So, why The Spontaneous Author?
Simple! I didn’t for a moment imagine that I would one day be the author of a book, let alone the creator of a series of crime novels. My decision to write really was that impulsive and followed a chance encounter with an author who was kind enough to spend a while chatting with me over a beer, and provided me with the inspiration to open my laptop, and my mind.
I believe everything happens for a reason and nothing happens by chance. Always have. It helped me through difficult times, and has now driven me to a complete change of existence. My wife and I had already taken a big risk; leaving our jobs in Bath and moving to North Devon with no employment to walk into. We took a chance on an opportunity, and that is exactly how I feel about my writing.
When I began, I was clueless. I had no writing qualifications, or been exposed to the world of publishing in any way. However, what I did possess was an open mind, determination, and enough life experience to give it a damn good crack. How hard could it be?
Day 1 – Open laptop. Stare at blank page. Hover fingers over keyboard – frown – down another coffee.
It wasn’t all a mystery, though. I did know the title I wanted to use, STORM LOG-0505. That was never in doubt. Storm logs had been the start of most of my investigations within the police force, so only fitting for the start my book.
In the space of about three months I had a skeleton outline for my story, and as far as writing was concerned, I was well and truly hooked. Obsessed would be another way to describe it. For probably the first time in my life, and certainly over the last twenty years, I was using my creativity. It was an empowering feeling and strangely therapeutic. I still didn’t know if my efforts would come to anything, and that was the way I continued for about another year, churning out more edits, until I realised that I needed to go to the next stage of involving a professional to review my work.
Months of solitude, doubt, hope, and plenty of despair were suddenly in the hands of someone who could rip the guts out of my new-found dream. I used Doug Watts of the Jacquie Bennett Writers Bureau, and over the following months, Doug guided me to the point of agent submissions. Within 48 hours of sending out, I had an agent requesting the full manuscript, followed by suggested improvements, and then – BOOM! I was struck down with viral meningitis. My ability to do the most mundane of tasks simply ceased. I was off work for several months, underwent numerous brain scans and tests. The effects on my physical and cognitive wellbeing were devastating, and I was sadly unable to fulfill the requirements of the agent, or entice any others.
As a result of the illness, I was left with a form of chronic fatigue, but… everything happens for a reason and nothing happens by chance. I was forced to slow down. Take stock. I’d sacrificed much in pursuit of my whim, not least family time. Sure, I was disappointed, but when one direction is blocked another invariably opens, and that route was independent-publishing.
I experienced a change of mind-set; I wasn’t a failure for not securing an agent, in fact, I was now in control. I had been waiting on email replies for months – constantly checking, double checking, triple checking. Now, I didn’t have to wait for someone else to fulfill my dream, now it was down to me, and I opted for indie-publishing.
I found an editing company, Cornerstones.co.uk to hone my work further. After speaking for a while on the phone with Helen Bryant – the founder of Cornerstones, I knew I was in very safe hands, and I subsequently found their editorial services to be completely invaluable. I researched each stage of the self-publishing process using the many excellent sources of online advice, but in particular, I found myself returning to Joanna Penn, of thecreativepenn.com, and purchased several of her superb indie-publishing guides. Joanna offered a very balanced and tested view of indie-publishing, and I made many of my decisions using her advice. I also joined the Alliance of Independent Authors allianceindependentauthors.org, where stacks of great advice helped to answer many of my questions.
I established a publishing name, Manvers Publishing, designed myself a neat little logo, decided on my options for sale – Amazon Kindle and Createspace, Smashwords (encompassing iBooks, Kobo and more), and I also decided to publish through Ingram Spark on paperback. I registered with Nielson and purchased a bunch of ISBN numbers, and I then found the icing and the cherry for my mixture.
I’d given formatting a go – shrieked, grumbled and cussed my way through several nights of pure frustration, and I then discovered Jason and Marina at Polgarusstudio.com. Those guys were simply amazing! Fast, friendly, affordable, and very professional. If they were my icing, then my cherry was definitely my cover designer, Jessica Bell, at jessicabellauthor.com. Jessica was just lovely to work with and produced the perfect book cover.
All-in-all, my publishing experience has been life-changing. I discovered a huge amount about me, not least, a determination to succeed… someone actually congratulated me today on my success. I played it down, said I hadn’t succeeded in anything yet. They disagreed, said publishing a book WAS a success. I guess somewhere along the line I’d lost sight of that. So, for now, I’m going to relish my success!
In my next post, I will discuss what happened after I pressed the PUBLISH button, discovered the mistakes I had made, and how everything happens for a reason… again!