I got a London agent in 1987. She liked my first manuscript and told me to write another. The first book was never published but the second one, The Dark Apostle, an international thriller, was bought straight away by Bantam. I thought I was on my way. It won the John Creasey Award from the Crime Writers' Association of Great Britain, and sold around the world. I wrote three others in the same series and had a different publisher (Hodder) for a private eye series written under a pseudonym. My books have been translated into eight languages. I have also written commissioned work under pseudonyms. All told I have 20 published titles to my credit.
My agent still represents me, and is a firm friend, but I didn't get a book deal for a number of years. I noticed the way publishing was changing, first with self publishing with Lulu, and then with ebooks, Amazon and Kindle. Traditional publishing seems to have shrunk and, in so doing, the Big Five have chosen to back guilt edged winners rather than take a chance anymore: best-selling authors are assured of sales, and the celebrity book is king, even if it's crap.
My agent, however, two years ago got me a deal for a trilogy of near future thrillers with independent publisher Myrmidon. The first, REAPER, under the pseudonym Jon Grahame, should be out next month and is being published both as a traditional paperback and as an ebook; in fact it's available as an ebook already. The second in the series should be out late in the year and the third in 2013.
I am not and never have been a full time fiction writer as I was a columnist on a provincial daily newspaper until I semi-retired five years ago. I still contribute three columns a week.
When you think about it, the whole business of creation has changed. I wrote my first thriller a chapter at a time in longhand before typing the corrected pages on an Olivetti portable. Four or five drafts later, I had a manuscript. Thank God for the computer. It has made writing much easier and banished Tippex to the dustbin.
The future, it seems, has to be electronic and perhaps agents will eventually become redundant, along with traditional publishing houses. Amazon self publishing by ebook means anyone can now have their work published and put in the public domain. This is both liberating and confusing.
At the moment, agents act as a filtering system for publishers who only publish a book if they think they can make money from it. The days of publishing a work strictly on its literary merits are long gone if, in fact, they ever existed. As the rules change, and Amazon gets full of more and more self-published books, will we still need a filtering system? A way of judging quality and making recommendations? How will the next Elmore Leonard or Grahame Greene or Susanna Gregory make their mark and be noticed, have people buy their work and make money from their honourable profession?
In an electronic future, authors will be reliant on new techniques of gaining publicity and being noticed. Social networking? Spam email shots? Youtube promos?
Any advice on how to promote my work would be most gratefully received.