I need your help.
Keep calm and carry on, stiff-upper lip, best foot forward and never show your emotions.
Fifteen years ago I was a fresh faced recruit in the police and went for an attachment to CID, which meant getting paired up with a senior detective to “show me the ropes”.
The man I was paired up ended up influencing my entire career. I was terrified of him, utterly scared shitless. He was a man mountain, well over six feet in height and very overweight, but overweight in that way of big men that carry it well and, to a certain extent, it suited him. He was Glaswegian but could switch from a lilting, beautiful turn of phrase with that lovely Scottish accent to a very harsh growling and truly frightening thick Glasgow accent. Pale complexion, red haired and with cold piercing blue eyes and an expression of such intensity that I saw hardened men wilt from a mere glance thrown their way.
We were driving somewhere one day and the ensuing conversation that took place stayed with me forever. I say conversation, it was entirely one way, which was the basis for many of our conversations.
‘Aye, we’re nobody…you hear me do ya? I said we’re nobody…I been a detective since you were still shitting yourself but I’m a nobody and you’re a nobody and…are ye listening to me?’ ‘Yes I am.’ ‘Good…then shut the fuck up, we’re nobody, none of us…nobody…we don’t mean shit to anyone…you wanna be someone then fook off and don’t waste my time…I hate people who boast…boasters get on my shit and I hate them…ye hear me do ya? I said I fooking hate boasters…don’t ever boast…you ever boast?’ ‘Er…no…’ ‘GOOD! Who the fuck do ye think ye are?’ ‘Um…’ ‘Shut up…who do ye think ye are? Think ye can boast with me? You cannay boast with me…if I ever catch you boasting I’ll beat the shit out of ye…you hear me?’ Gulp, ‘…yes…’
He had built himself to a frenzy at this point and was by now glaring with angry red blotches in his face, ‘I tell ye now…don’t ever boast…I cannay stand boasters…I fooking cannay stand them…going on and bragging about this and that…fooking hate boasters…you ever tell me you’s good and I tell you’s something…I tell you’s exactly what I think of ye after I beat the crap out of ye…ye get me?’
I think I whimpered in response as this point.
There were lots of other things said before that conversation and after, but that bit, that particular bit has stuck with me. I can picture the road we were on, I can remember what car we were in and the suit he was wearing. I can remember being desperate for a smoke but being too terrified to ask if I could have one. Don’t boast. Don’t ever boast.
And he was right. No one wants to hear it. The Americans are fantastic at self-promotion but they do it so confidently, so seamlessly that it suits their manner and way. When we do it we sound cocky and flippant, we sound arrogant and conceited. Don’t boast.
And it stayed with me. I can write anything in a book and publish it without worrying. I mean, of course I worry, but about the whole of the book, the story, the characters, the style and so forth. The actual content of my subject material never fazes me.
However, writing a blog entry or doing a post on Facebook or sending a tweet, anything like that and I feel like a fool, that I’m boasting or trying to be something I’m not. I know many English writers have this same problem as we’re all told to push and gain publicity and what’s your marketing strategy?
Marketing strategy? Shit… most of us click “publish” then leg it as far away from the computer as possible to hide somewhere dark until the first reviews come out. We tremble and fret about doing a post on Facebook. Does that sound stupid? It sounds stupid doesn’t it? Does it sound big headed? I’ll change it…I’ll start again…
A simple Facebook post can be torture. A blog entry…shit, now that is a knee trembling, hand shaking, gulping coffee, sweat on brow and new worry lines pinging out round the eyes every few seconds.
The posts for competitions are the worst. When I ask people for four and five star reviews and then do a draw for a winner – what if they think I’m assuming I’ll get a four and five star review? Is that bigheaded? It’s bigheaded isn’t it? I’ll change it…
However, my series – The Undead, goes from strength to strength. Day Fifteen was released and has been flying out. It was in the top 200 books on Amazon. That’s out of something like 2 million…the top 200 from 2 million. Shit. That’s like…like totally rad man!
Anywho. Ebooks are not traditional paperbacks. Ebooks are self-published. Traditional paperbacks go through agents, editors, publishers, type-setters and a hundred other people. Ebooks get banged out on a home computer and sent to Brimmers to see what she thinks. Trad books get teams of graphic designers that lay out the cover artwork and match the right font. Me and Eddy do all our stuff together.
Ebooks can be fast, exciting, edgy and current. They can reflect and react far faster than trad books. We can match our moods to our words, we can reflect on the days and weeks of our current lives and explode in a frenzy of words that stream out to form pages.
To a certain extent, ebooks are to trad books as graffiti and street artists are to art galleries.
Some ebooks are shit, utterly shit but the person had a go and tried, and there are some stunning works that have come out of the average man and woman that sit pissing about on home computers or that crumpled writing pad from the kitchen draw. Some catch the imagination of huge swathes of people that, for one or many reasons, fall in love with what they have found. I’ve made some great connections through writing and am in contact with some crazily talented people.
Do ebooks threaten print books? Not at all. Trad print books are going from strength to strength and there is as much money in that industry as ever before, if not more.
We are two different things. I can write fast and unrestrained. I can release my work far faster than a trad book writer who is bound by contracts and deadlines.
I want to try different things and see what works. I want to split one of my “Days” into many parts and do them weekly to get a faster, harder, edgier experience. David Schliecher and I are planning a joint venture for The Second Reality, something that we don’t think has been done before. We can do that because we’re unrestrained. We can play with this phenomena and make the best from it.
But…there are bad sides. I want to write full time. I want to get my stories out faster than I am now. But I can’t as I have to work full time, which means writing has to be done around everything else.
Which brings me back to the whole British “don’t boast” thing. In order to get a trad book deal, you have to get an agent, and in order to get an agent, you have to do submissions. Which is where I fall down.
Most submissions are a one page synopsis of your work, the first three chapters or fifty pages, and a covering letter. You send them off to the agents and wait for about eight weeks until they email back and tell you to piss off.
My submissions are self-effacing and almost apologetic for daring to waste their time with my unworthiness, I am so terribly sorry for writing to you, really I am, really very sorry and I shouldn’t be writing to you as I am not worthy…did I mention how sorry I was? Anyway I have written a zombie horror series that really isn’t very good and don’t waste your time reading it but I was wondering if by any chance, and I am so terribly sorry for asking you so bluntly, but would you mind perhaps having a very quick look in consideration of possibly thinking about and considering being an agent for me? I mean, not that I think for one second I am worthy of an agent and gosh, I am so sorry for waffling on like this but… That kind of thing. Which doesn’t get you anywhere.
So I did submissions to pretty much every agent that accepted electronic submissions rather than killing swathes of forests off just so they can clutch some bits of paper and feel important…I did the submissions and got rejected across the board.
Then I waited and did another select few, and that time I got a few interests which were lovely but then led to the standard “piss off” emails.
The series sells. For a home produced self-published ebook series, it is doing incredibly well. I’ve got something like over 500 five star reviews and even an award.
But they still said piss off.
I hate myself for doing this, I really do. But in for a penny, in for a pound. I want to ask your help and really I am terribly sorry for asking this, really I am…really I feel awful and I hate to waste your time and please, did I mention how sorry I was…
Man up Haywood! Man up and ask…
(gulps) Erm…(stiffens his back and pokes jaw out) Here goes…
If you would like to see The Undead Series on book shelves, could you please leave your name or a comment on this page. That way I can go to an agent and refer them back to this page and say, very apologetically of course, that some people would like to see it in paperback…
But of course you don’t have to and I fully understand if you can’t, and of course I hate asking and…
But then I could write full time, full on, faster, harder…quicker…get more out, do more, work more, write more…FUCK YEAH! That’s what we want! More…and we want it quicker! Coffee on a drip, wild eyed, late nights and early mornings, grow a beard and become a crazy hermit man that talks to himself…awesome. What a dream.
Thank you for reading this blog and I am so terribly sorry for wasting your time, really I am….