Keith A Pearson is one of Britain’s most successful independent authors, selling over 200,000 copies of his books both on Amazon and in self-published print editions. His genre is humorous fantasy/sci-fi, often involving time travel. His debut novel The '86 Fix, in addition to the fantasy aspect, also includes a ‘gritty social comment’ narrative, and is reminiscent of the novels by Sue Townsend, who was the queen of this style. Keith's website is here.
Simon Elson sought Keith out and interviewed him for Everybody's Reviewing.
Interviewed by Simon Elson
SE: What made you write your first book, The '86 Fix?
KP: It was partly a drunken bet – struck whilst in the pub with a few friends in December 2015 – and partly just a tick on a bucket list. Then, in March 2016, a client cancelled a project at the last minute, leaving me with a few empty weeks in my schedule. So, with no planning or preparation and spectacular levels of naivety, I just sat down and started writing. To this day, I have no idea how I managed to cobble a book together, let alone one that people seem to enjoy reading.
SE: Is there any part of you in Craig – the hero of The '86 Fix?
KP: I’m sure there’s plenty of traits Craig and I share, although I’ve fortunately never reached his depth of discontentment with life. There’s something about your forties – where you realise you’ve passed the halfway point in life – that forces you to stop and evaluate where you are and what you’ve achieved. In Craig’s case, that realisation is tainted with disappointment at what he’s achieved, and it weighs heavy.
As for some of the events he experienced in the book, a few are based upon my teenage years, but I’ll take the fifth amendment regarding the scene where Craig loses his virginity.
SE: Did you seek a publishing deal or agent first, or self-publish on Amazon KDP straight away?
KP: I emailed maybe four or five literary agents, but I’m an impatient man and trying to hook a literary agent requires the patience of a saint. So after a few weeks of silence, I decided to go it alone. I only ever heard back from one of the agents I contacted, and he wasn’t interested, so I guess my impatience paid off.
SE: Were you expecting your writing career to take off as it has?
KP: Not at all, and it would be fair to say I never had any aspirations to become a writer. However, in many ways it isn’t wildly different from my previous career as a freelance marketing consultant because I work alone, from home, and if I don’t put in the work every single day, there won’t be money in the bank next month. The harsh reality of being self-employed is you need a strong work ethic and the ability to motivate yourself.
SE: Are you still happy with self-publishing? Does it give you creative freedom that a publishing deal might stifle or are you going to seek a deal in the future?
KP: I had intended to approach agents for my current project but I’m now in two minds. The problem is time, in that it usually takes 12-18 months from striking a deal to seeing your book land in shops. As I say, I’m not a patient man so unless I’m offered a truckload of cash in the next month, I’ll probably self-publish my next book.
SE: Do you design your own covers?
KP: I do, and I’ve made so many mistakes I wouldn’t recommend it. With years of graphic design experience under my belt I presumed a book cover would be no more difficult to design than a promotional poster or a website – I got that wrong! It’s taken the best part of two years to complete the learning curve required to design effective book covers.
SE: Your books have sold over 200,000 copies, an incredible number for an independent or self-published author. Whilst obviously they are great (I’ve read several), you’re clearly an expert in marketing and promotion as well. Have you got any tips for people starting out as a self-published author?
KP: First and foremost, forget any notion you’ll be creating art because you won’t – you’ll be creating a product. And, like any product, you need to ensure it’s as good as it can possibly be. It’s equally critical you identify your target audience from the outset because if you don’t know who you’re creating your book for, how are you going to reach your readers once it’s released? Everyone wants to write a global bestseller but if you try to write a book that appeals to everyone, chances are it won’t resonate with anyone.
Besides writing to a specific audience, the only reliable route to success is via hard graft – the more books you write, the more you’ll sell. I didn’t start earning a reasonable income until I had six books under my belt, so focus on productivity. Write. Publish. Repeat.
SE: What’s your latest project and when can we see the finished book?
KP: The current project is called Waiting in The Sky and it’s about an alien called Simon Armstrong, and his preparations for departing Earth on his thirtieth birthday. The draft details can be found on my website here.
I moved home five weeks ago and unfortunately, it’s caused havoc with my writing schedule. Consequently, I’m about two months behind but I’m now back on the case and hoping it’ll be released in the summer, pending any last-minute offers from a publisher.
SE: Finally is Craig from The '86 Fix and Beyond Broadhall done with, or can we expect him back in the future (or past) ?
KP: No spoilers, but you might want to read Tuned Out. I’ll say no more.