What makes an author? And why so many? When I look at other writers, they always seem to be successful, cool, best sellers, prolific. They have that confidence about them that says how easy it is for them to turn out novel after novel; no sweat. But the reality is so different, and you can only get to understand this by experience, by sitting down and suffering writer’s block, knowing that you need another three or four thousand words for that day, and then just another seventy or eighty thousand to finish the book. How many times have I heard someone say they are writing a book and have written about ten thousand words? And you know that they are never going to finish it because of the hard work involved. All writers suffer this problem to some degree, although there are others who manage to find a way round it. Ian Fleming once said that it takes about six weeks to write a thriller; the editing and grammar corrections can be left to the professionals. Jack Higgins admitted that he wrote a thriller in the space of one weekend. He went into his room on the Friday and came out on the Monday with a best seller. Hard work though. Rejections are as familiar to most writers as sunrise and sunset, and I suspect that almost all writers have suffered this to some degree. I used to find my cynicism creeping in when I read of an author who was surprised that his/her first novel had been accepted with no problem at all, and then you learn that he/she was already connected in some way to the publishing world. It’s all about the market and what sells. Some of the most prolific best sellers over the years have been pure dross, but they served the market’s hunger for depravity, celebrity or whatever else had nothing to do with talent.
I asked the question; what makes an author? I believe they are born with the talent. They are like musicians, artists, surgeons, scientists etc. They have something that cannot be manufactured; the ability to do something that comes almost naturally. I was described as a “gifted narrator” in the Financial Times (London, 1980). What happened with my gift? What happened with my talent? It didn’t go away, it’s still there, but probably too late now for me to become that runaway, best-selling, globe-trotting writer of blockbuster novels. Now I’m getting carried away (but it’s good to dream). I know how to write, but I probably have no idea how to market myself. And that’s the rub; not knowing how to market your work, or not being able to afford the services of a professional publicist. So now I can say, thank goodness for Amazon and Kindle.
I launched myself on Kindle when the feeding frenzy happened earlier this year and managed to sell over 6000 eBooks. 40,000 of my books were downloaded during the ‘free’ promotion. I was up there with the best-selling talent and I enjoyed every minute of it. Now the dust has settled and the frenzy is over. My book sales have slowed to a low level, but I am at least selling more than I was this time last year. But let me give you a kind of snapshot of my writing career, which is a hobby by the way. I had my first book (NORTH SLOPE) published by Macmillan in 1980. I thought that was it: I’d made it with a top publishing house. They rejected my next book (HELL’S GATE) and it was four years before SHADOW OF THE WOLF was published by Robert Hale of London. From that moment I was floundering, trying to get my work published but no-one was interested. I gave up, left manuscripts gathering dust on the shelf, became inspired and continued to write. Got fed up and let it all drift. Then in 2006, Robert Hale, who I had had no contact with for years, agreed to publish HELL’S GATE. This was 23 years after it had been rejected by Macmillan. Hale then published four more of my novels. Suddenly I was on a roll and now I have eight novels to my credit, the latest of which, THE BOY FROM BERLIN (December 2011) has been taken up by Harlequin for publication, in paperback in North America and Canada. They have also agreed to publish another of my Hale books, THE EAGLE’S COVENANT.
So finally things are looking up. But getting back to the subject of marketing; what is it I’m doing wrong, or not doing? I was advised to use Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google, Stumble, Goodreads and all those web sites that are supposed to be a gift for writers to get advancement. Oh yes, and I needed a blog. So I blog on my website and copy it to all those places. In two years of blogging I have had no more than about four contacts. My statistics are pretty sad. I know people are looking in, but I never get the kind of reaction I see when looking in on other writers’ sites. I suspect that it is probably the same for most of us.
So here’s the deal: I will send a copy of my latest, Amazon paperback, HELL’S GATE (due for release about the end of August) to the first four people to contact me through my blog. It can be found at www.michaeljparker.com (don’t forget the ‘j’). All I ask in return is a review on Amazon. The book will be sent via Amazon, so it will not be a signed copy. You can learn more about me and my books and my life on my website. Even if you aren’t interested in contacting me for the book, why not have a look in? And thank you for reading this!