A Fine State of Affairs – Guest Post by Author, Iain Kelly…

A couple of years ago I wrote a book. I was quite happy with it. I sent it to a couple of literary agents, and unsurprisingly given the odds, heard nothing back.
Without a foot in the door or a celebrity name, it’s hard work to ​get your precious manuscript read – and to do so requires a lot of commitment in time and effort. I work full-time and am a parent of two five-year olds – any remaining time I use to write. I realised I couldn’t commit the time and resources needed to cold call agents and publishers in the hope of making that rare breakthrough.
But this is not a tale of woe. I decided to have a go at self-publishing, a fall back open to all writers in the age of eBooks and Amazon Kindles. And so ‘A Justified State’ came out in 2018, to modest sales and good reviews.
What next? It would have been easy to rest on my laurels and enjoy the moment, but in true writing cliché style, I found that the characters of that first novel weren’t done with me, and I wasn’t done with them. A plot continuing the story fell into place in my mind – and not only that, it fell into two parts – so two more novels. Funny how often three is the magic number and trilogies offer the appropriate structure to tell a full story.
With the self-publishing template established, and a goal in mind, I set to work. The first book had been a detective novel wrapped up in a near future ‘soft’ science fiction world, and touched on the world of politics. I wanted to get away from detective fiction – as much as I enjoy reading and writing it, I didn’t want to repeat the same story. So, I turned to the world of journalism and the media. It was/is particularly relevant in these days of tweeting presidents and fake news, and I love the old-fashioned print journalist stories – rolling presses, protecting sources and devastating scoops. I also needed a new role for my main character – the police detective from the first book. I intentionally sent him out of the city into new surroundings – both new landscapes and new people. I gave him a mission, a heroic mission but one an everyday hero could reasonably fulfil – no superhero stuff here. Then I brought him and my new journalist character into the new world of political intrigue – this the most political of the trilogy. The second book, ‘State Of Denial’ came out in 2019, receiving again modest sales and reasonable reviews.
Without pause I hurtled headlong into the final act. The third book already had a title – ‘State Of War’, and would move the action on another few years, finding my characters in new situations and relationships. It is unashamedly a war novel. Through the descent into war, the sci-fi imagined world of the future has regressed into something more recognisably like our present world (I always tried to ground the futuristic elements of my story in real world possibilities – no flying cars or alien species here). The fate of each character was always clear in my mind – they insisted on their fate – all I had to figure out was the journey that got them each to their end point.
‘State Of War’ was released at the end of May 2020 and completed the trilogy that started with one idea a couple of years ago. As I write, I’m approaching 500 books sold. When I say sold, more than half have been snapped up for free during discount offers, but still – 500 units is more than I ever imagined I would shift, and more than I would have sold if I had given up after a few agents hadn’t responded. I’ve added more outlets from which you can buy the books – Barns & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo and Google Play, although Amazon remains the place where most sales occur. And as I’m not relying on the financial income, I have learned to appreciate the interest rather than the earnings. (A tip – I made short ‘trailers’ for books two and three: while I enjoyed making them, they brought in little interest and even less response – unless you really feel the need, spend your time and effort elsewhere promoting your new book.) I live in hope that one of those copies out there might still fall on the right desk at the right time. Isn’t that what all writers dream of?
And the future? Well, I’ll still push my trilogy and be grateful for every soul that picks up a copy and gives it their time. The reviews and correspondence from kind readers helps to assure me I’m not writing into a dark void. I’m pleased with the work, which is the main thing – satisfied and content and glad to be sharing my writing with a few people around the world. And I’m looking forward to writing something completely different, with new characters, locations and plot.
Maybe this time I will have the courage and conviction to chase those agents and publishers – after all, I have written and self-published a complete trilogy now. That has to count for something, right?



Amazon Author Page UK

Amazon Author Page US


Barnes & Noble










11 thoughts on “A Fine State of Affairs – Guest Post by Author, Iain Kelly…

  1. Nobody tells you when you say you are going to be an author that the hard part isn’t going to be writing the books, but selling the manuscript and coming up with the materials that publishing companies want authors to produce. I try to imagine Hemingway or Melville or any of the major authors of the 20th century coping with modern publishing. No editors, no PR, no book tour. Create the book, edit it, proofread it (or pay someone to do it for you) … and then like a mad thing find radio shows and TV shows and newspapers to run reviews … and maybe, if you get REALLY lucky, find an agent.

    I have some good friends who are honest-to-god best-selling authors who earn so little from their books that they have second jobs and husbands who bring home the REAL salary. Unless you are have a book that sells to a movie producer — who then actually produces the story because, as I discovered an “agreement” doesn’t necessarily mean the event is going to happen — there are several authors I could name who produced as many as a dozen best-sellers and they still keep fulltime jobs developing software or teaching.

    I am comforted that the only way Dickens could make a living was to serially publish his novels in newspapers. Authorship has never been for most people a great way to make a living.

    But, on the other hand, is there a more satisfying way to work? Is there another thing we could do which would make us feel as proud of our art as authoring does?

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are right Marilyn – there is certainly comfort in knowing there is a whole community of writers out there who have the same struggle, many of them far more experienced, and far better, authors than I am! Fortunately for myself, it is enough to know a few people have found the books and read them and enjoyed them. And there is always that very slim chance that an aspiring film producer might one day stumble across it! Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done for persevering.
    Like you, I’m not reliant on writing income, so can enjoy the process. I started with a “practice novel” which I did actually finish, and had ideas for a follow-up, but I lost faith in its premise. I started another, completely different, but then I joined a writing group and for the past two or three years have been writing short stories and formatting the group’s anthologies for self-publication (in time for the past two Christmases). The success of these has encouraged me to self-published a collection of my own and I am revisiting my “practice novel” to see if it is salvageable. If I can sort out the beginning I may serialise it on my blog, as I did with a totally different story recently. (If nothing else, it’s good not to have to worry about at least one blog post per week.)
    Good luck with the new novels and with your trilogy – perhaps you could reissue that as a boxed set?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Cathy. The other good thing about self publishing and blogging your writing is that nothing is wasted, you can go at your own pace, go back to old ideas, try them again and keep going until you get it right. I have a few half finished bits I may revisit too, now that this trilogy is done. Good luck with your writing Cathy, and I hope you may get a chance to check out my books too. Best wishes, Iain

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I enjoyed reading about Iain’s writing, Chris. I don’t know if I would have ever published my books if a small publisher hadn’t come along and offered to publish them for me. I don’t know if I would have had the tenacity to self publish. Anne still helps me with so much of the publishing side of things. I have one of Iain’s book on my TBR and hope to get to it soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Robbie. The hard part about self publishing is that you have to do it all yourself, unless you are willing to pay for help, and the rewards may not match the outlay. And, I suppose, you have to have a bit of faith in your own writing, unless you have support from those you trust. I will still try and pursue a publisher for future books, but it’s good to know that if that doesn’t work out, self publishing still gets your book out there. Really hope you enjoy reading the book, Iain.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Reblogged this on Iain Kelly and commented:
    Here’s a link to a guest author post I wrote for Chris The Story Reading Ape’s blog, talking about my trilogy of novels and some of the ideas, inspirations and trials involved in the writing. Hope you can head over and give it a read and check out the novels.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You say you shifted genres from one book to the other. Do you think this has affected sales and reviews? I’ve published a series of four books (started out as a trilogy but the second book was a monster so I chopped it in two). The first one is supernatural horror, but the following ones have far less of that element. A few readers have found this disappointing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • HI Audrey, thanks for reading and commenting. I haven’t seen much of a difference in sales between books so far, but like you I have found one or two readers commenting that they missed the crime detective element from the first book, and that some of the characters have moved on and are no longer in the same relationships and situations. I see it as one of the advantages of self-publishing though – you are free to write whichever genre you wish and do with the characters whatever you want, without having to please an agent or publisher. I have accepted a long time ago that you will not be able to please all your readers all of the time, so I work with the philosophy that the most important thing is that I am happy with what I have written!

      Liked by 2 people


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