As an avid thriller reader (since discovering Silence of the Lambs in the eighties), I began to be aware around ten years ago that I was finding fewer interesting books and I began to drift away from the genre. I enjoyed books about crime and serial killers and it was frustrating to be offered novels with big reputations which bored me. I began to see an increasingly formulaic approach taken by authors and publishers. Plots followed a familiar pattern of kill and chase. Only the detail varied.
Writers seemed to be competing to devise the most inventive deaths committed by the stereotypical cruel and ruthless genius-gone-wrong who killed because he – it’s usually a male – enjoyed it.
Fine at a certain level but I wanted the whydunnit, not the “because his genes aren’t wired right” routine. And so the idea for REAPER was born. The strap line “Coming soon to a family near you” was added later.
Like all aspiring authors, as the novel took shape and I believed it worthy of publication, I bought my Writers and Artists Yearbook and started sending off the synopsis and the first three chapters to agents.
Rejection followed rejection – often for wildly differing reasons. If industry professionals couldn’t agree on why REAPER wasn’t for them perhaps they were wrong, I concluded. Perhaps they hadn’t even read it. I came to realise that getting your manuscript to publication depends on landing it on the right person’s desk.
I decided to publish REAPER myself. I set up a website, finished the final edit of the book, hired a designer and looked for a suitable publisher. This was the tricky part. There are hundreds of so-called vanity publishers out there. I steered clear of those offering to print a handful of copies. If serious, I needed a minimum 1000 copies. Eventually I ordered 2000 copies from Matador publishing in Leicester plumping for a firm that would only publish REAPER if it met their minimum standards.
At this stage, before you part with serious money, you need to ask yourself if you are really willing to devote all your waking hours to promoting your book. It will take time and energy, and an unshakeable belief in the merit of your work.
I persuaded Waterstone’s to stock REAPER on a regional basis which was an unexpected break and I was able to sell the majority of my stock over time. It took lots of hard work, sometimes doing all day signings, sometimes leafleting outside a particular store. But I believed in REAPER and the reviews from customers to my website backed me up. Then I waited for a large publisher to step in and take the book to the next level and directed all my energies to writing the sequel. But still nothing.
Then came the call from Harper Collins imprint Avon. They’d spotted my manuscript on authonomy.com, their website devoted to talent spotting new authors, and shortly afterwards offered me a deal.
The Reaper is published by Avon