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?
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