Have you seen the zombies outside the Clocktower? SIMON WOODWARD explains how he has published his debut novel, a horror fantasy with many scenes set in recognisably Croydon locations
The boy is trapped inside the car. Condensation beads the window. He bangs on the glass, his face twisted by despair. A door opens and two grey-faced men emerge from a house carrying his mum’s shrouded body. The boy beats the window with renewed ferocity, calling out, but the men ignore him.
The last scene of the promotional trailer for my debut novel All The Dead Things is complete.
All The Dead Things is a horror fantasy aimed at children aged 10-plus and adult fans of Neil Gaiman. It’s the story of near-delinquent Stan Wisdom, a 13-year-old cursed by the ability to see zombie-like monsters that are invisible to everybody else. When Stan reveals himself to the monsters, he’s thrown into the middle of a supernatural civil war with the balance of life and death resting in his hands.
The book is set in an unnamed city, but as I was writing I was imagining Stan fleeing through the streets of SE25, or sitting cross-legged on the little hill at the centre of South Norwood Country Park (if you visit it with the book, you’ll be able to match the description to the view) or meeting the mysterious Louise in the shadow of the Clocktower.
It’s been a long road to seeing the novel in print. I’ve had numerous short stories published, won the British Fantasy Society Short Story competition, made friends with some award-winning writers, become a member of the Croydon Writers and found a great agent, but still the elusive publishing deal eluded me.
When I completed All The Dead Things, I was sure this was the one, but my agent wasn’t convinced that it was right for the trade at the moment. I was left with a dilemma. Should I put the book in a drawer and move on to the next project, as I had with previous novels, or should I explore alternative routes to publication?
The publishing industry is changing rapidly as ebooks and print-on-demand publishing open up incredible opportunities for writers. Some have called it the democratisation of publishing, while others, fearful of the rise of Amazon, have called it far less polite things.
Hugh Howey, author of the best-selling Wool is the poster boy for the indie ebook movement. His dystopian “Silo” novels have sold nearly a million copies. “I found success because I wrote for the love of writing, I self-published because I wanted to own my work,” he said and he grew his empire from humble beginnings, initially releasing Wool as a short story and then releasing further regular installments rather than entire novels. He has since crossed into mainstream publishing, signing with Simon & Schuster but allegedly turned down a seven-figure offer in favour of a mid-six-figure fee that enables him to retain control of his ebooks sales.
Taking inspiration from such heroes of the indie publishing movement, I decided I wasn’t prepared to consign All The Dead Things to darkness and published it in paperback through Createspace (Amazon’s POD company) and as an ebook (Kindle Direct Publishing). I fully expected my agent to greet this act of disloyalty to the ancien regime with a firing squad, but was surprised to find her open to me going independent with this book whilst remaining on the agency. It seems this is happening increasingly, even with established authors who haven’t been able to place particular books that aren’t deemed “right for the trade”.
Publishing independently has brought home to me the importance of friends and networking. Without a stellar marketing budget I knew my only hope for growing readership was incrementally through social media, word of mouth, reviews and by making the book and it’s launch look like it was supported by a bigger marketing budget than I have.
A book without a cover is like a sandwich without bread, and so this was my first task and lucky break No1. Unknown to me, a friend had once worked for Dorling Kindersley, designing children’s book covers and so I was able to trade my editing her self-publishing project for the wonderful cover adorning All The Dead Things.
This leads me back to kids trapped in cars and the promotional film. This is a device increasingly used by the bigger publishers to market new books. I have a friend who directs for television and he had friends within the industry who were looking to work on projects where they’d have more independence and scope to experiment. One conversation led to another, resulting in a promotional film utilising the talent of a production designer and costume designer who had worked on five Harry Potter films, Batman Rises and V for Vendetta. This was all achieved with a talented crew and cast working for free and the team begging and borrowing equipment and props from wherever they could.
All The Dead Things has just begun its journey, leaving the dark, fairy-tale Croydon I’d constructed in my mind and striding out into the harsh sunlight of publication. I hope you enjoy it.
- Visit www.simonpaulwoodward.com to buy the book and view the promotional film
- Skeletons in a tunnel start novel exercise in Crystal Palace
Coming to Croydon
- Croydon Ramblers, Chelsham walk, Jan 19
- Croydon Roller Derby trials, Jan 19
- STDLCC Screening: The East, Jan 20
- STDLCC Screening: Winter Nomads, Jan 27
- Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society, Feb 3
- Babylon at the Spread Eagle Theatre, Feb 4-6
- Steve Knightly at Stanley Halls: Feb 5
- Purley Swimathon: Feb 8 and 13
- Mark Steel at Ashcroft Theatre, Feb 12
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 20
- Mr Pooter comes to Croydon, Feb 20-22
- Stop the Incinerator fund-raiser, Feb 24
- Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society, Mar 3
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 20
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