When I started writing crime fiction in 2006, the only thing I was certain of was that for better or worse, I wasn’t going to hide the results away. I figured my chances of being published would be increased, maybe naively, if I could demonstrate a track record of building a readership. How I was actually going to go about achieving this wasn’t something I’d given a lot of thought to at this point. All I knew was that if my long-term aim was to write novels, I had to put the hard yards in. Only a madman would enter a marathon because he fancied a jog, right? I didn’t know anyone else who was writing in my home city, and if you live in a place like Hull, it can feel rather a lonely and intimidating thing to do, so the only logical answer I could come up with was to reach out through the Internet.
I launched a website which featured a first batch of short stories and sent copies off to a local online magazine. As plans go, it wasn’t big or particularly clever, but after winning the HarperCollins Crime Tour competition, I slowly started to draw traffic to my website. And then came the social networking boom which changed everything for me as a writer. I threw my lot in with MySpace, which in hindsight is a bit like buying a Betamax video recorder, but it more than did its job. MySpace was simple to use and you could easily post work on your page and plug into networks of readers and writers. More importantly, I was discovering small presses who might be interested in what I was doing. For the first time, it felt like I was making some progress. The quality of the stories was improving and people were reading them. I was on my way. But then MySpace died. If you’ve taken a look recently, you’ll know it’s like a deserted plague village, but I’m thankful that I was able to put MySpace to such good use when I had the opportunity. In many ways it’s all intangible, but I know it stood me in good stead when searching for a publisher for my novel, ‘Broken Dreams’. Facebook is where it’s at these days, and although it’s relatively painless for writers to create pages dedicated to their writing, it just doesn’t work in the same way. It feels like many writers, myself included, are still working out the best way to strike a balance between the public and the private. Some are undoubtedly more skilled than others, but caution is needed, as it seems potentially very easy to annoy with never ending spam about your work.
I’ve since discovered a plethora of websites and magazines dedicated to publishing new crime fiction short stories, but the point remains – it was only through social networking that I knew they existed. Now if I write a short story, I know where to take it and I’m much more confident it’ll work harder for me. Having a story selected for inclusion in next year’s ‘Mammoth Book of Best British Crime’ makes me feel like the system’s working, though the bigger picture is always to encourage readers to go to my website and hopefully take a look at the novels. Of course, there are downsides to this. I’ve heard people say it’s dangerous to place your work in a public forum where it can easily be copied. I’d concede they’re correct, but like crossing the road, it’s a case of assessing the risk and making a decision. I’m sure the odd bad apple exists, but the vast majority of readers and writers are fantastic, supportive people. Give it a go. Besides, if any one really did feel the need to steal an idea, I know lots of writers in Hull now – I’ll send them out to crack some heads…
Bio : Nick Quantrill is a crime writer based in Hull. ‘Broken Dreams’, the first Joe Geraghty novel, is published by Caffeine Nights and is available now in all formats.
For more information:
UK crime fiction short story websites:
Essential blog based round up of what’s going on, new releases, interviews and profiles from the crime fiction world: