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Monday, 1 September 2014

Head Banging and Brick Walls

1986

Huge congratulations to Gilli Allan, but you'll need to read this before all is revealed!

If I’ve learnt anything in life it’s this.  If your head’s hard enough, and you bang for long enough, that brick wall may ... just may ... eventually start to crumble.
My first career was as an artist, in advertising.  When my son was a toddler I didn’t want to leave him and go back out to work. I wondered what I could do from home to earn a bit of money.  Suddenly I had the not very original idea of writing for Mills & Boon - how hard could it be? (Famous last words, and very insulting to those talented authors who do make a success of writing for HM&B - I now know it’s a lot harder than its detractors might think.)
I’d written as a teenager, but not since, and I’d never actually completed a novel, but undaunted, I hardly paused for breath between the initial idea and finishing the book. And two years after writing ‘the end’, Just Before Dawn was rolling off the printing presses (but not Mills & Boon’s printing presses, as it happens.)

I can’t pretend that I wasn’t rather pleased with myself.  I complacently thought I’d ‘made it’, that this writing lark was easy, and I looked forward to living the rest of my life writing a novel whenever the fancy took me and seeing it published and acclaimed. 
In truth there was less in the way of acclaim than I’d optimistically hoped for. My novel’s arrival in the world was unremarked by anyone of note. I didn’t even see it in a book shop apart from the one in my own home town that I’d browbeaten to stock a few.

The remit of my publisher - the newly formed ‘Love Stories’ - was to publish unconventional, unclichéd romantic fiction, characterised at the time as the “thinking woman’s Mills & Boon”.  But the company was too small to achieve the publicity, marketing and distribution necessary to ensure success for itself or its authors.  Although my second book, Desires & Dreams was published a year later, the publisher failed a few years after that.

By now, even though I’d a more realistic view of the likelihood of authorship leading to fame and fortune, I’d caught the bug.  I still wanted to write contemporary, unconventional, romantic fiction, but couldn’t find a publisher who wanted what I was offering them. “We don’t know how to sell you” was the repeated response.  Year followed year, during which I was advised by the well-meaning to “write to the market” - I assumed this meant spotting a bandwagon, preferably before it drew abreast of me.  I’m not that clever, and anyway, what was the point?  I’ve nothing against Sagas, Regencies, Rom Coms, Chick Lit or whatever, but I just wanted to write what I wanted to write.  I say I’m stubborn, others might say I’m bloody minded and self-defeating! 

Anyway, with the advent of Kindle, I decided to self-publish and brought out my three novels as ebooks but, to my disappointment, a word of mouth runaway success did not follow.  Try as I might, I have found it very hard to sell my books in any numbers and until now - more than two decades since my last publisher folded - it has seemed an insoluble problem.

I’ll be forever grateful to the Romantic Novelists’ Association. I attended the RNA conference this year, held at Harper Adams University in Shropshire. There I met Hazel Cushion, whose Accent Press, is going from strength to strength.  We had a chat and the rest is history.  I have signed a three book contract with Accent and they are going to republish TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY OR FALL, primarily as ebooks, and POD print, and who knows? Fame and fortune may still await me. I did tell you I’m an optimist, didn’t I?

Gilli's Blog .... http://gilliallan.blogspot.com

9 comments:

  1. Good luck Gilli. It's a reward for all that head banging. Plus of course being a good writer.

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  2. Congratulations and well done that writer. So pleased for you Gilli. It's great that Accent are going to republish your first three books. What about a fourth? xxx

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  3. Thank you Chris and Madalyn. I've been taking an extended break from writing (anything new) and the next book is still in my head. When it's finished I know who I'm going to offer it to first! : )

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  4. Good luck and congrats, Gilli! It couldn't happen to a more hard-working and deserving writer. Vx :)

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  5. Sp proud of you and what you've achieved. You've worked hard to receive this contract, a lesson to all wannabe writers out there.

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  6. I think this is absolutely wonderful, Gilli! Good for you for sticking with your dream and writing what YOU wanted to write. Congratulations!! Oh and I LOVE that photo of you :) xx

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  7. I'm so thrilled for you, Gilli. Congratulations, once again. x

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  8. Thanks everyone. Kind of you to take the trouble to comment. gx

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