I need some words of wisdom from the collective life experience of The Undead readers.
When do you stop? At what point do you sit yourself down and talk about the unceasing relentless drive inside and tentatively discuss, politely, that perhaps it is time to point that energy somewhere else. There is no instruction book for this stuff, no list of rules or do’s and don’t’s, and as much as there are well-minded folk who offer advice there are no professional experts to ask either. Sure, there are people who think they are experts but in truth there ain’t no experts.
I have been pondering this issue for a while and (apologies for the cliché) but I want to reach out and ask what you think. A serious question that will hopefully guide me in the right direction.
It’s like this. I started The Undead in May 2012. So far I have written and released seventeen books in the series and it has become the best-selling British zombie horror series on Amazon. It has a fantastic cult following and I have been blessed with dedicated interactive readers who love getting involved and voicing their opinions and thoughts. Audible have bought Days One to Seven and put them out in a parts format that is doing incredibly well, especially in America where the freebie short story “On Air” has remained in the top ten US horror chart since release.
As the series has grown, so I have had to learn some business sense, and when I say business sense I mean the tiniest smallest minutest amount of business sense. I still work full time and writing is done around everything else so I have had to learn to be organised and disciplined. Being disciplined isn’t so much of an issue but being organised is the extreme opposite of my character and definitely does not come naturally.
Organically as the series became more popular, so I wanted to push for the next step and aim to get my work into a mainstream audience and the only way to do this was to get a literary agent. I got one and the agent commenced a round of submitting the series to the commissioning editors for eleven main publishers. They all said no. Nearly all of them gave feedback that they loved the writing and style but not the zombie genre as they did not feel there was a sustainable future in this genre. That was bitter-sweet as it meant they like my writing, but just not the subject material, and it is that same material that I have fallen in love with. There were many counter arguments that could have been presented back, such as the popularity of the zombie genre within the mainstream audience. The zombie genre is a mainstream audience. Just look at the staggering success of The Walking Dead and nearly every year sees a new Hollywood zombie movie being released and those guys who make movies seriously know what they are doing when it comes to gaining financial backing. Amazon were the closest to signing the series under their imprint 47North but gave the reason that my release rate (a book every two or three months) would be hampered as it would take them twelve months or more to get the work to their standard, which in turn would disrupt the reading experience due to the existing readership having to wait for such a long time for the next book. I can kinda see the sense in that and am thankful for the serious consideration they gave.
Now here is the issue. I am being advised that perhaps it is time to move on and write something else, some new material that we can present to publishers and this advice is coming in from several places. Equally, I am being advised that I have never given up on anything else before so why do it now?
I believe in the series and still want to get it into a mainstream audience but I can’t do that as advertising costs buckets of money and there ain’t a hope in hell I can even contemplate an advertising campaign that will begin to be fruitful. An effective but basic advertising campaign starts at £10000…that’s ten thousand pounds for a basic advertising budget. Plus I wouldn’t even know where to start…I could learn and have met some fantastic people in the last couple of years who would guide me through it but it just isn’t an option. And remember, that figure of ten grand is for a basic budget. The big retailers and corporations will book advertising space well in advance and throughout the year which means they get good prices. The likes of me walking in from the street will have to pay top dollar with no discounts.
I run some adverts now, like with SFX magazine and Ade, the advertising executive at SFX has been incredibly kind with the help, guidance and rates he has given me. But even that costs a fortune and goes nowhere near getting the coverage needed.
That’s why publishers are needed. They have gargantuan advertising budgets and are experts at marketing, plus they have the logistics to get the book printed, shipped and stocked.
So what do I do now? Do I keep pushing and maintain my belief that this work should be published or do I heed some of the advice and think about new material? If I make the decision to go for new material then I will have to stop The Undead as I don’t have the time to write new material, write The Undead and work my day job.
I love writing The Undead. I adore it and personally I believe in it, but that begs the question of whether I am objective in my decision making which is why I am asking you.
I know what I want to do and it’s rare that I even question whether to give up on something and that inner voice that pushes me on – stop fucking about and get on with it, if you want something you have to work for it and if you believe in something then never, ever give up – is still there but it needs to be balanced and sometimes in life you can’t trust that inner voice as it also tells you bad things like go on and have more coffee….it won’t make you wired at all! It’ll be fine, drink it…drink it…yeah that voice.
What do you think? I would be honoured to have your views.