Here we all are at a recent visit to a smashin' little primary school in Didsbury, Manchester. The kids had all been reading The Poison Boy at their book club. When I arrived, they had a sheet of fifty pre-prepared questions; drilling-down into character motivation, structure, themes and images... it was an amazing event. The kind writers share on social all the time. You know the score - the six-figure book deal announced with a humble-brag tweet that begins, "Um, so this happened..."
But here's the truth of it. Triumphs like these are outliers.
As an antidote; a snapshot from early in my writing life, a summer reading challenge event in Derby, maybe 2015. Lots of kids from a range of schools. A number of fellow YA authors - Emma Pass was there, Sarah Naughton was there. The books were free to take home with you, and I was standing next to a pile of Poison Boys as children passed through the hall, chatting in friendship groups, teachers letting them off the leash for an exciting scamper about. Lots of laughter, pointing and book-collecting. Except in my part of the hall. These books were free, remember. And no-one was picking up mine. Bloody hell, I recall thinking. I literally can't give these books away.
Much later I was reading Terry Brooks' Sometimes the Magic Works and was reassured to read one in particular of his book-signing confessions. Brooks was tasked with writing the novelisation of The Phantom Menace and when it came out - this is pre-expanded-universe, remember; a world starved of Star Wars tie-ins - "....I flew to California the next day for a midday signing at a Wal-Mart where not a dozen people showed."
You don't that sort of thing on social. Picture it: photo of an empty bookshop, a writer tucked away, alone, behind a signing table, piles of unsold books either side of them. And above, the caption So this happened...