• West Cork Literary Festival 8-15 July 2022

Precious Oil: A Publisher’s Story

Writing.ie | Magazine | The Big Idea

By Raymond McCullough

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I started writing when I was just a wean, a kid that is. Using my toy printing set I constructed little books about how to look after rabbits, etc. Yes I started with non-fiction! I guess writing – and publishing – was in my blood from a very early age. I also loved to read – late into the night, with a torch under the blanket – which led me to become the nocturnal person I still am.

I began to write professionally in 1988, when I was lecturing in Computing at a local college here in the North. All my fellow lecturers began using my notes on the course and one of them recommended me to approach one or two computing magazines about a series. Of the three UK magazines I originally approached, one was very enthusiastic about the idea, and my writing career began. I eventually wrote articles and reports for all three of those magazines, plus a couple of others.

In 1990, I began to self-produce an Irish magazine called, ‘Bread’. At its peak this sold around 3,500 copies, coming out about every three months. In 1995 we selected the best articles from the magazine and published a book called, ‘Ireland – now the good news!’ We printed 5,000 copies – which cost a small fortune – and sold about 1,000 in Ireland. The plan had been to sell many of these in the United States, but the shipping costs turned out to be prohibitive. Those remaining 4,000 copies were eventually pulped by the printer!

I turned my hand to satellite radio, recorded three Celtic music albums and also began filming a TV documentary – mostly in Canada. I also began writing another non-fiction book – this time on the subject of biblical prophecy, a topic which fascinates me and one which I have studied since the age of eighteen.

Meanwhile my wife, Gerry, was writing fiction and zoomed up the ladder on HarperCollins Authonomy website, until she got a review from them, which led to the publication of her first novel by a small English publisher.

At her suggestion, I put about 12,500 words of my book up there and was surprised by the interest generated and the very positive reviews I got from Catholics, Jews, evangelicals, New Agers, etc. A friend then encouraged me to finish the book, that people needed to read it – and I wrote the other 55,000 words in about three months.

Being non-fiction I didn’t expect any publisher to be interested and went ahead with self-publishing, using Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace – both Amazon companies. I already had a company – Precious Oil Productions Ltd – for TV and radio work, so I created the Precious Oil Publications imprint.

Gerry had great success with her first novel, Belfast Girls, but I managed to persuade her of the monetary benefits of her second book being published by myself. We followed ‘Danger Danger’ with a collection of Irish short stories, then the Angel Murphy thriller series. I added a book of craic from my Celtic Roots Radio series and another one on bible prophecy and before long we had ten titles, plus an AudioBook of WHM.

Gerry has made many friends among fellow authors from right back in the Authonomy days, through Night Publishing – which became Taylor Street Publishing – and which, unfortunately, has recently ceased to operate due to the ill health of the publisher.

One of those Night Publishing authors was recently in contact with Gerry, explaining her difficulty in finding a suitable new publisher to carry on her work. When we discussed this it just seemed natural to float the possibility of Precious Oil becoming her new publisher. To say she was delighted at the suggestion was putting it mildly!

Sheila Mary Taylor has four fiction novels and a non-fiction book already in publication – all of which have been major best-sellers – and we are rapidly working our way through those five. Three are already up on Amazon Kindle for pre-order and the other two will be up by the time you read this. The first novel, Pinpoint – a psychological legal/crime thriller, will also be out in paperback and Kindle, by the time you read this. She also has two or three more novels in the pipeline.

We have already had some other successful authors approach us about publication, but we are trying to err on the side of caution, at the moment. We’ve held off on taking on new authors until now and we want to make sure we do a really good job for Sheila, before we attempt any further expansion.

At the same time, we have created a new Twitter ID, @PreciousOilPubs and the hashtag #PreciousOil in order to better promote the soon to be eighteen titles we have. The other area – which we have deliberately neglected until now, is that of getting our titles into brick and mortar book stores – firstly here in Ireland, then UK, USA, etc. Up until now we have sold 40 or 50 ebooks for every paperback sold.

johnny_mcclintocks_war_140x210We really hope to have two of Gerry’s books – her best-seller, Belfast Girls, and her newly released Irish historical WWI literary novel, Johnny McClintock’s War – hailed by reviewers as her best book yet – in Belfast stores, at least, before the official launch of Johnny McClintock’s War in Belfast on September 20th.

There are more possibilities temptingly on the horizon, but it is too early to reveal these. At the moment my priorities are to do what I’m doing to the best of my ability and see where that leads. Am I making a fortune from publishing – certainly not yet – and my accountant will bear me out! However, we have already had one holiday in Corfu, plus new double glazing and other improvements to our house, paid for by book sales.

The publishing industry is changing rapidly – with new opportunities opening up in places like Russia, India and the far east – and we hope to keep abreast of these developments.

(c) Raymond McCullough

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