Monday, 4 April 2011

Reflecting on 8 months in print...

I wish that on the 18th August last year I’d written something down, just taken a moment from the launch of my novel to write a few lines about my expectations and hopes for the novel. I stopped keeping a diary years ago (least said about that the better…) but if I had penned by thoughts I think that, at best, I’d have hoped to sell maybe a thousand books. A few local book signings would have been nice, perhaps a feature in the local press. My expectations would have been modest but also realistic – most debut authors don’t sell many books. And everyone has witnessed the sight of an author sitting forlorn behind a desk in a bookshop shadowed by an unsold pile of their life’s work…

But I’ve been lucky. And pushy. And something has happened that seems to be largely a result of word of mouth resulting in more sales and more people who want me to talk to their book club or woman’s institute meeting or rotary club…

When Legend Press published me I said them ‘send me anywhere; I’ll go. I’ll talk to anyone’. I may have regretted my words when the tenacious Lucy managed to get me onto the Jeremy Vine show to talk about a subject totally unrelated to my novel, but I did it. I arrived at a book signing in Windsor after my sat nav sent me on a three-hour detour through central London, but I turned up and sold books for six hours. I went through heavy snow to talk to a book club of six, only two of whom had actually read the novel… oh the joys! But I am grateful, profoundly grateful, that Legend took a punt on me when mainstream publishing houses said The Woman Before Me was ‘too dark’ ‘didn’t fit neatly into any one genre’ ‘had no commercial appeal’. Despite winning the Debut Dagger in 2005 the manuscript was roundly rejected and took five years to find a home with Legend Press via the Luke Bitmead Bursary. And what has happened since has left me wondering just how in touch those big publishing houses are with the public taste. Consider the evidence:

The Woman Before me was published in August 2010.
By Christmas we were into a second run. The publishing rights have been sold to Germany and India. Large print rights have also sold. I have been interviewed on radio in counties as diverse as Yorkshire and Sussex, West Midlands and Cambridgshire. I have done book signings as far flung as Coventry and Woking, Lowestoft and Slough. My novel is the summer read for the Westcliffe WI and the Bungay Festival. It was long listed for the New Angle Prize for literature.

I wake every day a little shell-shocked at how my writing career, so long a Sisyphean uphill struggle, is gathering pace like a snowball rolling down the other side.

In June Legend Press are publishing my next novel, The Sacrificial Man. This novel also had it’s share of mainstream rejections for being ‘too dark’ and editors wondered if readers would be interested in a suicide pact where a man asked his lover to kill and eat him…
We’ll see.
I’m sacred, I admit. I can see that The Sacrificial Man is an uncompromising read as it explores an odd world of love and obsession. I hope that I can take the readers I have gained with me, on a journey that the mainstream commercial publishers would never have been brave enough to sanction. Want to travel with me?


  1. Good luck with your second novel, Ruth, I hope mine does as well as your first!!

  2. I would say hard work rather than luck plus a justifiable amount of pushiness account for your success. You went down well at our book group (Four Parishes in Maplestead). I hope that the Caxton bookshop in Frinton has been in touch as I passed your details on. You may like to check out a new project - Bookends in Sudbury, Suffolk. They want to promote author book signings and creative writing workshops. Their website is