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Author David Leadbeater spurred on by rejection
After a lifetime of rejection, York author David Leadbeater proved the big publishers wrong, by making it to the top of the bestseller charts on Kindle. He spoke to STEPHEN LEWIS.
DAVID Leadbeater was used to the rejection slips. They always said the same thing. It was either, “We’re not taking on authors at the moment” or “Your writing doesn’t fit our profile”.
He was only 15 when he received the first one. He had written a horror novel and sent it off. When the rejection slip came back the publisher got the title of the novel wrong. He rang them up, hoping they might have sent the rejection to the wrong person. “They hadn’t,” he says with a grin.
Fortunately, David can take rejection and he loves writing novels.
“I like to go into a different world, one where you can do anything you want,” says the 46-year-old father of two young children. He particularly enjoys it, he says, when a character takes him by surprise, appearing where he or she shouldn’t. “It’s nice when that happens – it’s quite often!”
He must have written 15 novels in the past 30 years, he says, and never had a sniff of success with any of them. Until, that is, his wife, Erica, suggested he try publishing one himself on Kindle.
He had written a supernatural thriller entitled Chosen. It was, says the man who by day works for a builders’ merchant at Clifton Moor, the book he had always wanted to write – a kind of Heroes of the occult fiction world, in which a group of people with special powers unite with vampires and other supernatural beings to fight against an impending apocalypse. He received the usual rejection letter – then Erica suggested he try Kindle.
Publishing it was easy enough: getting anyone to read it was a different matter. The book died. He sold a few copies. “My mum and dad bought one; my wife; a couple of friends.” But it was only selling something like three copies a week.
David already had an idea for another novel, a fast-paced thriller called The Bones Of Odin. It featured an ex-SAS action man turned wannabe photographer, Matt Drake, who, at a Viking-themed fashion shoot in York, stumbles across an ancient Viking prophecy that could spell doom for the world.
A Viking artefact known as ‘Odin’s Shield’ has been uncovered and loaned to Jorvik. It turns out it is one of nine artefacts associated with the king of the Norse gods – and once they are all assembled together, goes the legend, the end of the world will come.
Naturally enough, there is someone hell-bent on bringing all the pieces together – and Matt is the only person who can stop him.
David describes the book as a fast-paced thriller. “It’s very cinematic in style, not too taxing on the mind, very visual,” he says. “It’s aimed at people who’ve had a bit of a hard day at work, and want to come home, relax, and read for an hour at night.”
He published the book on Kindle last November. But this time he had learned his lesson. Before releasing it, he had set up his own web-page, blog, and Facebook and Twitter account.
He linked them all in to each other, and started networking like mad, linking up with other authors and thriller fans, and slipping in constant plugs for his book.
It began slowly enough. But by the time he and his family went on holiday to Florida last month, it was selling 30 or so copies a day, which was respectable enough.
Then something unexpected happened. He started selling more and more copies: 50 a day, 100 a day, 150. It peaked on Good Friday, when he sold 1,200 copies in a single day and found himself topping Kindle’s thriller chart.
Since then things have steadied a little, but he is still at No 5 in the chart, and going strong. And he’s getting some amazing reviews, comparing him with Andy McDermott and Matthew Reilly. “Bond meets the Da Vinci Code but with higher stakes!!” wrote one reviewer. “Can’t wait for next novel,” wrote another. “Brilliant!”
David’s newfound fans won’t have to wait long. He has nearly finished the sequel, and hopes to be able to release it within the next few weeks. “I want to strike while the iron is hot,” he says.
In the meanwhile, there is always Chosen, which is already doing better on Kindle now he’s made a name for himself; and Walking With Ghosts, a short story about a rookie police officer trying to save a young girl from the clutches of a deadly serial killer in York.
The book mentions of the Special Care Baby Unit at York Hospital, which is close to David’s heart. His daughters, Keira, three, and Megan, nine months, were born prematurely, and spent time in the unit.
“The people there were brilliant,” he says.
David still can’t believe what has happened. He isn’t about to make his fortune from writing any time soon, he knows: all three of his Kindle books cost less than £1 each to buy, so he makes less than 50p from every copy sold. But he doesn’t write for the money.
“I want the stuff to be out there and read!”
It certainly is now.
• The Bones of Odin by David Leadbeater is available on Amazon Kindle, priced 98p. Chosen and Walking With Ghosts are also available on Kindle, priced 95p and 77p respectively.