7 Questions for a Self-Published Author

Question 1:

How did you come to write your book?

I’ve always been a writer, even as a school kid I was writing stories and screenplays. I used to write scripts and do all the casting. Not sure whether Steve McQueen would have appreciated the roles I was planning for him though.

Later on when I was in my 20s I tried to move away from all the sci-fi and espionage stuff I was writing and write about something more personal to me, something that I had a personal connection with so I started writing about life working on the buses, which is what I was doing at the time.

I wrote about working as a bus conductor and driver and jotted down my observations about the people I met and carried on my bus. Then there were other stories about my personal life, drinking in pubs, chatting up girls in nightclubs, listening to music and so on. Later I realised I could bring all this stuff together even though it was just a series of essays then, and even make it into a book, which I eventually did.

Question 2

How did you go about publishing the finished book?

I had the book turned down by three publishers, not really a great amount.  I wrote a blog post a while ago about books rejected by publishers and I found out that Day of the Jackal was rejected 4 times, Gone with the Wind 38 times and The Time Traveller’s Wife 25 times. Publishers are only human of course but these days writers don’t need them, we can just publish online, just like I did at Amazon using their website createspace which is now kdp.amazon.com

Question 3

Tell me about the problems of marketing and getting your book noticed by the public.

Well, that was the hard part, writing it was easy in comparison!

Building up a presence on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube was a gradual process and the same is also true for my blog on WordPress which I started really just to promote the book. I started off with essays about how I wrote the book and videos of me talking about the book and so on.

I read somewhere that over 5000 books are published every day on Amazon, an incredible figure so how can anyone compete with that? Well, just by getting out onto social media and plugging away with tweets, new blog posts, videos on YouTube and so on.

Question 4

Tell me about your website and your blog

Well, it was originally created just to promote my book and get my message out there to potential readers but it’s also a challenge, a writing challenge. My big problem is that I’m lazy and I need a big push to get me writing so having a deadline, 10:00am on a Saturday morning, is something that gets me motivated as a writer. I know that I have to write something by then.

I even feel like a sort of writing professional because I have my deadline, my one deadline, and I’m always working towards that, trying to get something ready to post for my followers.

Question 5

What sort of posts will we find on your blog?

Generally I try to write stuff that is similar to my book, little bits of fluff, anecdotes with a funny twist, things like that. The idea is that if people like the blogs, they should like my book, Floating in Space which is written in a similar style. A typical blog post, and one of my favourites, is the one about hoodies (Hoodies and a Shaggy Dog Story) and an incident where an old lady’s handbag was snatched. Another favourite was called the Cat Wars and was about a crazy situation that built up when I was looking after my neighbour’s cat.

The only problem now is that I’m running out of anecdotes but I still manage to write about two other favourite themes, second-hand books and classic films.

Question 6

What about video, do you use video in your blogs and marketing?

Any internet post on social media performs better with images, a 37% percent increase in engagement and even more so with video.

Here are a few stats:

100 million hours of video are watched each day on Facebook.

500 million people watch Facebook videos every day.

Facebook videos receive 135% more organic reach on average than a photo.

2 thirds of content on Instagram is now video as opposed to pictures but video has to be snappy. If viewers are not hooked in the first few seconds, they just click away from your video to something more interesting.

I use video on my website to try and engage readers and all my adverts, because I do use advertising every now and then, are all video based.

A lot of years ago, in the 1990’s I really wanted to get into TV and video and I went on a video production course at the WFA media centre in Manchester. Subsequently, I made a few attempts to make some things for TV, all of which ended in failure but as a result I do have a bit of technical knowledge with video editing and production which has helped me a lot.

Luckily, today’s technology today makes it pretty easy to create simple videos and I use them a lot in my blog posts.

Question 7

What are your plans for the future regarding writing and blogging?

Well, more of the same really. I’m actually very slow at producing video content so I need to maybe speed up a little with my video production.

I really need to work more on my follow up book.

I’ve written some screenplays that were rejected so I plan on turning those into a book. The big problem is just me, being motivated and just getting myself geared up to work and write!


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.

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.

The Writer’s Guide to Mobile Phone Calls!

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s funny how mobile phones have literally changed the world. In fact it’s hard to remember a time when we didn’t have them. Off the top of my head I really don’t know what the last mobile free year was and to find out I’ve had to do a google search. The first mobile phone service started in 1983 in, well, where else? The USA. It wasn’t until 1992 that the UK had consumer mobile phones on sale. I remember buying one of the very first ones round about then, it was a motorola personal phone which was a pretty big device and seemed to use its charge up pretty quickly.
The first text message was sent in 1992 and the first camera phone appeared in 2000 with picture messaging available from 2002.

I love my mobile. It isn’t a smart phone but it does everything I need it to do. It has wi-fi which I hardly ever use. It has a camera which is a must for me as I’m always taking snapshots with it. My mobile also has a little memory card with some of my favourite music tracks so I can just plug in my headphones and it’s ideal for whiling away the time on that long train journey. Certain things about mobiles are annoying though and here are a couple of the main ones.

MobileQueuing up at a supermarket till and the woman in front is just about to pay then she decides to answer the mobile phone ringing in her pocket. Is it a vital call? Is it of major importance? No, it’s her mate calling up for a chit chat but all of us in the queue have to wait while she carries on chatting as if she has all the time in the world. I’m at the point of saying “We’re all wanting to pay and get off home!” when someone behind me shouts “We’re all wanting to pay and get off home! Put that f***ing phone down!” The lady appears shocked to hear this but we are all highly fed up of her, including the supermarket till lady.

Why is it that when a vital call is required in a TV soap, the soap star in question has left their mobile behind or is out of battery or even just doesn’t bother to answer? Soap writers just can’t get their heads round mobiles! They are just a plot busting device so what do they do? Characters leave them behind, run out of battery or just plain ignore their phones. Sorry, that just doesn’t happen in real life. Take a look around you in any public place. People are glued to their mobiles!
The other day my phone was ringing and when I looked it was an unknown number. Now, and this is another great thing about mobile phones, you can see who’s calling you! Great stuff! Don’t want to deal with a call from the ex – just don’t answer her!
Called a sickie in to work and your boss rings you in the pub? Leg it into the toilet, put on a croaky voice and say to the boss, “Can’t talk at the moment, I’m really poorly!”

Now normally I wouldn’t necessarily answer an unknown caller after all, it’s bound to be some plonker trying to sell you double glazing but; and here’s the thing about writing and trying to get stuff published, I’ve currently got quite a bit of product ‘out there’ sent to publishers, magazines, and producers, all with my name, address and mobile number displayed prominently so I could not afford to miss that call. I was particularly hoping to hear from a radio drama producer who had looked at a radio play I’d written and had not rejected it out of hand but liked it and wanted to look at the next draft. Well, I wasn’t really contemplating a next draft; I thought the piece was pretty much ok as it was, in fact, I was pretty pleased with it. Here’s what I’d done, I’d taken all my nerdy knowledge as a self-confessed conspiracy theorist, written something about –not the JFK assassination but the RFK shooting, re-invented it as the shooting of a British MP, set it in Manchester and thrown in a lot of speculation about organised crime and MI5 and stuff and thought I’d arrived with something pretty good.
Anyway, you can imagine my feeling when my mobile was ringing. I very briefly imagined a scenario where the radio producer was offering me a lot of money, asking me about who I wanted to play the main characters; did I need a car to pick me up for the rehearsals and what about the recording day? Was the 20th a suitable date? Well, I’m sure you’ve got the picture, anyway, so I pressed the answer button on the phone and here’s what happened; I thought I’d put it in script format just so you can really get a feeling for the scene:

(INTERIOR DAY, STEVE HIGGINS IS AT HOME, WATCHING TV.)
(FX: MOBILE RINGING.)
STEVE: Hello.
CALLER: Is that Steve Higgins?
STEVE: Yes, speaking.
CALLER: Steve, have you ever considered replacing the windows of your house?
STEVE: (APPREHENSIVELY) Well, actually, no I haven’t. .
CALLER: Well here at the Acme window company we have chosen you exclusively to receive a very special discount offer of 45 percent when you replace the window frames of your house with our fully guaranteed hi tech replacement double glazed windows and frames made from hyper glass, our new and exclusive new-
(CLOSE UP OF MOBILE AS STEVE ENDS THE CALL. CUT TO DISAPPOINTED LOOK ON STEVE’S FACE; FADE OUT)

Writing isn’t particularly easy but it’s something I’ve always done and have always loved. The end product is usually its own reward but like any writer it’s great to have your work get somewhere and be read by others. That’s why I so love the digital age. Every time I publish something on wordpress and get some tiny comment back or even just the odd ’like’ it’s a great feeling.
Just going back to the radio producer and his request for another draft it just reminded me about screenwriter William Goldman’s book, Adventures in the Screen Trade. Goldman tells how it’s fine to get your script finished but then the producer always wants another draft and then the star steps in, he wants a new draft and he doesn’t like it when his character does this, he thinks the character should do that so can we have another draft and then he drops out and the new star likes the script only he doesn’t think that should happen so, can we have another draft please . .The day I actually get to hear my characters on the radio investigating the shooting of my fictional MP I’ll be overjoyed but I have a feeling that if the script ever gets produced, someone other than myself will have had a hand in the proceedings.

Anyway, just to finish, here’s my favourite mobile story. Many years ago when I was working as a bus driver in Warrington, I was at the wheel of my bus but had got stuck in a queue of traffic just as we were approaching Warrington bus station. I picked up one of my fellow drivers who had nipped out on his break and popped into the shops. We were talking about a nutter who travelled on our buses and chatted to all the drivers. Now some nutters are pretty nice people when you get to know them but some are the bane of a bus driver’s life! I didn’t really care for this particular guy so I tended not to let him on my bus if I could help it. By coincidence we saw the same guy just then, walking along towards the bus station and my friend said, “go on, pick him up.” Well we were stuck in a traffic queue going nowhere so I opened the doors and let him on. I don’t quite remember how this nutter looked but he did have a kind of Lara Croft thing strapped to his leg.
“What is that?” I asked him.
“That’s me mobile phone,” he said and pulled out a big 1990s style mobile. “I love it,” he said. “You can have loads of fun with it.”
“Fun? In what way?”
“Well,” he said, “watch this.”
Now in the next lane there was a tatty old builders van with a mobile number painted on the rear doors and behind it was a very smart Jaguar driven by a very posh chap wearing a suit and tie.
The nutter dialled the builder’s number and when the call was answered said something like this;
“That bloody van of yours is a disgrace! I’m sat behind you in the traffic and your engine fumes are bloody choking me! Get that great heap off the bloody road!” Then he cut the builder off.
Nothing happened for a moment then the builder, a man with a physique not unlike that of the incredible hulk, squeezed himself out of his van and walked back to the Jaguar.
Just then the lights changed and we drove off. I’ve always wondered what happened next but if you ever get a phone call like that in Warrington check that there isn’t a guy with a mobile phone strapped to his leg in something like Lara Croft’s dagger sheath nearby!


If you liked this blog, then why not read my book?  Click the icon below to go to my Amazon page!

Floating in Space

Unknown Numbers and Taking That Call.

The other day my phone was ringing and when I looked it was an unknown number. MobileNow, normally I wouldn’t necessarily answer an unknown caller but, and here’s the thing about writing and trying to get stuff published, I’ve currently got quite a bit of product ‘out there’ sent to publishers, magazines, and producers, all with my name, address and mobile number displayed prominently so I could not afford to miss that call. I was particularly hoping to hear from a radio drama producer who had looked at a radio play I’d written and had not rejected it out of hand but liked it and wanted to look at the next draft. Well, I wasn’t really contemplating a next draft, I thought the piece was pretty much ok as it was, in fact, I was pretty pleased with it. Here’s what I’d done, I’d taken all my nerdy knowledge as a self-confessed conspiracy theorist, written something about –not the JFK assassination but the RFK shooting, re-invented it as the shooting of a British MP, set it in Manchester and thrown in a lot of speculation about organised crime and MI5 and stuff and thought I’d arrived with something pretty good.

Anyway, you can imagine my feeling when my mobile was ringing. I very briefly imagined a scenario where the radio producer was offering me a lot of money, asking about who I wanted to play the main characters, did I need a car to pick me up for the rehearsals and the recording day? Was the 20th a suitable date? Well, I’m sure you’ve got the picture, anyway, so I pressed the answer button on the phone and here’s what happened; I thought I’d put it in script format just so you can really get the feeling.

(INTERIOR DAY, STEVE HIGGINS IS AT HOME, WATCHING TV.)

(FX: MOBILE RINGING.)

STEVE

Hello.

CALLER

Is that Steve Higgins?

STEVE

Yes, speaking.

CALLER

Are you the same Steve Higgins that has just registered the domain name stevehigginslive.com ?

STEVE

(APPREHENSIVELY)Yes . . .

CALLER

Well I represent a new web design company and for a small fee we can completely re design your site and actively promote it and-

 

(CUT TO DISAPPOINTED LOOK ON STEVE’S FACE; FADE OUT)

 

Writing isn’t particularly easy but it’s something I’ve always done and have always loved. The end product is usually its own reward but like any writer it’s great to have your work get somewhere and be read by others. That’s why I so love the digital age. Every time I publish something on wordpress and get some tiny comment back or even just the odd ’like’ it’s a great feeling.

Just going back to the radio producer and his request for another draft it just reminded me about screenwriter William Goldman’s book, Adventures in the Screen Trade. Goldman tells how it’s fine to get your script finished but then the producer always wants another draft and then the star steps in, he wants a new draft and he doesn’t like it when his character does this, he thinks the character should do that so can we have another draft and then he drops out and the new star likes the script only he doesn’t think that should happen so, can we have another draft please . .

The day I actually get to hear my characters on the radio investigating the shooting of my fictional MP I’ll be overjoyed.