As a massive rugby fan, I’m no stranger to Twickenham Stadium. I was there for the Six Nations tournament, watching England trounce France. The home crowd was in uproar as Jonny May (no relation, sadly) scored his third try. At that moment, I also felt my own private euphoria. The 82,000-capacity ground was sold out, and I suddenly realised that that’s almost exactly the number of copies of my novel The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay has sold since it was published nine months ago. It was as if I was looking at all the readers.
I can give myself an extra pat on the back because, unlike England with their tremendous team ethic and their support on and off the pitch, I have achieved this all on my own, as a self-published author.
To reach the number one spot in the whole of the Amazon Kindle store in the UK – and, of course, in every romance category going – is a feat of which I am very proud. Trust me, it’s not easy being your own critic, publicist, agent, cheerleader and marketeer. Without a traditional publisher to back you, those are just a few of the things you need to be.
I started writing more than 20 years ago. I had no particular agenda, but I always dreamed that I would eventually sell enough books to be able to give up my day job as an events manager and become a full-time writer. I managed to get an agent, but for many years I couldn’t find a publisher, so in 2011 I decided to go it alone and self-publish.
I enjoyed the excitement of getting my books out there. I did signings at various Waterstones stores in the South East and at various local markets, which gave me personal contact with my readers. While it was nice to have some extra money to fund a decent holiday every year, it still wasn’t enough for me to say goodbye to my day-time career.
I carried on writing and promoting, even winning Best Author-Published Read at the Festival of Romance for two different novels. This produced a spike in sales, but not enough for me to jump ship and devote myself to writing.
It was all a huge amount of work. I would wake at 5.30am so I could write before work, I would write in my lunch hours, then late into the evening. A lot of weekends were also spent in front of my laptop. After I had written five novels, another agent noticed me. I signed up, and almost immediately secured a deal with a traditional publisher to republish those five, plus a further two. I jumped for joy… but my delight was short-lived. I’d always thought that having a publisher would be a guaranteed pathway to success. Unfortunately, sales were very disappointing.
So, in April 2018, I decided to go it alone again and self-publish my ninth novel, The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay. I planned my marketing approach, kicking off with a social media ‘tour’ involving 50 book bloggers. I made a point of promoting the book as a great holiday read, with graphics showing people reading it on the beach. And then it happened. The sales started flowing, the reviews flying in and, in the middle of January, I shouted for joy to see my book sitting at the number one spot in the Kindle store, where it remains today, three weeks on. Finally, I have been able to take that confident decision to concentrate solely on my writing.
It’s great to also have a team around me now, as I have just signed with Lorella Belli, a fantastic agency who are now dealing with my foreign rights, and the lovely Lightning Books, who have reissued the physical edition of The Corner House in Cockleberry Bay under their own imprint.
Amid all that excitement, what is it with rugby and the name Jonny? Recently, while I was sitting quietly selling books at a local Christmas market, a handsome man started asking questions about my writing story. It was a special moment to share a conversation with my rugby hero, and as I signed a book for Jonny Wilkinson, I hoped that he could enjoy a little moment of my writing magic, just as he had created rugby magic for millions with his winning drop goal in the epic World Cup FInal of 2003.
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