Blog Tour: Author Claire Johnston's Publishing Journey @ClareS_J @UrbaneBooks @lovebooksgroup

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When internet millionaire and philanthropist Harry Melville dies in a car crash at the age of forty four, the lives of his wife, Sarah, and twin brother, Ben, are thrown into turmoil.

Harry seemed to have it all; a close-knit family and a happy marriage - along with all the trappings of wealth. Yet as he recalls his past from the afterlife, a story emerges of the unspoken and bitter jealousies between brothers and of an unhappy wife burdened by loneliness and guilt.

When Ben takes over the running of Harry's charity foundation he begins to find purpose for the first time in years. But the arrival of a talented young artist brings a series of revelations that expose Harry's complex and dual personality in full. As he learns his part in the suffering of those he left behind, is it too late for Harry to make amends?

A tale of regret and redemption in this world and the next. From the Outside looks at the futile rivalries that can destroy sibling relationships and the lost opportunity for happiness when ego is allowed to reign over emotion.

Guest Post: Claire Johnston's Publishing Journey

I had been working as a journalist for over a decade when I first began to dabble in fiction. It was a natural progression for an avid reader and professional writer, and I naively assumed the hard bit would be actually completing a manuscript.
As it turned out, that was the easy bit.

I found writing fiction to be a liberating experience, the ultimate indulgence for a journalist who had spent years fact checking every second word to leave my fingertips. Suddenly, I was free to write whatever I wished. There were no rules. 

When I first came up with the idea for From the Outside – which tells the story of a multimillionaire killed in a car crash who watches the impact of his death from the afterlife – it didn’t occur to me at all to consider which genre the novel would fit in and how it would be marketed. It was simply a creative outpouring at a time in my life where I was searching for answers following the tragic passing of my cousin at far too young an age.

It was only when I started to contact agents that I was soon confronted by the realities of the industry. Which other novels of a similar theme and genre could I point to that sold well? This, I soon realised, is the crunch question for any novelist starting a new project. 
If you embark on a crime or sci-fi thriller, a romance, or something that neatly fits in a box, then agents and publishers can immediately visualise how they can market your work.  
From the Outside doesn’t fit neatly into a particular publishing genre, but then that should never put an author off. 

Happily, after sending out queries, I secured an agent for FTO, who was enchanted by the story and talked of a six-figure bidding war. Then, suddenly, the recession hit, and publishers were not willing to take any chances. My agent said we should hang fire and I decided to write a political thriller to keep the ball rolling. 

The resulting manuscript, Polls Apart, was accepted by a publisher in 2010 who also signed FTO. They published Polls Apart first – which brings me to the point where I need to be careful what I say. Ultimately, the publishing experience around Polls Apart wasn’t a rewarding one and I feared the same thing would happen with From the Outside. Cutting a long story short, I was able to secure the rights to From the Outside, but it was a difficult time and, as a result, I did nothing further with the manuscript for a few years. 

Then, three years ago, I heard a radio interview with Marlon James, the Man Booker Prize-winning author, in which he revealed his debut novel had been rejected nearly 80 times. Clearly another book that didn’t fit neatly in a publishing box.
I was so struck by his comments, because when I totted up all the queries I’d sent in earlier years for From the Outside, it must have amounted to at least 50. I had all but given up hope, but that interview inspired me.

I’m fairly active on social media and I had noticed a few Tweets by a new publisher, Urbane Publications, that caught my eye. I really liked what they represented – they view their relationship with authors as a genuine partnership where both have an equal stake in how the title is marketed – and so I dropped their publishing director Matthew Smith a note along with the first three chapters of From the Outside.

Time passed, I got back to my hectic working life and I forgot about it.
Then, probably a year later when I was on holiday in the US, I got an email from Matthew saying he was interested in publishing FTO. 
The experience with Urbane has been so positive and I have discovered renewed passion for my fictional work. 

I will be forever grateful to them for taking a chance on From the Outside. We need more independent publishers like Urbane who look to push the envelope and bring readers fresh fiction that lives on in the mind long after the final page has been turned.
Quite often those books just don’t fit in a box.

About Claire Johnston

Clare Johnston is a journalist and content specialist, and a frequent contributor on radio and TV, having appeared on Radio 4's Woman's Hour, The Kaye Adams Programme and comedy satire show Breaking the News on BBC Radio Scotland, along with STV2's Live at Five. She is a former editorial director of Press Association Scotland and commercial editor and columnist with the Daily Record. She is currently working with the DC Thomson media group and supports businesses with communication and content creation. Clare is based in Edinburgh.   
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