Reviews and comments

Version 2One of the things I’ve learned (and am still learning) is that once a book has been published, genuine reviews on book sites such as Amazon and Goodreads are like gold. If anyone has read The Wrong Story and liked it, a review on either of those sites would be hugely appreciated. Thank you! And to those that have already written reviews, huge thanks too. You can find out more about The Wrong Story and how to get hold of a copy by clicking here. And you can find it on Goodreads by  clicking here.

The Wrong Story – 503g of obsession

I am obsessed. For the past week The Wrong Story has been available for pre-order. I could go online and look at it, pre-order it if I wanted, search for it. And I have. I can’t stop looking at it. Sales rankings and review stars. At the beginning of the week I was in the top 35000. Yippee!

I have an ISBN, or rather the book does and now I insist on telling people about the breakdown of that number, what it means and why. I searched on it and found my book available for pre-order in France. I spent an hour translating the specification. Guess what? It was exactly the same as the English version.

And it has a shipping weight – 503g. That seems rather heavy for a paperback. I wanted to discuss this aspect in great detail but suddenly I was alone in the room. I compared that weight to many other books and I was right. It is substantial. Does that include the packaging? Has it been printed on vellum or a light metal such as Titanium? What else weighs 503g? I discovered that in making explosives, 503g of a certain compound is required. Now, how long will it be before there is a knock on the door and I am the subject of a rendition?

After months of writing, crowdfunding, editing, hoping and waiting, The Wrong Story is now available to buy, read, review and comment on. So, it’s time to let it go. Stop doing all this and focus on novel number two.

Yes. Let it go…

…but in the meantime, just in case… Click here to see it on Amazon



I’m in control and I’ve got a spreadsheet to prove it…

It’s been a month now since I began my new life as a full-time writer and things haven’t progressed as well as I’d hoped. On the plus-side, I have registered as self-employed and cleared my ‘to do’ list of anything that wasn’t directly to do with writing – other than ukulele practice, of course. I have completed my feedback on my friend’s novel, put the PhD idea on the back-burner and prepared for a  reading later this month. Oh yes, and I’ve sketched out a short-story for a BBC competition. I’ve even been in touch with Unbound and should be getting the page proofs (press ready files) for The Wrong Story to review in the next day or so.

That’s all good. But on the negative-side I have only written one word of my new novel. One word. 1. It is a good word but it needs company. My friend’s novel has 104,000 words. So I’ve constructed a spreadsheet that lays out the challenge. It’s colour-coded with lots of formulae and conditional formatting and pivot tables and all that stuff. It took ages. Then I looked at all the how-to writing books I’ve got, and googled all the how-to writing articles that are out there, and fed that data into my spreadsheet too. That also took ages. But now, just by entering a date, I can calculate when I need to have written the structure, plot points, chapters, characters, scenarios, big scenes, little scenes and upside down scenes of my new novel.

So, let’s see… ah yes. According to my spreadsheet I have to stop faffing around and get writing immediately. Hmmm, I knew that already but I suppose it’s nice to see it laid out in a column.


Go leaflets, go!

From an anthropological perspective (and try saying that with a mouthful of toffee) it’s interesting how people react when I ask them to pledge support for my novel. Some I feel I offend simply by raising the subject. Others ask for more detailed information – certificates of authentication, my licence to write, recent police records, that sort of thing – and one said they might pledge but only after reading the book (that threw me).

But most people just say ‘yes’ and it makes me want to hug them. Over twenty people from my Masters course jumped in without demur. A similar number of friends and colleagues from work stumped up their hard-earned cash and scarcely broke sweat. Friends, family, well-wishers and other writers, other Unbounders, attendees at public readings, have all shouted ‘yes’. My first friend at primary school, from 50 years ago, to whom I haven’t spoken for over 30 years, and whom I found on Facebook and promptly mugged, threw  in his money with a humbling generosity. (Have I got all my whoms right here? They are tricky devils. I work on a he/she, him/her basis.)

As I write, 104 people have pledged 70% of my target. There’s a mighty hugfest brewing.

Now it’s time to launch the next stage of the campaign: Project Leaflet. Yes, I’m going old-school: leaflets in cafes, leaflets in libraries, leaflets in bookshops , leaflets through letterboxes – you name it, I’ll leaflet it. If it moves I’ll hand it out, if it doesn’t I’ll stick it on. I am sorry a small tree died to make this possible, but I will plant a new one in its honour this autumn.

And here they are! Waiting like paratroopers to be deployed. Go leaflets, go!


Why Unbound is the right choice for The Wrong Story

Two years ago I started writing my first novel The Wrong Story. Now, bar the final edits, it’s complete. To some extent I thought the journey was over: I’m a writer, I have written. Veni, vidi, vici.

But of course, the journey has only just begun. There is the little matter of publication and distribution. Engaging with mainstream publishers can be a bruising experience. The simple fact is, with diminishing margins and outlets mainstream publishers are less willing and less able to be adventurous with their lists of new authors. We all know this and I accepted it as a universal truth: that is the way it is. Get over it.

But I am learning that it doesn’t have to be that way. I was introduced to Unbound, the trading name of United Authors Publishing, a curated crowdfunding publisher. Unbound are like a mainstream publisher in that they edit, advise, provide high-spec graphic design, run marketing campaigns and publicise. They also distribute through Penguin Random House, which, let’s face it, is pretty good. The difference between Unbound and the traditional publishing model is that their production costs are covered through crowdfunding – people pledging money. This mitigates risk and gives a good view of the potential market.

That all sounds very now, but to be honest I hated the thought of asking people, including friends and family, for money. However, the more I thought about it the more I got it: it wouldn’t be me that would be getting funded, it would be the project, the book. And that, for me, is what this whole journey is about.

I remember standing up for the first public reading of one of my short stories: my legs turned to jelly, my mouth became drier than sandpaper and it seemed quite likely that I would fall over. But none of that mattered because having people hear the story was more important than my physical collapse. I would read it from the floor if I had to. I get the same feeling now when I think about seeking pledges. I want people to read the book.

Of course, the ‘curated’ aspect of Unbound’s business model means that they are as choosy as any mainstream publisher. With all the care and attention I would give to any submission, I pitched my story and then waited in that familiar silence for a yes or a no. But Unbound are fast and after only six weeks (which included the Christmas holidays) they responded – and to my deep joy it was a yes.

So now the journey continues. The contract is signed, I have my own pages on the Unbound site, a ‘shed’ in which I can talk to all my pledgers, a video (oh dear), a sample of the novel, a synopsis, a biography and so on. Unbound are very active on my behalf in pushing the project, but the bringing in of pledges is largely down to me. So I’m getting on with it – tweeting, emailing, going to readings, handing out flyers – and doing all the things that have to be done in order to get the book out there. And it’s exciting. I feel energised and I feel involved in the entire lifecycle of my book. I’m discovering that being an author is not just about writing.

It helps enormously that Unbound believe in The Wrong Story as much as I do. It also helps that I genuinely believe in Unbound – they’re responsive, committed, helpful and very enthusiastic. They’ve got a great list of authors and through their crowdfunding model they’re able to promote a stunning array of titles, one of which made the 2014 Man Booker Prize longlist. It is very now, and it does feel very right.

Looking back, when I was first introduced to Unbound my immediate question was, why would I choose to crowdfund my book? I now realise the question I should have asked was, why wouldn’t I?

To help make The Wrong Story this year’s bestseller (hem), please follow this link and pledge here:

For more information on Unbound, please follow this link:



Metamorphosis: Bean Bags, Flann O’Brien & Getting It Out There

A year has passed since I submitted the first 25,000 words of my novel as part of a creative writing MSt. Since then I have written, re-written, abandoned, restructured and despaired of, the remaining 60,000 words. Writing a novel takes time. Writing a novel is like grappling with a 100-foot long bean bag.

But I’m almost there and like many unknown writers who sense the final full-stop, I’ve started to think about how I’m going to ‘get it out there’.

Despite blogging in praise of literary agents I’ve found myself toying with the phrase ‘self-publishing’, and peering with an almost guilty fascination at the success of Nick Spalding, Hugh Howie, Amanda Hocking et al. Self-publishing seems to be so empowering; so liberating; and, I believe, sometimes so necessary.

Take Flann O’Brien, for instance.

This great writer has been on my mind a lot lately. Not least because there is an International Flann O’Brien Society and I’m presenting a paper at their annual conference in Prague, and his debut novel, At Swim-Two-Birds (1939), is one of my primary sources. It’s a wonderful story: clever, satirical, exuberant, metafictional and very, very funny. Graham Greene liked it, so did Dylan Thomas and so did James Joyce.

I like his second novel, The Third Policeman, even more. In fact, I think it’s perfect. But when he submitted it to his publisher in 1940 it was rejected. O’Brien took this badly and told everyone he had lost the manuscript. But the story goes that really he placed it on his sideboard and then ignored it every day for the next 26 years. It was published posthumously and so he never saw it reviewed and lauded as a masterpiece.

I wonder how much impact that rejection had on his later writing, and whether as a result, other masterpieces were never written. That furrows my brow so much that I’ve taken to imagining Flann O’Brien receiving the rejection and logging on to the internet shouting, ‘It’s time for the Plain People of Writing to stand up for themselves’. I’ve started to imagine him self-publishing The Third Policeman on a 1940’s equivalent of a Kindle.

(In my defence, my paper for the conference is titled Parallel Explorations of the Boundaries Between Fiction & Real-Life. So perhaps I’m a bit out of kilter.)

Anyway, when I return from Prague it will be time to get back to my 100-foot long bean bag which I think is arranged as neatly as it can be – or at least as neatly as I can arrange it.  And now that all the writing, re-writing, abandoning, restructuring and despairing is nearly done, it will be time for other people to grapple with all those words I’ve written. All I have to do is to find a way to make that happen.

In fact, all I have to do is take it off the sideboard and get it out there.

For more information on the International Flann O’Brien Society, follow this link: