As anyone who does it regularly will tell you, writing is a curious business. It is after all, one of the few activities where you can spend weeks, months or even years baringyour soul only to then throw it out into the public domain where people you don’t know will quite possibly, and often happily, tear you to shreds.
Unattractive a prospect as this might be, writing professionally is even worse. For in addition to the above, you also face the joyous prospect of starving.
Having been doing it for over 20 years now and with a girth which suggests that it might actually do me good to miss a meal or two (OK, three or four), I think it’s safe to say that malnutrition is not something I need worry about any more but that does not mean I don’t face other concerns. Indeed, I have one right now and it’s one I need to address, and fast. It is, quite simply, what book to write next.
The problem is compounded by the fact that whatever decision I take will not be driven by a deadline but will in fact, be a spec project. As such, I get to choose it for myself which is fine until you consider the stark truth that not only do I have to ensure that I’m going to enjoy writing it, but that there is going to be a market for it. Trust me, the two are not necessarily the same thing.
I also face the problem of having three, possibly four distinct projects in mind all of which are totally different from the other. Two of those being sequels which have already been started but which fell victim to the demands of scripts which required urgent attention.
So do I, for example, finish the third book in the The Crew/Top Dog trilogy or do I carry on with the follow on from Billy’s Log?? Or do I venture into new genre, possibly with the supernatural thriller which has recently taken root in my increasingly confused brain?
Whatever it is, I need to make a decision and fast or I face the very real prospect of doing pretty much nothing. Which has its merits, but doesn’t pay the bills.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s a tough job being a professional writer. But it’s even tougher being me.
Writing is, by its very nature, an odd profession. After all, if you strip it back to basics it involves spending most of your time on your own making up stories.
That said, it’s also a pretty cool way of earning a living not least because I get to spend most of my time on my own making up stories.
Now obviously I’m not the only person to see this as a positive attraction because there are seemingly many people out there who wish to follow in my footsteps and fair play to them I say. Indeed, thanks to the growth of self-publishing it’s never been easier to make your work available to a hopefully eager public.
The problem of course, is that writing a book (or film for that matter) is only half the story, some would have you believe it’s barely a fifth. Because once you’ve finished the actual writing process and everything that goes along with that, you have to sell it. Yes, that’s right, as a self-published author, everything falls on your shoulders and that includes the role of salesperson.
Personally, I enjoy this side of the job because it provides me with the perfect excuse to piss about on the internet and whatever I am doing seems to work because I am, apparently, doing OK. I could possibly be doing better but I have no way of knowing that for sure because I’d much rather be writing, sitting in coffee shops or going on holiday than writing ‘guest blogs’ or taking part in blog tours. These apparently being obligatory for authors who want to sell their self-published works. At least it is according to the so-called experts.
This leads me nicely onto the point of this blog because yesterday I read an article about writers marketing their work which left me not far short of incensed. It wasn’t simply the subject matter which was actually about screenwriters putting their screenplays for sale on Amazon (although if you need me to tell you why that’s a bad idea you deserve everything that could possibly befall you) it was the bit at the end about the author of said article. This bit in fact: (I have deleted her name because I refuse to give her any publicity)
XXXXXX XXXXXX is an author and screenwriter. She is the author of “Publish Your Screenplay on Kindle.” She plans to publish several of her screenplays on Kindle before year’s end.
So, she’s written a book and an article telling us to do something which she hasn’t actually done herself… yet. Do you really need me to tell you what I think of that?
The sad thing is that there are thousands of people like this who are making money off the back of the writing community by selling experience that they do not actually have and indeed, there are plenty of so-called ‘professional authors’ who actually derive most of their income from talking about the subject of being a ‘professional author’ as opposed to earning money from actually selling books. Or to put it another way, frauds.
This is especially true of the subject of self-publishing because take it from someone who actually knows, the truth is that whilst the web is awash with articles telling you how to do it, there is actually no magic formula. More often than not, what decides if a book is going to sell or not is good old fashioned luck.
Yes, of course there are things you can do to help get the stars if not aligned, at least visible and these range from exploiting social networking sites to writing blogs but the bottom line is that for a self-published book by a relatively unknown author to be a success it generally comes down to the same old thing; right book, right time, right reader.
And that my friend is the secret. You can have it for free.
Dougie Brimson is an author and screenwriter. Thirteen of his fifteen books are available in electronic format including The Crew(which was the most downloaded football title of 2012 and has held the #1 slot on its Amazon and iTunes chart for almost 18 straight months) and his latest comedy, Wings of a Sparrow.
His screen writing credits include the multi-award winning feature Green Street and the forthcoming adaptation of his own novel, Top Dog.
As a twitter obsessive (@dougiebrimson if you didn’t know) I see a lot of tweets relating to both writing and publishing many of which contain links to articles or blogs.
Generally these will fall into two categories. Either it will be a rehashed version of one of three articles (How to get published, how to get an agent or five/sex/ten ways to market your work) or it will be total and utter bollocks that’s been written by someone who clearly has no idea what they are talking about.
For obvious reasons, I tend to dismiss most of them out of hand or, if I am in a particularly grumpy mood, will comment accordingly. I know I shouldn’t, but not only does it make me feel better, it helps maintain my image as a grumpy and obnoxious bugger.
Every so often however, I read something which actually strikes a chord with me and out of a sense of fair play, after first cursing the author for writing something I wish I’d written, I’ll pass on the link in the hope that whoever reads it will actually learn something. On very rare occasions, so impressed will something leave me that I will steal the idea. Or rather, I will rewrite it to put my own slant on it, although not without asking permission first!
And so, with the very kind permission of author Barry Hutchinson whose website, as well as details of his excellent new book, The Book of Doom, can be found here, what follows is a plagiarised version of his original and most brilliant blog.
Now, as anyone who knows anything about me will know, I adore my readers. It is because of them/you that I am able to continue doing what I do which is why I am always so eager to hear from them/you. Indeed, I actively encourage people to contact me if ever they feel the need or have something they want to get off their chest.
This author/reader relationship is incredibly important for all kinds of reasons, one of which is that it helps to build what has become known as ‘a platform’. This being all but essential in these days of electronic books because it is a fundamental part of marketing. Or to put it another way, it sells books.
In the old days when I used to write books which came out on paper, this wasn’t something I generally became involved in as it all fell on the shoulders of the publishers. I wrote them, they pushed and promoted them, people brought them. That was how is basically worked. These days however, things are very different because it is all down to me and one thing I have learnt over the last few years is that key to the art of selling books is word of mouth. Indeed, as someone who receives little or no coverage in either the mainstream media or even the sports press, word of mouth is my best selling tool. But obviously, I can only do so much and whilst Twitter and Facebook are great, there is only so many times I can plug a book before people get bored of it. Therefore whilst I can give a new book a shove, I am dependent on help from my readers to get it really rolling.
So with that in mind, if you’re one such individual and actually like my work, what follows are four things you can do to help if you fancy giving me a hand.
1. Buy my Books. This is fairly obvious but you will be amazed how many people have read a couple of my books and don’t actually know that I’ve written 15 in total. I’m not insisting that you buy them all of course (although that would be nice) but if you’re missing any, a brief look at one of the on-line stores or even my website may well turn up something that you’ll enjoy.Just as importantly, by buying books you help me eat which means I can carry on producing more titles as opposed to lying on the sofa dying of malnutrition. It’s a win-win!
2. Review! In these days of eBooks and eCommerce, reviews are the engine which drives word of mouth. So if you’ve read a book and like it, then please take the time to leave a review on either Amazon or iTunes. If you blog, then why not blog about the book? I’ll even provide an interview if you like. All you need do is ask.It doesn’t have to be a 5* review, just an honest review.
And if you didn’t like it, then you have every right to say so. I won’t mind. Honest. Well, I might mind a bit…
3. Talk! To family, mates, people in the street. I don’t care. Share your enthusiasm and spread the love. It all helps!
4. Tweet! Social media is a brilliant way of spreading the word about books but it’s especially useful if you include links because that way you are actively driving people in my direction.
The same thing applies to Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest and all the others. It’s all about making people aware and raising the profile. Well ok, my profile.
That’s it really. It’s not too much to ask is it? I mean, I’m doing my bit by churning them out, the least you can do is give me a hand! 😀
Talking of new books, work on the third title in the Billy Evans series is progressing well and I’m hopeful that it will be out by the summer. It’s a cracking plot which picks up on his story in modern day Britain, ten years on from the events at the end of Top Dog. I’ll release more details, including the title, nearer publication day.
Work is also progressing nicely on the movie adaptation of Top Dog, the poster of which can be seen to the left. This is actually the artwork being shown to investors and not the actual movie poster but it is incredibly effective I think.
Leo Gregory might look very different from how Billy looks in my head, but I have absolutely no doubt that he’s going to be just awesome in the role!
Finally, lots of people have been asking me about the movie adaptation of Wings of a Sparrow. All I can tell you at the moment is that I’ve written a script which is receiving a lot of positive feedback and we’ve got it in front of various production companies.
At the moment, we can do no more. Although if more people knew about the book, it would certainly help! Which takes me back to my original point… 😉
I am a Watford fan. That’s not an admission of guilt, it’s a fact. One of which I am especially proud and always have been.
Now as some of you will have noticed, after a slightly shaky start, the Golden Boys have gone on something of a run. Indeed, as I write this we sit in second in the championship after beating Derby 2-1 yesterday albeit with a somewhat dodgy performance.
However, despite our success this season we are, as a club, currently facing something that we have rarely faced before. You see in the past we have always been regarded as ‘the family club’ and as such, have been thought of in many circles as being either neutral or even bland. That is not the case at the moment for everyone seems to hate us.
The reason for this change stems from the takeover of the club by the Pozzo family who also own both Udinese and Granada. For with amazing foresight, when they took over they decided to bolster our squad by sending some of the fringe players from their other teams to Vicarage Road on loan. And by some, I mean quite a few.
This was apparently fine whilst we were losing 5-1 at Derby early on in the season, but when the side began to gel together people began to take notice. When we started winning (and scoring for fun) it began to wind people up. Big time.
Things came to a head when Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway ranted on Sky Sports about our loanee’s prior to our live game a few weeks back and seemingly within hours, various journalists at TalkSport had jumped on the bandwagon. By the middle of the following week, Watford had taken on the mantle of everything that was wrong with the English game and my fellow Hornets, many of whom had jumped to the stout defence of their club, were bordering on scum because they could not, or would not, listen to ‘reason’ (sic).
I won’t go into the hypocrisy of the statements made by Holloway whose own team is full of loanees including one he only sold on the proviso that Palace could borrow him back for the rest of the season, nor the ridiculous statements made on the terminally ill station that is TalkSport, most of which were only made to chase listeners. Nor will I provide a breakdown of the actual Watford team to disprove much of what has been alleged or even talk about the phenomenal youth academy at Vicarage Road which is already churning out a steady stream of quality young players. All of whom have benefited markedly from working with world class players. I won’t do that, because it would amount to my appearing to defend my club, and the reality is that there is nothing to defend.
What I will do however, is make three simple points on this issue;
Neither Watford as a club nor the Pozzo’s as our owners, have done anything wrong.
Almost every single club in the English game (including Palace and Peterborough) would welcome a ‘Pozzo’ to their club and would not hesitate to do so.
We don’t care. In fact, we are loving it.
And that about sums it up.
My latest novel, Wings of a Sparrow, continues its climb up the fiction charts and continues to attract excellent reviews so could I say a huge thanks to all those who have so far purchased a copy.
And for those who have asked, yes, it was originally written with Watford and L*t*n in mind but our near neighbours wouldn’t give me permission to use their name in the text and so to avoid any potential legal issues, I had to switch to two more generic clubs.
If you would like a copy, please click on the cover to the left and it’ll take you to Amazon. It is however, also available from all online retailers including iTunes.
Finally, work on the movie adaptation of Top Dog continues apace. Watch this space.
As you may have noticed, it’s been over a month since I last blogged which is, to say the least, somewhat tardy. I do however have an excuse as I have actually been working flat out on a screen adaptation of my novel, Top Dog.
I won’t go too deeply into the background of how this came about but suffice to say, the whole thing happened and progressed extremely quickly. Indeed, I actually mailed off the completed first draft yesterday so am now in that horrible no-man’s land where I am waiting for feedback from the producer and lead actor and hoping that not only will they like it but that this isn’t the script or book which finally exposes me as a talentless hack.
That said, it’s all very exciting stuff and if you would like further details, they can be found here in The Hollywood Reporter.
The interesting thing for me has been revisiting an old friend, the central character in both Top Dog and The Crew, Billy Evans. Although now he isn’t the slightly chubby dark haired bloke I had always imagined him to be, he is now… well, Bovver from Green Street. Or to be more precise, the awesome Leo Gregory.
This has actually been quite a difficult thing to get my head around. After all, Billy has been part of my life for a very long time now and whilst people you care about come in and out of your existence for all kinds of reasons, young Mr. Evans has not just featured in two novels, but is also in the third I’m currently working on.
So as someone who actually pictures scenes in my head as I’m writing them, whilst in essence his identity remains the same for him to suddenly take on a whole new form has been extremely confusing. Not least because many of the mannerisms and much of the banter I associate with him is no longer relevant.
But I think I’ve pulled it off and as it stands the script stays quite close to the plot of the book in most respects which is after all, the most important thing. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how much of it actually makes it to the screen. If not a little disconcerting.
Aside from that, I’ve been busily doing media work to promote my latest comedy novel Wings of a Sparrow and, not to put too fine a point in it, sell books. On which note, thank you to everyone who has downloaded one of my books and my eternal gratitude to everyone who has taken the time to leave a review somewhere. I know I have said it a million times but they really do help in all kinds of ways.
If you would like to purchase any of my numerous books, links to all the various online sites can be found here.
As I sit here, pondering my navel and doing pretty much anything I can to avoid actually writing, I often stumble across things which not only make me laugh, but strike a chord. One of the most recent items to achieve this double whammy was a blog I read today entitled ‘Everything you wanted to know about being an author (but were afraid to ask).
The reason this caused such mirth in Brimson Towers was because only this morning I received not one, but two emails asking me about that very thing. Now in both cases, given that Matt Haig, the author of said blog, is a far better and more accomplished writer than I will ever be and had pretty much said everything I would have said and more anyway, I simply passed on the link and wished the individual well.
However, as I mulled it over whilst standing in line at Tesco’s an hour or so ago (I’d had an urge for pie. Seriously) I decided that if I was going to accurately apply this excellent list to my own writing life and process, it would need a tweak or two.
So what follows is a bastardised version of the list in question. I have included the original in italics for reasons which will become obvious and hope that Mr Haig will accept my apology for brutalising his excellent efforts which, if you would like to read them, can be found here:
1. We live on toast. And cereal. And caffeine. And wine. But mainly toast. Since I am banned from eating bread due to my lard arse frames dislike of wheat and rarely drink alcohol of any description, I only survive at all thanks to a daily plate of eggs and bacon, this being supplemented by a ready supply of Bourbons. On reflection, this could explain my aforementioned lard arsed frame.
2. By the time our book comes out, it feels like a childhood memory. But more distant. As an author who is intent on spewing out ebooks on a scarily regular basis until such time as readers finally suss out that I am a talentless hack (a fact I am already well aware of), I am no longer hindered by the agonising time it takes publishers take to get books from emailed file to the shelves of Waterstones. Hence, when a book is released into the marketplace, or as I prefer to call it, Amazon, it is still scarily fresh in the memory.
3. Our daily word-count was approximately three thousand words higher before the arrival of Facebook and Twitter. Absolutely true. Indeed, there is a whole heap of irony to be found in the fact that whilst the world wide web provides the engine for what passes as my writing career, it also does all it can to slam it into reverse on an almost minute by minute basis. Proof of which can be found by looking at my Twitter and Facebook timelines.
4. At parties someone will always say, ‘So have you written anything I’d have heard of?’ Or, ‘How are the books going?’ Both questions end in awkward silence. Again, absolutely true although the reality is that I rarely get invited to parties. In fact for rarely, substitute never. I suspect people assume I will turn up, get pissed and wreck the place. This being as far from the truth as you could possibly get.
5. If we were number two in the bestseller charts, the only book we would ever be thinking about is the one selling more. Partially true. Well OK, mostly true. Although in some instances, I do look at who is languishing below me and mutter a contented ‘take that you fucker’ to myself.
6. We never know if the book we are writing is the right one until we have written it. And even then we are not sure. In my case, I know it’s the right one because I ask my readers in advance and they tell me what they want. That’s the joy of being a digital author who actually talks to the people who buys his books.
7. It is harder to make friends after you become a writer than it was before. But way easier to make enemies. True and very true.
8. People think you are automatically a bit weird. (Or is that just me?) No, it’s not just you. Although in my defence, I am actually a bit weird.
9. We need editors ‘like a fat kid needs cake’ – to quote that sensitive literary soul, 50 Cent. This is golden rule number 5 in Doug’s golden rule book of writing. It is so, so true.
10. The best day is when we get to see our book cover. Unless we don’ t like the book cover in which case it is the worst day. Being a digital author, my publishers involve me in developing covers from day one and often I have the final say so this isn’t the case for me. My best day is usually when I write ‘the end’ and the worst is when I realise that it usually isn’t.
11. ‘Royalty statement’ is Latin for disappointment. Thanks to the web, I see my sales figures on an almost daily basis. Sometimes they are orgasmic, other times I want to kill myself.
12. We get stomach pains every time another writer wins something. (We have continual stomach pains). Not only have I never won anything, I’ve never even been nominated. Come to that, I’ve never even been invited to anything where any author won anything. My stomach pains are entirely due to my Bourbon intake.
13. We all want to be Hemingway, minus the suicide part. I’m quite happy being me.
14. We would probably all be writing poems, if people actually bought poems. If I could earn a living writing football chants or perhaps greeting cards for lads, I’d be happy with that. Who wouldn’t?
15. We spend a lot of our time going on five hour train journeys to events where eight people turn up (and only three of them buy the book). The only events I get invited to involve court or family and generally speaking, I tend to avoid both of them like the plague anyway.
16. We chose not to choose life. We chose something else. This is true. It’s called solitude.
17. We are generally quite bad at dancing. Untrue. I have the moves! Or at least I did before my back gave out.
18. In most cases, the person we don’t like more than any other just happens to be another writer. But then, the person we admire most is one too. This is true. Although in my case it is more to do with personality than the nature of their output.
19. We may have our name on the front of a book but we always feel slightly outside the publishing industry, looking in. Like Keats at that metaphorical sweet-shop. Despite my apparent success, I am firmly on the outside of the publishing industry and always have been. I fear that is unlikely to ever change.
20. If we were a neurotic wreck before we were published – and we were – we remain one afterwards. Our brain chemistry doesn’t fundamentally change. This is absolutely true although my insecurities tend to be more about my other efforts at writing than about my books. Screenplays are terror inducing.
21. If we get good reviews, we want good sales. If we get good sales, we want good reviews. I want both. Is that too much to ask?
22. We are happy for five whole minutes after a book is sent off. Then we realise all the mistakes we made. True. Although thanks to the magic that is the eBook, we can if need be, continually edit!
23. We start off wanting to be published. We get published. Then we want a nice review. We get a nice review. Then we want an award. We get an award. Then we want a film deal. We get a film deal. Then we want a film to be made. And so on. For ever. (We are never happy). Well as previously discussed, I know I’ll never earn an award although I have had a movie and plenty of film deals. Another première would be nice though as I wasn’t actually invited to the first one… (long story)
24. If someone reads our work midway through the writing process we need them to faint in awe or it goes in the bin. People are constantly reading my work at every stage from one-line idea to final manuscript. As a consequence, if they are happy, I am happy. If they’re not, I listen to what they say and change things until they are. They are legends!
25. We are a little bit lonely. True. Thankfully, despite coming from a large family, I have always been a bit of a loner and my favourite company is er… me. That has stood me in good stead over the years.
26. Bad reviews are always taken personally. Always. Totally and absolutely true.
27. Writing a novel is like a relationship. During the early stages every other possibility looks incredibly attractive. But commitment pays off. True. And since manuscripts, like screenplays, are always females, occasionally, when you get to the end, you’re glad to see the back of her.
28. We rarely write in coffee shops. True. Instead we watch and listen and use the fact that we are writers as an excuse for loitering. Or is that just me?
29. Writing is heaven. Re-writing is hell. Oh god yes.
30. We are rubbish at other jobs. And DIY. And most other things too. I was an engineer in a previous life so I can do pretty much anything. The biggest problem I have is getting myself motivated to actually do it whatever it is that needs doing.
31. We say the wrong things at parties. I refer the honourable reader to the answer I gave some moments ago. I don’t get invited…
32. The definition of discomfort is the moment after your mother reads your semi-autobiographical novel. Substitute ‘mother’ with ‘daughter’ and you’re about right.
33. There is no praise more treasured than that of an author you worship. I wouldn’t know about this. It’s never happened.
34. The best book we have ever written is the one we are about to write. It better be!
35. The best ideas we have are the ones that arrive accidentally. True. In fact the idea for my next book actually arrived thanks to an accident. I was in hospital with my wife who had broken her arm when the plot came to me!
36. There is no email in the world nicer to receive than the one from a reader who has been moved by your work. Oh yes. Thankfully, I have had many of those over the years and each and every one is valued.
37. We know, in our heart of hearts, that we have the very best job in the world. The truest of all truths. On which note, thanks to everyone who has downloaded my new book Wings of a Sparrow. Feedback and reviews have thus far been brilliant which makes all the effort and late nights worthwhile.
Work is progressing on getting more media exposure although many publications are reluctant to give reviews to eBooks and of course, as many of you know, I am banned from certain magazines and TV shows on account of my criticism of them in the past. The only thing I can ever see changing that would be if a book becoming too popular to ignore and since Wings of a Sparrow is a hooligan free zone, it provides possibly the best opportunity for that to happen so could I once again be cheeky and ask you all to keep spreading the word because the more people who know about it –and buy it- the better.
One other thing which would help is of course, the film version and I am still working hard to make that happen. The stumbling block at the moment is the financing although we are making progress with that so fingers crossed. I’m also in tentative talks about a new movie based on my previous novel, Top Dog which would be quite awesome!
And finally, on the subject of Top Dog, work on the third book in the Billy Evans trilogy is progressing nicely. It’s much darker and more violent than the first two books but the plot line is quite possibly the best I’ve ever come up with. I’m aiming for a publication date in the spring and will release more details closer to that point.
The other evening, whilst taking part in a late-night radio debate on the disgraceful scenes in Serbia, I was asked if I thought we would ever see an end to racism in the UK. My answer was an instant and resounding no. I then added that my thinking was based on the simple fact that we had never had a free and open debate on the issues of racism, immigration and multiculturalism in our country and more importantly, would never be allowed to have one.
When asked why not, I made the point that in my opinion it was because the powers that be were afraid of the answers the vast majority of the population would provide. I was cut off almost instantly. As proof of my point, that’s as conclusive as it gets.
Now let me quote something to you. It’s lengthy, but bare with it.
Racism and multiculturalism have become two of the key issues affecting the way we live but by allowing the anti-racist and politically driven lobby groups to occupy the moral high ground, we [as a society] have become terrified of openly questioning anything relating to race for fear that we will be labelled as racist. A fear that is especially prevalent amongst the white Anglo-Saxon and Christian communities who lest we forget, actually form the majority of the population.
As a consequence, they [the liberal-left and the anti-racist groups] have been allowed to get away with things that they really should not be allowed to get away with. We may laugh at the stupidity of banning piggy banks or replacing the seven dwarves with the seven gnomes but in their own way, each act of petty political correctness drives the wedge between the various ethnic groups ever deeper.
More importantly, by suppressing a much needed and long overdue debate about the impact these issues have on us all, we as a nation are clearly storing up huge problems. If only because ignorance breeds fear and fear breeds resentment which could, potentially, play right into the hands of extreme political groups. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that the implications of that would stretch far wider than the turnstile or the playing field.
However, racism is an issue which not only should be talked about it is one which we must talk about. Dialogue is after all, the only way we, as a society will ever understand things and we have to do that if we are ever to be rid of this most shameful of scourges. That will only happen when we are brave enough to allow everyone to have their say and more importantly, listen to what is being said. Tragically, even though we live in a supposedly free society, I cannot ever see that happening. Indeed, there is something to be said for the idea that if Enoch Powell achieved one thing with his infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, it was to suppress forever any chance of anyone having a free and open debate about either immigration or race in Britain.
Ironically, the area of society that has done more than any other to combat racism in Britain is football. In recent weeks I have witnessed racist abuse being hurled by blacks, whites and Asians in shops, pubs and even at a motorway service station yet I can count on three fingers the number of racist incidents I have encountered inside a stadium in this country since I began writing in 1996 and two of those have been at non-league games. And I’m not alone. Even Thierry Henry has been quoted as saying that he has not heard any racist abuse inside a stadium since he came to play in this country yet still we routinely hear football being slaughtered. Why? Surely the fact that on the rare occasions an incident of football related racial abuse takes place here in England it is roundly and swiftly condemned by all parties is proof of how serious this issue has been taken. Similarly, the fury with which we react to abuse targeted at English players abroad must indicate how far we have come as well as how far others lag behind.
I’m not saying that we should sit on our laurels, but we shouldn’t be so self critical either. As fans, we should be proud that for the most part, the only colour we care about is the colour of the shirt and we should celebrate the fact that people come from all over the world to play the game here free of the abuse and intimidation seen all too often in Spain, Italy, Germany and most of Eastern Europe. We should also be thrilled that so many black players represent us at international level but equally, we should enjoy a smug smile of satisfaction that these days we don’t even really notice. All we actually see is eleven proud Englishmen and that in itself says everything to me.
That’s an extract from Kicking Off which I wrote in 2004 and to me, it’s sadly still as relevant now as it was back then. However, if there is a silver lining to the horrific events in Serbia this week it has been to highlight just how far we as a nation have come in the drive to defeat racism and as I wrote in the piece, no section of society has fought more valiantly than football. Although let’s be honest, as the John Terry affair has proven, whilst the fans continue to do their bit there is much to be said for the idea that football’s administration needs to up its game not least with an ounce to two of consistency.
But there is still much work to be done and the great game can’t do everything, nor should it even try. For sure as we saw only too clearly this summer, sport can be a fantastic unifying force but if we are ever to see a resolution to the cancer of racism in our nation and legitimately sit upon the moral high ground where we so richly deserve to be, it can only happen if we, as individuals, can freely and honestly discuss all of the issues associated with it.
The last I heard, this is a free country. So why can’t we?
Just a quick note to let you know that Amazon have now price matched most of my titles with iTunes so that the bulk, including The Art of Fart, are now just 99p. The only exceptions are The Crew which is free and Top Dog and Billy’s Log which will set you back £1.99.
So if you’re missing a book, now is as good a time as any!
Over the last couple of years you might have noticed that the world of the ebook has changed publishing out of all recognition. This is particularly true for mid-list authors such as myself.
No longer under the control of editors or publishers we are now free to go it alone to write what we like and publish it when we like. Trust me, for all kinds of reasons that freedom is liberating!
For the reader, it has been equally revolutionary. Who would have thought five years ago that not only would there be a genuine alternative to good old paper but that there would be books available to download for free at the touch of a button!
But the rise of the ebook has added a new and very important element to the reading process and it is one which not everyone seems to have grasped. It is the power to review. Be it on amazon, iTunes, Goodreads or any of the numerous reader websites, if you enjoy or even dislike a book you are now able to tell the world.
That my friends, is power, real power. And I will tell you why.
As a professional writer of ebooks, whenever I release something new onto the market the promotion of that book falls not to the publisher as it used to, but to me as the author. As a consequence the normal routine is to bombard media outlets, social media, related websites and blogs in the hope that someone will help by providing some publicity.
This, as you can imagine, is an extremely important part of the publishing process because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good a book might be if no one knows about it no one will buy it! But this work can consume an extraordinary amount of time and whilst it can be fabulous fun, it can also prove to be both frustrating and soul destroying.
However, after a certain amount of time you have to get back to the actual process of writing which means that you have to let your latest stand on its merits and fend for itself. It’s at this point that all authors hope that their readers will kick in and take up the task of spreading the word on their behalf. Fundamental to that is the review.
From the readers perspective a review can have many functions but for the majority of authors reviews are promotional tools and in that sense they are almost unrivalled which is why we all ask, plead and even beg readers to post them. It isn’t that we want you to boost our self-esteem (nice though that is!) it’s because the simple truth of the matter is that nothing sells books like word of mouth and these days, that primarily means what readers have to say on the online outlets.
Of course there are people who would never review a book for all kinds of reasons. The usual three being ‘I wouldn’t know what to write’,’ I’d be embarrassed’ or ‘I can’t be arsed.’ But by thinking in this way they are actually missing out on what to me is one of the most exciting elements of the ebook revolution and that’s the potential for the reader to become directly involved in the publishing process.
Because when you download a book be it free or paid, you earn the right to have an opinion. And since your opinion is as good as anyone else’s, rather than keep it to yourself or simply share it with your immediate family why not share it with the global community? You don’t have to say much, just a sentence or two, but anything is better than nothing. Believe me, it can be a great deal of fun!
Equally and just as importantly, by posting a review on one of the online stores such as Amazon and iTunes –and this is the crux of the matter- you instantly become a part of the promotion for that book.
I won’t try and explain the mysteries of the various ranking systems and why every single review counts but think about it in its most basic sense; your glowing review could be the one which introduces someone to the delights of Billy’s Log or The Crew! Surely that has to be worth a few minutes of your time!
And speaking as an author, reviews have other benefits. One of which is that they help me to decide what to write next. For example, I had no idea that there was so much interest in sequels to both Top Dog and Billy’s Log but now, thanks to both the sales figures and the fabulous reviews posted by readers, I do. Which is why you will hopefully soon see both, possibly within the next 12 months.
For me that last sentence encapsulates why I place so much importance on my readers opinions. Because by posting a review and helping to keep a title or titles selling, they/you allow me to concentrate on the actual process of writing and turning out fresh material.
At the end of the day, I hope that’s what people actually want me to be doing as opposed to trying to climb up some journalist rear end in the hope
that they might say something nice about my latest. It’s certainly what I’d much rather be doing.
So please, if you have ever read a book and like it, take the time to leave a review somewhere or even mention it on Facebook or Twitter. As I have said a million times each and every one of them genuinely helps and as someone pointed out to me today, a review is a fabulous way of thanking the author for his or her efforts.
One final point on the subject of reviews and just to confirm the importance of what I’ve said above, could I say a huge thanks to all the people who have been posting such kind things on Amazon and iTunes lately. It’s because of you guys that The Crew, Top Dog and Billy’s Log in particular are selling so well and sitting at the top of their respective charts. I am both humbled and eternally grateful for your fantastic support.
Two quick things I would like to add, I’m aiming to have a new book online by the end of May or early June (details here) and I have just agreed to take part in what I hope is going to be a fabulous new project aimed directly at lads everywhere.
Watch this space or keep an eye on my website for more details.
As a lifelong football fan and a passionate supporter of fans rights, I am often asked to become involved in campaigns. These can involve huge protests about clubs being taken to the edge of financial ruin by useless owners through to charity evenings being run by fans to raise money for sick children.
No matter what they are, as long as I have a degree of sympathy with the cause then I will do whatever I can do to help be that by going along to show solidarity or by donating books to raffle off as prizes. And I do that because I am one of those who believe that no matter where they watch their football, fans are one huge community. Yes of course there are exceptions (we all have rivals after all!) but at the end of the day, it’s the game that really matters and if a club are in trouble or something is being done which is fundamentally wrong, we should all pull together to help. I actually wrote a book about this very thing –Rebellion- which examined protests at clubs ranging from Manchester City to former FA Cup winners Wimbledon FC.
The reason I mention this is that this very week we have seen two clubs go into administration here in the UK including one of the legendary names of world football. No, not Pompey, but Glasgow Rangers.
Now I won’t go into my usual rantings about the way football is run but there is a sad inevitability in the fact that as with all such things, the only real hope for ultimate salvation will lie with the fans. Only recently we saw little Darlington put out a call for help when closure seemed just days away and to the credit of all those who follow the game, even though they are a relatively little club that call was heard and a small fortune raised (including one single donation of £25,000) to keep them going for a while in the hope that some way of saving them will be found. And to be fair, if history is anything to go by it probably will be. Sadly too many clubs have been in this position before including such giants as Chelsea, Leeds, Wolves and even the great Manchester United.
To me, things like this actually show football fans at their very best. We get a lot of bad press thanks to the hooligan and racist elements but we should never forget that they form only a tiny minority and the vast majority love the game and everything to do it. Long may that continue.
However, whilst news of a club in crisis being saved by the community of football fans always fills me with pride, it also fills me with a sense of anger. Anger which is directed at one specific group.
It would be reasonable to assume that the target of my fury would be those who administer the game. After all, their consistent failure to impose any kind of strict control over how the individual clubs manage their finances is ultimately responsible for things like this happening. But it is not. No, my anger is directed at players.
I do not for one second begrudge anyone earning a decent living out of the game because if I could, I would. I don’t like the amounts involved when we get into the top flight, that’s true, but I certainly don’t blame them taking it. That’s market forces after all.
What I do have a problem with is players taking that money and never putting any of it back into the game. Yes of course there are exceptions to
that but in the main, players take a fortune from out of the pockets of fans and then when trouble hits a club, we are the ones they expect to dip into our pockets to keep that the club alive. That’s not right. Not right at all.
Here in England there are 92 professional and hundreds of part-time clubs and together they form what is in the opinion of many, the greatest league structure in world football. If one of those clubs goes under, especially in the current financial climate, it can only destabilise the rest and as Rangers have shown, no one is immune from the danger of financial collapse especially when the tax man comes calling. Indeed, there are a number of Premiership teams in serious trouble at the moment and one can only imagine the consequences should one of those go out of business.
So with so much at stake is it really too much to expect that the people who take the largest slice out of the game contribute a small percentage of their huge wage to help keep a struggling club alive?
Or is that responsibility always going to fall on that group of people who in far too many cases these days are already struggling to afford the cost of a ticket to walk through a turnstile?
Two quick plugs, I’m currently giving away ebooks versions two of my best-selling books (The Crew and Everywhere We Go). Further details can be found by clicking here Free Books
Could I also thank all those who have downloaded my most recent book, The Art of Fart. If you liked it, please leave a review at the store where you obtained it from. As with all my books, they really do make a difference.
And I recently gave a short interview to the excellent It’s Round & It’s White website. Please click on the link to visit.
I’ve posted this as a page on my blog but thought it might be useful to post it as a standard blog as I know some people have connections set up.
So what follows is the text of an as yet unpublished interview I gave to a journalist just yesterday (Jan 9th 2012)! I’ve posted it simply because it provides reasonable answers to many of the questions I receive on a fairly regular basis.
I hope you enjoy it but if you have a question of your own, please don’t hesitate to mail me. Oh, and it’s quite long!
How and why did you become a writer?
I fell into it by accident really and it was certainly not an aspiration or anything like it! I had left the Royal Air Force after 18 years as an engineer and was ‘working’ as an extra on TV and in films. EURO 96 was on the horizon and I was on set filming an episode of Casualty for the BBC when the idea came to write a book about my experiences following football. That book eventually became ‘Everywhere We Go’ and it really was a case of right book, right time.
The rest as they say, is history.
How do you get your ideas?
In the early days, they were driven by the readership as I thought they would be. That’s why I wrote follow-on books about local derbies, England and the London clubs (all of which are now out in eBook format).
After that, I moved into fiction which largely came about as a result of an approach from the TV writer Lynda La Plante who wanted me to write something for one of her series and from that point on, I’ve tended to write about things which either interest me or which I am passionate about. Given the way I write and the fact that much of my work revolves around my own opinions, I think it’s vital to take that approach.
How long does it typically take you to write a book?
How long is a piece of string? I actually write fairly quickly but there are all kinds of things which impact on how long a book will take to complete. However, I usually aim to have a first draft of a full-length book completed in two to three months although I actually wrote the second half of my novel Top Dog in under ten days and some people say that’s amongst my best ever stuff!
How do you write?
I’d like to tell you that I have a very clearly defined routine which involves writing at least 5000 words a day or a straight 8 hours at the keyboard but the truth is that I am horrifically ill disciplined and it doesn’t take much to distract me if I’m not very careful. Twitter for example, can keep me occupied for hours which is quite pathetic and if I know that there’s an old movie on telly it’s game over!
I actually had to sell my beloved motorbike because if the sun was shining I’d be out on the road, deadline or no deadline!
However, if I’m in the mood I’ll sit down and simply write for as long as I can and that can be anything from 2 to 20 hours in a day. All I need is tea, food and very loud soul or jazz funk music to keep me going but make no mistake, it’s bloody hard work sometimes.
So why do it?
Well it’s actually quite a decent way to earn a living! After all, I don’t even have to get dressed most days and you can’t say that about many jobs!
More seriously, writing can also provide a real buzz especially when I get in the zone and the words just come pouring out without me having to think too about them. Whilst writing ‘The Art of Fart’ for example, I was having so much fun that I actually had to keep stopping because I’d be giggling so much I’d get tears in my eyes.
It’s also fair to say that I derive a huge amount of pleasure from interacting with readers. That’s actually a huge part of it for me because having someone tell you that they like a particular book kind of makes all those hours at a desk worthwhile if only because it proves I’m doing something right!
You seem to have written books in pretty much every format there is which is quite rare amongst authors. Why did you branch out from non-fiction?
Simply because having written four books with my brother, I wanted to do my own thing. The problem was, I didn’t really know what and so I wrote a comedy book called ‘The Geezers Guide to football’ and then a couple of thrillers before going back into non-fiction. Now I’ve written another comedy book and my next project is also more humour so maybe that’s where I’ll settle. Who knows?
Where do your ideas come from?
Two places, my warped imagination and the market. Whenever I talk to writers I always tell them that if they want to write for publication it is absolutely vital that they get to know who their target readership will be, research what they are reading and then write something to suit.
That might sound mercenary but it’s exactly what a publisher will do when they’re deciding if a submission is right for them so why not make the process easier for yourself?
In my case, my target readership is lads and as a lad myself (albeit an older version!) I understand that we’re basically simple creatures who know what we like to read and more importantly, how we like to read. I try to give them what they want, it really is as simple as that. Thankfully, it seems to be working!
However, don’t get the impression that I take my readership be they real or potential for granted because I don’t. As a professional author my readership is my livelihood and if I don’t keep them entertained, I’ll starve!
How much time do you spend on research?
That depends on the project. When I was writing non-fiction football stuff it was a 24/7 operation because football culture was and remains a constantly moving beast. Thankfully, I had loads of good contacts who kept me supplied with information and to be fair, I couldn’t have written half as much as I have done without their help.
For the fictional and comedy stuff, research hasn’t ever really been an issue because I’ve been able to draw on personal experiences. If you’ve read ‘Billy’s Log’ I’ll come clean and say that it’s very much an amalgamation of my own life and that of my mate who will remain nameless!
So are all of your fictional characters based on real life?
God yes! Everyone in every novel I’ve written has been based on someone real be they family, mates or even celebrities. I ever based one character on my local newsagent!
Character creation is actually a really important part of my writing process because once I have the outline nailed down, the next stage for me is to fully construct the people I will be writing about and that starts with three things; their name, their face and their voice. After all, to all intensive purposes that character is a real person with a real history and real problems of their own and so you have to know what they will look and sound like! But equally, if you’re going to put them through something you have to understand exactly how they will react and what they will be thinking at that moment and all of that has to be built up.
That’s so much easier to do if you use a real life base-line to work from not least because if you’re struggling, you can actually ring them up and chat to them or even stick something on YouTube to give you a feel of them. It’s amazing how simply hearing someone’s voice can help you work through something. It certainly does it for me!
So what other writing tricks do you use?
Music is fundamental to my writing because I can’t write without it. But it can’t be any music, it has to be the right music. As a result, before I start work on a new project I’ll spend ages picking the right album or tracks which I put together as a playlist on iTunes. That becomes the soundtrack and it’ll be on repeat throughout the writing process.
It fairly quickly becomes almost hypnotic and I soon find that I’m able to switch in and out of a project simply by pausing the music which is an awesome thing to be able to do. The downside is that once I finish the project, I can’t listen to any of those tracks again without instinctively starting to type!
Your novels The Crew and Top Dog are two fast paced and very tightly plotted thrillers. How much work did you do in advance?
Ah….. well I actually spent a huge amount of time on these two books but the funny thing about them is that in both cases I wrote the endings first. You see I knew I wanted specific twists within the last few pages and once I had those straight in my mind I had to commit them to paper. The rest of the book was about how I took the reader to that point.
Judging by the fact that The Crew is frequently ranked at #1 in the kindle download charts for football books and is still receiving good reviews over ten years since it was first published, it clearly worked!
So why the move into comedy?
My dad was an entertainer and comedian so I think comedy is in the genes! Truth to tell, I love writing humour more than anything else although in real life, I’m desperately unfunny bordering on grumpy!
You spent a long time in the Royal Air Force. Will life in uniform ever feature in your future work? Or would you ever consider writing your autobiography?
I have a couple of ideas but at the moment, that’s all they are. I have a list of 3 or 4 books ahead of those.
As for my autobiography, it’s an idea that has cropped up a few times in recent years but the honest answer is that if I did write it, I doubt anyone would actually believe it because it would be like a bizarre version of Forest Gump! As anyone who knows me is aware, I’m one of those people ‘things’ happen to!
For example, I was quite possibly the first person in the west to know about the Chernobyl disaster! But if I tell you how, I’ll possibly have to kill you!
As a professional author, do you enjoy the part of your job which doesn’t involve writing?
I love the promotional aspect of writing and do everything I can to sell my books and spread the word about what an ex-editor once called ‘Brand Brimson’.
I also like to talk to writing groups whenever I’m asked but that’s about it really. I don’t get invited to literary functions and have never been anywhere near a literary festival of any kind.
I’m not really sure why that is but hey, that’s the literary world for you. It’s never made much sense to me.
I’ve been writing for 15 years now and one thing I’ve learned is that there are a huge number of people involved in publishing who fail to grasp the idea that the most important person in the whole process is the reader.
So does that explain why you were once quoted as saying that you’re not at the bottom of the literary ladder, you’re one of the rubber bungs underneath? What did you mean by that?
I made that comment during an interview in which I was asked about the genre of ‘hoolie-lit’ which in case you don’t know was the label tagged on to those of us who wrote books about the subject of football hooliganism.
Anyway, the point I was making that in spite of the fact that as a genre it spawned something like 60 books the bulk of which were by first time authors, drew loads of people back into reading and made a small fortune for various publishers and bookshops, no one involved has ever received any recognition let alone credit from within the literary world for what happened. Quite the opposite in fact, we just get looked down upon.
It still pisses me off to be honest. But that’s literary snobbery for you.
It’s well documented that your involvement in the Elijah Wood movie Green Street Hooligans did not go too smoothly. There have been various versions of the story but you have never really given your side of things. Would you like to take this chance to explain what really went on?
The brief version is that the director and I had a difference of opinion. She thought she knew everything and I knew she didn’t. Sadly, in the end I was forced to give up on it and walk away but the finished item kind of proves I was right because whilst it’s ok, it could have been so, so much better. That’s women for you.
Will you do more movies?
I certainly hope so!
I actually have a few screenplays on the production treadmill at the moment and would hope to do more in the future but I learnt an awful lot working on Green Street so won’t make any of the same mistakes I made there. I hope not anyway!
How did you secure your first publishing deal?
My brother and I had been writing some draft material and in the end, I walked into WH Smiths, took a book and wrote to the publishers asking if they would be interested.
That publisher was Headline and within a week or so they wrote back asking for some material and so I sent them some. They quickly came back asking for more and after two or three times I told them that if this carried on they’d have the whole book anyway so they best tell me if they wanted it or not. They wrote back and said they did and that was it.
It was only some years later that I realised how lucky we were and that it doesn’t generally happen like that!
How did you find your agent?
I don’t have an agent! Oddly, in spite of having 14 books published I’ve never been able to find one who wants to take me on so I’ve basically given up looking now. However, if anyone wants the job, I’d be happy to talk to them!
What tips would you give to aspiring writers?
The single most important piece of advice I would give them is this; if you can’t take criticism, don’t do it. Reviews can be brutal but so can reading or hearing simple feedback and if you think that you will struggle with someone slagging off your work, don’t put yourself in the firing line.
After that, it’s the basics. Write what you know, know your market, join writing groups, etc, etc. But above all, enjoy it! If you don’t, how can you expect your readers to?
What was your worst ever review?
Time out in London reviewed my first book ‘Everywhere We go’ thus: Everywhere We Go…. yeah right. Fuck off.
And your best?
I can’t remember the actual book but one of the English broadsheets (The Times I think) once called me ‘the hooligan’s pornographer-in-chief’ which I thought was quite cool. It’s certainly going on my gravestone!
Actually, the best reviews and in truth the only ones that really count are those from readers. I’m very lucky there and appreciate them all (but please, keep posting them!!)
If someone wanted to get a feel for your writing, which of your books would you recommend?
That would depend on who they were and especially what sex!
I do have a soft spot for my novels and to be honest, of all the books I’ve written ‘Billy’s Log’ is a personal favourite because it still makes me laugh. Indeed, I’m going to bow to pressure and write the sequel later this year.
What books do you read?
Autobiographies are a favourite of mine together although I steer clear of footballers and anyone under 40! I recently re-read Joan Simms book which is brilliant and very funny.
I also read military non-fiction and there is a book about the bombing raids on Port Stanley during the Falklands war called ‘Vulcan 607’ which is a particular favourite as I was there!
You have recently made the switch over to epublishing. How did that come about and how is it working?
I was approached by a company called the ebookpartnership.com who wanted to know if I would be interested in putting selected books from my backlist online.
I didn’t really know much about the process at that point but had a couple of titles which I knew I had the electronic rights to and so handed them over, more as a test than anything else. The reaction was amazing and now I have 12 of my backlist available to download. Two of those, ‘The Crew’ and ‘Everywhere We Go’ are actually free and although I was reluctant to do this at first, it has worked out astonishingly well as the ratio of sell-through purchases has been brilliant.
Is it working? Well I suddenly have full control over what I write and when I write it and it all happens at the speed I want it to happen as opposed to having to fit in with a publisher’s schedule. So hell yes! I’m a convert. So much so that I actually wrote ‘The Art of Fart’ specifically to release to the online market.
Tell us about ‘The Art of Fart’.
As anyone who has read the opening chapter on Amazon will know, it’s yet another book which has its roots in my own life! After all, when you grow up in a house of 8, 6 of whom are male, farting is going to feature quite heavily!
But in all seriousness, it’s just a bit of fun. It was certainly hilarious to write!
So what’s next?
I’m currently working on another novel, this time a comedy about football and then I may well write the sequel to ‘Billy’s Log’ which I already have mapped out.
However, if life has taught me one thing it’s that it never runs smoothly so who knows? I just hope I’m around to find out!