A year ago today I stood in front of seventy people and launched my novel, The Seven Letters, at The Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock. The venue was ideal because I was surrounded by the paraphernalia of war including a whole section on The French Resistance, a central theme to my novel. The whole evening was a huge success and all of a sudden the book was out there and real people were reading it. It was also my cliff edge. Whether you write a short story or full-length work of fiction you have no idea if people will like it, or not.
The Seven Letters was released to the public and I thought, in my naivety, that feedback would come back to me within a week so. The day after my launch, with no idea of what to do next, I googled: ‘What do you do the day after your book launch?’ The answer? Start writing the next one!
When the first reviews started coming in within twelve hours I was astonished. What is more they were coming from not just the UK but from the USA, Australia and Canada and, odd as it might sound, it actually hit home to me at that moment just how powerful and far reaching the internet actually is.
I expected maybe a handful of reviews and comments from my friends and local contacts, but I had no idea that they would come in so thick and fast and that readers would be so kind and complimentary about my novel.
One year on the book has over a hundred five star reviews and I remain astonished that people are kind enough to take the time to say something lovely about it. It has been a great incentive to bring a second one into the world, with all the fear it entails. I can tell you that, even with one hundred five star reviews behind me, I am back at square one, nibbling on my finger nails, as the first of my readers has the new manuscript to read.
What has the first year been like?
Well, I hate to say it but a rollercoaster really does sum it up. There have been many perfect highs and a couple of rotten lows, but the one continuous thread throughout the whole process has been the sheer hard work involved. It has been relentless, unforgiving and very time-consuming. At the same time it has been a privilege, a great joy and the most satisfying thing I have ever done in my career.
I honestly did think that the actual writing of 96,000 words would be my toughest achievement, but how wrong I was! Finishing The Seven Letters was, literally, just the beginning of a very long journey. Thankfully, I had the guidance of my publisher Troubador. I handed over my manuscript to a team of professionals who then made it into a paperback, a beautiful, sophisticated, three-dimensional thing with a fabulous cover and they involved me at every turn. Although I had spent three years learning everything I could about book production and publishing and I had spent twenty three years of my career designing and editing magazines before that, Troubador left me standing with their expertise, experience and marketing reach.
I quickly discovered that publishing is a whole other world. It is an industry that has been turned on its head by the fixed book price agreement, the overarching presence of Amazon, the cult of celebrity and the plethora of books (420,000) produced each year. It is an ocean, a big ocean and I, a first time author, was out there in the middle of it swimming against the tide and watching the tankers slide on by.
So, feeling a little overawed by the sheer size of the market, I set out with my book under my arm and visited bookshops (some warm and welcoming, others not so much), did many talks, sent the book to reviewers, guested at bookclubs, wrote blogs, tweeted, facebooked, instagramed, sold direct and gave away copies to people of influence. This was alongside all the marketing initiatives the people at Troubador were doing at national and international level.
Cog Within Cog
Then things started to move, the machine started up, cog within cog, the wheels began turning. For example, Madhatter Bookshop in Burford became my champion and sold copy after copy so that, working as a team, we built up a strong following for the book and the word spread quickly. Copies began travelling far and wide and there was a real buzz being created. Word of mouth really did become king and very soon I realised that it all came back to those reviewers who turned out to be evangelists, who passed on their reading recommendation to others and who became my loyal supporters. I promise you nothing equates to the feeling that people you have never met will actively support and promote the book you wrote.
The comments on my facebook page have been heart warming and if you’d like to follow me the address is: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTheSevenLetters
I am very grateful to everyone for the support, for the genuine love shown to The Seven Letters and for the kind reviews. It’s been an amazing year crammed full of wonderful memories and a huge bonus has been meeting so many lovely new people, many of whom have become friends. It has all been very unexpected, but extremely fulfilling and an experience I will find hard to equal.
If you would like to keep up to date with my news, book me for talks and keep up to date on the launch for the next book, you can reach me through my website: