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Three success stories

31 January 2005

In the midst of all the doom and gloom about writers breaking through, some recent success stories show that it can be done. A combination of determination and hard work – often with a stroke of luck – seems to be the key.

Susan Fletcher, at the age of just 25, has run off with the highly-regarded Whitbread First Novel Prize for Eve Green, which the judges said had ‘a luminous quality which lifts it out of the category of a simple coming-of-age novel into something approaching poetry.’ But Fletcher has not actually had it so easy. After two years at home writing and getting nowhere, she was on the point of giving up when an agent decided to take her on. Perhaps in her case her determination was fuelled by a work experience placement at HarperCollins UK, now her publisher.

Dean Carter has made the big jump from post boy to children's author. The former bookseller had been working in the Transworld mail-room since 1999 and was known for his amusing emails. 'I've been writing since my teens, and thought it would be a good place to work whilst writing a book'. A publisher's post-room is obviously an effective place to hang out if you're hoping to get discovered and the editor who signed him up, Charlie Sheppard, has described the book as 'probably the most exciting find' of her career.

Ana Fischel, whose story is written up in the current edition of Writers’ Forum magazine, made a £50,000 investment in achieving her self-publishing dream. Not many of us have that kind of money to spare, but her gamble paid off. She is publishing her seven-book series for children, The Zartarbia Tales, herself and used her expertise in pr and marketing to design an attention-grabbing promotional campaign. The first book, Isabella and the Le Cirque de Magique sold 3,500 in the first week after publication, much helped by the colourful roadshow in Borders bookshops devised and paid for by the author.

Fischel can afford to make the investment in her long-term future, but her success does show that it can be done and that the key is hard work and a clear idea of how to promote your book. For her this is not just a stepping-stone though and she intends to stick with self-publishing. This means she will retain control of her books and should make much more money on each book sold than she would with a conventional publishing royalty deal.

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