So here's the first segment of what I hope to be an on-going feature of this blog, Authors In The Zone.
Brian Kennedy is a writer based in Waterford. Brian is the author of six books so far, and is currently working on number seven. He likes to watch cheap horror movies from the 80's, complain about the quality of online porn and promoting the use of Jim Beam & anti-depressants to anyone writing a book. Sorry, he means Jack Daniels!
Hi Brian, so let's get started. Have you tried to place your work with mainstream publishers?
All my books have been self-published, or started life that way. I had a small UK publisher reprint my first book, Confessions Of An Exeter City Nut, but I wasn't happy with the outcome as they restructured the lay-out, took out what I felt were vital elements to the book, and reprinted it without any real promotion.
My second book Poor 'Ol Harry Sack attracted interest from an Irish publisher, but again they wanted to streamline the book and any real creative control would have been taken from me.
It was at this point, I kept away from the 2/3 years of hoping a publisher picks up my book, (after 487 rejections) and decided to self-publishing everything. If a publisher picked it up after then great, but at least I was getting the book out, as opposed to it sitting in a file on my PC.
Have you attempted to secure the services of an agent?
I had the help of a lovely agent on my first book, and every now and then she gives me advice. However, the type of books I write won't crossover into a huge mainstream audience, so there is really no need for one. First time writers will actually find it's harder to get an agent than a book deal in lots of cases!
Who are your favourite writers?
I like Nick Hornby and Roddy Doyle, but I also like observational humour. Practically everything I read has to make me laugh.
What's the last book you read?
I've just finished a book by Terry Ravenscroft's called Air Mail where he annoyed practically every airline in the Western Hemisphere with ridiculous letters.
Tell us about your books?
My first book, Confessions Of An Exeter City Nut, dealt with my love for what was then a small, almost bankrupt, struggling non-league club - Exeter City. Thankfully we've had several happy endings since then!
My 2nd book, Poor 'Ol Harry Sack, deals with the life story of the worst gambler in Ireland. (actually make that Europe, nope the World!) I still consider this my best work.
My 3rd and 4th were local books about Waterford United, my local League of Ireland club with the first of those books going into reprint.
I returned to Exeter with One Flew Over The Crossbar for my 5th book, whilst in 2008 I wrote a book called 50/50, detailing 50 Irish musical acts in 50 years. I'm currently writing my 7th book Blow it Up Ref, which again is sport based.
How do you market your books?
Marketing is crucial. Thankfully I love it. Depending on your book, local or national, if you are self-publishing it's absolutely essential. From a local point of view you'll send press releases to 2/3 local papers, arrange a book launch and try get some radio or local TV exposure.
I'm lucky enough I have a girl to arrange such things, but we leave no stone unturned when it comes time to launch the book. My last book gave me the opportunity for my first book signing and I was worried nobody would show in the main bookshop in our city.
So I arranged for a band to play acoustic (as it was a music book) and that brought curious people in, thus creating a crowd, and helping sign and sell my books.
You will need these little ideas if you are self-publishing and wanting to get your book recognised. I guarantee you publishers wouldn't have thought of that idea for one of their writers!
What's achievable sales wise when you go the self publishing route?
I know authors who've been on the Best Seller list in Ireland and are still civil servants. It's really only the top 25% that can make a living from book sales, and to be doing that you'll need to sell close to 10,000 copies of each book, as a writer will only take home a tiny amount of money of each book sold.
The great thing about self-publishing is (bar the 33% cut for book stores off each book) the rest of the money is yours to keep. This is why you keep pushing your publication. Locally, you should be able to make a couple of thousand euro (depending on the interest in your subject, so do your marker research) where, if you can distribute it nationally the rewards are obviously greater.
What services do you use to print your books?
I have a contract with a printer who is used to working with me now. They also give me the use of an in-house graphic designer, which is extremely helpful and no matter what time constraint I put them under, they always come through.
A lot of people are turning to India where you can get a book printed for a quarter of the price in Ireland or England and the standard of work is very high, but I'm a hands on type of guy. I need to be able to drive ten minutes out the road to talk to guys working on my book if need be.
Where can book lovers find your work?
Amazon.com, Play.com or any of the main sites. Tap in the names of my books, and you'll find someone selling them somewhere!
What advice would you offer new writers?
I'd just say to any new writers that if you're going to try the traditional route of sending your manuscript to a publisher then good luck with it. However, I'm constantly brought back to an author who sat in her local coffee shop writing a book day after day, month after month and sending out her publication only to get rejection after rejection from people who wouldn't even look at it because it either hadn't an agent attached or was in the middle of a slush pile.
The girl finally got lucky when Bloomsbury took it after many publishers had turned it down. She's a little known author called J.K.Rowling.
If you want to see your work out on the shelves, you either;
1) Get lucky and have it published first time (it doesn't matter if YOU think the work is fantastic , YOU won't be deciding your faith)
2) Wait months, maybe years and after a ton of rejections finally find someone who will publish it and hope it leads to more than just one book (remember your publisher has a stable of authors to look after, you're no more special than them)
3) Get writing, get the money (sponsors, loan, selling your body - which I thought about on my last book) and be the judge, jury and executioner on what goes in your book. On what the book launch is like. On where the book is stocked. On putting the book online. YOU control your own destiny. In order to succeed your desire for success has to be greater than your fear of failure.
Thanks Brian for that and continued success in all you do.