I never set out to be a writer. It happened by accident. A friend, Tom Sangster, suggested I write down the stories I told of my years singing in bands. I gathered them together and tried to place them on a timeline. In 2011, I found a vanity publisher for my book of memories.
In August that year, I had 150 paperback copies of We’d Like To Do A Number Now to gift, or sell, to friends and family. By the end of October, those copies had gone. I considered getting more printed but elected to use my brand new website, combined with Twitter and Facebook, to sell the Kindle version. I often wonder what possessed me to set up that network for one niche title. If I hadn’t, things would have ended there.
I pondered what I could do to fill my leisure time. I reflected on the enjoyment I had when writing those memoirs and wondered if I could write fiction. If a novel was beyond me, were there enough ideas for short stories to create something worthwhile.
What did I have to lose? The website and social media presence were in place. I still didn’t know how to market books, but I’d had a year’s social media experience, plus the benefits of learning how to use Amazon and a few book promotion sites. I wrote The Final Straw and self-published it in the Spring of 2013.
The next eighteen months were a whirl. Lynne asked me why the ending of The Final Straw hinted there was more to come? I admitted I had an idea how things might turn out for my anti-hero Colin Bailey, but I wasn’t sure whether it was worth pursuing. She convinced me to continue.
In 2014 I wrote Unfinished Business and 12 short stories with a twist called A Sting In The Tale. I grew my Twitter following and ran promotions to persuade those followers to buy my books.
It was the start of a long, hard road.
I didn’t have the budget to get my books edited and polished. Nor could I afford to commit a great deal of money to promotions. Lynne was still keen to read everything I put in front of her, but questions followed when she read the final paragraph of Unfinished Business.
“What’s this about Erebus and asking someone to collect Phoenix? Who’s Phoenix?”
I explained I was considering a series about a secret organisation where Colin Bailey, aka Phoenix, carried on his vigilante exploits. Either that or Cat and Mouse was a working title for crime thrillers featuring Phil Hounsell and Zara Wheeler.
“I don’t want to read about Phil and Zara,” she said, “I prefer Colin Bailey, the bad guy. He’s far more interesting.”
So, Cat and Mouse ended before they began, and The Olympus Project was soon the first book in The Phoenix Series trilogy. That’s right, a trilogy.
How did I reach a dozen books three and a half years later? When I sketched out the three storylines, I decided my final book would be Nothing Is Ever Forever.
By early 2016, I accepted I needed a larger marketing budget to improve sales. Better judges might have opted for a good editor, but I believed I could self-edit using Grammarly and Pro-Writing Aid. Few readers will have noticed this, but you can gauge the progress of that change in approach via the titles of the subsequent books in the series.
Book four was In The Lap Of The Gods. Could the new approach improve things enough? Would the extra expense yield greater returns? Book six, A New Dawn, reflected the massive sea-change on June 30th, 2016 (massive by my standards, at least). I ran a promotion across three sites which produced 1500 downloads in two days. I thought I’d turned a corner.
Three books followed in 2017. Sales and downloads in 2016 were astronomic compared to previous levels. Last year the figures doubled again. I had improved year on year, but the past was repeating itself.
When I sang in those bands many years ago, we were so close to making it. We didn’t have that final bit of magic that separates the support act from the star turn. It didn’t stop us from enjoying what we did or looking back with pride at what we had achieved when it ended. It just wasn’t meant to be.
As 2018 approached, I realised there was little more I could do. If the lack of editing was the major stumbling block, I couldn’t afford to rectify it. I decided to write a final three books and close the series.
My feelings are as they were back in the early Seventies exactly. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve written, learned a heck of a lot and met many inspiring people. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. The next promotion might lead to a genuine breakthrough; time will tell if it was to be.
You can keep in touch with my progress on social media, my website, or through my newsletters.
July 16th, 2018
Update – A BookBub Featured Deal in the US in March 2019 was the fillip I needed to start me on the next leg of my journey. A brand new six-book crime series will be published commencing later this year. Onwards and upwards.
April 20th, 2019
Update – A BookBub Featured Deal Worldwide in December 2019 brought me that Christmas #1 I’d craved back in my singing days. The Phoenix was rising from the flames; Gus Freeman had taken his first steps. Exciting times lay ahead in 2020. Onwards and upwards.
January 8th, 2020
Update – A BookBub Featured Deal Worldwide in April 2020 gave me a #1 on every site across the world. Gus Freeman’s first cold case investigation triggered a considerable increase in Sales and Page Reads. The Freeman Files series will now have ten titles.
May 1st, 2020
Update – A BookBub Featured Deal Worldwide in September 2020 gave me another #1 on every site across the world. The Box Set of Gus Freeman’s first three cold case investigations cemented the significant increase in Sales and Page Reads and justified my decision to extend the series to sixteen titles..
Oct 1st, 2020
Update – A BookBub Featured Deal Worldwide in April 2021 on the first Box Set in the Freeman Files Series was another unqualified success. It coincided with the release of #12 in the series and before the end of the summer I need to decide whether to aim for twenty or twenty four titles. It’s still a long, hard road, but I have no regrets at taking that first step.