It was a hot summer’s day on the Costa Del Sol when my life changed. I had just finished reading the fourth book of my holiday, a mystery thriller. I slapped the paperback down onto the hot poolside slabs. I was annoyed to have guessed the main twist after the first third of the book; I am a lazy reader, not a bookaholic like my wife who devours books like I do curry (or beer). But I was increasingly finding that the books I had read were of a similar formulaic style.
The landscape of publishing is changing rapidly there is no doubt about that but where does it leave the readers, who want innovation and new ways of being thrilled — plus the 99% of writers who never get noticed and can’t make ends-meet?
There and then I vowed to my wife that I too could write a book. She thought I was just mouthing off (she’ll tell you I often do), but it was at that very moment, in the blistering sunshine in the mountains overlooking the cool deep blue Mediterranean that I started planning. Plotting.
Fast forward five years.
I finally self-published my debut novel last summer; Dance with the Enemy. It’s a thriller. A proper one I hope. It’s fast-paced. It’s got action and a bit of romance (just a bit). It’s got twists, goodies you root for and baddies you despise. It’s the kind of book I like to read and that I wish I could find more easily on the bookshelf. The sequel, Rise of the Enemy, will be released in just a few weeks. The third is drafted and I’ve started a fourth – I’ve got my own little novel production line going it seems.
And yet the road to here has been anything but simple. Writing the first book was one thing, it was only after I had drafted it that I realised the hardest part was still to come – getting published. For the next few years I struggled with rejection from countless agents, I re-drafted and edited the book making incremental improvements and building on my writing skills along the way. I made a lot of mistakes but I also learnt more than I probably realised. In between the many downs and the handful of ups, I continued a full-time job and welcomed the birth of two sons. All in all, my life was becoming one big, hectic mess. My writing got put on hold – indefinitely it seemed. But I couldn’t let it go. As each day and week and month went by, the thought of the unpublished manuscript stuck on my computer was gnawing away at me, the characters screaming to me day and night to let their story be told. In the end, determined as ever, but at something of an impasse, self-publishing my book was the obvious answer.
At first I was apprehensive, almost taking it as an early sign of failure – though in reality self-publishing these days is anything but. It’s quickly becoming a legitimate route to market both for new and more established authors. The cons are that you are often all but invisible in a vast pool of writers. Many organisations and media outlets look down on me with disgust on their faces like I’m the dog muck stuck to the bottom of their best shoes. I feel like an outsider, a loner, much like Carl Logan, my protagonist. It’s hard to get past that snobbery which still exists throughout the industry and which, unfortunately, makes it all the more challenging for a self-published author to get noticed.
There are pros to self-publishing too, though. In particular I get to decide what to publish, when and how. It gives me as the writer complete freedom. As a self-confessed control freak, it makes a lot of sense. The royalties, per book, are undoubtedly better – a little of a lot versus a lot of a little – but then how many of us writers are in this for the money?!
Regardless, I still think it’s an incredibly brave decision for a writer to make, putting yourself out to the world like I have. I’m a shy person and all of sudden my work is for sale to the world, I have a Twitter and Facebook account, a website, I’ve been in magazines, blogs, on radio, and recently made a brief appearance on national TV (a truly daunting experience for an introvert like me!). It’s self-publicity and it’s absolutely necessary. It’s the only way to make yourself visible above the thousands of other authors. Hopefully my efforts are now starting to pay off.
My second book, Rise of the Enemy will be released in just a few short weeks. It feels like it’s been a long time coming but, putting the nerves aside, I’m incredibly excited about it. Whatever happens next, though, I know I’ll always be a writer. I just love it. It’s not been an easy road and if I could do it all again there’s certainly a lot of things I would do differently. Alas, I can’t turn back time. But I can do things better next time. I think it was Henry Ford that once said ‘failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.’ In my opinion it should be the number one mantra of every writer...