Welcome to my Authors 40+ Series – sharing the stories of amazing authors who published their first book over the age of 40. The series features talented, experienced and inspirational writers who share their (often non-conventional!) writing and publishing journeys honestly and articulately. Next to feature, is Stephen Paul Sayers!
1) What is the title and synopsis/premise of your first book and how old were you when you published it?
‘A Taker of Morrows’ is the story of RG Granville, a man who has his whole life in front of him…but only twenty-four hours to live it.
Beyond life’s boundaries, an enduring battle between good and evil determines the fate of earthly souls. Here, ‘caretakers’ guard and protect against the evil and vengeful ‘jumpers’ who slip back and forth between worlds to prey upon the living. For one man, news of his impending demise sets off a deadly chain of events fuelled by a jumper’s burning vengeance. Now he’s in a race against time to stop an unrelenting evil unleashed upon the earth and, if he’s to protect his family, and the world, he must breach the tenuous boundary between life and death to confront a killer – and a shocking secret from his long-buried past.
‘A Taker of Morrows’ is the first novel in the Caretakers Series, published by Hydra Publications in the summer of 2018 when I was 53 years old. My second novel, The Soul Dweller (The Caretakers, Book II), was published in November, 2018. Both have gone on to become Amazon bestsellers.
2) Tell me about writing the book e.g. where did the idea come from / how long did it take / what did you learn along the way?
It’s hard to know where ideas come from, but I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of what happens when we die. I got to thinking, what if certain souls could slip back and forth between this world and the next to keep you safe and protected? I think it’s comforting to think that someone might be watching out for you. But as a horror writer I had to include the flipside of the coin, that there may be darker souls out there trying to harm you, too.
I had been writing the book for about three years before I really stepped it up in the Spring of 2016. I began studying the craft of writing more diligently at that point, going to writing conferences and reading books on writing, and the passion started to surface. So, I probably wrote most of the book in about a six month period.
One of the things I learned along the way was to believe in myself as a writer, and understand that I’m the only one who can tell the story in my head. When you believe in yourself, your style and voice emerge and frees yourself to write what’s in your heart and soul, YOUR way, whatever that may be.
3) Tell me about your publishing journey step by step – what happened once the book was finished?
When I finished writing ‘A Taker of Morrows’, I was pretty excited about the story, but I had no idea if it was any good or what to do next. The first thing I did was to let a few handpicked friends and family read it for their opinion. After their feedback, I thought it might be publishable, but I had no experience in publishing or even how that was accomplished. I started researching the routes an author could take, the benefits of either securing an agent or submitting directly to publishers. I decided to go the agent route and pitched my novel at writing conferences. To my great surprise, I was signed by a small agency.
My agent and I began the process of edits and rewrites, chapter by chapter, which took about six months. But before we could start shopping the book, my agent left her agency to become an editor, so I was back at square one again. That moment was a real setback. I felt like I had been really close and had missed my opportunity but I also knew I had a much better book in hand, so I had confidence as I re-started the process.
I pursued other agents, this time by query letter, but I realized that it might take years to see my work published through this route. I decided to pursue some mid-size and smaller publishing houses that focused on horror and supernatural thrillers, and ended up with a publisher that really loved my story. ‘A Taker of Morrows’ has become a top-10 international bestseller, so this route has been the right choice for me and a great experience so far.
4) Who or what has helped you the most in becoming a published author?
I can honestly say I would not have become a published author without my former agent and current editor, Linda Kasten, at Fix-It-Write.com. During the editing of my first novel, ‘A Taker of Morrows’, I got a crash course in writing 101 from this seasoned professional. She helped me understand story development and how to fill in the missing pieces of a story. She has also been my editor on my latest release, ‘The Soul Dweller’, published in November 2018. She was the first person who recognized the potential in my story, and me as a writer, and helped me step-by-step to achieve the goal of publishing my novels.
5) What are the main obstacles you faced / overcame when writing and publishing your book(s)?
The biggest obstacle I had when writing both ‘A Taker of Morrows’ and ‘The Soul Dweller’ was to fit in my writing around my full-time job. I have to carve out free time at night or in the early morning to write and hope that inspiration hits me at those times. Sometimes it doesn’t, which can be frustrating. But this same obstacle also affords me the opportunity to build a writing career without having to support myself solely through this endeavour.
The biggest obstacle I encountered during the publishing process was staying positive in the face of rejection. Writing is so subjective, not everyone is going to like your work, and that can be hard to take personally. I sent ‘A Taker of Morrows’ to over forty publishing houses, and in the end, six offered me a contract. While this is actually a pretty good percentage for a first time author, I probably focused more mental energy on the publishers who didn’t like the manuscript than the ones that did. It is important to understand that rejection is always going to be part of the process.
6) How do you promote/advertise your book(s)?
I try to keep a constant social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I post regularly about discounts and sales, new releases, and promotions, but I also post about things not related to the book. An author has to remember that social media is supposed to be ‘social’ and that using every minute to promote your book will turn people off.
It’s important to maintain an author website that has interesting content, blogs or book reviews, etc., because this is where you want to drive traffic. If your website is interesting, people will want to keep coming back. I have used paid Facebook and AMS ads to keep my book in front of people’s eyes, but I believe the best bang for the buck is using ad stacks, multiple promotional sites like Bookbub, Book Reader Magazine, Bargain Booksy, and others that put your book cover and blurb into people’s email inboxes. This strategy has pushed both my books into bestselling categories.
Finally, an interesting newsletter sent out monthly or quarterly is a great way to market directly to your fan base. Again, mindless promotion will cause people to drop you, so things like featured authors (other authors inside or outside your genre), book recommendations, or movie picks are a good way to keep people interested not only in your novels, but in you. It takes a long time to build a newsletter list and a following, so be patient.
7) How did you celebrate the incredible achievement of your first book being published?
After ‘A Taker of Morrows’ had been accepted at Hydra Publications, the publisher began their work of getting the cover design, interior design, etc. completed. During that time, I had only limited input and turned my attention to completing book two in the series, ‘The Soul Dweller’. So, when ‘A Taker of Morrows’ was finally released, I had actually moved on mentally to the next novel. Of course, I was very proud of the moment when I first saw the novel listed on Amazon (and saw it on bookstore shelves), but I never really had an official celebration. The celebration comes for me when I read a positive review of the novel or receive an email from someone saying how much they can’t wait for the next book in the series.
8) What advice would you give to other authors about to begin their publishing journey?
The unfortunately reality is to prepare for a lot of rejections, but this should not be a cause to be pessimistic. In fact, I read an interesting quote from an author who said he judges his success by the number of rejections he gets. Getting rejected means you are putting your work out there fearlessly, and the more do, the greater your chances of success. Opening yourself up to one more rejection is usually the difference between an unpublished and published author.
9) Where is/are your book(s) currently available to read and where can people find you online?
My novels, ‘A Taker of Morrows’ and ‘The Soul Dweller’, are available in eBook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple iBooks. Physical copies can be ordered online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and at all Barnes & Noble stores nationwide.
Please visit me at https://www.stephenpaulsayers.com to find out more about my books and me, as well as read and download free short stories. You can also reach out on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram:
10) Are you working on anything new we can look forward to in 2019?
I am currently working on the third book of the Caretakers Series, tentatively scheduled for a fall 2019 release.
Thank you for taking part in my Authors 40+ Series Stephen! If you are an author who published their first fiction or nonfiction book over the age of 40 and would like to be featured in this blog series just like Iuliana, Tamsin, Julie, Lynne, Devorah, Paul, Joanne, Paul, D.P., Reyna, Michael and Christina, please get in touch!