Fellowship Of Kindle Writers: Tom Winton

Time was, only women read romance novels, and only women wrote them.

Of course, that’s not strictly true.

Barbara Cartland has a lot to answer for!

In fact many (most?) of the geat novels of English literature have been romances, and not just the obvious ones like Pride & Prejudice or Jane Eyre.

Easy to forget that so-called “horror” classics like Dracula and Frankenstein are first and foremost romance novels.

Love, of course, is one of the eternal themes of  literature.

Love is what separates man from beast.

That, and the ability to write.

No wonder so many novelists choose it as a central theme.

Enter: Tom Winton and Beyond Nostalgia.

“‘Beyond Nostalgia’ is a monumental romance, a ‘Gone with the Wind’ set not against the backdrop of the burning of Atlanta, but against the rumbling disaffection of America itself. “

So said one reviewer on Amazon.com, and plenty of others share those sentiments. Not least, me!

As male romance writers blossom in the brave new world of e-publishing (two in the UK Kindle top ten!) it is writers like Tom who have a geat future ahead of them as word spreads and promotes their work to a wider and appreciative audience.

But Tom Winton offers not just a great novel for us as readers.

He also has an inspiring story for those writers among us struggling against great odds (ie all of us!).

Here, in Tom’s own words, is the story behind the story.

The Struggle of the Aspiring Author

I can’t speak for all authors, but the road to the recent publication of my novel, Beyond Nostalgia, has been fourteen years long and full of potholes, bumps, and more than a few depressions.   But wait… don’t throw away your pens and give your computer the old heave ho quite yet!

It doesn’t have to be that way.

I read somewhere that Robert James Waller wrote his mega-selling novel, The Bridges of Madison County, in three short weeks.

Much of my delay was self-inflicted.  What I am going to say here has nothing to do with blowing my own horn.  It is meant to convey a message — do not give up.

It took me two and a half years to write Beyond Nostalgia, on a part time basis.  While doing the seven drafts I laughed, I cried, and I even got turned on a few times.

I loved the process and I hated it.

When I finished it twelve years ago, I sent out a fair amount of queries.  Two or three agents showed interest – read a few chapters — but there was no cigar.

Disgustedly, I threw the manuscript into a closet, and there it stayed for eleven years.  Alongside it, on that closet floor, I left a piece of my soul.

I wrote virtually nothing from then on and wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around.  No longer experiencing the high I’d always gotten after a good thousand word session, I was not happy.

Then, in December of ’09, I was at my local library one day and, after choosing a few books, I sat down and started reading a copy of Writer’s Digest like I used to years earlier.  I read an article about online writers’ communities and thought,  “heck… maybe I can give this a shot.”  A day or two later I had the missus upload the entire manuscript onto Harper Collins’ authonomy website.  I was absolutely stunned by what happened next.

I’ll never forget the first of over 400 reviews I received.

Other than those few agents who’d taken a peek, the only people who’d ever read Beyond Nostalgia were my wife and I.  I’d always believed I had a good book but had very limited feedback.

When I read the first review I received, chills ran up my arms and the smile that rose on my face was far wider than it had been in many years.  The reviewer, who was very experienced on authonomy, said, “This is far better than most of the books I’ve read on this site”.

And what happened after that blew me away.

Many, many of the reviews I received were more like raves.  Beyond Nostalgia climbed to number 61—out of a field of 6,000 books– in less than three months.

The first two months, in the monthly ratings, it was ranked #3 or 4 in romance and in literary fiction.  It also got to #9 in all genres.  Harper Collins has since changed some rules which make it possible to rise faster, but back then things didn’t happen so quickly.

One morning, after those three months, I burned out and no longer wanted to do so many reads and reviews.  But I had become a much better writer.

I then did an eighth and ninth draft and started sending out queries.  That was the most difficult writing I’d ever done.

How, I asked myself, can I possibly tell these agents what my 87,000 word story was about in just two or three paragraphs?

I literally spent over one hundred hours trying to make the query right, and still wasn’t satisfied when I sent them out. Someone once said some very true words, “You never finish a novel you abandon it”.  And that’s what I did with the query letter.  Finally, I threw up my hands and said, “That’s it, I can’t do this anymore.  And I sent them out.

While waiting for responses a friend recommended I put the manuscript on Random House’s YouWriteOn site.  He said it was very low maintenance, and since he too was an authonomy veteran who had done lots of time in its trenches I thought I’d give it a shot.

After receiving eight reads (the minimum required for a ranking) Beyond Nostalgia was ranked 13th.  The next day it hit number one, where it stayed most of the month.  Only at the very end of the month, when I accidentally deleted the wrong review, did I finish in fifth.  But the top five are considered Best Sellers, and my novel is now in contention for Random House’s YouWriteOn “2011 Book of the Year”.

I was riding high after being one of YouWriteOn’s Best Sellers last July.  Then responses from those queries I’d mailed out started trickling in.

I suppose I shouldn’t say “trickling in”, because in one month I had ten agents request to see part or all of Beyond Nostalgia–four of them in one day.

Son of a gun, I had Brad Pitt picked out to play my mc in the sure to come movie.  Martin Scorcese was to be my director.  Even the sound track played in my head.  Then, over the next couple of months, everything went poof!  I didn’t have one agent offer to represent my book.  Three said they were sure I’d find an agent “soon”.  But it didn’t pan out.  I was almost ready to throw Beyond Nostalgia back in the closet.

But I didn’t.

At the eleventh hour Tim Roux at Night Publishing took a look at my book when one of his authors recommended it.  A couple of days later he offered to publish it.

We first did a test run for a few weeks on Smashwords, and it did very well.  It did so well  that Online Novels declared it one of February’s two “Most Popular” novels in their General Fiction category–and It hadn’t come out until February tenth.

Tim is a small, new publisher, and we are trying to make a go of it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other online outlets.  The book can be ordered at any Barnes & Noble brick and mortar store, but I only wish they would stock it.

At any rate, after being on Amazon for just four weeks, Beyond Nostalgia made the Literary Fiction “Best Sellers” list for a short time last week.  It is also on Amazon’s “Highest Rated” and “Hot New Releases” lists in both Literary Fiction and Contemporary Romance.

It will take a lot of work, and luck, to keep the book out of Amazon’s sea of obscurity, but this time I will not give up.

And any aspiring author who believes in their book needs to do the same thing.

Hang tough!

Don’t make the mistake I did.

With the online market growing as you read this and all the helpful online writer’s communities available today, we all have a chance to go up against the big boys.

It won’t be easy, but we have that platinum opportunity.

Click on the links above to visit the sites I mentioned and one more called Agent Query, which is the only one you’ll need when you’re ready to chase down that elusive agent.

Keep writing!

Tom’s book is available in paperback through Amazon.com and as an e-book from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and smashwords.

Unquestionably a great romance novel. Unquestionably not Barbara Cartland!

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  1. Hey Tom, great post! I love your sharing of this because aspiring authors can only be encouraged by it. Heartening to see Beyond Nostalgia get the recognition that you and I both know it deserves. You’ve had the courage to make the logical step from Authonomy and YouWriteOn to publishing in both paper and e formats. I sincerely hope and trust that you will reap the rewards.
    Just to add that cover is really good. You’ve got all the ingredients!

  2. Great to see you here, Mark!
    So glad you enjoyed my article. I deeply appreciate your your kind words. Since my early authonomy days you’ve always been there for Beyond Nostalgia and me. I consider it a privege to have you as a friend.

    Tom

  3. Tom,

    As the better-looking and more talented half of the Saffina Desforges writing team, I read your post with interest and admiration! 😉

    What a great story and an inspiration to other writers out there.

    If Mark has recommended it, then that is good enough for me! It is now on my ‘to be read’ list.

    Good luck with it!

    Saffi x

  4. Thanks, Saffi! I’m flattered that you like my article. I’ve got a funny feeling you might really enjoy reading Beyond Nostalgia, too. Have a great day.

    Tom

  5. Now THAT is an inspiring article, Tom. I thought my get up and go had got up and gone, reading this gave me the fresh kick in the butt that I needed.

    You already know just how highly I rate your writing, you have now impressed me yet again.
    Great article.
    Soooz.

  6. It’s a saga itself. I’m really sorry for the delay but the spirit is appreciative. You did it and deserve kudos for the effort. This will inspire other writers not to give up. Thanks for sharing your story. I wish success to your novel.

  7. Thanks-yet again-for your kind encouraging words, Soooz. You’re always there for me and Beyond Nostalgia.

    Tom

  8. Hi Tom.
    Wow. I am really pleased for you. When we last chatted around Christmas you were still doing all the ‘leg work’ to boost it. Well, I say that all your hard work has justifiably paid off. Well done.
    Jerry Evans [Paperbat]

    • Hello and thanks, Jerry. I have a lot of work ahead. I’ve only got two more chapters to go in a new novel and having a heck of a time getting to that with all the excitement going on.

      Tom

    • Poppet
    • March 28th, 2011

    On all of that I can relate. Wow! The parallels are freaky. The only thing I didn’t try was Write On. Congratulations on getting published. Tim is an author’s angel, he really is. Despite being such a nice guy he honestly knows what he’s doing, so much so I’m considering giving him work to publish I wouldn’t have considered a few months ago.

    Never lose the hope. If writing gives you a high – then it’s what you were born to do. As Ron Knight of Up Authors says – If taking years to be an author sounds discouraging, then I am very sorry. However, you still have to be an author.

    🙂 well done and congrats! And may you go from strength to strength!

    • Thanks so much, Poppet! Sounds like you well know the road I’ve traveled.

      Congrats on all your recent successes. Now let’s keep going and do a number on the big boys.

      Tom

    • Sheila Mary Belshaw
    • May 23rd, 2011

    I’m about to buy Beyond Nostalgia for my brand new shiny Kindle and thought I would read this first.
    Your words could be mine – to a T. Quite amazing how we were both stupid enough to dump our manuscripts away in a closet for so long. For me it was an article in Writer’s News about Authonomy that allowed me to wake up Pinpoint and have a go with it. And of course it was also our wonderful Tim Roux who spotted Pinpoint as being a publishable work. He is my shining star.
    And now I can’t wait to read Beyond Nostalgia. For so long I have drooled over the cover. How on earth did I ever live without this wonderful Kindle.

    • Shila, I’m flattered that you are going to break in your new Kindle with Beyond Nostalgia. If you don’t enjoy my story, feel free to yell at me. If you do enjoy it, and I have a feeling you might, I’d love to hear about that too.

      And yeah, had authonomy and YouWriteOn been around when I did the closet heave thing, I would have written a considerable number of books and not thrown away thirteen potentially productive years. I don’t know how many years you burned up, but all I can say is, all we have left is what we have left.

      As I told Mark, I have a NY agent looking at a new novel I just finished two weeks ago. Who knows, maybe something wonderful will happen this time. All the best to you and your work, and, once again, I hope you enjoy Beyond Nostalgia.

      Tom

  9. Darn it, Sheila, I miss typed and missed the “e” in your name. So sorry.

  10. Great post Mark and loved your interview with Tom. Old post new comment. 🙂

  11. Thank you very much, Lucy. And thanks for taking the time to read it.

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