When I started writing I wanted to be the next Jack Higgins. I tried my hand at writing an espionage adventure which eventually turned out to be The Death List under my pen name of Jack Dillon, but before it reached this stage it went through many changes, rewrites, corrections, name changes the works. The reason I wasn’t satisfied with it because in my haste to be the next Jack Higgins I found myself copying his style which appalled me. I wanted to emulate his success, not become a copy cat.
I remember reading about how his success came about. He was a writer of adventure thrillers that were not bad, now they are called his classics, but then he came across the story for The Eagle Has Landed. When it was published it was that golden moment every author dreams of, he was a success almost overnight. His earnings sky rocketed into a six figure sum, that’s the kind of success I wanted to emulate.
I changed tack and started to write the Col Sec series, which in hindsight was possibly not the wisest move if I want to be a successful author earning the big bucks because I don’t know of any mega rich sci fi authors, there are plenty of successful ones but not any who can rival Higgins earning capacity, at least none that I’ve heard of. I digress, I started writing the Col Sec series and went the self publishing route with my eyes open and my expectations high. Unfortunately reality had other plans for me and I now wander around the halls of limbo along with thousands of other authors who possibly had the same idea as I did and who came to the same conclusion. The secret of success for any writer today is marketing, or being lucky enough to be picked up by one of the larger publishing houses because the reality of publishing today is that, even if you get a book deal by one of the smaller houses, you are still expected to do a certain amount of promotion yourself. The big five houses will organise book tours, get you on tv interviews, advertise the book in the media which are all good things to get you and your work as a writer into the public eye which will, along with your reputation as a best selling author get you sales. This is guaranteed to get sales and they only do it for authors with proven track records unlike myself and thousands of others who have to prove ourselves first.
I want to be the same kind of author as James Rollins, accessible to readers and willing to chat whenever possible. He is also a best selling author who has remained loyal to his publishing house and recently signed a $15 million book deal for his next three books. I can only dream of having a deal that lucrative. I’m not afraid of the work, I’ve been working non-stop at this for a decade or more now putting my writing alongside my career in printing which pays the bills. Long nights, early mornings, weekends writing are my norm and at times it feels like it’s all for nothing. I am probably the best writer no one has ever heard of. I say that not out of any egotistical sense but because I know the work is good, the reviews I’ve had all point to that fact but getting the sales has become nigh on impossible. There is a saying, a meme whatever you want to call it doing the rounds of social media that pertains to a disappointment among writers. It states that people will pay $2.99 for a Starbucks coffee which lasts for less than an instant but baulk at the idea of paying $4.50 for a book. Now I totally understand where the writers are coming from and I do agree but there is a simple undeniable flaw in this argument and that is that coffee is instant gratification and a book is a gamble. If the reader is unfamiliar with the writer then they don’t know what they’re going to get, will it be too sweet, too strong, will it satisfy their thirst? With coffee they already know the answers. We as writers shouldn’t be telling people how they spend their money anyway and we certainly shouldn’t berate them for spending it on something they want, instead we should be asking them to give us a chance to entertain them. We should be encouraging them to take that gamble with the reassurance that the satisfaction they get from reading our work will last far longer than a coffee and will leave them wanting another and not just when they are thirsty but right away.
When I started writing, I said I wanted to be the next Jack Higgins, I also wanted to be a writer like James Rollins, perhaps instead I should focus on being the first Jan Domagala, after all, I don’t know how to be anyone else.