A Lesson in Perseverance

By on September 21, 2017

I am a writer and so can you be.
I wrote my first novel twenty-five years ago. A run of the mill US based cop thriller handwritten on A4 paper; remember it was before the digital age. A few friends read it and said it was good- they would hardly say anything else. A couple of years later I wrote another. A few friends said it was good - they would hardly say anything else.
Number three was written in early 2003 when I was in the strange position at work of having two months sitting at my desk waiting for a new role to be allocated to me. Nobody has ever read that one. For the following years I read a lot; mostly quality, literary fiction by the likes of David Mitchell, Rose Tremain, Joseph O'Connor, Sebastian Faulks et al. A close friend grown weary of me enthusing about the latest book I had finished, told me to stop reading and get back to writing.
In early 2012 I wrote a book in six weeks. It simply fell out of me. Four months followed of typing it up, editing and arranging the rather complex story into a finished product I was both proud of and a little excited by. The book I titled 'The End of the Valley' is difficult to assign to a specific genre. It is a drama about life, love and loss that was very much written from the heart. My next door neighbour described it as a love story which it is, though not by any intention of design. If the old adage is true that everyone has one book in them, then this is mine. Finally I felt I had written a piece of work that was maybe OK. A few friends read it and well, you get the picture.
Now what? For me the challenge was to see if I could possibly repeat the process and construct another hundred thousand word novel. I had some ideas floating around about World War Two and Nazi wonder weapons but I was also so emotionally involved with the central characters from 'The End of the Valley' that I wanted to revisit their lives. A tortuous two years it took to complete an overambitious and complicated story that married past and present. 'The Children of the Valley' I was simply glad to have finished but did not have the courage to expose the raw emotion of the story to the scrutiny of friends or family. My creative juices were really flowing and I dedicated 2015 to completing what simply had to be a trilogy. 'The Heart of the Valley' proved to be the longest of the three, introducing new characters and weaving timelines from WW2 and the Cold War with the present day.
My confidence about the books fluctuated greatly over the next period of time but I did plan to have them printed and professionally bound so I could display them in my bookcase and leave something tangible for my children if they were ever curious and wanted to know more about what made me tick.
Around Easter last year I read an article in a newspaper on self-publishing of e-books. I would never have sent my books to a publishing house because I was worried the certainty of rejection would kill off my enthusiasm and love of writing. A few weeks later I had taken my courage in both hands and uploaded the trilogy onto Amazon's Kindle database. It was a real buzz to be able to look my books up on Amazon but again it seemed to be a dead end. There are hundred's of thousands, maybe millions of books on Amazon. Why would anyone even look for mine, never mind want to download them. There are links to promote and advertise your books but advertising costs money that I would never see any return on so I forgot about the dream and went back to writing.
Spin forward to the beginning of October. Two cheques arrived totalling £1000.00- royalties for downloads of my books!
I immediately started digging into the author's section of the Amazon website and was able to see that my books were being downloaded at the rate of a few hundred per month starting in August. I have no idea what triggered off the sudden interest in my books across the globe or indeed why the great majority of sales is on the second part of the trilogy, the 'difficult' to write 'Children of the Valley.'
To date the total sales across the trilogy stands at 1500 with maybe a similar number read in the Kindle lending library. I am still coming to terms with that so many people have read my work. The downside of this exposure is learning to deal with critical reviews though for every one star savage review on Amazon, there is a four star positive one; some people hate my work and thankfully, amazingly, some people like it. I was recently introduced to the 'Goodreads' website where the reviews of my books are generally very positive which is an absolute thrill.

If I can do it, anyone can. To all budding authors out there, your work is wasted sitting on your hard drive or at the bottom of your sock drawer. It's time to let the world hear your voice

My name is J.D. Ferguson and I am a writer.

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