So, with no agent, no publisher and old age creeping on, how to get these books into print and having done that, how to sell them? The answer to the first question lay in Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) by Amazon and the second in Twitter. Having had no agent interest for Beatles I published it on KDP: at first the idea of such a project terrified me, but it was free so what could I lose? For two days I studied the site and the instructions and tried to understand the unfamiliar jargon. I had found a super chap in the US who had done a cover for the book and one Sunday morning I shut the office door and too a deep breath.

Immediately I found that KDP did not like my AOL software (two US companies and it didn't seem logical, but there you are) and I went through Firefox. A couple of hiccups – the usual missed sections and my failure to understand the royalty system, but within a half hour it was done. Beatles to Blair was in print! And within weeks I had re-edited “Folmer” and converted that into an e book as well – with an a different cover.





 
 
It would be untrue to say that none of the AH books sold. Probably less than 200, and those only due to my perseverance and hard work. Overall, it was a disaster, and a disheartening one at that, but AH did nothing wrong – other than tap into the writing bug! They never said they would sell it, only publish it – which of course they did.

By this time I had finished “From the Beatles to Blair” and to be honest when I mentioned to Darin giving it to AH, he shied away, and so I devoted all my attention to trying to get an agent – and accumulated enough rejection letters to stuff a mattress, probably two. Oh, they liked it, it was well-written, etc etc but itvc was not what they wanted for their current list. Nonsense, of course: it could have been “War and Peace” or “To Kill a Mockingbird” - they are not going to take a chance on an unknown when there are queues of (alleged) celebrities waiting to tell the world about their infidelities, drug taking, rent-boy renting, breast-enhancement surgery or how they were ejected from the Big Brother House due to their bad breath.

And who can blame these agents for that? They are in business to make money (as are the publishers) and that is the bottom line – pardon the pun!

Oh, by the way: my five are selling quite well, especially “A Week on the Island”. I seem to have established some sort of cult following on the IOW, for which I am very grateful - and not a little in awe!

 
 
It was at about that time that I realised that things were not as I had imagined they would be. First, as I have said, the damn book was too expensive. Today, Amazon are offering it for £8.28 which is ridiculous for a paper back by an unheard of writer – and that is (about) what AH expect me to pay for a copy. And, what I had not understood (but should have) was that they expected me to buy them a hundred or so at a time and go out and try to flog them. Have a signing, they said; knock on doors, speak to the local paper, advertise. I screamed at Darin – who promptly offered to help me sell – for a percentage, of course, and after a deal of moaning to AH (they give you your own account 'manager') they got it on the shelf in a couple of West End book shops, but sales were dreadful. I grafted for two whole days (promise) and got it on library shelves all over the UK which was quite a feat if I say so myself and I get an annual payment from the Public Lending Rights – a few pence for every time anyone borrows it.

Mind you, in a way I was lucky. There are some self-publishers who charge several thousand pounds to get the book in print, and then send you God-knows how many books for you to try and sell to geta return on your (unwise) investment. And again, there are stories of US firms who publish anything without even reading it (a couple of hundred pages of the Old Testament in the middle of one book) and a firm in Cornwall (who I had considered) who seem to have had regular legal problems.

AH were in Milton Keynes but have now given up in the UK and are wholly based in the US. They still ring me and send e mails and got nasty when I placed the book with a couple of other outlets, demanding that I had it removed (the Americans can be quite unpleasant when it comes to breaches in contracts). Recently they were offering me colossal discounts if I ordered a thousand (!) copies of the book and there are always compliments - and suggestions how to become the next John Grisham.....

 
 
Before I get on to Authorhouse, it is essential that you understand that no self-publisher will sell or even help to sell your book. They may give you a host of ideas and so-called 'marketing tips' but the bottom line is that it is down to you to flog it. Will the book retailers take it? The short answer is no, they won't: any mention of self-publishing and down goes the phone. When I published “Folmer” I managed to get it into my local Waterstones for a few weeks (due to great deal persuasion and cajoling) but they were not happy as AH were selling it to them for about £8.00 (!) and Grishams and PD James were on the shelves for less. WH Smiths were condescending and rude and I never got to speak to the manager and other, smaller, retailers were positive in their refusal even to discuss.

Anyway, Authorhouse. I had always loathed the idea of self-publishing, firmly believing that if the thing was worth publishing, someone would pick it up, but times were changing and the cult of the celebrity had arrived. Vast sections of shelving in the major book shops were devoted to memoirs etc by footballers' wives/mistresses, criminals who had been convicted of God-only knows what and so-called celebrities who had been kicked out of the Big Brother House. The economic situation dictated that publishers would not take a chance on an unknown – and why should they, when a WAG with a vast chest but no intelligence wanted to enlighten the world about her sexual misbehaviour with the entire cast of a touring production of “Rigoletto”?

Over years, I developed this recurring nightmare: I had managed to get an agent and he had found a publisher for my latest crime fiction. There we are, with the publishers, discussing a small advance when the door of the boardroom bursts open and a young woman screams: “Stop! Aleisha-Britney Grossbottom (that well known page three girl with the big tits) wants to tell all about her relationship with the former under-secretary of something” – and five minutes later I am on the pavement with my (ex) agent walking hurriedly away from me!

In those days I was still in business and so – against my better judgement – I wrote a cheque for circa £600 and sent it to Darin Jewell and within a week or so AH was in touch and the publication of “Folmer” was under way – and straightway I knew this was never going to be easy. Each book would cost something over £8.00, so to make a reasonable gain it would need to be sold for a minimum of £10.00 – and with leading authors on the shelves for a great deal less than that, what chance had I got?

Darin arranged for the cover (included in the fee) but then there was editing/proof-reading. Now, anyone who has been down this road will know that it is very hard if not impossible to proof-read one's own work, but this had to be done. I think I had to goes included in the fee but after that it was a matter of paying for every alteration or amendment. Any, finally I paid another £40.00 or so.

Then, the Great Day. We were in print.........

 
 
To be quite honest, getting involved with Inspira was my fault: everyone told me it was a mistake – but that's the writing drug for you! I mean, 5, Bradley Road (off Ordnance Road) Enfield Lock in north London did not seem a likely address for literary agents. Oddly, it was an area I knew very well having lived barely 100 yards away years ago and I knew it was a residential district, but the website seemed professional and they said they wanted new authors.....

It was a Saturday in 2006 when I first phoned as I recall. The phone rang engaged all the afternoon. These were days before extensive broadband and – suspicious natured as I am – I immediately thought: only one phone line and someone on the PC tying it up. I may have been wrong, of course. Anyway, I spoke to Darin Jewell early evening and he seemed very interested in my “Michael Folmer” book and asked to see the ms. Which I sent immediately.

Within a few days he was back on the phone. He liked it very much and was sure he could get a publisher, he said, but the fee for trying would be £350.00.

Now, at this point I am going to make clear that at no time did Darin Jewell ever lie, mislead or make promises he could not keep. He was up-front at all times – but of course he understood very well that I was addicted and that I was desperate to get published.

Anyway, yes he loved “Folmer” - I was a talented writer(!) and the book which was far better than many in the same genre deserved to be published. Just send £350 and for this he would send the ms to 12 publishers and push very hard to get someone interested. He would “represent” me, he said, he would “look after me” - and my God, didn't I feel good!!

All my friends in the media said I was mad. “You don't pay agents” I was told a hundred times – and of course they were right. But I did.

And, as Darin said he would, he sent the ms to an assortment of publishers. And, as I had feared, they all rejected it. Oh, they said, they liked the story and it was well written (I liked that) but (and the cognoscenti will recognise this) it wasn't for their list – not what they were looking for at the time!

So, what do we do now. Well, said Darin, we could try Authorhouse..............