Peter Hutson-Jones self-published his first novel, Jacob’s Dory, just over a year ago. Having been picked up by a literary agent this year, and working hard towards selling his series to a mainstream publishing house, we thought now would be the perfect time to catch up with Peter and find out about his year as a self-published author.
Jacob’s Dory has just been picked up by an agent – congratulations. After you self-published the book a year ago, how did you go about finding an agent and moving into the traditional publishing process?
I did conduct a lot of research prior to actually self-publishing Jacob’s Dory, and I recognised the need for a literary agent straight away. Looking from the outside, it was evident to me that traditional publishers will, in most cases only consider manuscripts submitted via an agent. I contemplated sending my manuscript directly to an agent prior to self-publishing, but after careful consideration, decided to self-publish first. In many ways looking back, there was part of me that wanted to see what readers actually thought about my work, to see if I was any good! Some positive reviews gave me a lot of confidence to take the next step.
When it came to finding an actual agent I once again did my research – trying to find someone to represent me that had a documented interest in the genre I write (crime thrillers). I was also keen to find someone respected in the industry with a proven track record. This led me to the door of A for Authors and in particular Annette Crossland. Annette along with her business partner Bill Goodall had just launched their new venture and I felt the timing was right to contact them. I can say with all honesty that I did not send my work to any other prospective agents. Annette read Jacob’s Dory, and after a fabulous meeting in London, they offered me a contract there and then. I was really happy to sign. It also helped that we got on famously, and I immediately felt at home being part of their group of authors.
Call it luck, call it fate, I would like to believe that things happen for a reason and I am very excited about the next phase of my career.
How did you find the self-publishing process?
Self-publishing was a very positive experience for me and I would recommend it wholeheartedly. The beauty of Amazon, CreateSpace and others is that you can find a platform for your work almost immediately. As I stated previously it is also fantastic to actually be able to engage with readers and find out almost straight away via reviews what they think of your work. And, I found that using social media on a daily basis – something I had never done before – actually improves your writing. It makes sense that the more you do something the better you get at it.
At the beginning of my journey I was lucky to find someone who was able to help when it came to preparing my manuscript for Amazon. Not only that but they helped enormously during every step, from formatting to initial editing to designing a suitable cover. I found Electric Reads via an Internet search, and as is usual with me just jumped in.
Fortunately, I got a great feeling working with them straight away. Relationships in any business are key and I would always say go with your gut feeling – quite often your initial reaction is the correct one.
I have since found the indie author network full of amazingly talented people, most of who are happy to give advice and support. This is key especially when sometimes, for no reason you can think of, your book does not sell for a week or two. Then suddenly you gain a raft of sales. Highs and lows are the norm for a self-published author.
Is there any advice you’d give to authors who are considering self-publishing?
My stock advice would always be: Even though I myself was keen to get my novel to market quickly, try and ensure your work is of the best standard it can be before plunging in and going live. If your writing is full of basic errors readers and reviewers alike will most probably dismiss it. Think of how annoying it is when you read a new book and find simple spelling mistakes. Finding a good editor is paramount to the process and has the added bonus of helping you learn for future projects. As an example, I dreaded writing dialogue and once I had seen the changes via an edit I can now apply that to my future work. Even the best authors use editors so my advice would be follow their lead.
Secondly engage with fellow writers through social media, although avoid constant self-promotion of your own work. That can be annoying and you will lose followers rapidly. Tweet about things that interest you, develop a rapport with others in the same boat and utilise your personality. Then once in a while plug your book, especially when you run a promotion through Amazon. Be very positive in reading other indie writers’ books and review them. It all helps you achieve sales, spread your footprint and reach your goal sooner.
Finally, take any advice or criticism given to you in a positive way and don’t be afraid to use a firm like Electric Reads to produce a professional product.
Is there anything you’d do differently next time round?
I have always been a little too impulsive. I think if I could go back to my initial steps and change my approach I would have perhaps taken a little more time ensuring that Jacob’s Dory was in the best shape possible. It was a balance between seeing if I could actually write something that people would enjoy, and spending a lot of time undergoing a deeper edit. Although buoyed by the reaction to the story, the characters and my writing style, there were a couple of scenes that I would, in hindsight have changed. On the other hand I recently met an aspiring author who has been working on the same novel for more than five years! He had rewritten it countless times and in my opinion he has lost a lot of the original concept – it may never see the light of day, which is a shame. I believe sometimes in life it is best to dive in and get your novel out there, and stand by it, although always strike a balance and cut out silly mistakes. Read it out loud and get someone else to read it first.
How have you found being a self-published author – is promoting the book a lot of work?
I have loved every minute of being a self-published author. It helps when you can see tangible progress in your career and for me, it was fantastic to have someone in the business tell me I could carve out a career as a full-time writer. This will naturally take hard work and constant promotion. As I enjoy talking about my novel, and love what I do, that is not hard work to me! I was given a great piece of advice early in my journey – I was told to consider myself as a writer right from the beginning. Tell everyone that is what you do, and always remain passionate about it. After all it is a great achievement to produce a creative piece of work that can be read globally.
Finally, what’s next for yourself and Jacob’s Dory?
I am currently working with a very experienced editor to produce a second edition of Jacob’s Dory. I will be able to add those scenes I left out, and also polish the novel a little. Not a case of tinkering, more of developing the story. When I wrote Jacob’s Dory a year ago, it was always intended to be part of a trilogy of books, one that follows the entire life of my main characters. I have finished the first draft of the second book and have outlined the plot to the third. In truth, writing a synopsis for all three has thrown up some unexpected scenarios and some of the changes in Jacob’s Dory will reflect that.
My agent advised me to undergo this process, as she believes my work will be of great interest to the International market and is very commercial. I find that possibility very exciting and fingers crossed I will get to carry on with my writing journey full-time. I think being a writer is like having a superpower, where you are able to create a story of your own making. If you can spend your life creating stories and bringing them to life then its not a bad life is it?
You can find Jacob’s Dory on Amazon (UK and US) now, and if you’d like to know more about Peter you can visit his personal website at www.peterhutsonjones.com or follow him on Twitter at @PeterHutsonJone.