As a trainer, I have way too much experience of trying to get complex ideas onto one sheet of paper! I never intended to write books. Back in 2008 I was training advisers - they needed to get a qualification in advice and guidance and wanted to know where the textbook was! I was working with my colleague Ann Reynolds at the time. We discussed and thought 'Why not?'
What's the story behind your latest book?
My work as a trainer helps me understand the pressures people are under at work. Managers need to know how to handle all types of situations quickly and effectively, and don't always have the skills they need. I had a 'Eureka!' moment when I realised I had the knowledge and skills to produce a book that gives them instant answers. It's called Face to Face in the Workplace. It has a really simple structure, so that once you've looked at one chapter, you immediately know how every other chapter works. It takes a lot of trial and error to come up with a simple structure!
What motivated you to become an indie author?
How long have you got? When Ann and I embarked on our first book in 2008, we actually had interest from a major publisher, but before the deal was sealed the economy crashed and the offer went too. Undeterred, we got an offer with a smaller publisher...who couldn't quite manage to give us sales reports or royalties. After a rocky journey of extricating form that publisher, we tried a couple of the print on demand options, which seemed unnecessarily complicated. In the end, we decided to do it ourselves, and Careertrain was born.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy isn't in the writing, it's the response from readers. If I can help anyone learn how to handle a situation, learn a skill and grow in confidence, I'm happy. I often hear tales secondhand of how people have used the techniques we've written about, like the lass who put 'The Groupwork Toolkit saved my life!' in a LinkedIn discussion about running group sessions. Feedback like that make it all worthwhile.
What are you working on next?
A free ebook that will introduce people to my work. It hasn't got a title yet, but it's about making sure you are heard when you have a message you need to get over. Watch this space! (And send title ideas if you like!)
Who are your favorite authors?
Professionally I love Edward de Bono and Peter Honey. When I get the chance to read fiction, it's often authors like Mavis Cheek, Cecelia Ahern etc.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Being able to make difference. I always have several projects on the go that motivate me to get on with it, whether it is blogs to write, training to deliver or people to coach. I love variety. Also, never knowing what is round the next corner gets me out of bed. You won't be able to see opportunity knocking from your bedroom, will you?
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
That's most of my time! Usually I'm working on Spring Development, my training company. Outside of work I'm often pottering in my beautiful garden. I recently bought a cottage with the most amazing garden. It has honey coloures stone walls, rockeries, ponds, borders, wiggly paths, espaliered fruit trees, a veg patch...it's absolutely magical. I feel blessed every time I see it. It's the backdrop for some of my videos on Youtube.
When the gardening is done (and I'm not cooking the produce!) I'll visit the pubs in the village, or seek out some good live music.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Usually late night browsing. I tend to have browsing sessions where I download a handful of books, so that I always have a few in stock when I go to my library. Often it starts when I want t a book on a specific topic. I'll find what I'm looking for, but I'm easily drawn into browsing just for the fun of it and end up with several books on all sorts of topics.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
No! But somewhere I do have half a children's story I started. maybe I'll find it and finish it when I retire...
What is your writing process?
To a degree I follow my enthusiasm - sometimes I'm in the mood to write something new, other times I'm happy to edit, refine and improve. I've learnt to make sure I have a structure so that I know where I'm going. I also alternate between using the keyboard and voice recognition to give my wrists a break.
The biggest frustration is when I want to write but other things get in the way!
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
As a young adult I read R F Delderfield's 'There was a Fair Maid Dwelling' which I believe was reprinted with the sequel as one book called Diana. It was a tale of a young man falling for a girl from a higher class than him and the differences between them. I recall it being beautifully written. I enjoy the 'proper' English that was used 50 years ago.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Five years on and I still feel like a beginner! Our first book, The One to One Toolkit, was relatively easy to market because it is written primarily for people who work in advice and guidance, which gives us an identifiable target audience. Many training providers use it as a text book for these type of qualifications. we took a very low tech approach at first - we emailed all the training providers to tell them about the book. Now I try to keep the profile raised using social media, but word of mouth seems to work best for us.
Describe your desk
I can see it from here! Light wood, two drawers on the right containing stationery etc. Also on the right is my dull grey stack of trays (In, pending, reading). I must replace them for something prettier! Around the stack is a hotchpotch of personal stuff. I can see tissues, a honey pot I use for paperclips, a silver cat phone holder. I'm not admitting I can also see nail varnish and sun cream!
What is your ambition for your books?
I want to be able to visit a company and see a hard copy of Face to Face in the Workplace on every Manager's shelf. (Maybe I shouldn't admit that on an ebook site!). It is already a preferred text for a couple of qualifications, I'd love to see it adopted by many more, particularly managemrent and HR courses, in much the same way that The One to One Toolkit is used on advice and guidance courses.
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