Brighton and Hove author offers online publishing tips

The author and journalist Christopher Hitchens once said: “Everybody does have a book in them but in most cases that’s where it should stay.”

His biting humour is unlikely to make any impression on another journalist and aspiring author, Andy Dickenson, from Hove.

He has spent almost 20 years writing and honing his debut novel and has lessons to share with others struggling to be published.

Mr Dickenson, 40, who works for ITV in Brighton, has followed the path trodden by the likes of EL James, the author of Fifty Shades of Grey.

At least, he’s followed her example when it comes to using the internet to try to build an online audience.

And he takes heart from the enthusiastic and hard-working example of another bestselling author, the crime writer Peter James, who comes from Brighton.

Andy Dickenson

Mr Dickenson said: “You’ve got to be passionate about your story if you’re somehow going to find time to write a book.

“They take a huge amount of time and if you’re going to do it well you’ve got to go back and edit everything you’ve done as well.

“It’s why you really need a fantastic editor like Laura Atkins who’s going to say you need to change this and you need to lose that. And who will encourage you to keep going.

“I met her at an event in town. She teaches creative writing. I went to one of her classes and I’ve been working with her ever since.”

His book – The Last Days – is now available as an ebook on Kindle, Kobo and iTunes for £1.99. For more information, visit www.thelastdays-online.co.uk.

He said: “It’s still going out to agents and publishers but that in itself is an incredibly long process.

“The flip side of everyone now being able to publish themselves on Kindle is the publishing market is now very different.

“For a first-time writer it’s getting incredibly difficult to get published.

“It’s possible if you can build an audience for a book online to create your own hit. Those stories themselves are going to be very rare.

“EL James had a blog. She took the Twilight characters and was basically writing soft porn. And it grew and grew.

“She’s clever really. She created a following before the book got on to Amazon (the owner of Kindle).”

He pointed out some of the differences between his book and those by EL James.

Six, one of the characters in Andy Dickenson’s novel The Last Days

He said: “There’s not a lot of sex in this. It’s being aimed at the young adult market.

“I started working on it as a comic book with my best friend from school.”

Later, when travelling, he was introduced to an artist and illustrator called Sarah Evans.

“He said: “Sarah and I worked on it for a couple of years and we took it to DC and Marvel. They liked it but it was obvious that they were only really interested in super heroes.”

Mr Dickenson had other ideas. He uses some of Sarah Evans’s illustrations for his ebook, having decided to self publish.

He said: “The more people who read your self-published book, the more likely you are to get a publisher. I’m hoping it’ll lead it to better things.

“I’d love to do this full time – or at least part time in conjunction with my journalism. I’ve drafted out the sequel and the following book.”

While hoping to complete the rest of his trilogy more quickly than the opening book, he advised: “Join a writing group or find an editor who will help you.

“Some people are good at description but not at plot. Some people are good at language but not at characters.

“Then it’s just a process of going chapter by chapter, revision by revision until you’ve got a fully realised book.”

In Brighton and Hove there are several creative writing courses for aspiring authors.

Sussex University has an MA course, Brighton University offers a ten-week course and City College runs a workshop-based approach.

They are just the three biggest organisations trying to help writers to write. There are many smaller classes, seminars, workshops and groups.

Mr Dickenson said: “I’d love to write something as brilliant as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

“It’s got fantastic characters who are utterly believable in a scenario that is utterly unbelievable.

“They do it with huge humour and huge amounts of heart. It’s massively entertaining.

“It’s a real privilege having something to write. I’ve definitely caught the bug.”

 

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