Dear Reader, I am newly self published, and like many of you I suspect, keen to get my work to a wider audience. My book, ‘The Himalayan Assignment’ is now available and there are details at www.renvyleblake.com. I will leave the plug at that!
I did try to get published, but not very hard. I guess I had a fairly standard number of rejections, all of the very unhelpful “good luck elsewhere” pro forma type. One agency lost my manuscript twice, and several never replied. I looked carefully at the Thriller genre in the traditional bookshops and I was amazed at the number of absolutely ANCIENT writers whose names were simply selling stickers for contracted writers. I spend hundreds of dollars reading the competition in hard copy. Several books were fantastic – far better than anything I could ever hope to write; others were, yup, total crap. My conclusion was that the traditionally accepted wisdom: talent=recognition=agent=publisher=fame was not quite as it should be. It smacked of a hidebound industry taking cover behind its old bestselling names, in recession, risk averse and fearful of technological change.
At the same time there was a limited amount of time I could devote to the process. I run a small financial services business with USD ten million plus turnover, and this all had to be done in my free time. Free time equals family time in our household as we have three small children. Banging my head against a brick wall was not fair on them or on my wife. I’ve leave all the ‘so happy with my self publishing team’ stuff out. Suffice to say that ebooksbydesign did a great job in my view and saved technophobic old me a great deal of time.
Why did I write the book? I have to say, I definitely never imagined myself writing a book. As I have described in the ‘About this book’ section at the front of ‘The Himalayan Assignment’ it was an accident. It was a book that had to be written and I got the tap on the shoulder! It is based on a true story which has got to make a thriller more compelling in my humble opinion. I hope readers will agree.
I read History at Cambridge University in the UK, and I have always loved books, but across a fairly narrow genre. Non Fiction (usually history) the odd amusing autobiography, a few travel writers (Nicholas Crane was a favourite) thrillers (usually the more cerebral ones – Mark Burnell / Charles Cumming – those kind of guys) and then historical novels. I have read every single Patrick O’Brian and I LOVED them all. I discovered Allan Mallinson when I was in mourning after finishing the last of the Aubrey-Maturin sagas and I have been a devoted buyer of his books ever since. What I haven’t done is read Pride and Prejudice twenty times and I can’t pretend I’m that interested ( I have to give ‘Lost in Austen’ a plug though – that is one fantastic film!)
All of the above mentioned writers have influenced me, and I think I can tell stories. My readers my disabuse me of this notion over time – we shall see! I am now writing a sequel. I have a little more information from my original sources and I have done a bit more digging. So the second of ‘The Pelagic Files’ series will appear next year – God willing…
Would I self publish again? Yes I think I would. It is early to tell but it looks like the future to me. At Christmas half the people around the pool at my hotel had their Kindles on. I was amazed that a) it was light enough to hold up b) you could read it in sunshine and c) they seemed to sunbathe all day – ie no battery re-charging required. It was a bit of an eye-opener to be honest. I can’t pretend that I won’t be devastated to see ‘books from trees’ disappear – the smell and the feel of books spell learning / refinement / pleasure and all those lovely things to me. The smell of an old book is captivating. I expect people said the same sorts of things when leather-bound books stopped being the norm. Certainly now, travelling on business a lot as I do, I love my Kindle (a birthday present from my wife) and it even smells of leather too, as she bought me the sexy cover with the light!
What tips would I offer others? Well I can’t pretend to be either an old hand at this, or even a dab hand; I squeezed onto the “top 100 thrillers” for a couple of days early this week on the UK Amazon site, but have since fallen back. What I can say is the old cliche, which is that if there is not a good story there and it is not well written then there is no amount of saving to be done. The book will be like a boat with no bottom and will “sleep with the fishes” quicker than you can say Captain Nemo. Otherwise, listen to the criticism – and listen very carefully – but don’t be discouraged and don’t take everything at face value; a busy agent with a huge backlist of established clients is going to say “arrivederci” in 99 cases out of 100. If they do so at the same time as telling you to be a hairdresser not an author then there is no need to invest in your first pair of scissors…. well, not immediately anyway.
Do your homework on things like ‘show don’t tell’ and ‘points of view’. Make sure the story stays consistent, so check the colour of hair, cars and all that kind of gubbins very carefully! Read the dialogue aloud – or better still – get someone to read it to you. 80 year old Colonels don’t say ‘yo dude’ and eighteen year old rappers don’t say ‘I say old chap’. Keep it real as the Americans would say. Lastly do get it professionally looked at. I spent good money on several critical appraisals and advice, as well as proof reading & professional presentation. I could afford it, and I fully appreciate that others perhaps cannot. But invest whatever you can. Above all, invest your time. My limited experience is that every re-write (painful though it is) is worth the effort, every re-read will produce more typos and errors. More time = a better book. For sure.
DON”T submit it until you are a) proud of it and b) sick to the back teeth of it!
I hope that helps and I hope to that readers may download my book and find it enjoyable!