Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Simon Wood: Overnight Success 13 years later

I've been crossing internet paths with Simon Wood for years, since we both worked in the mystery and horror genres and occasionally showed up in the same publications. Simon was kind enough to grant me use of a story for my Curtains collection, and over the last few months his hard work built to critical mass--with some luck, timing, but most of all great storytelling. Simon is one of those writers who has you looking over your shoulder when you're reading, waiting for the next twist or betrayal)


I remember when Marc Anthony exploded onto the music scene a few years ago.  He described himself as a “ten-year overnight sensation.”  I loved the remark when I heard it.  He’d been cutting records for a decade before his first breakout hit, but everyone assumed that he’d just gotten into the business.  The comment let the world know he’d been working his butt off for a long time before success found him, and it also gave you an idea of his dedication to his art.

Marc Anthony's dedication is something I understand very well.   I’ve been working away in the publishing salt mines since 1998.  Whereas success comes quick for some, it’s taken its time with me.  I struggled to find an agent when I shopped my first novel, ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN, and without an agent, editors wouldn’t read it.  I found success in the small press arena where an agent wasn’t a necessity.  ACCIDENTS was published in 2002 with a modest print run of 3,000.  Sadly, the small press struggled with distribution, but I picked up some nice trade notices that helped my profile.  The good word of mouth failed to land me an agent or a major publisher, although there were a few close calls.

However, the good notices enabled me to pick up deals with other small presses.  I finally entered the world of New York publishing in 2007, but again not in the normal manner, which is common for me.  Still without an agent, I took advantage of a pitch session at a conference.  The editor liked what I had to say and three days later, I had a contract offer from Dorchester Publishing on a revised and updated version of ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN.  Finally, I had a mass paperback deal, but Dorchester was a small player in traditional publishing and the book never got the distribution I hoped.

Distribution is a harsh lesson I’ve learned over the years.  Without it, a book’s success is hard to achieve.  I went on to do four books with Dorchester, until their much-publicized financial problems last year.  I found myself in the unenviable situation of trying to promote a book that became unavailable part way through a book tour.

Just as my Dorchester problems were coming to a head, I’d been experimenting with eBooks by publishing my backlist.  I must admit I wasn’t sure what I was doing at the beginning.  I think it took me a while to understand that the digital book market doesn’t work the same way as the print book market.  In February, I relaunched my Dorchester titles.  Between February and June, I promoted one of the titles.  I learned that success in the eBook market is through recommendations from trusted sources.  I sent out review copies and press releases to websites and bloggers with strong followers and their thumbs up worked.

ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN struck a chord with people and momentum took over.  Eventually, someone, somewhere was mentioning ACCIDENTS daily.  The sales spiked in April and kept spiking.  By June, it was in the top 100 books at Amazon.  Then Amazon featured the book at the end of June and sales truly exploded and the book reached the #2 spot.  I’m quite frightened and staggered by the number of sales this titles has had in the last three months.  The nice knock-on effect from all this is that a rising tide raises all boats.  Over the last four months, all my titles have seen a boost.  THE FALL GUY has followed ACCIDENTS’ example by reaching the top 100.  ASKING FOR TROUBLE has done really well for a short story collection and I think WE ALL FALL DOWN will be the next to break.  It has been quietly selling over the last couple of months and I think it will be my next bestseller.

So, from an outsider’s perspective, my success has been recent.  To my wife and I, it’s been thirteen years in the making.  While my fortunes have rarely run to script, one thing hasn’t changed and that’s my dedication to my writing.  My single focus for over a decade has been to have a career as a writer.  I’ve worked hard at my craft, learned the ins and outs of the industry, hustled when I’ve needed to,  sweet-talked and strategized to get the one thing any writer desires—readers.  Finally, that’s happening for me.  Success is sometimes an accident waiting to happen, but it never happen without hard work and determination.


SBJones said...

Very nice story. News like this brings a smile to my face. Congratulations.

author Scott Nicholson said...

SB, yes, good to hear good news!

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much gents.

Nicholas La Salla said...

Great post. It gives all of us out there something to look forward to . . . and yet another sign that the only way you can lose is by giving up.

Great stuff.

- Nick

Anonymous said...

Way to go, Simon! :-D Your "overnight success" is, in fact, the normal way to achieve success. Work hard and persist! I'm happy to see it's finally paying off in a big way.

~ kjb said...

We're so proud of you, Simon.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. The tough part is repeating this with my other titles... :-)

Hunter Shea said...

So, so true. In this business, you really have to be insanely determined, possess a thick skin and drink a lot! It took me just under 15 years to get my first damn good book deal and there are many times when I could have just quit. More people need to know what goes into writing success. Great article.