Everything you never wanted to know and couldn't be bothered to ask...

Ray Anthony was born in Kingston Jamaica in 1958 and lived with his grandparents until 1968, when he came to Britain to join his parents. Educated in south London, when he had the choice, he studied only maths and science; he found the arts crushingly boring.

His first employment was in retail management, then he joined the Royal Air Force. After leaving the Royal Air Force he changed career to media sales management. It was during this time that he discovered he had a hidden creative bent. "Less of my time was being spent on selling or management, and more on shuffling pieces of paper. Writing strategic reports did my brain in, so I started 'jazzing them up'. The bosses were not amused. If I wanted to keep my job, and my sanity, I had to find some kind of release."

In 1987 he started writing his first novel. He is now a media sales consultant and finds that training salespeople gives him ample scope to exercise his theatrical disposition.

Right, now you've had the boring official version - time for a reality check.

In 1987 I was sitting in a pub with some friends (less than sober) chatting about films. Someone said, "I'm going to write a film script." Another person said, "I'm going to write a book," and I thought, 'I wonder if I could write a book?' To be sure, the type of perennial conversation to be found in pubs. However, by the time I'd made my unsteady way home I had the title, plot, characters, beginning, middle and end of Interface. Still in a stupor, I stumbled down to the cellar, retrieved the 1919 typewriter, set it on a table and typed, "Hello Harry." In 1990 I typed 'The End' having upgraded to an electric typewriter, PCW and finally a PC in between. I'd done it! Deep feelings of satisfaction...

I've got to be honest here, I hate writing - I don't write letters; I don't write notes; I don't write reports; I don't write memos; I don't even write post cards - I hate writing! However, I discovered that there was something about getting a creative idea down, tight, on the page that was addictive. It was so addictive that when a friend jokingly said, "You've got so many kids, you should write a book about it" the next thing I knew I'd written Thinking Man's Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth & Fatherhood. Great, I've written two books!

Well, actually, no.

Until they are published, they remain manuscripts.

What do you do with manuscripts? You send them to Publishers or Literary Agents, right? The 57th time I got a polite letter saying, "Thanks but no thanks," I took a stock of the situation and decide it might be a smart move to read some books about writing books. I bought the books, read them and conclude that there must be a very lucrative 'How to get published' sub-industry - the books on writing books are badly written, boring and less than helpful.

Towards the end of 1994 I got fed up with being told by well-meaning friend that loads of authors who are now famous got rejected by hundreds of publishers and literary agents - "Keep sending out the manuscripts," and "Keep writing" - an author's first published work wasn't usually the first manuscript they wrote. I got fed up with the whole thing - time to step outside the situation and take a good hard look at it:

I want to have my books published.
So I send my 'manuscripts' to agents and publishers.
They send them back, saying they can't or won't represent me or publish them.
So, why can't or won't they represent or publish me?
Because they don't think it will be profitable for them to do so... Eureka!

An interesting little exercise, which highlights that I have been focussing on the wrong thing; trying to make the books 'better' (4th rewrites) as opposed to 'more marketable'. This ain't art, this is business. So the question of whether they are good or not isn't the issue. The issue is: will they sell!

Minutes of a Meeting With Myself:

Do you believe that if the books got onto the shelves in bookshops they will sell?

Yes

C'mon, put your ego aside, do you really believe that?

Yes

Look, all parents think their babies are beautiful.

So?

These are your babies.

Yes, I know, but they will sell

How strongly do you believe that?

Very strongly

Strongly enough to put your money where your mouth is?

Yes

OK then, put up or shut up.

What?

If you're sure cock sure about these books, then publish them yourself.

Brilliant idea!

I was joking.

Why hadn't I thought of this before?

I was only joking.

All the time I've wastes, when I could have...

What do you know about book publishing?

Nothing

Then how will you do it?

I'll learn

How and where will you learn all this?

I'll use commonsense

OK, say you manage to produce these books, what if they don't sell?

Then they don't sell

That sounds a tad trite.

At lest I'll know if I can write or not

Everybody author thinks that theirs is the greatest literature ever.

Not the greatest, but they'll sell

Are you always this confident?

Not always, but about this, very confident

Is there anything I can say to dissuade you from embarking on this foolhardy venture?

No

OK then, there is one more thing you have to do

Yes, I know

"Darling, you know that all-singing-and-dancing-fitted-kitchen you had your heart set on..."

I didn't start by publishing my 136,000 words masterpiece Interface. I tested the water and learned by doing something much smaller; Thinking Man' Guide To Pregnancy, Childbirth & Fatherhood. I did everything a big book publisher does, except on a smaller scale. May 1996 Thinking Man' Guide To Pregnancy, Childbirth & Fatherhood hit the bookshelves and, as far as I could tell, it seemed to be selling OK. However, I was a bit busy trying to get the book into more bookshops and preparing Interface for publication to be absolutely sure.

October 1996 Interface hits the bookshelves. Now to sit back and wait for the moment of truth.

However, I'd never seen Interface on the bookshelf so, a fortnight after they had taken 6 copies, I strolled into Dillons, Oxford Street, London, to admire my handiwork and bask in the glory. That was the plan, what actually happened went something like this: 'Where would I find it if they put it in general fiction?" I followed general fiction to where it would be; between Amis and Archer. 'Oh, sh**t!' It wasn't there. Back fiction? It would've been next to Angelou. 'Bollocks!' It wasn't there either and I was too depressed to ask where to find it. I chastised myself all the way back to the office. 'You've done it this time. Bitten off more than you can chew, haven't you? Why hadn't you thought of this before? Who in their right mind is going to even look at Interface when it's next to the likes of Amis, Archer or Angelou. Smart, real smart! Idiot! Idiot! Idiot!'

The fact remained that I hadn't seen Interface on the bookshelf. Later, I phoned the book buyer of Dillons, Oxford Street. If nothing else I wanted to have the satisfaction of seeing my book in a bookshop. I told myself not to be too despondent. So what if it didn't sell? I'd given it my best shot - I could do no better than that.

"It's in Black Fiction."

"Oh, I looked there and couldn't find it."

"What's the ISBN again?"

I told him, and heard him play with his computer.

"Sold out. I'll take another 5."

My mouth, on autopilot said, "Thanks, can I have an order number for that?"

Putting down the phone, I stood with the intention of dancing around my office, then abruptly sat back down and phoned another bookshop at random - Waterstone's, Birmingham, they had taken 5 copies.

"One Interface left, we'll take another 3."

Then I did dance around my office. I left the celebrations at that. In my phone around, some shops had sold out; most has sold some copies and a few hadn't sold any - there didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it.

Why had I gone into self-publishing in the first place? To find out if Interface and Think Man's Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth & Fatherhood would sell if they made it to the bookshelves. That question had been answered, but it wasn't just that - books no one had ever heard of, by an unknown writer, selling that quickly? This could only be happening if, and only if, readers were recommending it to friends. What do I do next?

So there I was, mulling over how to approach a 'proper' book publisher, with the 'I've taken them this far; here are their track records; would you like to take them the rest of the way?' proposal. Then I happened to read an article about self-publishing the thrust of which was: a best seller sells about 1500 copies a week. If a self-publisher sells 1500 in total, they would be deliriously happy [true]. However, due to the massive marketing capabilities of publishers, it was virtually impossible for a self-publisher to have a best seller.

If I was smart, I would have gone back to my mulling. Unfortunately, 'virtually impossible' leaped out and smacked me between the eyes. I mean, what do you do if you manage to climb the Matterhorn? I suppose you could spend the remainder of your life recounting how you climbed the Matterhorn... Or, you could have a crack at Everest. I said I hated writing, I didn't say anything about being smart.

Time to get back writing and have a crack at Everest, this time science fiction - Empress and Pilot. Yes, I do usually write two books simultaneously. I don't know about other writers but, because I hate writing, I never write anything until it's fermented into fully-formed ideas. My ideas seem to come in pairs. For instance, this text and the web page you're reading it on, first occurred to me a couple of years ago - a pair of fermented, fully-formed ideas.

In 2002 I self-published Empress but keeping on top of sales of all the titles in all the bookshops was just taking too much time and it was taking the time I'd usually be writing... So I took my foot off the gas in terms of book sales and concentrated on writing. I completed Pilot and another manuscript All Woman (contemporary fiction - lesbian couple asks a guy to father their child) but the self-publishing genie was, if not deceased, certainly in decline so these two titles just sat on my computer.

Back to All Woman for a second, and me being conditioned to hearing 'No.' All Woman was only at the first draft stage when I sent the first three chapters to the publishers The X Press and got a call from them. "It seems interesting, send us the rest." This I did and promptly forgot all about the conversation. About six weeks later I got another call, "Yes, All Woman is quite interesting, the kind of thing we'd like to publish." Because they didn't say, 'We will publish it,' I forgot all about that conversation as well. And, weird as it sounds, I was a bit puzzled when a Publishing Agreement arrived in the post. No, I wasn't puzzled, I was Gobsmacked!

So in 2002 The X Press published All Woman... see the NEWS PAGE for the latest in that saga.

Anyway in about 2005 I made the 'mistake' of buying some screenwriting software and, well, you know how it goes... I've written a couple of short films and three stage plays... that sits on my computer.

Roll round to May 2012 someone says to me, 'Have you thought of publishing you work as eBooks?' Well, I hadn't but...

Pilot that was just sitting on my computer is now out as an eBook so is All Woman because The X Press is gone out of business and the publishing rights reverts to me. Then it was just a matter of taking Think Man's Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth & Fatherhood, Interface & Empress and formatting them - they are now eBooks too.

Now let's see what happens...

Anyway, I hate writing but ideas occur to me that are so compelling I'm forced to write them. I hope you enjoy reading them.

Thanks for visiting my web page.

Ray A.

Propeller Communications