John Holt Biography
I was born in 1943 in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire. I currently live in Essex with my wife, Margaret, and my daughter Elizabeth. And not forgetting Missy, the cat who adopted us, and considered that we were worthy enough to live with her. For many years I was a Chartered Surveyor in local government. I was a Senior Project Manager with the Greater London Council from 1971 until it was closed down in 1986. I then set up my own surveying practice, retiring in 2008.
I suppose like many others I had always thought how good it would be to write a novel, but I could never think of a good enough plot. My first novel, “The Kammersee Affair”, published in 2006, was inspired by a holiday in the Austrian lake district. We were staying in Grundlsee. The next lake, Toplitzsee, was used by the German Navy during the war to test rockets, and torpedoes. As the war came to an end many items were hidden in the lake – millions of UK pounds, and US dollars, in counterfeit currency; jewellery stolen from the holocaust victims; and weapons. There were also rumours of gold bullion being hidden in that lake. Despite extensive searches the gold was never found. In my book, however, it is found, only in the next lake, Kammersee.
The books that followed, The Mackenzie File, The Marinski Affair, and Epidemic, all feature Tom Kendall, a down to earth private detective, and were originally published by Raider Publishing in New York. My fifth book, A Killing In The City, another featuring Tom Kendall, was originally published by Night Publishing. In August 2012 I decided to go down the self published route, and formed my own publishing brand PHOENIX. All five novels have now been published on PHOENIX. A sixth novel “The Thackery Journal” was published on 8 August 2013.
I am currently working on two other novels featuring Tom Kendall, and I have made a tentative start on an Adventure novel.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and if you could bottle it you could make a fortune.
Question – knowing what I know now, what advice would I give myself three years ago? That’s bad English I know, but you know what I mean. Alright to be absolutely clear what advice should I have given myself three years ago?
In 2010, I already had three novels published. Hang on before you start with the WOWS, and the Awesome , the three books had been published by a Vanity publisher in New York. The first had been published in 2006, the second followed in 2008, and the third in 2009. Now I’m sure that you all know what a Vanity Publisher is. For those who don’t know a Vanity Publisher is one that you pay to have your work published. Now don’t get me wrong I was pleased to have my works published. I had no success with the mainstream publishers, so it was good to see my works advertised on Amazon and available to anyone who wanted to buy them. Yes you knew there was a catch didn’t you. It was only paperbacks that were available, not ebooks. Regrettably sales were poor and I never recouped my costs.
Three years ago I had just finished my fourth novel, “Epidemic”. Once again, despite everything, I offered the book to that same Vanity Publisher, who, quite naturally, was delighted to take my money. Who can blame him? The book was eventually published in January 2010.
Now I realise that things were a little different three years ago, and maybe it wasn’t so easy. And I didn’t know people on Facebook, or Twitter, to share advice with. What I should have done three years ago, and advise anyone to do it now. If you cannot get a Traditional mainstream publisher interested in your works, do not go to a Vanity Publisher. Take the Self Publisher route. I eventually took that road just over a year ago, in August 2013. I now have six books available.
With the likes of Lulu.com, Createspace, and Kindle Direct Publishing, to be self published is the easier thing in the world. You have full control of everything – cover, content, price, and you keep 100% of the royalties. Admittedly the paperbacks are still poor sellers, but I’m pleased to say that the ebooks have done pretty good, recouping all of my previous expenses, and making a nice little profit as well.
If only I had done it three years ago .... but we cannot give into regret, but we should learn a lesson and go forward.
So after months, if not years, of toil and trouble, your epic is at long last completed, and is ready to be released on the world. You have had the good fortune to find a publisher prepared to bring it into print for you, or you have gone down the Self Published route. Either way it is there, for sale. Pretty soon you will realise that writing the book was perhaps the easiest part of the process. Even getting published wasn’t that difficult, especially if you do it yourself. With Lulu.com; Createspace; Kindle Direct Publishing; and several other outlets on the Internet, publishing is easy, and at no cost.
Now comes the difficult part, selling your book. Nobody is going to buy it because they’ve never heard of it. So you have now got to publicise, promote, and publicise, and promote and ...... until you make a nuisance of yourself. And then you have to publicise and promote some more.
I can’t remember the exact figures but I was once told that every month 20000 new books hit the shelves (virtual or otherwise). That is some competition.
OK so what do you do to publicise your opus, especially if funds are tight and you can’t really afford a half page spread in the Times. Well there are some things you can do. Firstly let your local library know, give them a copy. The might be prepared to arrange an event in the library. I had one a year or so ago. It wasn’t the event of the century, but I sold about twenty books, and handed out some leaflets, and book markers. Tell your local newspaper, they might be prepared to publish something about you. I mentioned earlier about leaflets and book markers. Well apart from them I have business cards relating to my books, I have sticky labels that I place on every letter that I send out. This is all effective advertising that costs nothing. And one other thing, if you have more than one book. Make sure that details of all of your books are included in the last few pages of ALL of your books.
In August 2012 I decided to go down the self publish route. With sites like Lulu.com; Createspace; Smashwords; Kindle Direct; self publishing is now so easy, and cost nothing. I now have all six of my novels self published under my brand PHOENIX. I have full control over the book content, the cover, promotion, publicity, and, of course, I don't share the royalties with anyone. The promoting is a full time job, but it has to be done. All in all, and thanks to my friends and supporters on Facebook and Twitter I am glad I made that decision.
So that’s it then, decision made, you are going to self publish. So how do you do it? It really couldn’t be simpler.
First let’s consider the paperback. Decide what size you would like your Paperback to be. I use A5. Set the Page Layout on your word processor (I use Microsoft WORD) to the size you require. Type up your novel. I use Times New Roman, 11 point. Page Layout – Margins Top 1.9cms; bottom 1.9 cms; inside 1.27 cms; outside 1.9 cms; gutter 0.89 cms; Mirror margins. Once completed you can then submit that WORD document directly to Lulu.com or Createspace. There is no charge for getting published. There is, of course, a charge to purchase the actual books. (I have used both. In my opinion Lulu.com produces the better product, but they are slightly more expensive to purchase). Both Lulu and Createspace make your work available on Amazon. Follow the simple on-line instructions to get published. You will be asked to upload the file containing the novel. An ISBN number will be allocated (again at no charge). With regard to the cover you will be required to upload a wraparound cover. You will be advised as to the sizes required. And that is that. Your paperback will be ready to purchase from Lulu or Createspace instantly; and on amazon 6-8 weeks later.
Now to the ebook – there are many sites where it is possible to produce an ebook for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and all kinds of ebook formats. I started with Kindle Direct Publishing – KDP, but, through using Draft2Digital, I also have books available on Noon, Kobo, and iTunes.
Once again it is simple to do, and at no charge. Use the same WORD document you used for the paperback. Follow the simple on-line instructions. Upload your cover – for ebook use you will only require a front cover - The ebook will be available within 24 hours on Amazon
A word on ISBN numbers – if you have a number of books, and you wish to make them available in several different places, you would best be advised to purchase your own from http://www.isbn.nielsenbook.co.uk/controller.php?page=123 – the cost is £118-50 for ten.