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So, who am I? My name is Celina Grace and I’ve been writing books and stories for as long as I can really remember. I wrote my first story, The Blue Ruby, when I was about seven. Throughout college and university, I experimented with screenplays and scripts (I was studying Film and English at the time at the University of East Anglia), as well as some short stories. In my twenties, I started my first novel, finished it, then my second, then my third. In my thirties, I was slightly side-tracked by the birth of my son but, leaving aside that trifling distraction, managed to write my fourth.
All through these years, I dreamed of becoming a professional author, of seeing my books in book shops and signing autographs for eager readers. All the time I was working a variety of (mostly tedious) day jobs, all I wanted to do was be published. At the time, the only respectable way to this ambition was to be taken on by one of the big publishing houses. To even get them to consider your manuscript, you needed an agent and to get taken on by an agent was almost as difficult as getting a publishing deal.
I didn’t bother trying to get the first novel published as I saw it as more of a practise run at this business of being an author (and in hindsight, thank goodness I didn’t because, like most first novels, it was really quite bad). With the second, I entered the 2004 Lit Idol competition and got to third place. That was my ticket to publication, I thought, surely? Hah! Just the first in a long line of disappointments, of which every writer must be familiar… hopes built up to then be smacked down again. I had an agent approach me after the competition and on their encouragement, I finished, edited and polished the manuscript, sent it off to them with happy hopes – to be told months later that they didn’t think it was quite right for them..
Gutted, but enthusiasm relatively undimmed, I started on a new novel, inspired in part by the dramatic events of 2005 – the London bombings. This novel, The House on Fever Street, was shortlisted for the 2006 Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award. Aha, I thought, a fairly prestigious and industry recognised award. This will get me published. Did it? Did it buggery!
So there I was, four novels written, and I’d finally managed to gain an agent. And what happened next? Um… nothing. Precisely nothing. I waited. And waited. And waited some more. And then bit more. And a bit more.
After two years of impatiently waiting for my professional author career to begin, I began to hear about the rise in self-publishing, about eBooks and about how the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing platform was beginning to change the rules of the publishing world. I read about Amanda Hocking, who had sold over a million copies of her self-published eBooks. I began to follow the blogs of other independent authors who were creating their own success in publishing their books.
To cut a long story short, I decide to publish some of my short stories on Kindle. The collection had an incredible amateurish cover and I knew nothing then about proper formatting, marketing or even editing. Unsurprisingly, I think my royalties for the first month were something like £10 (about $15). Still, as I read more and more, and learned more and more, and most importantly wrote and published more and more, my readership and my income started to grow.
Fast forward three years and here I am, a full time indie author supporting a family of four on the money I make. I have twenty two books published, not just on Amazon but also on the other reading platforms such as iBooks, Nook and Kobo. I’ve been a Top 100 UK Amazon bestseller. I’ve reached half a million readers. At last count, I’ve sold nearly 100,000 books. I receive lovely emails every day from readers who’ve enjoyed my books. My novels are available as print books and audio books and I’m about to sign with an agency who will handle sales of my foreign, TV and film rights.
That last paragraph sounded like one big brag, sorry (I can be very English, sometimes). But I just wanted to show you that it is possible to write, not just one book, but many – and write books that people will want to buy. It is possible to make a damn good living writing the stories that you love. If being an author is something that you’ve always wanted to do, then my mission is to help you achieve that – to give you the tools, the skills and the confidence to be able to do what I do.
I am living proof that it’s possible to write a novel while dealing with all the other crap that life throws at you along the way. When I published my first book on the Amazon Kindle publishing program, I was working full time with a two-hourly commute every day (that’s when the London Underground system was actually working well – anyone who’s lived and worked in London knows that it very much doesn’t work well all of the time!). I was also pregnant with my second baby and had a very lively toddler at home. Somehow, I still managed to get a novel written and up for sale. And you can do it too.