tony mcmanus

On writing, writers, books and publishing.


I am a writer, a natural one I believe, at ease with the pen. Yet I’ve spent most of my time on earth doing other things. I was a freelance design draftsman in aerospace for many years. It paid very well and allowed great travel experience. I did other work in my more youthful days: a taxi driver in Manchester: a construction hand in the Zambian copper belt and the Rand goldfields of Southern Africa: a pipe fitter in Mandini, Zululand: a bar tender in Cape Town: a mercenary soldier in the Congo. And there were other jobs. But they all had one thing in common; my heart wasn’t in it. The writing life was the life I wanted. I wrote when I could: short fiction mostly and articles. I wrote stories for adults and children: some published, most rejected. I also discovered that a story rejected out of hand by one editor, might well be welcomed by another: very puzzling. In an ambitious move, I sent stories to the best magazines because they pay well and have wide readership, but I quickly learned that I was wasting my time: new writers had a snowball in hells chance of getting published in the likes of: Atlantic Monthly, New Yorker, Vanity Fair et al. They just won’t read unsolicited manuscripts. I accepted that, but found it much harder to accept some of the piffle and plot-less stories that did make it onto their pages.

Over the years I read countless books on writing and getting published. I learned about literary agents and their growing importance. The Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook became my bible. I read copiously about the great literary rejections of history (disquieting and often hilarious). I was told, and came to believe that rejection was an important part of a writer’s journey and, though disappointing, was good discipline. Rejection was a crucible in which a writer’s mettle and very essence is tested; it sorted the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys: the good writers from the mediocre. But tell that to those writers who followed that path faithfully, only to face heartbreaking disappointment. I often wondered how many simply gave up, their dreams shattered, and stuck to their day jobs. I thought of John Kennedy Toole whose book A Confederacy of Dunces was constantly rejected for publication. He didn’t simply give up: he committed suicide. His book was finally published eleven years after his death, but only after the heroic hard work of his mother and a few friends who believed. A Confederacy of Dunces went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in1981, become a cult classic and was, and is, a commercial success. Then, I discovered self-publishing.

I was working on my novel The Iran Deception at the time. At first I dismissed self-publishing as another name for vanity publishing until I realized how many great and famous writers had done it. If I self published I’d be in the company of: Joyce, Burns, Byron, Dickens, D.H. Lawrence, Kipling, Mark Twain, Balzac and a host of others. I picked up Self publishing for Dummies: a great guide. I discussed this with the gentleman editing my book. He lives in New York. We never met, communicating by e-mail, and telephone. He recommended self-publishing wholeheartedly. “But Amazon KDP is the way to go,” he said. I had an Amazon account and had bought several books from them. I also knew of the Kindle, though I didn’t own one. That changed quickly. After a little research I bought a Kindle, downloaded a few books and was very quickly hooked.

I published my novel, The Iran Deception, this September.  And like many people today, I self-published it on Amazon. I also made a point of using their Print on Demand (POD) feature for anyone wishing to purchase a hard copy they can hold in hand. And I did as we’re supposed to do; I purchased a copy for myself and downloaded another one to my Kindle. Now I’m back at doing what I do best, writing. I’m building my marketing platform and working on my next novel: A Bangkok Interlude and a collection of short stories: Down and Out in the Big Mango.

I’m glad I went the indie route with KDP and wholly recomend it. If John Kennedy Toole had had KDP available, he’d be alive and well. I feel good about it and confident I can make a success of it. And I wish all indie authors success in their endeavors.

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