Feb 15th, 2011 was when I went full time as a writer, pushed into it initially on account of being made redundant from the place I’d worked for 20 years.
A decade later and I have five novels coming out in just the first half of this year and I’m hoping to reach my three-hundred-thousandth sale before year end. To my surprise, I’ve survived my first decade in the biz!
Since the people who read my blog are among my firmest supporters, I want to thank you for making this possible.
Back in 2011, the plan was to write full time on a new novel for few months and submit to a publisher. I had one specific in mind [#1]. I intended a break, not a new career. I needed just a little time away to do something different, made possible by the (statutory minimum) redundancy package that I could eke out.
Time off felt extremely indulgent, but I’d had an unhealthy relationship with work for a long time. Work-related stress had led to a nervous breakdown in 2004 (the docs called it chronic anxiety, if I remember rightly). I was well on the way to another. I desperately needed a break.
That was the plan. It didn’t work out that way. I mean, I did go full time writing for a while, but the whole Kindle/ eBook thing had just exploded and I got sidetracked into publishing books. And then eBook design work. I guess I never felt comfortable with spending even a few months where I wasn’t earning any money.
To start with, the eBooks I published were some of my previously published short stories, so that my Amazon page wouldn’t look so empty. At the time, already-published short stories were practically worthless for all but a tiny number of authors, and I knew a lot of authors with some great stories. So I hit on the idea of reprinting short stories as eBooks.
That grew into publishing novellas.
And then novels.
The vehicle for that was Greyhart Press. We haven’t published anything new since 2014, if I remember rightly. But there are still some titles up and we sell a few each year. I am mightily proud of those books.
They didn’t sell enough to cover the bills, though. My own writing had taken a backseat during the Greyhart years, and I made one last throw of the dice at the end of 2014 with Marine Cadet. Last time I counted, that book had sold 43,000 copies, and there were another 13,000 copies downloaded when I made it free for five days in 2015.
So I kept going.
Along the way there was the big fat color coffee book of British Military SF, some awesome artwork from my friend Vincent Sammy, I’ve killed aliens and gotten paid over in the Four Horsemen Universe, two Lego book covers, played a small role in helping JR Handley get his start in the business, rabbited away in numerous podcasts and a few booktubes, went to a convention as a guest a couple of times, and generally had a gas.
I’ve encountered abuse, crooks, violent threats against my family, bullies, lies, numerous examples of double standards and hypocrisy, and met more than a few jerks. And that’s just on the UK side of the science fiction pond.
I’ve also met wonderful people and made firm friends. There have been a few individuals in particular whose generosity has been so immense that it’s humbling. Absolutely humbling. The world of science fiction publishing still has its good ‘uns.
In addition to the Greyhart Press books, by the middle of 2021, there will be twenty-one novels in print that I wrote or co-wrote. Twelve self-published and nine published by other publishers. People call me a hybrid author. I like to think of myself as a Chimera author 😉
Best of all, I’m thoroughly enjoying my writing. I look forward the next ten years as a writer.
Talking of interviews, I did one recently over on Unity 151 channel for their writer’s journey series. I like to kid myself that I’ve learned something about writing over the past decade, and here I spend about an hour talking about story structure, pantsing, writing quality and a whole bunch of other stuff.
I said I’m a Chimera writer. The cover art in this post comes from the first three of the five Chimera Company novels Theogony Books are putting out over the next few months. Vincent Sammy wielded the crayons with help from his pod of highly trained dolphin illustrators. Here are some links to the first one.
BTW: For anyone waiting for the final 2020 retrospective, it’s basically written but needs tidying. Will be available very soon.
[#1] I had an agent of sorts and had gotten some interest from UK sci fi and fantasy publisher Solaris during 2009-10. They’d sat on a manuscript of mine for a year before saying, “No, not that one but please pitch us your next novel because we’re interested in you.” For the first few weeks of 2011, the plan was all about Solaris.
I was under no illusions that this would lead to a career. Solaris wouldn’t pay much in an advance and even if I got an acceptance during my time away as a writer, I’d be back at work in a ‘proper’ job before the book would be published.
Occasionally, I imagine the possibility of submitting to Solaris one day. There’s a satisfying logic to the idea. I wouldn’t rule it out, but since I drifted away from that idea partway through 2011, it’s always been a distant prospect.