How I got my book published - An interview with author, Stephen Nuttall
firstwriter.com – Wednesday May 30, 2012
Stephen Nuttall recently acquired a publisher using firstwriter.com's database of publishers. We asked him about his writing, and how he found success.
fw: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Stephen. Could you tell us a little about the books you've been writing?
SN: I have written three books so far, more in the pipeline!
- Harry and the Hens
- Harry and the Policeman
- Harry and the Little Dog
All the Harry books are about the everyday adventures of a young boy and his granddad, based around everyday life. They are illustrated, and hopefully will be the kind of book that parents will want to read to their children, and children will want to read for themselves.
Harry is in fact my grandson, a little ginger haired five-year old and I started to write the books in order to encourage him to read and to enjoy books. I think far too many youngsters watch far too much television and play endlessly on computer-type games today and sometimes don’t get the opportunity to use their imaginations and discover how exciting reading can be.
fw: Where did you get the ideas for the books from?
SN: I used situations and ideas from my life experience and knowledge, things that were partly true but embellished so as to make a story.
For instance, we have fifty hens where I live, and I used my knowledge of keeping them in Harry and the Hens.
The inspiration for Harry and the Policeman is the fact that I was a police sergeant for 30 years.
The inspiration for Harry and the Little Dog is my little black cocker spaniel. He’s actually an explosives search dog, which is what I do part-time.
fw: How did you go about turning those ideas into stories?
SN: I just got on with it. That might sound a bit arrogant, but what I mean is that in the past I spent so much time pondering over what I had written, correcting grammar and re-writing the first few paragraphs, that nothing ever got finished. Now I write the whole book, leave it for a couple of weeks, and then look at it with fresh eyes. Then I correct spelling, grammar and re-write as necessary. This way I find that once the writing is underway, I don’t interrupt the flow every few minutes to correct the inevitable mistakes that creep in.
Each book is around 1,800 words, so quite small. The writing process from beginning to end takes a couple of weeks.
fw: Do you have any history of writing, or is it something you've come to recently?
SN: My first published story was in my school magazine way back in 1969! My first payment for a published piece was in 1979 with an article in The Lady Magazine about police dogs (I was a police dog handler at the time). Then I wrote an article about an historic police station for what was then Essex Countryside magazine, in 1981.
For some reason – probably too much work – I didn’t get back into writing until 2007 when I wrote a 115,000 word Christian novel entitled Jeremiah Man – Rumours of Angels It was published in the United States. I am currently working on the sequel, provisionally entitled Pillar of Fire.
fw: How did you go about trying to get published?
SN: About a year ago I sent Harry and the Hens to an agent, but it wasn’t of interest to them. I then used firstwriter.com and found Sunberry Publishing.
fw: Were there any particular features of firstwriter.com that you found useful?
SN: Being able to refine my search so that I could target the exact type of publisher I was looking for was invaluable. And the emailing update service. It was through this that I found Sunberry.
fw: How did you go about approaching publishers you identified as possible matches for your work?
SN: I read very carefully the submission guidelines on the publisher’s website and made sure I stuck to them! I then outlined a brief history of myself, the book that I had written, and asking if they would be interested in seeing the manuscript.
Jo Holloway (who is the MD of Sunberry Publishing) answered within days, asked a few questions and requested to see the work. I sent it straight off, and she then contacted me within a very short space of time and said "Yes!"
I didn’t want to flood all the publishers with my manuscripts in the hope that one would like them enough to offer me a contract, although I can understand that writers want to get published as soon as they can and the delay can be considerable if one waits for a rejection before sending work to another publisher. But I honestly thought that the best way for me was to deal with one publisher at a time, and let them know that I hadn’t sent my manuscript anywhere else. I’m not saying that everyone should adopt that approach; it’s just how I felt.
fw: Did you get a lot of rejections?
SN: Not with the Harry books, but when trying to find a publisher or agent for my novel, which was my first major piece of writing, I got many rejections. All of them were polite, and it was never personal, but it was sometimes difficult to pick myself up and re-submit my work. But I did, and I eventually found a publisher in the United States who loved my book and I got into print.
The hardest thing for me was actually sending it off to a publisher for the first time. I had spent two years writing the novel, and then had a bit of a panic that after all that time publishers would think it rubbish!
Spending two years writing and wondering whether anyone would ever read it was quite tough.
fw: What do you think was the reason your publisher chose to take you on?
SN: I think a combination of good fortune that my publishers were looking for writers at the particular time that I had written the Harry books and my style of work matching what they were looking for.
It was important for me that the ideals and ethos of the publisher matched my own. I felt very comfortable dealing with this publisher because it was a good match.
fw: Do you have any tips for other aspiring writers?
SN: Don’t give up! If you believe in your writing, and you can write, there will be someone who will want to publish your work. I confess that there were times when I wondered if "Harry" would ever get into print, and it is just so exciting for me to have the books accepted by a great publisher and have the opportunity of working with Jo and her staff.
I really hope that other aspiring authors using firstwriter.com will get to experience this thrill.
fw: What next?
SN: I don’t want to run before I can walk, and will take my publisher's advice. But I would like to write more Harry books if people like them (and buy them!).
I also have a book developing in my mind about a man called William Hunter who was burnt at the stake as an heretic in Brentwood, Essex where I live, in 1555. It would be an historical fiction written from the first-person point of view, something I have never done and will find quite challenging. It is provisionally entitled, Committed to the Flames.
fw: Well good luck with everything, Stephen – and thank you again for taking the time to talk to us!
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