From counting pennies to 'phenomenal' publishing deal

Six months ago I was in a position that will be familiar to a lot of people. It was approaching Christmas and I was counting the pennies. There weren’t many of them. I’d written and published eight books in five years, and they’d done alright. Not brilliantly, but alright. The bills were just about covered, but it was going to have to be a pretty sedate festive season. And that’s when everything exploded.

Fast-forward six months, and things are now very different indeed. In that time I’ve gone from scrimping and saving to enjoying around £2,000 a day in book royalties. We’ve paid off the mortgage, and that’s just the first 20 weeks. What happened? Three words: Her Last Tomorrow.

Strangely enough, I’d started writing Her Last Tomorrow, my ninth book, around a year earlier. It was everything people told me didn’t work: a standalone book rather than a series, a slight change of genre, a departure from my usual style. As a result, I put the book away, unfinished, into a drawer on more than one occasion. Towards the end of last summer, though, I discovered the world of Facebook advertising and my perspective changed.

I took Mark Dawson’s online course and very quickly came to realise that Facebook advertising could be a very powerful way of finding more readers and selling more books. I created some adverts for my existing books and got some half-decent results. Nothing to set the world alight, but early results were promising. Then I remembered Her Last Tomorrow.

Although the book was horribly unfinished at that stage (it didn’t even have an ending), the premise was extremely sellable: a man's five-year-old daughter is abducted from his own driveway. The kidnapper gives him an ultimatum: he can have his daughter back, but first he must murder his wife. It struck me that this would be an ideal book to advertise, so I set about finishing it.

I released the book in early December and didn’t expect too much to happen. I’d been disappointed many times before. But when the results started to come through, I very quickly realised this was going to be life-changing. Within weeks, the book was earning four figures a day and topping a number of online charts.

Then, in February, I was approached by Thomas & Mercer, the crime imprint of Amazon. They’d seen the book doing very well and wanted to talk about a potential deal. Although I’m not allowed to go into details, it’s fair to say that it’s a phenomenal deal by all standards. There are even bigger things to come. Film and television agencies have been knocking and I’m in talks with them as we speak.

I’m told that Her Last Tomorrow is the biggest-selling book by a self-published author in 2016. It’s sold well in excess of 100,000 units so far and I’m well on track to sell more than £1m worth of books this year. Considering the fact that I keep between 70-80% of the sale price in royalties depending on the vendor, the figures are mind-boggling to me — especially when I look back just six months. It feels like a different world.

There were times when I almost gave up. There were days, weeks, months, where I was utterly despondent. But you never know what’s just around the corner.

Adam Croft is an author. He has just signed a publishing deal with Thomas & Mercer.