Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

My publishing journey so far - Mark Edwards - Author Guest Post

I am delighted to share a great guest post by author Mark Edwards on the blog today.

More twists and turns than a bucketful of snakes… My publishing journey so far.

by Mark Edwards

As everyone knows, in the old days there was only one route for writers: write a book, find an agent, then hopefully a publisher. If you didn't find a publisher, that was it, unless you decided to vanity publish (ie pay someone to print your book). You could keep trying and trying…but if you never found a publisher who was willing to sign you, your writing career was dead in the water.

That's what happened to me. I spent my twenties and early thirties writing and writing. I got an agent and thought that it was going to be easy from that point on. Three or four rejected novels later my agent dumped me. Even when I started writing with Louise Voss, who already had a book deal, and one of our books was optioned by the BBC, I still couldn't get published.

So I gave up. For years I wrote nothing. I had a good job, a growing family… The constant rejection was too painful. My writing dreams were over. I'd given it my best shot and it hadn't worked out. Like so many writers before me, I never made it.

And that's the way it would have stayed… if it wasn't for Amazon and their Kindle Direct Publishing programme. I've written about this quite a lot before so will be brief for the sake of those who know my story. In 2011 Louise and I self-published our two novels on Amazon and then set about promoting the hell out of them. It was agony at first: sales were slow, but just encouraging enough to convince us it was worth continuing. After several months, we suddenly had a surge of sales (prompted by a lot of the people who'd bought the first book, Killing Cupid, buying the second, Catch Your Death, all at once). We hit No.1 and No.2 on the Kindle chart and stayed there for a month.

Within weeks we had a four-book deal with HarperCollins. The day this happened I felt hugely emotional. The amount of time and pain and hope I'd invested over the years… It felt like it had finally all paid off. Our books were going to be in shops, we were going to cross over to the non-Kindle-owning public. With a big publisher behind us, success was guaranteed!

But it didn't work out like that. Catch Your Death's bookshop sales were very disappointing (it was only in a few shops for a very short period). Then Killing Cupid came out during the worst week of the year for sales, during the Olympics, at the very height of Fifty Shades mania. By the time our first brand new book came out six months later, our publisher had effectively given up on us. All Fall Down got absolutely zero marketing, wasn't in any shops… When Forward Slash came out I don't think anyone knew it existed.

This is the problem with the old system. Have one flop and you're done. Bookshops won't stock the next one. There are no second chances.  This is why writers often have to reinvent themselves with a new name, which is something Louise and I considered. I'm glad, now, that we didn't.

In early 2013, shortly before Forward Slash was due to come out, Louise and I had an utterly depressing meeting with HarperCollins  which felt like attending your own wake. At that meeting I told them I was going to self-publish my solo novel, The Magpies. They were nice about it…but what happened next shocked everyone.

Amazon have something called White Glove, which is where you can publish via your agent. This means that Amazon help with some of the technical issues like formatting and promise a small amount of promotion. I signed up to this and self-published The Magpies at the end of March.

By promoting it to my and Louise's loyal group of Facebook followers, I managed to sell a few hundred copies in the first couple of days. This was more than All Fall Down had managed! But then it started to drop down the charts. I was despondent. If The Magpies didn't sell I was facing severe financial difficulties. When we got the HarperCollins deal I had gambled by quitting my full-time job, and had put all the money I'd saved into getting onto the housing ladder, buying a little house in Wolverhampton. I had massive debts and a baby on the way…

Then on Good Friday 2013, I checked my Magpies sales figures and saw that I'd sold a lot more copies in the last hour than usual. I checked again ten minutes later. More sales. They started pouring in. I knew that Amazon must have sent an email to people who had bought the Voss and Edwards books. By the end of the day, The Magpies was in the Top 40 on Kindle. A couple of weeks later it was in the top ten, and after hanging around at No.2 for a month it finally hit No.1.

It was incredible. This book had saved me. The Voss and Edwards books started to climb the rankings too. The Magpies kept selling. It's now sold over 200,000 copies and has reached No.1 or 2 in the UK, the US and Australia.

Then Amazon Publishing stepped in and offered me a deal for The Magpies and another book. Despite my experiences with HarperCollins, I didn't hesitate. I knew that with Amazon things would be different. They would actually make an attempt to market my books. Louise and I have also now signed with Amazon Publishing for our next one, and working with them is an absolute joy.

Of course, there's a downside. No books in shops. But our HarperCollins books were barely in any shops anyway! Amazon get a lot of bad press, but pretty much everything good that has happened to me as a writer has been because of them.

Now, I am self-publishing a new book, What You Wish For. This is the beauty of the current system. Authors can be flexible, try different things, get out books as fast as they can write them. I have no idea if this one will achieve a fraction of the success of The Magpies. But for now I am doing what I've always dreamed of, what my nineties self wanted more than anything. I am writing full-time, doing the thing I love.

A lot of rubbish is said about indie authors and the death of traditional publishing, and how one is better than the other, blah blah blah. As someone who has done a bit of everything, my feeling is that there is no 'better'. It's just that now authors have options. There is no single route. And it's as hard to be successful at self-publishing as it is working with a traditional publisher, and vice versa. The important thing is to be flexible and keep your options open. Find your own way. Don't take sides. Yes, I harbour some negative feelings about what happened with HarperCollins, but it's a bit like a divorce. At first you feel bitter, but then you get a lovely new partner and you forget all about the old one…

The important thing is to never give up. I did give up, for seven years. But trying again was the best thing I ever did.

What You Wish For - amazon link | Mark and Louise's facebook page |


  1. Great post.

    I do hear a lot about how the information age is bad for publishing. It is refreshing to read this view. I know a few folks who have self published. At least in this respect, I concur wholeheartedly that the world is changing for the good.

    1. Thanks very much for your comment Brian, I agree too.

  2. An interesting and well balanced post, thanks.

  3. Thanks for an interesting post. I just wonder how much influence social media has on sales too....

    1. Thanks for commenting Mary. Think it must be a big help sometimes.

  4. What an amazing story - this is the first time I hear it to its full extent (I had heard parts of it before). As one who has read your books written with Louise Voss, and who really liked The Magpies, I'm so glad you didn't give up, Mark! But it does send a warning signal to me - never think that it's all in the bag and that you're set as a writer. There's always the next day, the next book, the next sale...

    1. I agree, amazing, and such perseverance.

  5. An interesting and heartening post for all indie authors. Many thanks!

    1. Glad this was heartening for you Wendy, certainly an encouraging tale of determination. Thanks for commenting!


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