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  • Richard Haywood

One of the top 20 authors in the UK! Cor blimey, how did that happen?

So apparently, I’m one of the top 20 authors on Amazon UK. Blimey, well there you go. Zombies and time travel eh? What a thing and I’m grinning from ear to ear this morning. Feeling all bouncy and cheerful (but that could be from the coffee). It did make me stop and think though, and I think it’s important to give it some perspective and reflect on what it took to get that.

I was rejected (at least twice) by every agency in London and ended up hiring a huge mobile billboard and zombie actors to get noticed before I finally signed with a wonderful agent. (Don’t do that, it nearly back-fired in spectacular fashion) That was only the first step though. We then submitted The Undead to publishers, who all said no. They were all nice about it. You have to accept that while the act of creative writing is a craft, everything else is business.

One of the publishers was really positive and suggested new material – I then wrote Extracted and sent it through. They loved it but wanted a lot of changes. What followed was months of solid re-writes and rounds upon rounds of edits. It started off with the commissioning editor saying what she wanted. For instance, the first edition of Extracted was written in first person present tense perspective from Ben Ryder – with third used when needed. The commissioning editor wanted to see how the novel would look in third person past, and also in third person present. That meant loads of sample chapters and big discussions to decide which way to go, plus more guidance, some changes to Safa, some tweaks here and there. Toning back the violence to appeal to a wider audience and beefing up certain aspects. Then it goes into structural edits for three rounds, which focusses on the shape of the book. Then umpteen rounds of copy and line edits and proof-reads. It’s a mammoth process and it feels like forever before the book is released, by which time I’m doing the same thing with Executed.

Meanwhile, The Undead has continued to grow and gain a fantastic readership, and it’s still self-published too, which means I have to do all the things a publisher would normally do. Artwork, marketing, adverts and learning tons of new skills, getting your head around photoshop, promo-clips, what works and what doesn’t. How FB adverts work. When to boost a post. Getting a decent website. How often should you blog? What about Twitter and Instagram? Plus of course, writing new material.

You get feedback thrown at you from all sides too, whether you want it or not. I can’t have a casual conversation most days now without being reviewed. My family even do it when we meet up. The good and the bad alike, but it’s part of the whole thing and again, you just have to accept it.

There’s also the dark side to it all with trolls, and that’s a very real and highly damaging aspect of the online world. You say the wrong thing, even one jokey comment and you will get trolled. If someone has a perceived slight they will go for you without mercy, and those grudges can fester. People don’t realise they are doing it either. The internet isn’t real is it. It’s not tangible. You can’t walk into a shop and scream abuse and make threats to the manager without consequence, nor can you phone all of that manager’s friends or visit their houses to tell everyone what you think, but you can do all those things online and not give a shit to the anxiety you are causing the recipient. It’s got so bad sometimes I’ve had to call the police, and I am only a writer. I feel so very sorry for people on telly and in the mass-media spotlight. It’s bloody horrible.

Then of course comes the perpetual hope of landing a TV or movie deal. Extracted has had tons of interest from producers and studios. Some seriously big names too. It’s a fascinating world to peek into and see how they form decisions and what influences their thought processes, and with each new enquiring contact you can’t help but feel a rush and tense up with excitement. Then they say no and you just have to smile and shrug it off while thinking ah bugger, never mind, best have a brew and get back to writing. Publicity is hard too. I’m really shy and I’ve been asked to do radio interviews, podcasts, talks, conventions and all manner of things but the thought of it makes my tummy go all squishy.

Aye up, the last few years has been a gruelling journey without doubt, and sometimes you can’t help but question it all – so hearing I’m in a nice list for something as changeable and fleeting as the top 20 authors on Amazon UK is fantastically lovely and gives a huge boost. Writing for a living and for commercial success, in whatever form or however you measure that, is bloody hard work sometimes, but the good of it massively outweighs the bad, and the decent people will always shine brighter than the trolls. The reason I say all of this is in case you are writing or doing anything within the creative world and feeling dejected, glum, or on the verge of giving up. Don’t. The rewards are there if you stick with it. It’s just discipline and a willingness to keep going that gets you through, and thick skin, and coffee. Don’t forget the coffee.

Righto, well, I’d best get a brew and get back to work. Love hugs and kisses x

RR Haywood

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