Ten years ago, when Nick Alexander received an offer to sell his internet start-up, he decided to use the proceeds to follow his dream of becoming a writer. “I had a romantic idea of a writer’s lifestyle so I bought a basic cabin in the Alps, where I could hide away and concentrate fully on my writing,” Nick remembers.
A real writer’s life
He bought himself a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and sent off his work to publishers, receiving response after response saying he needed an agent to submit to them on his behalf. “Even when I did manage to get an agent, he didn’t manage to place my work,” Nick says. Despite considerably reducing his spending, without the regular income of a job, he ran up so many debts that he maxed out his credit cards and found himself having to borrow money from friends.
The worst Christmas
It was Christmas Day 2010 when Nick realised he was at rock bottom. He had let out his apartment to raise the money he needed to buy food and so found himself in his tiny writing cabin during a winter where temperatures had plunged to -19°C. It snowed so much that the roads were closed and the power lines were down, leaving him without electricity or heating for just over a week. “I had to sleep downstairs by the fire to stay warm, setting an alarm every three hours to put on more logs.”
It’s such a relief to be able to simply focus on what I want to write and what people want to read.
Miserable and alone at Christmas, Nick chose to take action. “I wrote a whole series of short stories over this period,” he says. “But this experience also finally made me realise that I needed to stop relying on other people and take control over my own future.” He had finished a novel, The Case Of The Missing Boyfriend, that had, he believed, broad appeal, and he decided that the time had come to find a more effective way of reaching readers and try self-publishing.
Nick had been dabbling in self-publishing with a series of books based on his painful dating history, but it was only when Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) launched in Europe in late 2011 that things started to turn around for him. He put the first book up on KDP, experimenting with free giveaways to build up reviews and awareness of his writing. Within four months of first pressing the ‘publish’ button, it hit the number one spot in the Kindle chart on Amazon.co.uk. As sales continued to grow, it wasn’t long before he had earned enough royalties to pay off his debts and even put some money aside.
Reaching new readers
Nick has since published five more fiction titles on KDP, plus several others with traditional publishers, and is now one of the top 50 UK authors in Kindle history. “Before the self-publishing revolution happened, the traditional gatekeepers decided who should be seen by readers ,” Nick says. “With KDP, I can write something, publish it immediately, choose the pricing strategy myself, then let the readers determine whether it will be successful or not. The process is really democratic.”
He has enrolled his latest book, The Other Son, into KDP’s exclusivity programme, KDP Select, to ensure that it is available in Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s eBook subscription service. “Being an author is about being read and Kindle Unlimited is a great way of reaching new readers,” Nick says. “Now that my books are available to borrow, my overall earnings have grown significantly. It’s really working for me.”
A very merry Christmas
Christmas this year will be a very different affair for Nick, who is spending the festive period with his closest friends (his ‘fr-amily’, in his words), with champagne, a proper Christmas tree and presents all round, even for the cats. “It’s such a relief to be able to simply focus on what I want to write and what people want to read, rather than where my next meal is coming from. This Christmas I will think back to the horror of 2010, and then raise a glass to indie publishing.”