newspaper but failed at the final hurdle. The features editor loved it, but it didn't make it past the final say so by the paper's main editor.

This was a huge disappointment for me, but I have to take heart in the fact that I made it that far in the first place. The best analogy I can think of is of being a small town football club improbably defying all the odds to reach Wembley and then getting absolutely hammered in the final.

No matter, that is only one paper. The journalist in question still believes in me and wants to continue to act as my agent. In the meantime I have to turn my attention back to the book sales. Sadly that huge rush of sales of the book was not sustained and having sold 122 in June, I have sold the laughably low total of 1 in July. I could have kept that to myself too but I want to be honest with all of you, you have been with me all along the way and I want you to continue to share in the highs and lows.

It is odd that sales fell off a cliff so much but I suppose every product has a shelf life. Not a single copy was shifted after the story broke in the paper. I also find it quite amusing in a way that absolutely dozens of people have come up to me and told me they have seen my book in Cole's and that they are planning to buy it, yet Cole's report not a single sale.

So it seems like doom and gloom but I am not a quitter by any means. I have achieved an awful lot to get this far and it's unrealistic to expect fame and fortune to just land in my lap overnight. The fact that I made it to inches away from a major feature in a paper read by millions should not be seen as a massive failure but a big achievement that I made it as far as I did.

I've read countless autobiographies of actors, comedians and other entertainers and the first half of many of these books recall the years of struggle before they got their big break. Of course there are millions of unwritten autobiographies too of people who never got that break but I don't want to be one of them. Through an unswerving self-belief, entertaining writing, being honest and being myself I will have my day in the sun. Even if it is not in The Sun if you catch my drift.

What can I do now? Get my head down, keep in touch with all of you through blogging, and work really hard on getting book two to the market. It is literally days away from completion, it's called "Austerity Dad" and if you liked the first one, you'll love this because I think it is a huge improvement on the first offering. Not that I am saying that one was bad of course. Having two out there has got to be good - if people like one they will buy the other.

I have a lot of other ideas in the pipeline and if I could get into the national press, I have all sorts of ideas to pitch, such as a weekly "Dad's Diary" column or maybe an advice column, "Dear Dad", aimed at people like me, stay at home dads, or even mums looking for a man's point of view, who at present make up a lot of my core readership. A weekly column would be a fantastic way for me to get myself established and known and it also has the benefit of providing a regular income.

As for future book ideas, I will have to get back to you on that, my ideas are too vague at present.

One thing did come my way this week which made me really feel like I am a "real writer" at last and that was my first royalty payment from Amazon for book sales in May. It's not a massive sum but it is the first money I can honestly say I have been paid as a writer and that is an achievement in itself.

Thank-you all for your continued support, comments and many private messages, please keep them coming as they mean so much. You are all simply wonderful and continue to inspire me.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason xx

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