The ins and outs of publishing

by John Simmons

After a year of ups and downs, John Simmons reflects on the ins and outs of publishing, and what’s next for his novels.

When I last looked there were 31 books listed on my Amazon author’s page. It includes some duplications for different editions but it’s still a lot. It has several books on writing in the business world, three novels and a number of 26 projects where I was one among many contributors.

It was a bit distressing, therefore, when last summer the distributor Bertrams went into administration and my most recent publisher Urbane followed them out of business. This meant that most of my books were no longer available, no longer ‘in print’. It was like coming home to find out that the burglars had removed all the furniture.

The impact was different, though, for different books. My books on writing – We, Me, Them & It, The Invisible Grail and Dark Angels – had been important in my writing career. Even if they had not sold in enormous quantities – no prospect of retiring on the royalties – they had been the foundation of my freelance working life. They had also led to other opportunities and related activities (eg training). But at a late stage of my business writing career I would have to live with their loss.

The novels, though… that was something else. It had been such a thrill to have my first novel published in 2015. Leaves was a novel whose first draft I had written in 1970 straight after university. I had tried to have it published then, it had come close a few times, but in the end I put it away in a drawer and got on with my life. Then a dozen years ago I had a fresh read. The passing of time suggested the way I might adapt the novel, without major rewriting, with the addition of a new character looking back on the original time.

At this point, looking for a publisher for a business book I was ghost-writing for a client, I came across Matthew Smith who had just set up an independent publisher called Urbane. Matthew agreed to publish the ghost-written book; it made sense commercially. He asked if I had written a novel and I sent him the revised version of Leaves. He quickly replied: “I love it. I’ll make it happen.”

So Leaves saw the light of day after 45 years. Publication released something in me, perhaps permission to call myself a novelist, and within the next few years I had written Spanish Crossings and The Good Messenger. These were the most fulfilling writing projects of my career; those who read them enjoyed them. I was close to finishing a new novel Painting Paris when the collapse of Urbane came.

Almost a year followed of half-heartedly trying to find a new publisher. Then, like a good messenger himself, Matthew Smith contacted me to say that he had found a new publisher interested in republishing the novels. By this point Matthew had established a business of his own, Exprimez, which offers advice and consultancy to writers.

I’m deeply grateful to Matthew for so honourably looking after his former published writers.

The story has a good outcome. The novels are being republished by Bloodhound Books. Leaves is available again as a Kindle and paperback.

The other two novels are in the system and will be republished in the coming months. And, who knows, fingers crossed, I’m hopeful that Painting Paris will follow them.

Final words to would-be published authors: Only persist.

– John Simmons

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