In 2001, I gave up my public relations business to write a novel. I had no agent, no publisher, no idea what to write about. All I had was a dream. Call me naive. I was.
And yet had I not trusted my instinct and taken the plunge I don’t believe I would ever have been published. Only when I quit my business and dedicated myself full-time to writing did I find an idea worth writing about – the balance of power that shifts in a relationship when one partner gives up work.
I wrote that novel in six months and pitched it out. The ‘we-didn’t-fall-in-love-with-your-novel-enough’ letters started to trickle in pretty quickly. Two or three decision makers, however, commented that they liked the voice of my main character which they deemed real and honest. I hadn’t thought to write any other way.
They offered editorial advice, which I got so involved in that I put aside a second novel that I had begun. After six weeks, I resubmitted the edited manuscript to the editors and agents who had taken the time to comment. I found a publisher and agent – in that order. The resulting novel was a first in an emerging genre: ‘mum-lit’. It has just been republished as All We Have Lost.
Over the next few years, I had four bestselling novels of contemporary women’s fiction published, two each by Gill and Macmillan and Penguin. Then the stories coming to mind began to change. My characters grew younger. In an industry that advises writers to stick to their genre and build their readership, I listened to my gut and switched to Young Adult.
Not only did I switch genre but I wrote contemporary fiction, an area that publishers were not looking for at the time following the huge success of fantasy series such as Harry Potter and Twilight.
Hachette Ireland, however, liked the teen voices of my characters Alex, Rachel and Sarah and decided to publish what ultimately became a trilogy, The Butterfly Novels. Shortly after the second, And For Your Information, was published, author John Green changed the YA scene with the phenomenal success of his contemporary novel The Fault in Our Stars. Contemporary YA fiction became the new fantasy. In fact, And For Your Information and The Fault in Our Stars have a very similar theme.
By now, self-publishing had become a very real option for authors – offering global markets and total control of the publishing process. The rights to my first four novels had reverted to me and I felt the tug of adventure again. At the time, there was a concern amongst authors that taking the route of self-publishing would close the door to traditional publishing, I decided to listen to instinct.
Wanting a completely fresh experience I reinvented myself, adopting the pen name Aimee Alexander. That this was a combination of my children’s names made this adventure a family one – and special. I reedited my novels and taught myself the practical aspects of self-publishing via an incredibly helpful book called Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard. I hired a graphic designer to produce professional covers. Then I quietly uploaded my first Aimee Alexander novel, Pause to Rewind, onto Amazon.
I learned how to promote my book by watching others, by reading blog posts and by chatting with the friendliest, most helpful community of writers. I did my first promotion, offering Pause to Rewind for free for a limited period. Watching as it was downloaded 40,000 times within 24 hours was one of the most exciting highlights of my publishing career.
In the meantime, the incredible popularity of self-published books such as Fifty Shades of Grey and Still Alice meant that traditional publishers began to offer contracts to successfully self-published authors, changing the perception of self-publishing as a no-going-back experience.
I had self-published my third Aimee Alexander novel, The Accidental Life of Greg Millar, when I was approached by Lake Union Publishing, the book club fiction imprint of Amazon Publishing with an offer to republish it.
This time, instinct was on the side of logic. I had been aware of Lake Union Publishing, loved the books they publish, the covers they create and – crucially – how well their books sell. And so began a new adventure.
The experience has been better than I could have imagined. Amazon Publishing have contracts people to help their authors with legalities, something I had never come across. Their editing was incredible. The cover is gorgeous. The Accidental Life of Greg Millar, published on April 26th, rapidly became an international bestseller.
I really believe that authors should write what is in their hearts regardless of markets or traditional wisdoms. In a market that is chanaging at such an incredible rate, markets have become impossible to predict and traditional wisdoms often no longer apply.
(c) Denise Deegan
About The Accidental Life Of Greg Millar
Lucy Arigho’s first encounter with Greg Millar is far from promising, but she soon realises he possesses a charm that is impossible to resist. Just eight whirlwind weeks after their first meeting, level-headed career girl Lucy is seriously considering his pleas to marry him and asking herself if she could really be stepmother material.
But before Lucy can make a final decision about becoming part of Greg’s world, events plunge her right into it. On holiday in the South of France, things start to unravel. Her future stepchildren won’t accept her, the interfering nanny resents her, and they’re stuck in a heat wave that won’t let up. And then there’s Greg. His behaviour becomes increasingly bizarre and Lucy begins to wonder whether his larger-than-life personality hides something darker—and whether she knows him at all.