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Having recently watched Roman Polanski’s 1976 psychological thriller, The Tenant, for the first time, I was struck once again by the degree to which films have influenced me when it comes to narrative structure. Which isn’t to say that I haven’t been influenced far more by the past 400-years’ worth of novels we’ve been gifted to read…but somehow, as Tanita Tikaram put it back in the 80s, cinema has been the Twist in My Sobriety where narrative is concerned.
 
 
I’d loved The Fearless Vampire Killers and Rosemary’s Baby, re-watched them many times since initial encounters with them during childhood(!)…
And it seems my response to Polanski duplicates my response to Tarkofsky, or to Knut Hamsun, or to Mikhail Bulgakov, where I seem to fall in love early with one piece of work (Tarkofsky’s Solaris, Hamsun’s Hunger, Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita)…this one piece of work then mesmerises me as I watch and re-watch, or read and re-read, through decades, attempting to simultaneously fathom, imbibe, assimilate, ruminate, meditate, on whatever message in the scenes/text has transfixed me.
I feel no need to go on and view/read the other work by the particular artist, in fact I feel protective of the initial encountered masterpiece, not needing any more or wishing to be exposed to risk of disappointment in other work.
It doesn’t always go that way, though…when I encountered D H Lawrence, Philip Roth, Stephen King, Robert Pirsig, Dostoyevsky, Milan Kundera…the desire was to instantly branch out from the first text found and go on to hoover up all the other books available, mainlining the author’s essence…
Kubrick, Powell and Pressburger, Sidney Lumet, same thing…I had to know all and see all of their work once I’d been contacted by it.
 
Tarkofsky’s Solaris stunned and overwhelmed me on first contact with it.
Aged about 10, viewing it on an old black and white portable TV in the 1970s, my mind slipped off that film’s Teflon surface, but the outer membranes of the subconscious had been penetrated, the film was in there somewhere ever since.
I next tried at 21 to take the film in as a whole, but still my mind could only accommodate its fragments…I watched it in the darkness, in colour this time, while a friend less sympathetic to unlocking the mysteries of 1970s Russian cinema, snored on the floor nearby.
It was only after I’d completed my fifth novel, The Survival of Thomas Ford, aged 42, that something had shifted internally, so that when I “re-watched” Solaris for the first time in about twenty years, I was really seeing it all for the first time, I felt the whole film go in, mainlined straight to some mental lobe or nodule that was now ready, I felt it lock into the hard disc permanently, lodged like Polanski’s tenant now is, into the fabric of my being.
Tenant indeed.
Solaris filled me right to the fingertips, or nail-tips…invisible tendrils of tenticular power surging back and forth, pulsing electrically…this could not be contained and wasn’t.
The influence caused a short story to pop out, Napoleon’s Child, the third story in my collection, Storm Damage.
An influence only I could ever see I think…an old man in a desert, visited by apparitions perhaps, or are they real? The wind speaks in that place, the mind a chamber for its own echoes.
But Solaris was still in my system.
Another short story popped out, Unicorn One, the first story in Storm Damage, a hairdresser from a remote Scottish town is selected to be the astronaut for Scotland’s first Independent Space Mission to Mars. Can her mind cope with it?
I could feel the influence of Solaris in the DNA of both stories as I typed…an influence beyond conscious interference…the desert in one story, space in the other…but each set in a zone of seething, black emptiness which turns out not to be empty at all…
Sometimes it is the spirit of the film which possesses.
 
 
Werner Herzog’s 1972 cornucopia, Aguirre: Wrath of God, did the same deep-penetration job on my brain, again after a three-decade puzzled flirtatious courtship with peripheral synapses only…one day Aguirre simply shafted my brain to the depths with images I can’t speak of here for fear of spoiling a surprise for somebody.
To be fair, though, this was a double-pronged attack on the poor brain, abetted by my long-delayed first reading of Heart of Darkness in 2006.
It was Aguirre’s spell, along with the trance caused by what is only a passing thematic reference in just the first 7 or so pages of Heart of Darkness, that caused me to spend a year on my third novel, Starnegin’s Camp, set in a forest on the world’s far side two thousand years ago.
2006 also saw a double-viewing of two colossally different masterpieces from what seem opposing ends of the cinematic spectrum.
And, in both cases, on first viewing of the film, I was absolutely confused by what I had seen…I wasn’t sure that I had not just been ripped off or conned or manipulated…
I re-watched each three hour, or three hour plus, film carefully on another day…separate days for each film of course…fully prepared for disappointment or anger at manipulation.
One of the films had seemed to be just too slow for the first two hours, only to detonate at the two-hour point and explode into something heartbreakingly and astonishingly powerful.
This was Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon.
 
 
The other film I had never intended to watch, only to record on VHS…I’d missed the first two minutes, pressed record, had never heard of this 1970s French film before…I couldn’t stop watching though, watched an hour of it which seemed to be enough.
The next day I watched the next hour on tape, and again this seemed to be all my mind could take in.
On the third day I watched the last hour-and-a-half.
Synchronicity entered in then: I had an email from a friend who told me it was sacrilege to watch a film unless it was watched all in one go, as in the cinema.
Simultaneously, an Iranian director was on TV saying in an interview that he only ever watched a film in 30 or 60 minute sections, so as to fully assimilate…
This second film watched in three sections was Jacques Rivette’s 1974 classic “story about story-telling”, Celine and Julie Go Boating.
 
Having been absolutely puzzled by and suspicious of both Barry Lyndon and Celine and Julie Go Boating on first viewing, I re-watched both and on second viewing let myself fall in love.
There was a third viewing of each. A fourth.
Then I showed both films to a friend. Then another friend. And another.
They loved the films too.
Then I started to watch these two films every few months, simply to let it sink in, whatever magic of narrative pace and structure had caused such confusion at first, only to deliver such disproportionate rewards and riches for continued attention.
I know those narrative lessons got into the fabric of the three novels I produced in the following 30-month period, Agency Woman, Starnegin’s Camp, The Survival of Thomas Ford.
It may be that the narrative lessons imbibed from cinema (or TV, like the 1970s TV adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles which still haunts me) enter the mind at a different strata or zone than the lessons assimilated from beloved novels (in my case, I constantly feel the workings of decades-ago-read texts as I explore a new narrative’s possibilities…and I know which texts: The Master and Margarita, Hunger, The Idiot, Crime and Punishment, Notes From Underground, Steppenwolf, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Cain’s Book, A Confederacy of Dunces, The Leopard…earlier than that, Stephen King’s The Stand, It, Thinner, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption…Peter Straub’s Ghost Story…Watership Down…
The books that blow your mind.
The films that blow your mind.
The ones you love, that tap into some deep and secret well-spring of dream and hope which probably/certainly go back beyond Cervantes’s Don Quixote, into the different religious books, or pagan books, or mythical books, that first breathed the inspiros of life into brains drifting between the strata of painting the cave walls…first with beasts real…and then with beasts imaginary…brains hovering between the marks that make images direct…and the marks that signify the logos that can mainline into the brain itself and detonate the fireworks of unforeseeable magic on the great Walls of that Darkest of Caverns.
And today it is Polanski’s Tenant, re-arranging his furniture in the sanctity of my frontal lobes, making noise at night, sitting afraid and strangely clothed in his chair, finding things buried in the walls of that room, screaming his discontent into the black depths and influencing me, terrifyingly, beyond my miniscule power to fathom. 
 

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  • NORTHWORDS NOW – The FREE Literary Magazine of the North: Issue 23 Spring 2013

    Very proud to see The Survival of Thomas Ford get a mention on page 9 of the new edition of Northwords Now, in Mandy Haggith’s article about the success of Highland Scotland-based epublishing:

    “Publish and be Glad! – Mandy Haggith surveys the Ebook Revolution in the North”

    Northwords Now is free and widely distributed via paper throughout Scotland. You can also download a free pdf of the issue here:

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I concluded my blog post last month
with this summary:
“My novel, The Survival of Thomas Ford, sold 239 copies in its first 8 weeks though, and by 24 February 2012 it had a surge of 80 sales over one weekend and reached number 13 in the Top 100 bestselling list of paid literary fiction ebooks on Amazon.
It also reached number 18 in the Top 100 bestselling list of all paid literary fiction on Amazon, including the paperbacks and hardbacks published by the major London publishers who had rejected The Survival of Thomas Ford (Ford went higher in the ranking than titles with recent tv or film exposure like The Woman in Black and The Slap; higher than Martin Amis and Maeve Binchy, or Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient; higher than Booker Prize winning novels like The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, or masterpieces like the great Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).
The Survival of Thomas Ford also went to number 80 in the Top 100 Bestselling list of UK thrillers on Kindle.”
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When I published that blog here on March 11, I was quite ready to accept that this might be as far as The Survival of Thomas Ford would ever go. After 22 years of trying to get a novel published, the means had been presented to me at last to do it, and I had now had my 10 weeks “in the sun”.
The blog I had intended to publish today was to be about some of my deepest influences, authors who never had a word of their work published in their lifetime, but whose books went on to great success with readers after their death.
I would have been expressing my gratitude that I had had the 10 weeks of “being in the sun”, when I knew that far better writers than myself had lived their whole lives without ever even having one day of this.
However…after March 11 sales continued to come in for The Survival of Thomas Ford, slowly and steadily…new reviews also popped up in the UK and USA…
I was faced with a choice between continuing on that honourable, venerable, slow and steady path of wisdom…gradually build up a quality readership over a couple of years…the wise way…
Or else, I knew there might be another option, the option of taking the book on a day-trip up to Castle Frankenstein, strapping it to the good doctor’s elevating table in the centre of the laboratory, and ordering his good man-servant Igor to pull on the chains and raise the poor book Heavenwards that lightning might strike with raging vigour directly into its gently beating heart!
© Fotolotti | <a href=”http://www.stockfreeimages.com/”>Stock Free Images</a> & <a href=”http://www.dreamstime.com/”>Dreamstime Stock Photos</a>
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A violent choice, that second option, and I knew (or thought I knew) it came with a variety of risks.
This method for getting the electricity into the book’s heart is of course better known as:
AMAZON KINDLE SELECT FREE PROMOTION DAYS
It is said sometimes, perhaps with good reason, that this is:
a)     Not something you should do when the book is selling at its given price (however I had just changed my book’s price from 77p to £1.94 which felt almost like starting anew)
b)     Not something you should do when you have an Amazon page with very good ratings, as it has been observed that the free promotion can sometimes generate one-star reviews or even attract the dreaded Troll Fraternity (this is true, I’ve just had my first mildly abusive one-star reviews …on an Amazon UK page that previously only had 19 five-star reviews, and 2 four-star reviews)
Also, I had tried the Kindle Select Free Promotion once before, immediately after publishing The Survival of Thomas Ford on December 25 2011.
On that occasion, I let the book be taken free for 5 days and had 892 downloads.
I had heard that paid sales followed the free promotion period, so I had watched eagerly back in December to see how many copies of Ford would now sell at its initial price of £3.30 when the free promotion ended.
After 892 copies being downloaded free, all that momentum, I thought there would be lots of sales perhaps…
There were none.
It had not worked.
Still, I had done the free promo as soon as the book was published, and I had done it without telling a soul…perhaps not optimum conditions…
In early January then, having failed to get any electrical boost from KINDLE SELECT FREE PROMOTION, I had instead lowered my price to 77p and set out on a slow and steady “promotion” of the book on Facebook, Goodreads, Kindle UK Forum, Kindleboards, Mobileread.com…as well as Amazon’s Meet Our Authors forums…just letting readers know the book existed…it was the response to this by readers that got the book into the 3 Amazon bestseller lists, which in turn got me noticed in the local press, which in turn boosted ratings and sales higher. (That, and getting into some debates on The Guardian comments section, which instantly caused 7 new sales the first time I tried it).
So, things had gone well in the slow and steady, wise way…but 9 days ago I was feeling impulsive!
I had just raised the book’s price from 77p to £1.94 and sales had not stopped.
I was itching to give the KDP Select free promotion another try, to see if the book might catch lightning now a second time around, like it had failed to do back in December.
I didn’t want to give away 892 copies in 5 days again though.
This time I would do a 2 day free promotion. Give away a few less downloads…but still try to catch that lightning somehow…
 © Silverbadger | <a href=”http://www.stockfreeimages.com/”>Stock Free Images</a> & <a href=”http://www.dreamstime.com/”>Dreamstime Stock Photos</a>
Since I was planning to do the giveaway with only about 18 hours left before it would be due to start, I quickly looked up Google and everythingauthor.com’s advice, and found there was still time to do some of what was recommended, which might help me get more exposure in the USA in particular:
“3. Send requests to following to get your free book listed. Do this a few days ahead of time to give the site owners time to post your book.
4. Add a Goodreads event and send it to all of your Goodreads friends.
On Your Free Days
1. Post on Facebook pages on your free day(s):
In some cases, following that advice meant filling in a free form on 2 April, which would lead to a site releasing data, not on that day, but on the first day that the book was actually free, in my case, 3 April; this was mostly on USA sites listed above, and one of my reasons for doing the promotion was to try to get more USA readers.
Then, on the morning of the first free day, 3 April, I posted on Goodreads UK and USA kindle forums; kuforum.co.uk; other Goodreads forums; facebook kindle/ebook pages;twitter (author karma); announcing that my book was free on 3 and 4 April. Also on Amazon UK and Amazon USA Meet the Author forums. I think people were helpful to the book on these forums, and reposted the info that the book was free in places where more readers would see, because by then I had been posting there for 3 months, and had some readers/support there already.
At the end of the 2 free promotion days I’d had:
13788 USA downloads; 3705 in UK; 10 in Germany; 6 in France; 1 in Spain; 3 in Italy
So by 5 April, 17500 approx free downloads had been taken in 2 days; as opposed to 892 free downloads in 5 days last December, before I had “promoted” the book (i.e.: Tried to non-aggressively find out where readers who might like my book were online, and then tried to let them know about my book in case they would like a look!)
I was happy at that figure of 17500. A lot more people now had Ford, the book that I had believed would never be published etc,  in their Kindle, or Kobo, or Ipad etc. Good enough for me.
What surprised me next though was that, in the 6 days since the free promotion ended on 5 April, over 600 downloads of The Survival of Thomas Ford have sold at £1.94, and it is still selling now.
One-third of these sales were on the USA Amazon site; two-thirds in the UK
38 “borrows” in the USA also.
This amounts to about £850 income from the book in 6 days.
In the UK the book went to rank 166 out of all paid ebooks on Amazon; Number 4 bestselling literary fiction ebook; Number 4 bestselling literary fiction book, including all paperbacks published by the publishers who had rejected The Survival of Thomas Ford (so Ford went higher in the Amazon bestseller rankings than We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, the book/film which has become my point of reference or pacing horse in these absurd Cheltenham races Ford is engaged in against London publishers’ books which have had tens of thousands of pounds spent on their production and marketing; or from another angle Ford went higher in the rankings than Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, the book/film which has become my point of reference or pacing horse in these absurd Wacky Races of the Spirit which Ford is engaged in against New York publishers’ books which have had tens of thousands of dollars spent on their production and marketing!); and The Survival of Thomas Ford also became Number 19 bestselling UK thriller ebook.
In the USA, The Survival of Thomas Ford ranked as 1431 in all paid ebooks; number 70 bestselling literary fiction ebook; number 89 out of all American literary fiction books including, yes, the New York paperbacks.
But rankings, of course, are ephemeral, like lightning itself.
The reviews have interested me more. Up to this point I’d had good reviews on Amazon UK (19 five-star reviews; 2 four-star reviews); and something like 9 five-stars and 2 four-stars on Amazon USA.
This was to change!
My first 3-star review arrived, and my first one-star review, and then my second one-star review!
Now I knew I had arrived! The book was well and truly getting electrified somewhere up there in the stratosphere!
Electricity is a powerful and mysterious, potentially deadly force after all, not to be taken lightly.
 © Aliencat | <a href=”http://www.stockfreeimages.com/”>Stock Free Images</a> & <a href=”http://www.dreamstime.com/”>Dreamstime Stock Photos</a>
But it is all worth it when I consider that, without the free promotion raising the book’s profile a wee bit, this new review might never have popped up on Amazon.co.uk:
5.0 out of 5 stars Could even read it again., 8 April 2012
By 
janet t
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Survival of Thomas Ford (Kindle Edition)
Bought this for my Kindle after reading such positive reviews and it was under £2 as well what a great buy! Grabs you right from the start no hanging about wondering if you will get on with this book it all flows along at a great pace. It stayed with me as well after I had finished it as it was so graphic would read it again as I had to finish it under the duvet with a torch so as not to wake up my other half.
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Or this one that I found on Amazon USA:
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting read from page one to the very end, April 7, 2012
By Zelda Barnard “Zelda Barnard” (Ferndale, CA, USA) – See all my reviews (REAL NAME)
This review is from: The Survival of Thomas Ford (Kindle Edition)
I rate this a 10 for sure. I hung on every word and had a hard time getting anything done because I was in a hurry to get back to my book to find out what happens next. I am going to be looking for more work by this author. His characters are SO REAL they make your skin crawl at times. At other times you just feel their pain. Terrific and exciting story and very unique.
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So, WE LIVE AND LEARN, as the wise folk used to say! 
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This post was first published on Authors Electric, April 11 2012

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Near the end of 2012, Amazon contacted me to ask if they could feature a page from my ebook, The Survival of Thomas Ford, in the new video advert for the Kindle Paperwhite on Amazon UK.

The video is at the top left there on the UK page where the Kindle Paperwhite is sold.
Page one of The Survival of Thomas Ford is onscreen from 3.00 to 3.06 in the video as the example of a UK book exclusive to Amazon Kindle Select.
Someone is shown reading page one of The Survival of Thomas Ford as the narrator says:
“…and then there are thousands of books you just can’t find anywhere else like more than 180000 titles exclusive to Kindle.”

It’s quite odd to see onscreen, a Kindle held by a hand resting on a turquoise towel, displaying Chapter One, page one, of your book, with the words alongside:
“180,000 + titles exclusive to Kindle”
It also made me remember that I had The Survival of Thomas Ford in Kindle Select but I hadn’t done a free promotion of the book since April 2012.
That free promotion had gone well, with $1600 worth of sales coming in over the two weeks following it.
I had felt cautious ever since April, though, hearing stories about KDP Select free promos no longer being effective, so I hadn’t wanted to try it again, perhaps not wanting to find out for sure.
But by December 2012 Christmas Spirit must have overwhelmed me, I signed The Survival of Thomas Ford up for a 5 day free promotion, from 21-25 December. 
This Free Promotion felt a bit different than the 2 day one I had done back in April 2012, and which I wrote about here in, A Note From Frankenstein’s Castle:
This Christmas promotion there seemed a LOT more free books out there, naturally enough.
I soon realised that those 5 days are probably the most competitive of the year for a free promo.The Survival of Thomas Ford stayed in the Top 20 free UK books for most of the five days, though never quite catching up with Rosen Trevithick’s The Ice Marathon, which stayed just ahead every day, as though we were in a latter-day episode of The Wacky Races and I was playing Dick Dastardly to her Penelope Pitstop!
 
 
(Or maybe I was playing Muttley…Heh-heh!)
 
 
On 26 December, when The Survival of Thomas Ford went back to $2.99 I didn’t expect much to happen, as I had believed those stories about KDP Select no longer being effective.
But by 29th December I’d had $900 worth of downloads.
By 31 December, though, I saw them slow down…
Until an idea popped into my head, which surely must have come from The Survival of Thomas Ford’s inclusion in the Kindle Paperwhite advert.
I started to look up info on Kindle advertising.

I’d made $900 in 4 days; so why not invest some of that back into my business of finding new readers for The Survival of Thomas Ford?
But how much money? And what ads could I get at a day’s notice?
I bought a Kindle Book Review Twitterlicious Social Media Buzz advert for $40
It appeared on 1/1/13
On the same day I bought a World Literary Café, Today’s Hot Titles ad, for $25, like the ones at the top of the page here:http://www.worldliterarycafe.com/
So I’d laid out $65 of the $900 I’d just made, on the two adverts.
By 2 January my downloads had picked up again, though, they had paid for the ads and I was back into profit, soon passing the $1200 mark.
I had reached new readers with this combination of free promo and ad promo, 13 new reviews came in, including:
5.0 out of 5 stars A DARK AND GRIPPING TALE, January 5, 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: The Survival of Thomas Ford (Kindle Edition)
This is the best novel I have read in a few years. I can’t believe I got it for free and found a consummate writer. This tale was nothing short of riveting. It is rich in character development, mood and atmospherics.It is a story of evil, greed, power that corrupts(not in a political context), and the domino effect of trying to cover
up the initial crime that may have been less serious than what follows. Folks, this is great literature and a first class story told by a magnificent craftsman.I have no interest whatsoever in the book, but I urge you to buy this one.
*********************
I did notice some differences in this KDP Select free promo, compared to the last one I’d done 8 months earlier: 
1)     More USA sales, so that I started to think in dollars and focus on USA ads
2)  Also, over $500 of the income was from KDP Select “borrows”…something, again, I could not have tapped into if I wasn’t exclusively in KDP Select with the book.   
Claire Ridgway’s meticulous links below were extremely helpful to me during the free promo and after:
Thank-you to Claire for such a valuable resource.
This Christmas/New Year promo led to the 30000th download of The Survival of Thomas Ford, so thank-you to each new reader who gave the book a try, and
All Best for 2013!


http://www.johnaalogan.com/

This post was first published on AUTHORS ELECTRIC, January 11 2013

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I’d written two novels, so I sent them to a literary agent and she told me she wanted to represent both books. She told me a particular editor she knew, and had sold a novel to recently, was certain to buy one of my two books, if not both. She told me the editor’s name, and his publishing house’s name. She had such faith in this editor taking my books that she sent the novels nowhere else for a year. When the year was up, the literary agent told me she was “shocked” that the editor had not wanted to buy either of my books. A few months later, I found myself without an agent, she wrote me a letter telling me she was closing her small Scottish agency.
Having had one literary agent, I thought it would be easy to get a second agent. I began to submit my fiction to literary agents in London.
While I was doing so, I wrote two more novels.
Six years passed while every literary agent I contacted rejected my four novels.
I had been managing to sell my short stories independently during this period, though. Over a dozen of my stories had been published by PICADOR, VINTAGE, EDINBURGH REVIEW, CHAPMAN, NORTHWORDS, NOMAD, SECRETS OF A VIEW, and SCRATCHINGS; with reviews of my work in SCOTTISH STUDIES REVIEW, SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY, THE SPECTATOR, and THE HINDUSTAN TIMES. Some of my stories were published internationally in anthologies edited by A L Kennedy, John Fowles, Ali Smith, Toby Litt; books that were sold as paperbacks from Japan to China, to India and South America, where I shared space with authors including Fay Weldon, Alan Warner, David Mitchell, Muriel Spark, Louis De Bernieres, Alasdair Gray, Rose Tremain. Around that time I was also invited to do a reading of one of my stories at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
So…I obviously hadn’t needed an agent to sell any of that work.
Also, during that period, five famous names…writers, editors, a literary agent…all at various times advised me to apply for support from the Scottish Arts Council, to get a Writer’s Bursary etc…but despite their enthusiastic sponsorship these applications were never successful.
Still, I made £1110 by steadily selling my short stories wherever I could.
But what of my four unpublished novels in the meantime? My search to find a literary agent for them had proven fruitless.
Somehow, though, I dug that little bit deeper down into my guts and wrote a fifth novel, called The Survival of Thomas Ford.
I finished it in the summer of 2008, but a funny thing happened. I could not send it out to literary agents or editors as I had done with my four previous novels. I found I could not even show it to my friends. It seemed that the years of rejection for my other four novels had somehow “frozen” me. All faith had been broken, not so much in myself, but in the process of “submissions”. I still loved the work of doing novels, but not so much what came after…
I watched this strange, fearful internal landscape for two years, keeping the novel to myself, until finally, in the summer of 2010, the spell broke and I got up the nerve and courage to send The Survival of Thomas Ford out to half a dozen literary agents.
I heard back quite quickly from one in London. She liked the book very much, but she said it was terrible timing, as she had to take over a colleague’s maternity leave suddenly. She told me she was passing the book on to another colleague.
A week later I heard from the other literary agent. He phoned me for 45 minutes and told me he wanted to represent my book. He told me he thought the book was “terrific”. I had only been waiting and working for 21 years to get that phone call.
He told me he only took on what he was certain he could sell. Later he told me that he had told all the people at his agency that my book was “a certainty”.
He told me he was more excited about my book than any he had represented for a long time.
Another waiting process began.
In December 2010, the literary agent phoned me for 90 minutes, to tell me he was sure a major publishing house’s editors had wanted to take my book, but then at the meeting with the sales dept the sales folk for this publishing house had said that I “reminded them of someone they had had high hopes for two years earlier but then had lost money on”. And that ended that house’s interest in the book.
A little later, the senior commissioning editor at another major UK publishing house wrote to say “I think John Logan is a hugely talented writer. I love books like this that have the pace and excitement of a thriller but the voice and emotional depth of a literary novel”. But again when it came right down to it, no sale!
Then my agent passed the book to a film consultant who worked with him. She told him my novel, The Survival of Thomas Ford, was the best book she had read in that literary agency in the last 4 years. This was taken very seriously, as this film consultant had discovered Slumdog Millionaire as an unpublished manuscript and was responsible for it getting developed into a film. From March 2011 to May 2011, the film consultant called me and spoke to me about the book on the phone for 13 hours total (I counted!). This all seemed very promising, if nerve-wracking.
But also around this time the film consultant told me that, although she was certain my book would have sold in London in 2008, by 2010/2011 she felt some serious changes had happened in publishing…my novel was being sent out, and editors were saying how much they loved, or enjoyed, or admired it, or how powerful it was…and the film consultant told me my novel was getting the best and most respectful rejections of any literary novel the agency was then sending out…yet still my book was not selling.
This all went on for more than a year, until I discovered that I perhaps didn’t have the nerves of steel required to live with that constant background, thrumming tension that seems to come when you hand over all the power over your own progress and happiness to other people.
Especially when that process is not working!
By this time my book had been rejected by just about every editor in the UK my agent could think of to send it to…my book that had been the “certainty”…and the best book that the film consultant who had discovered Slumdog Millionaire had read in the last 4 years… my agent told me that “with any other book he would have thrown up his hands and quit with it long ago, but that he did so much believe in this book”…
I suggested at that point to my agent that I relieve us all from this living Hell and perhaps I should go looking for an alternative way forward.
I then started looking around to see if there was any alternative…I immediately found J A Konrath’s blog….Dean Wesley Smith’s website… I heard about Amanda Hocking and John Locke….I looked closer to home and saw the success Linda Gillard, a fellow Scottish writer, had had with selling her work on Kindle.
Then a chance visit from a London friend who had a Kindle with him made me think a little harder about it all….until I went ahead on Christmas Day 2011 and published The Survival of Thomas Ford as a Kindle ebook.
My agent had told me that the option of epublishing novels was being much-discussed at his agency, for books that had “not managed to find a good home”.
As part of my Christmas Day experiment I signed up for Kindle Select.
I’d hardly sold any work since Picador had bought a story from me for £400 some time earlier.
I’d been stuck in a limbo of literary agents and film consultants saying they loved my novel, but with no actual reader ever seeing a page of it!
So I set the price of my book to zero, just to see if I could get any readers again and restore my soul a little.
892 copies of The Survival of Thomas Ford were downloaded in 5 days.
The book went to number 13 in the UK bestselling chart of free literary fiction…and to number 24 in same USA chart. It got to number 63 as a thriller also, in UK.
After I set a price of 77p on the book in January, things went a bit more slowly.
I had been expecting this. I had read Ewan Morrison’s article in THE GUARDIAN, stating that the usual result for a self-published 99cent/77p ebook was 100 sales in 12 months and no sales thereafter.
My novel, The Survival of Thomas Ford, sold 239 copies in its first 8 weeks though, and by 24 February 2012 it had a surge of 80 sales over one weekend and reached number 13 in the Top 100 bestselling list of paid literary fiction ebooks on Amazon.
It also reached number 18 in the Top 100 bestselling list of all paid literary fiction on Amazon, including the paperbacks and hardbacks published by the major London publishers who had rejected The Survival of Thomas Ford (Ford went higher in the ranking than titles with recent tv or film exposure like The Woman in Black and The Slap; higher than Martin Amis and Maeve Binchy, or Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient; higher than Booker Prize winning novels like The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, or masterpieces like the great Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).
The Survival of Thomas Ford also went to number 80 in the Top 100 Bestselling list of UK thrillers on Kindle.
To my surprise, some local newspapers took an interest in what had happened, publishing 3 feature articles on my book in a 7 day period, with some snappy titles (“The Literary Survival of Author John Logan” – THE NORTHERN TIMES; “Positive New Chapter for Thriller Man” – THE HIGHLAND NEWS; “City Author’s Ebook Breaks into Top 100”- THE INVERNESS COURIER)
Reviews started to come in on Goodreads, and on Amazon, until there were 15 five-star reviews (and 1 four-star) on the book’s Amazon page. 
Ah well, I thought as I scratched my head looking at the computer screen…it only took me 22 years work, 5 novels and 85 short stories completed, to get there!
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This post was first published on AUTHORS ELECTRIC, March 11 2012

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