I have been writing commercially for many years and have had articles, training material and a ton of other stuff published and been paid for it.
However, publishing a novel, as many of you who are reading this know, is nigh-on impossible. Unless you are extremely lucky, a “celebrity” or have achieved some sort of notoriety, the chances of an agent or a publisher taking you on are near-zero.
As someone who is used to writing a few thousand words and then being paid, imagine how difficult it was to start receiving enough standard rejection letters to wallpaper an average four-bedroom house.
Then, several months ago, I was shocked to receive a letter from a Brighton publisher who LIKED my book. I had done the usual “Synopsis, a few sample chapters and letter” and probably like you, had grown used to the sight of my own envelope (the one with the fold across the middle) containing the unread script with the standard bland agent or publisher letter hitting the doormat.
This time it was different! I had been asked for the whole script!!!
To cut a long story short I delivered the script by hand and was told that they would be in touch in a few DAYS!!
An envelope arrived three days later. Contract? Advance? I was already imagining the Booker speech!!!
Alas, it was a letter enclosing a glossy brochure. Apparently, the publisher had several publishing “plans”. Plan A was very straightforward and consisted of the publisher picking up all the costs. I read on.
The publisher LIKED my novel but would like me to contribute over £10,000 towards the “printing costs etc”. For that I would even receive a load of beautifully-bound copies of my novel for distribution to “friends and family”.
My Nuts were Crushed!
That was my “road to Damascus” moment. No more letters or calls to posh breathy women agents who “used to work for a major publisher”, no more rejection slips and no more damaged ego.
As someone who understands a bit about marketing and PR with a wife who used to be in direct marketing, we decided “Fuck the lot of them!”.
They won’t be around in a few years anyway and had I REALLY contemplated giving away a percentage in “commission”?
I knew that about HALF of the book market is now in electronic form so Amazon was the obvious way to go.
We had the book uploaded and selling on Amazon within half a day. The BIG lesson that I have learned since Day 1 is that price DOES matter and that the name of the game, if you are an unpublished unknown, is to get your name out there. Use the first two or three novels for the initial marketing but make it as easy and painless for your future fans to download your book onto their kindle, iPad or PC.
Keep the price below ONE POUND!
Yes, I know that 100,000 words of hard slog seems very cheap but in business (that IS what you are entering!), you have a simple choice:
Low turnover with high profit OR, high turnover and low profit. Electronic publishing is a major opportunity for the latter!! Forget the agents! If your book is good enough, it WILL be picked up by a publisher.
The book “Crushed Nuts on the Cote d’Azur” IS semi-autobiographical and is based in the South of France where I lived for many years. (Photo above is me and my son in the 1980s in Port Vauban (Antibes) before all the Russian gin palaces arrived).
The germ of any idea for a novel is somewhere in YOUR experiences. I had some fantastic times in the Med and met interesting people such as David Niven , Henry Kissinger, Roger Moore, Michael Caine and many other celebs.
We went to the Cannes Film festival EVERY year and I used to see the Monaco Grand Prix from the aft-deck of someone’s (anyone’s) yacht. I knew which yachts were owned by the Mafia and which French customs officers were corrupt.
I was offered a job by Brigitte Bardot’s husband and was asked by a well-known British barrister if he could watch me screwing his girlfriend. I spent a couple of years living on a yacht and worked undercover for a well-known insurance company which insures expensive yachts and ships. At some stage these experiences ( and many others) will become mutated and appear in subsequent work.
Believe it or not, during those days, I had a proper job and a family!
You may be a writer who has not had the opportunity to experience and “touch” life in such a direct way. That does NOT mean that you do not have something GREAT to say. Your sources may be less glamorous and you may consider them mundane but if you are what I call a “looker” – an observer – it does NOT matter.
I ALWAYS carry either a Moleskine or CIAK notebook and continue to be obsessive about noting down phrases I hear or weird things which I see. It’s almost a curse.
The only practical piece of advice which I shall pass on to you is to be humble enough to accept advice and criticism and don’t be “precious” about your work.
Once you have been paid for something, it doesn’t matter WHAT a sub-editor or editor does to it!
“Crushed Nuts on the Cote d’Azur” is HERE.