1. ‘DON’T WRITE SHIT’

John Fine (director of author and
publishing relations, Amazon. Nov 29, 2014
)

I guess that’s why he gets paid the big bucks and the reason I coughed up 90 quid of my hard-earned to attend the Writers & Artists Yearbook Conference into Self-Publishing in the Digital Age. “No Shit, Sherlock!” would have been a suitable reply but I kept it to myself.

More than 100 prospective authors gathered to hear the gospel according to Mr Fine at an office building just around the corner from Euston railway station. He was taking us through the advantages and pitfalls of the publishing trade.

Self-publishing is a vastly expanding industry. Five years ago you might have had two men and the proverbial dog attending such an event. It was considered a bit of a seedy business. Ads for firms inviting you to “Become an Author” could be found next to “Suspenders-wearing Headmistress Wants to Spank Naughty Boys” in the back pages of the National newspapers.

 They called it Vanity Publishing and it did what it said on the tin. If you were still vain enough to think your book was any good after being rejected by a vast array of agents and publishing companies then you went for it. What did these so-called industry ‘experts’ know anyway? Your book was the next bestseller and if they couldn’t see it, then tough! The next thing you knew you were handing over a small fortune to Ripoff Books with a promise that the royalties would soon be flooding in and you would be doing booksignings at WH Smith in a matter of months.

I must admit I was one of those people. Write shit? Don’t you know who I am? I had won the Sports Writer of the Year award for the Merseyside and North Wales NUJ Press Council in two consecutive years in the 80s and had a lifetime of journalistic experience behind me. I even gave up work at one stage to concentrate on my novel writing. I produced a bestseller, a book that all the Hollywood Moguls would be competing for, and sent it off waiting for the offers to roll in.

Only they didn’t. The rejection slips did.

Ridiculous. Couldn’t these people see that modern Nazis taking over a unified Berlin was a masterpiece the literary world was crying out for? I slunk back to the day job cursing my bad luck.

The itch festered. For 15 years I dabbled. I wrote fantastic first sentences, but couldn’t think of a way to carry them through. I thought up brilliant endings but struggled to work out the rest of the plot. I dreamed up fascinating characters then cast around in vain for a scenario in which to place them.

Then it came to me…

I had worked on the regionals, then the nationals, then the regionals… then was on the way back to the nationals. Having been in an environment in Wales where you couldn’t enter a pub or club or coffee bar or public convenience without someone mentioning rugby, I had begun to believe that this was the lifeblood of society. Then I went back to London where it didn’t even register on the sporting Richter Scale. The big boys only played with big toys… and that was Premier League football.

I had a boss who was particularly dismissive of the Welsh. “Hey Rippers, what are the Taffies up to this week?” he’d ask in his cockney accent, clutching his West Ham mug close to his chest.

“Well, Wales coach Warren Gatland is thinking of recalling…”

“zzzzzz.” He was feigning sleep, for heaven’s sake!

It got me wondering, how would a character loosely based on my boss handle being transplanted to Cardiff and, for arguments sake, what if a Rugby World Cup was about to take place. Better still, what if Wales were going to win it?

Far fetched, I know, but I had my character, I had my hook, and now I just had to come up with a title and write the book. Easy… Write shit? This was a bestseller.

Here is the first chapter of the first draft of my novel…

The first draft

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