A Carshalton author is celebrating winning a prestigious publishing award. With her fifth self published novel Jane Davis is the overall winner of the Writing Magazine and the DSJT Charitable Trust self-published Book of the Year Award.
Jane has outlined her journey to this point in her career:
There’s a graphic that regularly does the rounds on social media. It’s made up of two graphs. The first goes under the caption, ‘what you think your career will look like’ and it’s upwards all the way. The caption for the second is ‘what it will actually look like.’ Underneath is a picture of a roller-coaster. That has been my experience as a writer.
My first novel won the Daily Mail First Novel Award. I was told I was going to be the next Joanne Harris. But a couple of months after publication of Half-truths and White Lies, Transworld rejected my follow-up. It was beautifully written, they said, but it wasn’t ‘women’s fiction’. I was so green that I wasn’t even aware that I had been published under a women’s fiction imprint. Had I realised, I would have told them that I had never set out to write exclusively for women and that it wasn’t a direction I wanted to be pushed into. There was no point arguing. No meant no. I was back to square one.
I carried on writing, carried on submitting manuscripts. One had already won an award for its opening chapter. Surely two awards would open doors? Actually, no. Rejection letters were flattering. Agents were convinced that I would be snapped up, but no one was doing the snapping.
The ideas were still coming. By 2012, I was touting three completed novels around the market. Believe me, this is not a position you want to be in. I felt like the writer in Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys who attends the same conference year after year with a different edit of the same novel. A novel which continues to be rejected, albeit for slightly different reasons.
Remember that second graph? When I attended a writing conference in October, the roller-coaster had broken down and I was stuck in a dip. I had submitted chapter one of my novel, These Fragile Things, for critique by an industry ‘book doctor’. The waiting was agony. I watched pale-faced people exit the hall, clutching manuscripts covered in red ink. Some were in tears. When my turn finally came, I took my seat at the table and saw that my manuscript had no corrections. ‘You didn’t like it,’ I said. ‘No,’ came the reply. ‘I loved it. It’s ready to submit!’ My heart sank. How to explain that the manuscript had been widely rejected? I had wanted someone to hand me a magic formula. What I hadn’t wanted to hear again was, ‘It’s not you, it’s the market’, and yet this break-up style advice was precisely what I needed.
There was another path, but I’d been resisting it. The next month I attended a self-publishing conference. Established authors who’d been dropped by publishers were rubbing shoulders with novices who had priced their e-Books at 99p, and sold 100,000 copies within a year. This was a revolution! Was I out or was I in?
I decided I was in. I simply needed a cover design. I discovered my cover designer at my local art gallery, Mine Art Gallery in Carshalton. Until I asked founder/owner Andrew Candy if he knew anyone who could help, I had no idea that he was a graphic designer. Andy executes the ideas in my head using his marvellous eye and technical wizardry, which, frankly, is beyond me. For me, the decision of how to present my writing is one of the most satisfying parts of being indie.
Though I made rookie mistakes with my first two releases, reader reviews were positive. The next time, I did better. One of the common misconceptions about self-publishing is that it means authors doing everything themselves. I grew my team to include beta readers, a copy editor, a proof-reader, an interior formatter, and printers.
Despite thinking that I was writing slightly quirky contemporary British novels, I have always attracted more readers in the US, where there are fewer barriers between trade and independent publishing. Whilst UK libraries don’t tend to stock self-published books, three of my novels appeared in a list of most-borrowed e-books in the US library system in the first half of 2016.
In May, Andrew Candy’s artwork for my fifth self-published novel, An Unknown Woman, won an award for best fiction cover at Book Expo in the States. Now, I’m thrilled that Writing Magazine and the DSJT Charitable Trust have named it as overall winner in their prestigious Self-published Book of the Year Award.
One of the reasons I’m so proud of this achievement is because the award aims to reward not only quality writing, but also high production values and strong attention to detail. As an independent publisher, these things are vitally important to me. I could write the best book in the world, but without great design and print quality, it simply wouldn’t sell.
I was able to bring my experience to both the production process and the plot, which includes a book within a book – and that book is self-published. It seems rather fitting that a novel with a self-published book at its heart should win an award that recognises excellence in self-publishing. This one’s for the whole team.