Today I’m joining the delightful The Quiet Knitter to help kick off the blog tour for We Have Lost The Coffee by Paul Mathews courtesy of EDM Editorial & Publicity Services. I have an interview with Paul about the road to publication, it’s a really interesting read so be sure to stick around to read it.
London, 2045. Three months into the Coffee Wars and Britain’s caffeine supplies are at critical levels. Brits are drinking even more tea than usual, keeping a stiff upper lip and praying for an end to it all.
A secret government coffee stockpile promises to save the day … but then mysteriously disappears overnight.
One man is asked to unravel the missing-coffee mystery. Hs name is Pond. Howie Pond. And he’s in desperate need of a triple espresso. Meanwhile, his journalist wife, Britt, is hunting royal fugitive, Emma Windsor, on the streets of the capital.
Can Howie save the British Republic from caffeine-starved chaos? Will the runaway royal be found? And just what will desperate coffee drinkers do for their caffeine fix? Find out, in Paul Mathews’ latest comedy adventure set in the Britain of the future …
When did you first decide to get your ideas out of your head and onto paper?
Thanks to a demanding job, there was a gap of more than two years between sketching out the idea for my first novel, We Have Lost The President, in January 2013, and starting to write it. And, even then, what I drafted back in January 2013 didn’t bear much relation to the story as it eventually unfolded. You soon learn that nothing goes to plan in the world of novel writing!
It was only when I took an 18-month career break in April 2015 that work began in earnest. I started plotting the novel in May and writing it in the June. However, I got waylaid by a Twitter project and various other things. It meant I’d only written 36,000 words by the end of the year. It was then I realised I had to be more disciplined and I started writing 1,500 words a day, five days a week (I had only managed about 500 a day at the start, sometimes fewer). I eventually finished the first draft in April 2016.
How long did that first manuscript take to perfect?
It took over a year, as I didn’t publish until late July 2016 – and I was still making last-minute edits. Looking back, I probably should have delayed the launch a couple of weeks. That first novel is 100,000 words long and it took ages to proofread. In the end, I became word blind and my brain was no longer being helpful!
I learnt a lot writing that first novel. I transformed from someone having a break from work, who did a bit of writing now and then, to a professional writer who treats it as a job. That change of mindset really worked. I can churn out 10,000 words a week now and I wrote the first draft of my second novel in less than three months.
How did you get it in front of publishers?
I’ve never attempted to contact a publisher or an agent. I researched self-publishing and quickly came to the conclusion that giving Amazon exclusive rights to the e-book was the way to go. Royalties are 70% for books priced £1.99 / $2.99 or more and that is a great deal. Plus you get paid when people borrow the book via Kindle Unlimited if you sign up for the KDP Select programme. For every two books I sell, I get one borrow, which really boosts my readership.
I was approached by a small publisher after I published, but they were a new start-up and the ‘Books’ section on their website was a blank page – so I didn’t waste any time with them. It would take a serious offer for me to give up my indie status – I am in control of editing, marketing and publicity. It’s like the difference between running your own business or going to work for someone else.
I sold the audiobook rights to my first three books to Tantor Media. But I didn’t go to them. They came to me…which was a pleasant surprise!
Did you have an agent?
No. Self-publishers are their own agents.
What was the first reaction of people?
My army of test readers really enjoyed the novel, so that was encouraging. And my editor also loved it, which I think is important (or, at least, that’s what she told me!).
Prior to publication, I grew a small Twitter fan base via various comedy Twitter accounts and they bought the novel and all enjoyed it, as did my British friends and family. As a result, the first tranche of reviews were all fantastic. It was only when I advertised very widely did any negative reviews start to come in – but that’s not surprising, as they are all from US readers and my distinctly British sense of humour isn’t going to always travel well across the Atlantic.
Did the publishers want to change a lot? All? Nothing? & Did you agree? Or stick to your guns?
In my case, I had test readers and an editor. I tested the first novel after 14 chapters and the response was positive, so I didn’t really change much, apart from adding some more futuristic elements. My editor helped me improve the ending. She makes lots of suggestions but is always clear that it’s my decision whether to accept them (unless they are grammatical, in which case I do!).
How long did it take from them to get it out to the public?
I think it was test read in the May, edited in June and then tweaked by me in July (with a final editor check). It was such a hectic time, the memories are all a bit blurred!
What input did you have on the cover? Font? Etc. …
I commission my own cover designer. His name is Alex Storer. He mainly does science fiction, but he has produced some great covers for my comedy-thriller novels.
At the start of the process, I have a fairly good idea of the cover and give him a brief with some suggestions as to what bits and bobs might be included. He always gets it spot on, and then I just tweak it until we have a final version.
If you could do it all again, what would you change?
I would get up to speed more with the various marketing options. I decided to rely solely on social media at the start. But that resulted in far fewer sales than I imagined. I only sold 120 copies in the first two months and thought it was going to take years to make any impression. After all, there are only so many times you can tell people you’ve written a book before you start to sound like a broken record! Then I discovered Amazon US ads and, after a lot of tweaking, they now work very well for me. I’ve sold over 10,000 books already, which I still find hard to comprehend!
I would also allow myself a little more time for last-minute tweaks. You need a break between proofreads, so your brain can refresh and forget the specifics of what you’ve written. Otherwise, it suffers novel overload!
About Paul Mathews
Paul Mathews is a 40-something British guy who’s given up his 9-to-5 job in London to become a full-time comedy novelist. Why did he make this bold step? Well, he’d had enough of crazy managers and uncooperative printers. So one afternoon, after nearly 20 years working at the heart of the British Government, he shut down his computer, deleted all his emails and escaped the office – never to return. (Okay, it wasn’t quite as dramatic as that, but he is a fiction writer, so please cut him a little slack.)
His two decades working as a Government press officer gave him an invaluable insight into all the key elements of modern government: bureaucracy, bungling, buffoonery, buck-passing and other things that don’t begin with the letter ‘b’ – such as politicians with huge egos and very little talent. He’s now putting that knowledge to use by writing about a British Government of the future – where, believe it or not, the politicians are even bigger idiots than the current lot.
Before becoming a PR guy, he was an accountant. But he doesn’t like to talk about that. And going back further, he went to Cambridge University and studied philosophy. Despite thousands of hours of thoughtful contemplation, he still hasn’t worked out how that happened. The highlight of his university years was receiving a £300 travel grant to visit Prague and ‘study philosophy’. It was a trip which ignited his love of Eastern Europe where he spends a lot of time writing and drinking black beer.
Other interests include wearing sunglasses and having his photograph taken. Visit his website for more info on this (allegedly) humorous man: http://www.iamthe.website (less)
One of two ebooks of We Have Lost The Coffee.
Book & Buy Links
Title: We Have Lost The Coffee
Series: We Have Lost #3
Author: Paul Mathews
Genre: Science Fiction | Comedy
Publication Date: 28 June 2017
Review Format: eBook
Other Formats: N/A
Buy: Amazon UK | Amazon US