10 Books Rejected by Publishers!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone had been written in Edinburgh cafes while author JK Rowling and her daughter lived on benefits. The book was rejected 12 times and was only published when one publisher’s daughter read the first chapter and then begged her father to produce the book so she could read the rest. The series may now have finished, but the Harry Potter franchise continues. Eight films, one theme park, and countless video games, board games and products later, Harry Potter is one of the highest grossing franchises of all time. Rowling is no longer living on state benefits and is reputedly worth 700 million pounds. I have to admit I have never read the Harry Potter books but I salute an author that has given the gift of reading to a new generation of young readers.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

A number of searches on the internet brought up the magic rejection number of 38 for this novel. Rejected 38 times? Well I also found an interesting post by author Brenda Coulter in which she claimed the novel was never rejected. Margaret Mitchell apparently felt the novel would have little interest outside the South but happened to meet with someone from the MacMillan publishing group who immediately bought the publishing rights, much to the author’s surprise. The writer of the blog post went on to say this about publishing:  It just isn’t true that every talented writer will eventually be published if she works hard enough and waits long enough and believes. Novels don’t get published because their authors have faithfully paid their dues and waited their turn. Publication isn’t a bus that anyone can catch as long as they have the correct fare and show up at the right stop at the scheduled time. A novel is accepted only when some publishing house believes it can make money on the book. Period. So the difference between a published author and an unpublished one does not always boil down to talent and experience. Sometimes the difference is, quite simply, marketability.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.

Lolita was rejected 5 times. One publisher wrote that the book was “…overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian … the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream … I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.” I read the book a few years back after reading a blog post about classic books I must read. I felt a little like a sort of voyeur reading the novel which is about one man’s passion, lust even, for a young girl. It was an interesting read and the excellence of the writing seemed to jar a little with the subject matter. ‘A neurotic daydream’ is probably a good description of the book.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

Again, this is not a book I have read but I have seen the film starring Gregory Peck. Moby Dick was initially rejected by publishers Bentley and Son who wrote back to Melville asking: “First, we must ask, does it have to be a whale? While this is a rather delightful, if somewhat esoteric, plot device, we recommend an antagonist with a more popular visage among the younger readers. For instance, could not the Captain be struggling with a depravity towards young, perhaps voluptuous, maidens?” Melville decided to keep the whale although the young voluptuous maiden idea surely has it merits. .

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum.

It’s hard to say how many times this book was rejected but the author did keep a journal he called ‘a record of failure’ detailing all his rejections. The book was first published in 1900 and by 1938 had sold over a million copies. The book was illustrated by W W Denslow and both he and Baum claimed credit for the book’s success. The publisher only agreed to publish the book when the manager of the Chicago Grand Opera House, Fred R Hamlin, committed to making The Wonderful Wizard of Oz into a musical stage play to publicize the novel. The book was famously made into a film in 1939 starring Judy Garland.

Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth.

The novel was turned down by the first four publishers the author approached. Eventually Harold Harris of Hutchinson decided to take a chance on a modest print run of 8,000 copies. The Jackal became a sensation and only two years later Fred Zinneman was directing the movie version. Forsyth was a journalist in Paris in his mid-twenties and was aware of the controversy over the granting of independence to Algeria. He had befriended some of President De Gaulle’s bodyguards and had even reported from the scene of a real life failed assassination attempt, in fact an account of this real incident opens the novel. What would happen, thought Forsyth, if the terrorist group the OAS decided to employ a hitman to murder the President? The resulting novel has a gritty documentary style of realism that would influence a new wave of thriller writers.

Carrie by Stephen King.

Stephen King apparently received 30 rejections for his book before dejectedly tossing it into the trash. His wife Tabitha fished it out and urged him to try again. The book was published and became a classic of the horror genre. At the time back in 1973, King and his wife were living in a trailer, he taught English at a private school and his wife worked in ‘Dunkin Donuts’ as well as them both moonlighting in various part time jobs. Sales of the book were boosted by the film version and the paperback sold over a million copies in its first year.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

This book was rejected by 25 agents but was finally published in 2003 after the author sent the manuscript to a small San Francisco based publisher where the work found its way into the hands of a sympathetic editor. I have to say that this was an odd novel and took me quite a while to get into the book and understand the fractured timeline of the time traveller. However, it was an interesting and enjoyable read although a somewhat quirky addition to the sci-fi genre. Having said that, some reviewers regard the book as more of a romance than a work of sci-fi.

Roots by Alex Haley.

Alex Haley spent eight years writing the book and received 200 consecutive rejections or at least that is what some internet sites say. Others say Haley may have had 200 rejections but that includes his other work as well. His novel Roots finally became a publishing sensation, selling 1.5 million copies in its first seven months of release and going on to sell 8 million. Such was the success of the book that The Pulitzer Prize awarded the novel a Special Citation in 1977. Again, this is another book I have yet to read but I do remember the TV series from 1977.

Floating in Space by Steve Higgins. I sent my book off to 3 traditional publishers who all declined to publish it. To be fair, my manuscript was not in great shape but I have beavered away and every now and then updated the book so now I like to think the manuscript is pretty reasonable. After those three knockbacks, paltry compared to some of the rejections mentioned above, I chose to self-publish at Amazon. Should I perhaps have tried harder, spent more time on my covering letter, sent out the manuscript to more publishers? Still, just like Brenda Coulter says: Publication isn’t a bus that anyone can catch as long as they have the correct fare and show up at the right stop at the scheduled time. It’s about marketability!

Floating in Space is a novel set in Manchester, 1977. Click the links at the top of the page to buy or for more information.

Holiday Book Bag Video Version

Eagle-eyed readers will have surely spotted the lack of the usual video version to my summer book bag 2018. Alas, I filmed three versions, all of which suffered from hesitation, repetition and deviation, so much so that not only would I not have lasted long on the radio show ‘Just a Minute’ but any addition to YouTube would be sorely lacking, particularly in the area of presentation.

However, due to the miracle of technology, particularly in the field of editing, a fairly reasonable video version has been made available for my long-suffering YouTube audience and I feel it only fair that they should not suffer alone and that my WordPress followers should also be invited to watch.

If any viewer is unduly affected by this video, a free counselling service is available. Please contact your local healthcare provider immediately should any adverse symptoms occur.

The Film of the Book or the Book of the Film

It’s always  a bitter-sweet experience when someone decides to make your favourite book into a film. It doesn’t always work out because maybe it was a big, thick, long book and they have cut out your favourite bit, or perhaps the cast wasn’t the one you imagined. It’s usually just the same in reverse. You see a great film and in the credits it says based on the book by so and so, then you rush out and get the book, and it turns out to be a little disappointing. Sometimes it’s even better than the film!
Anyway, here are a few of my film/book experiences.

The Horse Whisperer.
The book.
I picked up this book in a charity sale last year. This is what I said about it in Book Bag 4:

I’m not even sure why I picked up this book; it’s not anything I would normally be interested in. I bought it for a few pence at a church table top sale and I think I bought it one, because I wanted to give something, a few pence to the church fund and two, I faintly remembered the book had been made into a film with Robert Redford, although I had never seen it. The reviews on the back of the book said things like ‘a page turner’ and ‘the hottest book of the year’. Anyway, I bought it ages ago, and on a whim threw it into my book bag. I really hate having a book and not reading it.

From the beginning the book was a page turner giving a hint that something exciting and interesting was coming. I liked the idea of a horse whisperer; someone who could train a horse without hurt or pain, merely by whispering. I envisaged a native American Indian perhaps or some mystic horse guru. The fact is that the story of the horse is nothing but the background to a love story, involving a New York magazine editor and a Montana cowboy. Written in a sort of matter of fact magazine style, it turns out that writer Nicholas Evans is a screen writer and much of the novel reads rather like that, a screenplay, and each character comes with extensive background notes like the writer’s character notes on a screenplay. At the half way point this novel lost steam for me. I read it to the end but the ending was so contrived I was just glad to have finished it. Somewhat disappointing. Wonder what the movie is like?

The film.
The other day I noticed this film was showing on the Sony Movie Channel and set my hard drive up to record it. The result was an OK sort of film although a little on the slow-moving side. I’m tempted to say it was more of a woman’s film but Liz watched it alongside me and she wasn’t impressed either. I felt the casting was not right. Robert Redford just looked too smart and tidy to be a cattle rancher and cowboy. He actually looked as though he came from the Roy Rogers school of cowboying although he also directed the film. If I was casting I would perhaps have gone for someone like Kevin Costner perhaps, and the female lead, played by Kirstin Scott Thomas, needed a stronger, more assertive woman, perhaps a native New Yorker and not an English actress.

The ending was different in the film which was a good thing as the book’s ending was so poor as I mentioned above. Rotten Tomatoes report 74% positive reviews but sadly, I think I was part of the 26% negative ones.

2001: A Space Odyssey.
The film.
I first saw this movie back in 1968, which was quite a fascinating year for me. I wrote about the experience of seeing the film in a earlier post about film music and here is, in part, what I had to say:

I first saw the film in the summer of 1968. I was only 11 at the time and I remember my Mum being surprised I had spent hours at the cinema on a lovely hot day. I watched the film in the huge movie theatre in Northenden, now a Jehovah’s Witness assembly hall. There were only a few people in the picture house that day and it was wonderful having this huge place almost to myself and seeing this incredible film in 70mm on the big screen. I recall being somewhat confused by it all, especially the jump from Neanderthal times to the future, until I bought the novel by Arthur C Clarke which explained things in a way the movie did not.

2001 is a particularly visual film. Kubrick cut out a lot of dialogue because he wanted the film to stand as “basically a visual, nonverbal experience” that “hits the viewer at an inner level of consciousness, just as music does, or painting.”

2001

Picture courtesy Flickr.com

According to Wikipedia, despite the few people in the cinema with me that day in 1968, the movie went on to become the highest grossing North American movie of that year.

2001 set the pace for the sci-fi movie with its depiction of spacecraft drifting slowly and silently through space. The first Star Trek movie was heavily influenced by 2001 which made it look a little dated when the movie Star Wars was released and did the opposite thing, showing spacecraft whooshing across the screen at lightning speeds.

The book.
As I mentioned above, I was rather confused by the film and there were quite a few moments when I was wondering what was actually happening, for instance the jump from Neanderthal times to the future, the moment when the monolith sends its deep space signal and various other things too. I went out and bought the book by Arthur C Clarke and went straight into a wonderfully well written, plausible space adventure. All the technology that Clarke wrote about had its origins in science fact, both the space missions and the computer technology which make up the main parts of the story. If you have never seen the film or read the book (shame on you) 2001 is about a mysterious monolith which appears on earth in neolithic times and helps the ape men of the day to develop. Later, in the future, the mysterious monolith is found buried on the moon and when it is exposed to sunlight for the first time, it blasts off a signal to Saturn. (In the movie the destination is Jupiter, as director Stanley Kubrick thought that the special effects department would struggle to create Saturn’s rings.)

Anyway, the scientists of the day decide that the monolith is part of some extraterrestrial intelligence and set up a manned space mission to investigate. As the mission progresses, the onboard computer, HAL, decides to have something of a nervous breakdown which creates an unexpected hazard for the crew.

Verdict: The book is a wonderful read, one of the classics of science fiction and the movie has deservedly become one of the most influential films of all time.

The Great Gatsby.
The book.
I can’t really remember when I read this book for the first time. It was many years ago and ever since, this short novel has been in my personal all time top 10 reads. The story concerns Jay Gatsby who lost out in the love stakes because he was born on the wrong side of the tracks and not an appropriate suitor for the lovely debutante Daisy. Off he goes to the first World War, comes home to the USA a much more worldly-wise fellow than when he left and one way or another he becomes a millionaire.

Gatsby has a huge mansion in the Long Island suburb of West Egg. Renting a cottage in the grounds is the book’s narrator, Nick Carraway. Nick is fascinated by the lavish parties held at the mansion and soon meets Gatsby himself. It turns out that Gatsby’s parties are a device, a lure to attract the beautiful Daisy who Gatsby still loves and hopes will one day come to him like a moth to a flame.

It’s a simple story of love and desire but it becomes something much more in the hands of the author F. Scott Fitzgerald. I often think of it not as a short book, but as a long lyrical poem that has an intrinsic beauty fashioned by the most wonderful turns of phrase. In particular I love the last page and this final paragraph:

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter. Tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . and one fine morning . . So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

The Film.
I noticed on the Internet that there was a 1949 version with Alan Ladd which I have never seen but the latest film version was released in 2013 and starred Leonardo DiCaprio with Baz Luhrmann as director. That particular film had been lying dormant on my hard drive recorder for quite a while, just waiting for a quiet few hours for me to watch. As I was part way through this post this seemed to be the perfect opportunity to start it up. So, I settled down with a glass of French red and clicked the play button.

The first part of the movie didn’t really do it for me and the depiction of Gatsby’s famous parties seemed more like a music video than anything, especially with the strange substitution of modern techno music for the jazz music of the time.

Later on, the picture comes into its own. Leonardo DiCaprio is good, indeed very good as Gatsby. Overall, tone down the special effects and the music video feel and this could have been an outstanding film adaptation.

The film version I adore though is the one from 1974 starring Robert Redford as Gatsby and Mia Farrow as the fragile Daisy. I may have written above about Redford being miscast for the Horse Whisperer but he is perfect as Gatsby, so much so that now, whenever I re-read the book I always see Redford’s face in my mind.

The screenplay was by Francis Ford Coppola who directed The Godfather and there are some memorable moments in the film. One of the ones I like particularly is the one where one of Gatsby’s associates is introduced to Nick, thinking him one of Gatsby’s dubious business connections. Redford as Gatsby, firmly but politely indicates a mistake has been made and we get a hint at something questionable behind Gatsby’s facade. Is he a gangster or a bootlegger perhaps? Another is the moment when Gatsby and Nick meet at one of Gatsby’s parties. Nick doesn’t realise he is talking to Gatsby himself when he says he doesn’t even know who is Gatsby is!

Verdict: Brilliant book and a lovely film.

Lost Horizon.
The Book.
I picked up this wonderful gem of a book at charity shop years ago for the bargain price of twenty-five pence and if I could convert the pleasure this book has given me into pounds, shillings, and pence, it would be a figure that far eclipses that initial outlay. James Hilton has become one of my favourite writers and one of my personal writing heroes. (Check out my blog about him here!) This highly original novel reflects the fear and sadness that many must have felt in the days before World War 2. There must have been a feeling then that with new technology, the approaching conflict could be the end of civilisation.

In this wonderful book, a group of Lamas in a monastery, hidden from the world by a chance of geographical fate, decide to look ahead and make sure that the riches of the world, not gold or silver, but literature, art and music, should be preserved should a holocaust engulf the world. To ensure that their creed of respect and compassion endures they kidnap a British diplomat, Robert Conway, to carry on their work and set about bringing him to Shangri-La. Shangri La is a small community in Tibet insulated from the world by mountains on all sides and the people here enjoy unheard of longevity.

Despite his capture Conway is taken into the confidence of the High Lama and given his task of continuing the community and its traditions, but his fellow captives have differing ideas, especially Mallinson, his young vice-consul who is desperate to escape.
The story is told in an interesting way, one that enhances the mystery by a chance meeting between civil servants, one of whom is anxious to talk about Conway and his mysterious disappearance. The story is told about how Conway is found in Tibet with a loss of memory and how his memory suddenly returns and Conway tells of his abduction and escape from Shangri-la. I have to admit that this novel is one of my top ten books of all time, and one I return to time after time.

The Film.
Directed by Frank Capra and starring Ronald Colman, Lost Horizon was shot in 1936 and went seriously over budget. Issues that contributed were scenes shot in a cold storage area, used to replicate the cold of Tibet. The cold affected the film equipment and caused delays. There was also a great deal of location shooting and scenes where Capra used multiple cameras shooting lots of film. Wikipedia reports that the first cut of the film ran for six hours! Studio Boss Harry Cohn was apparently unhappy with the film and edited it himself, producing a version that ran for 132 minutes. Further cuts were made and as a result, Capra filed suit against Columbia pictures. The issue was later resolved in Capra’s favour. The film did not turn a profit until it was re-released in 1942. A frame by frame digital restoration of the film was made in 2013 and various missing elements of the film were returned, including an alternative ending. Sadly, some of the visual elements were so poor that they have been substituted with stills as only the soundtrack was useable.

Ronald Colman is superb as the hero of the film, the slightly world-weary diplomat and politician who finally comes to believe in the ideas of Father Perrault, the High Lama, who wants to keep safe the treasures of the world until the famine of war has passed by.
This movie adaptation is nothing short of wonderful, in fact it is one of my favourite films of all time.  If you see this movie on DVD make sure you take it home and settle down for a wonderful film experience.


A book written by the author which sadly has yet to be made into a film is Floating in Space, set in Manchester, 1977. Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

How to Write a Novel

So why do you want to write a novel? For fame, fortune or financial gain? Do you just like writing? Anyway, here are few tips.

Plan your novel. Yes, don’t think you can sit down and just start typing away. Do some planning and research, then start writing.

Start at the beginning! Well, not necessarily. Sometimes the beginning is hard. It’s a sort of slow part of the novel, introducing people and places. Sometimes it’s easier to start right at the heart of the book and then add the beginning on later.

Got stuck already? Again, start writing a different part of the novel. When you have got the old creative juices flowing, then you can come back to the section that was difficult to write.

Editing. Now this is pretty important, especially if you write the way I do, in a pretty disjointed way, moving back and forth within the novel as I’ve outlined above. I’ve always felt that it’s important to keep banging away on my laptop or notebook or whatever and if I’m not banging away (writing) then I need to do something to make me write so that’s when I open my diary and write about last night’s night out, the shift I’ve just had at work and so on. Perhaps that’s why so much of me spills over into my blogs and books. (OK: Book, the one book, the only one book I’ve ever written!)

Where do you get your ideas from? Well, let’s face it, if you haven’t got an idea why do you even want to write a book? (Fame, fortune and financial gain?)

Can you see it through? It’s hard work. Floating was started in the 1980’s although not as a book but as a series of essays. Years later I decided to make it into a novel so I put the essays together which formed the second half of the book then I had to write the first half. I was still writing it when the PC revolution began and I typed it all out onto Microsoft word. I was ready to give up after two computer crashes. I lost the third quarter of the book when my PC crashed so I had to rewrite it and then found the lost quarter on a back up disk! Confusion then reigned until I sat down, deleted lots of multiple versions, re edited the book and added a new ending. That was hard work, believe me.

Enjoy what you are doing. Writing should be enjoyable and satisfying. If it is neither, then you should be questioning why you are doing what you are doing. If you think it’s an easy way to make money, think again!

Find somewhere to write. Find your own space, relax and be comfortable while writing.

Always have something to write with. Even when you are not writing, ideas can still come to you so make sure you have a notebook handy to jot ideas down, no matter where you are. You can even record yourself. I have a dictation machine in my car because ideas always come to me when I’m driving. Whether it’s on a nice pleasant drive or a trip to the supermarket, you never know when a good idea may appear.

How do you write a bestseller? Well, wish I knew. I enjoyed writing my book and I love the fact that numerous people have read it and enjoyed it but it’s far from being a best seller. Every now and then a few pounds are pinged into my bank account courtesy of amazon but I won’t be giving up the day job yet.

What do famous Writers advise? I saw an interesting article by PD James which started off by saying this:

You can’t teach someone to know how to use words effectively and beautifully. You can help people who can write to write more effectively and you can probably teach people a lot of little tips for writing a novel, but I don’t think somebody who cannot write and does not care for words can ever be made into a writer. It just is not possible.

Nobody could make me into a musician. Somebody might be able to teach me how to play the piano reasonably well after a lot of effort, but they can’t make a musician out of me and you cannot make a writer, I do feel that very profoundly.

Interesting. Read the full article here.

Ernest Hemingway thought the key was to write one true sentence. Click here to read this fascinating article on Hemingway.

Charles Dickens was the author of my favourite book, David Copperfield. Click here to read 10 writing tips from Dickens himself.

Finally, here are 20 writing tips by author Stephen King. I’ll quote my favourite one to end this post. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”

So settle down, open your laptop or notebook, and write.


If you liked this post, why not try my book, Floating in Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

Never Judge a Book by its Cover

The Problems of a Self-published Writer.

quotescover-jpg-91I was at a pub quiz the other week and one of the questions was ‘name an author who has written 723 novels.’ Seven hundred and twenty-three novels. Can you believe that? The answer, in case you didn’t know is Barbara Cartland. She has a place in the Guinness book of records and is known as one of the world’s most prolific authors. At the other end of the scale there is me, Steve Higgins, with my one book, Floating in Space.

I have probably written more words, in my blogs and tweets and other social media posts promoting my book, than are actually in the book itself. Oh well, that is one of the facts of the self-publishing world: Writing a book is one thing but marketing is an entirely different ball game altogether and of course the competition is fierce with more than 5000 new books released on Kindle every day! Is it worth it you might ask? Why do I do it? Well, quite simply I do it because I like doing it and when the enjoyment has gone I’ll start thinking about doing something else with my spare time.

Nothing improves and hones your writing skills more than the writing process itself and as a blogger with a deadline of 10:00 am on a Saturday morning I have even started to feel like something of a professional writer. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to log into WordPress and find someone has liked one of my posts, or better still has left a comment. I’ve always thought that an intrinsic element of the human condition is finding that out that there are others in the world who think the same way as you do and like the things that you like.

I do tinker quite a lot with Floating in Space and some time ago I added a version which hopefully corrected the book’s various grammatical mistakes and I also added a small index to help explain 1977 to my younger readers. Recently I went a step further. I’ve not always been completely happy with the cover of my book. I used the cover designer built into createspace and KDP select to create a cover from various stock elements but I’ve always thought I could do better.

Using the web site canva.com which has a Kindle cover template I designed a new cover using a background photograph I had taken myself. I’ve always envisioned the cover as being a lovely cloud filled sky and the image of a man floating there, hands outstretched. That image is the whole essence of floating in space and although I’d like to explain further I don’t want to give away the ending for any potential readers. Anyway, there is no floating man on the new cover (yet) but there is a rather lovely cloud filled sky. I was pretty pleased with the result so I exported it to Kindle and there it was, working pretty well I thought as my new cover. Take a look below at the old and new versions.

picmonkeybook-collage

Old cover to the left, new cover to the right.

I then added it to my paperback version in createspace and after uploading it I ordered a copy for promotional purposes. Now I’m glad I did that because the book arrived with its smart new cover but I found there was no lettering on the spine and the entire back cover blurb had gone. Now, after some research, I find that to create a cover for the paperback, you have to create a full book jacket including the front and rear of the book! Looks like it’s back to the drawing board for now for the paperback cover!

I’ve had to be a little creative in using the paperback for my web site photos. The one below shows the new version but the one underneath showing the rear cover is the old version!

dscf1792_31219045553_o

A lot of the videos I have on this site were made at animoto.com and it was great to find I can just edit my original videos, take out photos of the old cover and insert the new one, except of course for shots where I’m actually holding a copy of the book.

Wonder if Hemingway ever had all this trouble!


If you want more information about Floating in Space click the links at the top of the page. Have a look at the updated video below to hear more about the way the novel was written and a little bit of background information:

Update.
I wrote the above post last week and now, after a few days work, here’s the finished cover which is now live on Amazon if you fancy a paperback to read while you while away those dark winter nights.
webversbook-cover

The Secret of my Success

successThe secret of my success. What’s that about, you might wonder? Well, I thought it was time to write something about Floating In Space again and update you with how it’s going. Success of course is pretty relative. Floating In Space isn’t a blockbuster hit, in fact it’s currently rated at 677,726 on Amazon so there’s a bit of a way to go before we start challenging the current number one paperback. Still, from my point of view, that of an amateur self published writer, I’m reasonably pleased with myself. I wrote Floating for me, for my own personal pleasure and the fact that so many people have read it is great.

Last year, 2015, I was averaging a few quid in royalties each month. A fiver means I’ve sold about ten Kindle copies and I was selling at that rate per month for most of 2015; sometimes less, occasionally more. In November I thought that was the time to crank up the pressure and get ready for the Christmas rush. I took some of my profits and invested them in a couple of advertisements. One on Twitter and one on Facebook. It’s interesting how advertising on the Internet works. You can target people by age, gender and interests, by geographical location, by personal interests, by all sorts of things. My Facebook ads didn’t seem to do so well, indeed various versions were not accepted due to the text used in my images. Facebook doesn’t like text within images but images on the Internet are highly important as you probably know. Posts with images attract much more interaction than posts without images. Anyway, I eventually solved the issue by using text free images thus making them more Facebook friendly.

On Twitter, I promoted an existing Tweet about Floating and it went pretty well. Well, I thought so at first, the only thing is that my December sales were nil. Same for January and February. In fact it was only mid 2016 that they seemed to recover. The current ad I am using is on Goodreads. It’s a pay-per-click ad which is doing really well. A huge amount of people have seen it, although only a few have actually clicked on the ad, and it’s then, when a viewer clicks on the ad, that I pay a few cents.

This blog, with its various posts and videos was started originally to sell my book. After all, it’s one thing to publish a book, it’s another to start selling it and people need to know it’s out there first. However, this website has taken on a life of its own. My own writing has improved and its a great to have a deadline  -10:00AM every Saturday which just seems to hone my writing. I work towards that deadline every week and so far, with the help of my standby or banker posts, I’ve always made it OK.

My posts go out automatically every Saturday to all my social media. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Tumblr accounts and I have a fair few followers on all those sites, especially Twitter. On Facebook, my writer page has only about 150 followers and probably less on Tumblr and Google+ but on Twitter, I have a whopping 3,684 followers. Yes, 3,684! Now, I’d like to be able to tell you how I did that but I’m not sure I can. The only answer I can give you is that networking, constant networking, eventually pays off. I usually post four times a day on Twitter, just links to my posts and videos, all coupled with a picture that I hope readers will find interesting enough to click on. Here’s the interesting thing, the really crazy thing. Often, my stats at WordPress won’t match with Twitter. Take a highly retweeted post on Twitter, linking to a wordpress post and my Twitter stats will show a pretty hefty number of retweets and likes but on wordpress there are not always the same figures. That’s because, I think, my fellow promoters and networkers at Twitter don’t necessarily click the link on the tweets in the first place, they just take them at their face value and like or retweet as they think fit. Why? Because they have their own agenda which doesn’t necessarily fit in with mine. Internet etiquette means that I’ll tend to retweet the tweets of my retweeters and if I do that, boom, those tweets are going straight to my 3684 followers, just as my retweeters wanted. Yes, the Internet can be a pretty ruthless place. My pretty large following gives me a certain sort of power, it makes me pretty popular and means that my following is just expanding organically. My latest stats say I’m getting another 2 followers every day so please check the date and update that 3684 figure incrementally when you read this!

So, is it still possible to find success as a self published author or Internet writer? Believe me, I won’t be giving up my day job anytime yet but it’s not impossible to at least make a living. 50 Shades of Grey started out as a self published novel, and so did many other books. In fact click here to read about the top 10 best-selling self published authors.

Still what is success really? If Floating In Space hits the best seller lists and I make a huge amount of money from it, I’d only fritter it away in restaurants and pubs, spend far too much time in some sunny resort, and probably drive about the country in a ridiculously expensive car. Do I really need success? Do I really want it?

Of course I do!


If you enjoyed this post, why not try my book, Floating In Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information but in the meantime, check out my one minute video below!

The Holiday Diary of a So-Called Writer!

Somebody once said that the only things in life that are certain are death and taxes. Everything comes to an end and holidays are no exception. The time comes when you have to say goodbye to your holiday home or hotel room and hand it over to some other lucky holidaymaker. As you, the reader reads this, I will be well into my first day back at work, yes, Saturday – what a day to go back to work!

All holidays end with a certain amount of sadness, saying goodbye to new friends and acquaintances. Leaving behind memories of lovely places, beaches, or resorts. I’ve spent almost a month in France; three weeks in the Cher region and a final five days in the Loire valley in a place called Doué la Fontaine.

a so called writer!I began my holiday with a few set tasks to complete; in fact, here’s a quick scan through my itinerary, both the planned version and the actual:

08:00 AM Planned. Into the lounge with my laptop for some creative writing. Starting off with any blog post ideas then straight into my follow-up novel. Hoping to get a good few pages cranked off.

08:00 AM Actual. Sleeping.

10:00 AM Planned. Cup of tea and slice of toast.

10:00 AM actual. Still sleeping.

11:00 AM Planned. Cup of tea.

11:00 AM actual. Cup of tea.

11:30 to 12:00. Planned: More writing.

11:30 to 12:00. Actual: Sip tea while checking e-mails, surfing facebook and pinning various pictures to Pinterest.

12:00 to 01:00 Planned: Lunch.

12:00 01:00 Actual: Breakfast.

01:00 to 02:00 Planned: Swimming.

01:00 to 01:30 Actual: Swimming. 1:30 to 02:00 reading.

02:00 to 16:00 Planned: writing.

02:00 to 16:00 Actual: Dozing, reading and swimming.

16:00 to 17:00 Planned: Swimming

16:00 to 17:00 Actual: Swimming/ reading/ sleeping.

17:00 to 21:00 Planned: Barbecue preparation, lighting, cooking and dining.

17:00 to 21:00 Actual: Pouring of wine, barbecue preparation, lighting of barbecue, pouring of more wine. Drinking wine. Cooking and dining. Drinking wine.

21:00 to 22:00. Planned: Editing and review of days work.

21:00 to 22:00. Actual: Wine, chatting and Facebook surfing.

Looks like the follow up novel may have to wait until next year. C’est la vie as the french say.  . .


If you liked this post, why not try my book, Floating In Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.

The Author’s Guide to Book Trailers.

Book TrailersOne of the objects of this blog is to publicise my novel, Floating In Space. In these digital hi-tech days it’s just not enough to whack out a novel then expect people to clamour around wanting to buy it. How will they know it even exists? Well, as I said in Confessions of a Self-Published Author, the writing of a novel is only the first part, then comes the promotion of the book. Yes, this blog, of course, is a great part of that, as are my posts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and elsewhere. Anywhere in fact that I have a social presence, I will be knocking out a post either directly or indirectly related to my book.

The important thing is not to keep going on about it; that is probably the social media equivalent of knocking on someone’s door and saying “Hi. Buy this book and it will change your life!” Floating In Space will not change your life but it will give you a few hours of enjoyment, taking you back into the world of the 1970’s, a world so different, and yet so similar to that of today.

Another way of connecting with those potential readers is the video and that is where the book trailer comes in. Back in the 1990’s I went on various courses in video production so I know the basic principles of shooting and editing but nowadays I make use of on line editing sites like animoto.com which can be used to build your video.  Here’s an updated version of the first book trailer I made using nothing more than still images uploaded to one of Animoto’s templates:

One of the great things about YouTube is that you can add annotations to the video: Links to other videos, links to my Google+ page and YouTube cards which open up when you hover over with your mouse and can be customised with web links. You can also add little information boxes which clarify or expand on information that is given in the video.

Here are a few tips for making your own.

1 Use a tripod. I’ve experimented with grips and clamps and selfie devices but the best way to shoot is to put your camera on a tripod, set up your shot and press record.

2. Keep it simple. Make sure you know what your message is and put it over quickly and simply. Attention spans are short these days for video. If people don’t like what they see, and believe it or not they make that decision in the first few seconds, then they just click away from your video to something more interesting.

3. Plan ahead before you shoot. Make a list of what you are going to do or say in the video. Even consider making a short script.

4. You Tube is the second most popular search engine after Google, so work hard on your video’s title!

5. 13% of video plays were made using mobile devices so make sure your video is mobile friendly! Click here to read some more interesting stats!

Not only do I have my videos on YouTube, I also have a few on Vimeo. Vimeo.com presents the video in a more stylish way but the cards and annotations that can be utilised on YouTube are not available. Here’s my very latest promo. Shot with my camera on a tripod and edited using windows movie maker.

I’m quite pleased with the fact that I only took eleven takes to make this one. In the first few I didn’t like my shirt so I changed. Then it became rather windy which ruined the sound. Then just when I was about to pack up, I popped on another shirt and did a few more. The take above was somewhere around the take seven mark! Here’s another video, this time made with Animoto templates.

Weather’s looking good lately, why not make a start on your video promo?


If this post has got you interested in Floating in Space, click the links at the top of the page for more information. Click the icon below to visit my Amazon page.

My Holiday Book Bag (2)

A long time ago I was reading a biography about Richard Burton, in fact it I think it was ‘Rich,’ the biography by Melvyn Bragg. Bragg used Burton’s own diaries in his work and wrote, amongst other things, about Burton’s love of books and when Burton went on holiday he looked forward with delight to the contents of his ‘book bag.’ I know it’s a pretty tenuous link but one thing I have in common with Richard Burton is a love of books and when I go on holiday, one of the delights of lying under a warm sun on my sun bed is a good undisturbed read. OK, I read a lot at home and on my lunch breaks at work but it’s a few minutes here and a few minutes there and whenever I get interrupted it kind of breaks the flow. Some books, as we all know, are just made for a really long, uninterrupted read.

DSCF0004edOK, That was the intro copied from my earlier post Holiday Book Bag part 1. You might be thinking what is this about? A Holiday book bag in January? Yes, well here’s the thing, I’ve saved up my holidays for a winter escape from the UK and believe me, there is nothing more satisfying that calling up friends in the UK from sunny Lanzarote, where we are staying for six (yes six) weeks and asking ‘What’s the weather like back in the UK?’ Especially when they answer, as you knew they would, ‘It’s freezing cold and lashing it down!’

Anyway, I’m sure it’ll still be cold in February when we return so let’s move quickly on to the book bag. There is nothing more exciting for an avid reader like me, and the aforementioned Richard Burton, to plan what to pop into a book bag. Going to Lanzarote there are some restraints of course. One, we are flying so we only have limited luggage space so straight away I eliminated my hard back books which is something of a pity as I have some cracking hardbacks ready to be read. Anyway, I’ve stuck with paperbacks, some I have purchased recently and some have come my way as Christmas presents. Here is my final list.

Charlie Chaplin by Peter Ackroyd.

Peter wrote an excellent book about one of my writing heroes, Charles Dickens and I felt that this book was going to be in the same sort of mould. Long, intense and full of detail. Actually it’s a pretty slim volume and not the intense scrutiny of Chaplin that I was expecting. However, on the credit side, it’s a thoughtful and detailed look at Chaplin, his movies and his personal life and a cracking read it is too. One hundred years ago Chaplin was the most famous man in the world. I’m not sure who would qualify for that title today as despite global communications and the Internet age, the world is separated by many different languages and cultures. A hundred years ago there was no language barrier for Chaplin, and his silent films with their universal language of comedy, went all the way round the globe and he was as famous in countries such as Russia or Africa as he was in Europe or the USA.

Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth by Gitta Sereny.

This is a classic of World War 2 literature and concerns Albert Speer who was Hitler’s architect and then rose quickly in the ranks of the Nazi hierarchy to become Armaments Minister. He was spared the fate of hanging at the Nuremberg trials after admitting that the Nazi leadership, himself included, should take responsibility for the crimes of the Third Reich. What is interesting about the Nazi years is the way Hitler himself seemed to entrance people by the power of his personality. Much has been written about his speeches to the Nazi faithful and the many Nazi rallies of the 20’s and 30’s and yet, looking back at archive film, he looks to be almost something of a madman. However, those who attended the rallies speak of his almost magnetic power as an orator. Speer himself was surprised at first seeing Hitler speak because the speech he heard that day was about unifying Germany, bringing back employment and pride to the German worker, not about death to the Jews. It struck a chord with Speer and he began to follow him. It was the same with many people and as is pointed out in this book, had Hitler died in 1937, he would perhaps have gone down in history as a great German, not the mass murderer he turned out to be. There is an embarrassment among Germans of Speers’ generation; a feeling of how could Hitler have lied to them, how could he have done those terrible things? Something repeated many times is the feeling ‘if only the Führer knew! The fact is, Hitler did know but did Speer know too? An answer, of sorts, is the conclusion to the book.

One of the great aspects of this book is that the author’s journey into Speer’s life is a personal journey and one she shares with the reader. In the final pages we hear about how the author returns home after a weekend away and sees her telephone answering machine winking with various messages. The first one is a message from Speer himself, saying he was in London for a BBC interview and wondered if Gitta and her husband wanted to meet up. The next message is one from a television news company asking her to comment on the death of Speer!

Bleak House by Charles Dickens.

David Copperfield is my favourite Dickens book and one of my favourite books ever but I’ve had difficulty getting into Dickens’ other books. I gave up on the Pickwick Papers, although I liked Oliver Twist and Great Expectations but that’s about it. Hope this will be a good read especially as it’s the only novel I have brought.

The Life of Noel Coward by Cole Lesley.

I do love biographies and this memoir of Noel Coward’s life looks good. One of the reviewers quoted on the back cover says reading this is like ‘a holiday in a rented Rolls!’ One aspect of the earlier part of the book -I’m only partway through as I write this- is Coward’s visits to Manchester where he stayed at the Midland hotel when he was in his late teens. Even then he was a self assured young man about town and on the verge of fame. He charmed many of the rich and famous of the time and was always in demand as a country manor guest for weekends at home or abroad. Noel was a man who liked to travel, especially after a long spell of hard work, and he liked, at times, to travel alone. Indeed, the author quotes from a poem by Noel which reads in part; ‘ When the dream is ended and passion has flown, I  travel alone.’ Noel always took with him on holiday a portable typewriter, lined foolscap writing pads, and his ‘bursting’ book bag. This apparently contained the latest good novels, two or three classics and always Roget’s Thesaurus and Clement Wood’s Rhyming Dictionary.  Not a bad choice! I look forward to reading more about the witty Noel Coward and his life.

The Collected Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker.

Dorothy Parker was a jazz age writer and she chronicled the decadent twenties and thirties in her witty stories and reviews. Born in 1893 Parker sold her first poem to Vanity Fair magazine in 1914 and was then engaged by the magazine to write captions for fashion photographs and drawings. She later became drama critic for Vanity Fair and the central figure of the famous Algonquin Hotel Round Table, a group of celebrated authors and writers. I’ve already had a glance through the first few short stories and they look very well observed and entertaining so far.

Those are my January holiday books. Check out the video version of this post below!


If you are already planning for your holidays don’t neglect your reading matter. Why not take a copy of ‘Floating In Space’ along? Click the links at the top of the page or click on the icon below . .

Floating in Space

My Holiday book bag

richA long time ago I was reading a biography about Richard Burton, in fact it must have been ‘Rich,’ the biography by Melvyn Bragg. Bragg used Burton’s own diaries in his work and wrote, among other things, about Burton’s love of books and when Burton went on holiday he looked forward with delight to the contents of his ‘book bag.’ I know it’s a pretty tenuous link but one thing I have in common with Richard Burton is a love of books and when I go on holiday, one of the delights of lying under a warm sun on my sun bed is a good undisturbed read. OK, I read a lot at home and on my lunch breaks at work but it’s a few minutes here and a few minutes there and whenever I get interrupted it kind of breaks the flow. Some books, as we all know, are just made for a really long, uninterrupted read.

I’m currently on holiday in France and I thought I might share the contents of my ‘book bag’ with you. I’m a really big second hand book buyer and I buy my books from many sources. Second hand book shops, car boot sales, charity shops and of course, the internet. Even the occasional book comes my way as a gift. Anyway, without further ado, here are my holiday books:

Holiday Books

Holiday Books

Muhammad Ali:  His Life and Times by Thomas Hauser

This is an interesting biography and Muhammad Ali, once known as Cassius Clay has led an eventful life. The text is based on numerous interviews made by the author with Ali, his friends, and others involved in his life. The early part of the book dealing with Ali’s career in boxing is good but the book falters a little with the subject’s later life. In fact, I’m not sure what Ali does in his later life apart from travel and talk about the Koran. The author also tries to put Ali’s sporting achievements in context by comparing him with other greats of American sport but apart from Joe DiMaggio, I’d never heard of them. Perhaps that’s a telling point, indicating that Ali’s fame is not just boxing related. George Foreman and Joe Frazier may not be that famous outside of boxing but Ali certainly is. Having said that I’m not sure I’d be interested in Ali at all if not for my Dad. My Dad was a great boxing fan and I was brought up with tales of all the great boxers like Joe Louis, Sonny Liston and so on. His favourite boxer was Rocky Marciano and he disliked Ali with a passion and always, always referred to him as Cassius Clay. From reading this book, that was a feeling many boxing fans had in common and a lot of that dislike for Ali came from his refusal to join the army and fight in Vietnam which resulted in the loss of his world heavyweight crown and his boxing licence. Years later, when an anti-Vietnam focus had taken precedence in the US, people began to view Ali in a more favourable light and so began his rise to popularity. Ali regained his boxing crown as heavyweight champion of the world and has become the most famous boxer, and perhaps even the most famous sportsman of the 20th century.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T E Laurence.

I read this book many years ago but when I saw it again, lying there all forlorn on the shelf of a charity shop, well, I bought it for a few pennies and here it is in my holiday book bag. If you have ever seen the film ‘Laurence of Arabia’ then you will know what this book is about; the exploits of T E Laurence in Arabia during the First World War. Laurence set out to write a classic of literature and not necessarily a history book and to a great extent he succeeded but not without a lot of controversy along the way. After the war an American journalist called Lowell Thomas created a lecture and slide show featuring the exploits in the desert of Laurence and his irregular Arab army. The public were fascinated and the show made Laurence into a household name. Despite going on to become a Colonel, Laurence later resigned from the army and joined the RAF as an aircraftsman under a pseudonym. He seemed to be a man who wanted to court the spotlight and at the same time avoid it. He was killed in 1935 in a motorcycle accident as he swerved to avoid two boys on bicycles. The movie Laurence of Arabia opens with this same incident.

An Autobiography by M K Ghandi.

I’m looking forward to reading this, the thoughts of Ghandi, a man who changed an entire nation whilst embracing the values of non-violence.

No Bed of Roses by Joan Fontaine.

I bought this book from the internet and probably paid more in postage than the actual price of the book. That can be a problem when buying books over the net, especially heavy hard backed ones but to be fair I only paid three or four pounds in total. This autobiography by Hollywood actress Joan Fontaine was a fairly interesting read which took me through my first week of sunbathing in the Central region of France but I have to say, as much as I like Joan the Hollywood actress, I didn’t much care for her style of writing or for most of the content. In many ways the book reads like a run through of her old itineraries or diaries and despite working on movies like Rebecca and Suspicion, both directed by Hitchcock, we hear little about the making of those movies. Some things were very surprising like her random adoption of a Peruvian girl who she later fell out with and stopped speaking to and of course, her famous ‘feud’ with sister Olivia De Havilland. All in all not a bad read but I was surprised to find a little dig in the text at David Niven’s two books of Hollywood memoires. David’s books ‘The Moon’s a balloon’ and ‘Bring on the Empty Horses’ are two of the best books of movie reminiscences I have ever read!

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster.

I’ve not started this book either but you can click on this link for a review. One thing I’ve always found a little funny about books is that the more you want a book and the more you think about it, that book will eventually come to you! I’d read about Paul Auster’s New York trilogy in an internet list of great books. I’d never heard of the book or the writer before but not long afterwards, I spotted a copy at a car boot sale in St Annes! Looking forward to reading this soon, especially as it’s the only novel I have brought on holiday!

Which books are you taking to read on holiday?


If you enjoyed this post, why not try my book, Floating In Space? Click the links at the top of the page for more information.