Sunday, 31 March 2013

I've got an agent!

Or at least I did in 2001.

Evening gang.

So, to carry on my recent theme of thrilling you all with my literary adventures, let's pop back to 2001 again.

We had established that I received interest in Playground Cool from two agencies. I can only assume that Sheil Land responded quicker or with more enthusiasm. I received a letter from them on April 20th thanking me for the manuscript and asking more about me.

By April 24th I received a two page letter. Here are some highlights:

"I'm glad you're a fella because I think there are just too many women writers out there writing this sort of book."

"Because it is an overcrowded marketplace I can honestly only think of about five or six realistic places."

Then there are a couple of editorial advice type paragraphs suggesting tweaks and then the agent, Vivien Green, asked how I knew Kate Elton. The answer was I didn't but I had met her once via Sophie Hannah at university. She was, from memory, an editor at Arrow books so Vivien suggested approaching her as an option. Made sense to play on the link I suppose.

I must have made the necessary changes because by May 9th to say she liked the changes and that the book works well. More highlights:

"...there are a mass of contemporary living books out there and whilst I do think yours is very good for a first novel it isn't SO very different from all the others,"

"I'm selling books from £1500 to six figures. To be brutally honest I don't think yours will be at the latter end of that scale. It isn't that there is something wrong with yours it's just that there is a mass out there."

She then describes her strategy which includes saying "I genuinely enjoyed it and that you are a good writer and that this is hopefully the first of many and that both Sophie Hannah and Michael Schmidt think you are talented and promotable."

She enclosed the contract for signature and that was it. I had an agent for my first book, at the first attempt and I thought I was amazing. Next time we'll cover the rejections...

Thursday, 28 March 2013

How close have you come to achieving your dream?

Evening gang,

This is going to a slightly different blog post. It might even end up being a bit of a series. Here at Sinclair Towers we've been decorating and moving things round. I found a pile of old rejection letters amongst the crap. But I also found several letters proclaiming interest in my books and my letters from the Sheil Land Agency where they agreed to represent me.

Reading these made me realise how close I came to a totally different path. Had just one of these letters led to a publishing deal then the following ten or eleven years might have been very different.

So let's jump back to the beginning, almost. In April 2001 I was about to graduate with an MA in Creative Writing from Manchester. I had written my first novel, Playground Cool, and I was utterly convinced a book deal was mine to have. I was 24.

I remember asking Sophie Hannah, now a very well respected crime writer, how to approach agents. I sent off a few letters and some extracts of the book. Straight off the bat I received a letter from Viven Green at Sheil Land.

"Thank you very much for the chance of reading your sample material. I'd be very happy to read the rest of it if you'd like to send it in with return postage - just in case"

That was April 11th. I was over the moon. Then on April 17th I got another letter from Sarah Molloy at the AM Heath agency.

"Thank you for letting me read the opening chapters of Playground Cool. I'd be happy to read the rest of the typescript and look forward to reading the rest of the material in due course"

Short, to the point, interested in my book. It only fuelled my youthful arrogance.  Two agents interested in a week and everyone at the university in Manchester was telling me my book was great. After all I'd just got an MA for writing it.

I'll tell you what happened next in another post.

But it was all good, at least at first!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

What have you achieved today?

Afternoon gang,

My answer to the above question is not much. But I've only been out of bed for about 90 minutes so time is on my side.

But this post isn't really about that. It's about what any of us hope to achieve, our goals, targets, call it what you will. Some folk are happy enough to get up, or not, and that's enough for them. I fondly imagine these people to be among the happiest since they are not burdened by the frustration of failure and a goal not yet achieved.

My wife, God love her, is consumed by targets, despite my best efforts to expel them from her by various means including drink, trips out to drink, going to the theatre and having a drink or watching films with a drink. She's all about the goals and when she fails to achieve one it's the end of the world.

Her goals are career based which is lovely. It's her salary which initially secured us the large 5 bedroom house with games room, cinema and library from where I currently type these words (It also has fantastic sea views and is handy for the beach, yours for about 300k if you're looking to move). But that's not to say I lack ambition. I have zero career motivation at all which won't shock those who know me but might upset my boss if she ever stumbles across this, especially since I've recently been promoted into a very well paid job. All my motivation is around books, writing, publication. But at the root of this is the need to leave some sort of legacy, some evidence I existed, that there was some point to me being here at all. An office job is never going to achieve that, regardless of the salary.

It's a discussion I've had with friends over the years, some who do very little except get up, mooch and go to bed. Some who have awesome careers and earn vast somes. Some of them are happy, some are not. I'm at my happiest when writing and it's one of the few things I see any point in doing. As such my failure to achieve huge sales and a traditional book deal is the root of my supposed failure to achieve.

That said, I was having this very discussion with colleagues at work last week. We were talking about birthdays as one of them just turned 40. I said I hoped to achieve something by the time I was 40. He said "You earn loads, you're a published author who sells books all over the world and you have three degrees. What more do you want?"

I suppose when you look at it like that I've achieved a lot. And yet it's nowhere near enough. In my mind it's always been about a best seller, top of the New York Times list etc. But what if I achieve that and that's not enough either? Keeps me awake at night, I kid you not. Of course the gin helps with that.

Anyay, to return to the topic. So far today I have achieved a new 5* review of my new book The Trust. As ever I'm thrilled and have pasted the review in below for those too idle to go look for it.

"This is a complex web of a story which centres on a North West of England hospital trust. An old mental hospital site is being redeveloped and corpses are turning up in quantity. One of the police on the case, and a young woman working for the Trust in the equipment store become involved with one another. They both have issues and back stories which make the relationship a rather dynamic one! Her mother was once a patient at this hospital. Young women in the town have been going missing over a period of a year or more. Police suspect a serial killer. As you can see, there’s a huge amount going on in this story and it’s well handled so that you aren’t sinking into a morass of loose ends but their stories weave in and out of one another in a very engaging way.

Jamie Sinclair has a gift for creating characters you feel involved with. Love or detest them, there’s a lot going on in their lives and you want to know more. I very much enjoyed reading this story. It was well paced and full of intrigue. I did actually guess the identity of the serial killer before the end but I admit I’d had several other candidates in mind before that one and I enjoyed seeing how and why he had turned out that way. The ending was great too. A five star read if ever there was one."

Friday, 8 March 2013

Oh no! More rejection

Afternoon gang,

I'm off work today! Yay. I'm also off work on Monday! Long weekend. Yay!

Regular readers will know that I submitted an extract of my latest novel to the Ampersand agency. I was prepared for weeks of waiting and wondering. Thankfully, owing to being busy at work and their swift response, I haven't had to wait long.

In fact I received a pleasantly brief rejection email on the 5th of March. In fairness it didn't really register as I've got lots going on at the moment. But, because I don't learn and because I'm just that determined, I'm going to send the same piece to Carole Blake at Blake Friedmann. I follow her on Twitter so I know she reads the stuff she recieves and she is often quite vocal about some of the crap she receives.

In other news, for reasons unknown, sales have slumped a little this week. It's odd because I've been a bit more active on the promo front recently but things will pick up. They always do.

A highlight this week was being asked to sign a paperback copy of The Trust by a former colleague. Some have suggested said individual might be the basis of a character in the book. That's not strictly true. The character in question is based on an American chap. That said, as with all the characters in my books they are grounded in reality so draw your own conclusions when you buy a copy.

Right, that's all for now. Sandwich, haircut, painting etc etc

Monday, 4 March 2013

How important is a good review?

More so than you might think.

Evening gang! Just a quick one tonight because I didn't go to bed until 4AM and I had a busy, but productive, day at work.

Obviously a good review will do no harm in terms of sales etc and I've been very lucky that all my reviews have been brilliant. However, that's not what I'm on about.

The vast majority of Indie authors dream of making it big. Millions of pounds, bestsellers, perhaps an appearance on the Review Show on the BBC and a successful TV adaptation. But then we can't all be Ian Rankin!

The average Indie author, like me, works full time at the day job and writes in any spare time. I sell a couple of dozen copies a month, my paperbacks largely exist for my own satisfaction and to give to my mum and it's unlikely I'm going to end up rich and famous unless I get very lucky.

So when I receive a good review, espeically a really good one, it means a lot because that's the reward for all the effort. I've just received such a review and I was so impressed I decided to include the full exchange. It took place between two members of the Goodreads website, both of whom have read my books.

Member 1: This should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me being as I make no secret of being a bit of a fan of "our Jamie" but here's my opinion/review of his latest book...

I have read all of this author's books and, although most of them have been outside my usual genre of choice, I have enjoyed them all. Now this book IS my usual read so I started it knowing that it had a bit to live up to to satisfy me.
And boy did it... Once again the characters came across so real that I reckon this author does more than his fair share of people watching! The background and description are kept to the right amount, enough to support the story but not too much that they take the reader's attention away from it.
There are a few story-lines running through the book - multiple bodies unearthed, abuse in asylums, euthanasia and, if that wasn't enough, the author throws in a serial killer too. All these stories are quite major and there could have been a danger that there was too much going on in the book but the author manages very successfully to keep it balanced and juggles the stories throughout to give completely satisfactory conclusions.
I am not sure if this is stand alone or if we will be seeing Rhiannon and Tom in future books, I for one would like that very much.   

Member 2:  I knew you'd say this. As soon as I've caught up I shall be following in your footsteps - again!

Member 1: He has excelled himself this time for sure :) well I think so anyway!
Hope you enjoy it as much as I did Ignite.

Member 2:   I've always enjoyed all I've read of Jamie's work. He's got a way with him, you might say!   

Member 1:   He has indeed, especially considering all his books are very different styles/genres...

That's all for now folks.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Is the NHS too big to fix?

Evening gang,

In answer to the above question I've posed my own opinion is yes. But that doesn't mean folk shouldn't try. Most of you won't have read (or even be aware) of the recent Francis report into the failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. It hasn't received much news coverage because we've got carried away with horse meat being found in some foods but it's worth a read.

The thing is, I work in the NHS and I'm a fan of it but it's a shambles. But that's not because of the majority of folk working within it, we're just so bloody tied up with rules, regulations, targets and sodding cost savings that bugger all gets done. Of course, that's just my opinion and not that of my employer. Don't want to upset anyone and get hauled into teachers office!

But, in more book related news, my new 5* crime thriller The Trust is also linked to the NHS. Largely through the allegations of patient abuse in a long closed mental asylum and the suggestion that a group of well meaning but misguided employees might be carrying out euthanasia on patients in their care. Madness! But worth a look.

In other news I'm back at work on Monday after a week off so I intend to stay up late tonight drinking ale, eating pizza and either watching a film or mooching on the Xbox. I might struggle to sleep anyway since the wife mentioned in passing that she might fancy moving house! There is a lovely house up the road from here with a indoor pool. It's a steal at just 1.8 million. I'm not sure that's what she's got in mind though. We'll see how this develops. Don't tell the wife but if we can find an awesome house, in a nice area that means we can be well on the way to being mortgage free then I'm on board.

Anyway, things to do. Book is selling well, but never well enough so dive in and tell your friends.