Could my novels become a television series? The story begins….

This is a question I’ve been asking myself for several years, wondering what it would take to translate my stories and characters and settings to the screen, small or large. There have always seemed to be barriers, and I had no idea how I might achieve this very distant goal.

Early investigation told me that navigating these waters would be difficult if not impossible without either a friend who knows my work and is also well-connected to the media, or – better still – an agent who specialises in media work. As soon as the word ‘agent’ appears, my heart sinks. It takes me back to the early days when I tried to find an agent and through them a publisher. I followed the necessary route through the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, found agents who appeared to favour the genre I had chosen, examined the detailed and specific instructions, sent off what was required, and waited. And waited. Sometimes a reply came after several weeks, always negative, and sometimes there was no reply at all. What was I doing wrong?

After I’d finally given up and chosen to self-publish, I began to consider the various reasons why I had been so unsuccessful. Of course, there was the possibility that my work was just not good enough for publication, but I didn’t think that was true, having read so much poorly written stuff that was commercially published and reviewed. The genre of my work at that time was a ‘family saga’ trilogy set in West Cumbria in the first half of the twentieth century could be a problem: not very ‘sexy’ is it? I’ve since written a six-book crime series, also set in West Cumbria, but crime fiction is ‘common as muck’, so that probably wouldn’t get an agent salivating in anticipation.

I slowly came to the conclusion that it wasn’t the process of looking for an agent that was the problem. So what else could it be? One clue about other reasons for my failure came in a conversation with an agent at a conference in London. ‘Have you come far?’ she asked. I thought it was only the Queen who said that. ‘Cumbria,’ I replied. ‘Ah, yes,’ she said. ‘Cumbria. That’s central Italy isn’t it?’ My effort to explain that Cumbria is actually in north-west England didn’t help, although mentioning ‘The Lake District’ seemed to illuminate the issue a little. To this agent at least, and for how many others, the setting for all my books is an unknown world, perhaps, not exotic and mysterious, but just off the  radar of the 90% of agents who live in London and the south-east.

Another issue that I couldn’t do anything about was my age. Agents earn their money through selling their client’s work. The more prolific and successful the client, the more the earnings, for both writer and agent. An agent therefore will be on the lookout for a client with a long writing life ahead of them, and this is less likely for a writer who is already over sixty, as I was when my search began. I was clearly too old, living in and writing about the wrong place, and ploughing an already well-worked furrow.

Self-publishing was in many ways a good decision for me. I was able to have more control over the production quality of my own work than I would have had otherwise, and much more of the selling price came back to me than would have been the case with the usual royalties. I didn’t make much money, but I covered my costs and enjoyed the creativity of the project. With a modicum of advice I was able to get my books onto shelves and into the hands of readers, which is what I’d set out to do.

Getting the books onto the screen was clearly a much more specialised process. ‘Self-filming’ is not an option. To penetrate that world I would need a guide, and the idea of a ‘media agent’ felt like a step too far. ‘Your books should be on telly’ said many of my readers, and I agreed, but told them it was not going to happen. No agent, no deal.

By 2022 I had written and published nine novels and they were all selling steadily, both in paperback and ebook formats. In the summer months I would sell direct to the public at Cumbria’s many shows, and enjoyed doing so. So it was that I was standing in the Craft tent at a Lake District show in August 2023, listening to the commentary from the Cumbrian Wresting competition outside and having the usual conversations with readers old and new who stopped to chat, when a very striking person approached my table. She looked carefully at the books displayed on my table, reading the back covers, leafing through, asking the occasional question. Finally she introduced herself: a London lawyer specialising in links between writers  and publishers and the media, both film and television. We talked about the Hollywood writers’ strike and its impact on the industry, drying up the flow of good stories on which these media depend. ‘You’ve got some good stories here,’ she said. ‘We need to talk.’

And talk we did. Read my next post to see what happened next

First audiobook!

At last, it’s done!

Audiobook covers

I started on this project months ago, thought about it, blogged about it, struggled with the abridging, rehearsed, found a recording studio, got help and did it. Then the master discs sat and looked at me for a while: what was the point of all that work if I didn’t know what to do next?

Thanks God for a competent and supportive partner with experience of packaging. ‘I can do that’, he said, and he did. He researched the best deal for duplication and packaging, worked on the design, and the first batch was delivered last week. You can buy it with Paypal for £10 – you can’t get much for £10 these days – and this would make a great gift. Just go to and it’s the first item in the Bookshop.

It looks really good, but I still daren’t listen to it. I know it’s OK, and my commitment to the book and the characters comes out in the reading, but it’s almost too personal. At one critical moment I was close to tears reading it and had to stop. There’s something about the voice that brings the words alive.

How do people know your book exists?

If you click on the link below you’ll hear an interview I did with Paul Teague about my ‘self-publishing journey’.

Part of that interview, towards the end, deals with the business of ‘promotion’ – how do people get to know your book exists? That was a question I asked myself right at the beginning of the process, having decided that writing for myself, or just for friends and family wasn’t going to be enough for me: I wanted people to read my stories and realised that I would have first to let them know the books existed and then to encourage and enable them to find and buy them. This would have been an issue for a traditionally published book too, but the publishers have more to spend on promotion than I could afford. So, how could I promote my books at minimal cost, in order to get sales and a readership?

When Paul Teague asked me about this aspect of the project, I realised how much I’d learned along the way, and that I’ve become increasingly pro-active. If I wanted to get on local radio, I had to ask the presenter and producer to have me air-time, and did so. If I wanted a review in a local magazine, I asked for that too. Sometimes it didn’t work, sometimes it did, but it was always worth asking. Just before the new book – working title ‘Truth Will Out’ – appears in November 2016 I will send an ‘Advance Information’ sheet to my all current sales outlets and local media. This will have all the details of the new book, cover image, ISBN, synopsis etc, to alert them, and through them their customers/listeners/readers. Hopefully this will generate people willing to buy when the book is launched. It all helps. And if the local media pick up the same information, they will help too with a short piece, or a photo, and that increases the coverage. After all, you’ve given them information to fill their pages, which is what they want.

There are so many ways to promote your work beyond the usual FB page and repeated announcements on Twitter. If your work appeals only to an internet and social media savvy clientele, that’s where you pitch it, but you may need a much more wide-ranging promotion strategy. For my Cumbria-based fiction, local people and visitors are main main pitch, and a regular visible local presence helps.

If you’re going to self-publish, ask yourself – how will people know my book exists, why should they buy it, and how can I make that easy for them? It’s not rocket-science, you just have to think it through from the buyer’s perspective, not your own.

Promotion – a problematic puzzle

‘What’s your budget for promotion of your new book?’ There’s a question I didn’t know how to answer. I was enquiring about getting help with a video, but quickly realised I would have to plan, film and edit it myself or do without. And if I do without, what achievable strategies do I have for promoting the new book ‘Fallout’, the last in the Jessie Whelan trilogy that has the overarching title ‘Between the Mountains and the Sea’? For the second in the series – ‘Forgiven’ – which was published in June 2013 I arranged a ‘launch’ on the first day of a local festival, thinking that the regional media who would be in town anyway for the festival might be tempted to make an appearance. Wrong! Family, friends and neighbours turned up and we had a jolly time, but as a press launch it was a dismal (and quite expensive) failure. I admit I was disappointed, and decided that I probably wouldn’t do it again.

So here we are with the new book due out in about a month and no clear idea about a ‘promotion strategy’. One difference from last year is that I now have over 400 Twitter followers, and through Twitter’s exponential reach I can get the book details to people who might want them. Word of mouth will count for something too: the success of the first two parts of the trilogy means that there’s a fair head of steam around the publication of the final part. It’s hard to guess how many readers, many of them Cumbria locals, will beat a path to the bookshop door or my website to snatch their copy hot off the press, but it could be quite a few. Most of the paperback sales over the past two years have been in Cumbria bookshops, supplied through Hills of Workington who sell to almost every bookshop and tourist centre in the county. And sales have been seasonal too, with summer visitors looking for something to read which features the people, places and history of this great place where I live.

Once the paperback is out we’ll focus on the conversion to ebook and Kindle. My book designer John Aldridge will make sure the ebook looks as good as the hard copy – which is by no means automatic – and I hope I remember what to do after that. I’ve made it work twice already so that should be OK. Ebook sales have been steady but unspectacular. I know I could shift more if I dropped the price, but I do have a problem with selling something of merit, that took me a year to produce, for less than the price of a latte.

In the meantime, the height of my promotional activity today has been to design a poster for some of the local bookshops, which has taxed my Word skills to the uttermost. Once it was done, I took a photo and posted it on Twitter. I’m not expecting as many RTS as a selfie at a funeral, but who knows?