Getting into publishing
I never intended to work in publishing. My goal was to be an academic, not an editor. But when I finished my MA in 1987, I was exhausted and penniless. PhD places were hard to come by and I was at a very low ebb. So, I decided I needed a new career. So, I chose publishing. After all, I loved books...
Which just shows how little I knew about publishing because publishing is a hard-bitten, competitive world, and if I'm honest, it's a difficult world in which to forge a career.
But I was lucky, after six months working for a microfilm publisher, I landed a trainee role at Hodder & Stoughton. It was there I learned my trade, learning to copy edit, proof-read, project manage and work in a team. I also learned all about printing, sourcing images and working with designers, artists and freelance specialists of all kinds.
The only problem was that I soon realised I didn't want to work in educational publishing. The bright lights of trade publishing beckoned, and after nearly three years at Hodder, I jumped ship to work for a start-up business publisher before landing a job at BBC Books.
BBC books was a revelation! The investments were high and the stakes were higher. Working there brought a whole new meaning to the word 'deadlines' when working to TV transmission dates. If you didn't get a book out by the time the first episode started, you would lose thousands of sales.
BBC Books was also a fast-moving environment, working with celebrities and TV producers who were fun to work with but could also be demanding.
After nearly five years of unrelenting stress, I burnt out. The long hours, the commute and the desire to be a commissioning editor all led me to leave.
I decided to work as a freelance editor, but a few months after I started, I was head-hunted by Cassell and hired to become a commissioning editor.
I loved this job! It was great working with authors to develop book concepts and I was inspired by the opportunity to devise strategies to make my lists (the book subject areas I was responsible for developing) more profitable. I wanted to put my books on the map, and I did! I commissioned the first bestseller the company had had for a long time and I doubled the value of my lists from £750k to £1.5m in just 18 months. It was enormously satisfying and fulfilling.
There was a problem though... the winds of change were blowing and I knew I needed to become more IT literate. Technology was gaining a hold and I didn't want to get left behind.
So, I made the decision to leave Cassell. It wasn't easy, but on my last day, it was announced to the staff that the company had been sold to the Orion Group.
The highs and lows of a tech career
My career change into IT began with a six-month training course. I learnt all about TCP-IP, NT Server, and other very techie stuff. It wasn't my forte and I only sat and passed one of my Microsoft Certified Professional exams in the end because it just wasn't my thing.
I enjoyed developing websites and I loved coding. In fact, I even went back to college to get my maths GCSE and do an evening class in C++. It was fun and I enjoyed learning something new.
After my training had ended and I'd racked up a fair bit of debt paying my mortgage and buying hardware, I got my first IT contractor job with Sport England designing Intranet pages.
It was a great job and it was well-paid. In fact, I doubled my income in comparison with what I would have earned as a freelance editor. But my next step to Reuters would double it again.
Reuters was an interesting role. The organisation appeared to thrive on chaos and contradiction. Soon after I started there, I discovered around eight or so people who had been hired to do the same job as me - namely create an intranet site for the whole of the technical network department. Reuters had their own internet but were shifting over to the World Wide Web and several departments had hired people to help them make that shift. I was just one of them.
Next up was UBS, the global Swiss investment bank. This was a whole new proposition and I was hired to create an intranet for the Corporate Hospitality department.
My contract at UBS ended just as the dot.com crash was cascading through the IT world.
Suddenly, I was an IT contractor without a contract - and I had almost no hope of getting one. The competition for the few remaining jobs was brutal. It was back to publishing for me!
Freelancing, coaching and NLP
After working freelance for a while, I was hired as the Senior Acquisitions Editor for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Pearson. It was a huge step up as I was effectively responsible for publishing new technology and web design books. I worked with the US team while getting to know the key players in the UK market and putting together a publishing strategy.
But the dot.com crash wasn't done with me yet. After just four months in the job, I went to a meeting about a forthcoming trip to Singapore only to discover I was being made redundant. To say it was a shock is an understatement. It rocked my world and I went home in a mess.
I got a great package from Pearson, but I was now adrift. I'd given up my publishing career for on in IT, but it had all come crashing down around me. It truly was a low point.
My solution? Move house and do up my new flat in the East End of London then freelancing as an editor and looking for my next step.
That's when I discovered NLP and life coaching. I threw myself into the world of personal development with gusto. The truth is that I'd partly chosen the world of IT because I could earn more money.
My aim had been to use my publishing skills alongside my new digital ones and work as an online publisher rather than a book publisher. I thought if I earned more money doing that, I'd have time to write books, which is what I'd always wanted to do. And personal development was my passion.
So, when I found out about NLP, I was all in. At last, I could combine my knowledge of writing and publishing with personal development.
I loved my NLP training and after my Practitioner training I went on to become a Master Practitioner. After that, I trained as a life coach with iPEC in New York. That meant making three 5-day trips to New York to do the live training - an irresistible prospect as I loved New York!
While I was doing all this, I was also working as an in-house freelancer with New Holland Publishers.
The see-saw life of an entrepreneur
I still had a bit of a journey to go on before I started Book-Launch Your Business and it was a painful one. I made a series of catastrophic mistakes, the first of which was to leave London. I'd decided to start a business using my NLP and life-coach training while working as a freelance editor. But my move to Portsmouth meant I got little or no work from the London-based publishers who'd promised me work.
It was always a risk. After all, with tight deadlines, most of my work was couriered to me rather than posted, and my move meant editors lost the proximity that made it possible for them to get work to me fast. Even with email and Word documents, it was a struggle to get new projects.
Setting up my new business also proved to be a massive challenge. I'd never started a business before, and I had no idea what I was doing. It looked easy in theory, but the reality was very different. I learnt a lot, but that wasn't paying the bills. And the bills were beginning to get out of hand.
In the end, I lost my house and all my money - what little I had! I agreed to do an IVA in order to avoid bankruptcy.
The years that followed were hard. Finding work in a city I didn't know well and found hard to get around (I didn't have a car) made recovering from my financial set-back difficult.
At one point, I had five different jobs - all part-time and all at different organisations and in different locations. When I finally got a full-time permanent job, I was bullied out of it within a few months.
It was while working for Hampshire Probation and driving to Winchester Prison that the idea for Book-Launch Your Business came to me.
Amazon had just come along and with Kindle and CreateSpace, I knew I had an opportunity to combine my publishing background with the new digital age. After my own business failed, I wanted to help other business owners build firm platforms for their business by publishing books. I knew how painful it was to fail, and I wanted to do all I could to help other business owners thrive.
I was particularly vexed by seeing marketers claim it was possible to publish a book in minutes (technically, it does only take a few minutes to upload your book to Amazon, but what goes before that certainly takes much longer!). I was also dismayed about the advice being given to self-publishing authors. To me, it just didn't add up.
In between a variety of jobs (including getting up at 3.30am to clean toilets at Portsmouth City Council), I developed my ideas.
I thought about what the difference was between the current advice being given to authors and what I'd learnt working in professional publishing, particularly as a commissioning editor. I knew there were missing steps, but it took me a while to recognise what they were and how they were significant.
Eventually, I put together my concept of the 5Ps or the 5 Pillar Publishing System. I started to share my ideas through my blog posts and with my clients. I saw the impact of what I was teaching, and this spurred me on to develop the concept in more depth.
At the same time, I realised most authors were writing the same type of book. Again, I looked back to my time in professional publishing and realised there were four key types of book that could be used by entrepreneurs to grow their business. I called these the 4Ss or the 4 Essential Publishing Strategies.
By now, I had all my tools in place. I had worked with several clients and produced their books for them. I'd developed the concepts of the 5Ps and 4Ss and knew they made sense for business-focused authors.
I was ready.
I moved back to Brighton where I'd grown up and found the right place to live, work and develop my business.
Below is a tiny sample of the hundreds of books I've published during my career and as the founder of Book-Launch Your Business. Some are very recent, and others from many years ago, hence the difference in image quality.