My publisher, Boldwood Books, made two very special announcements during April. I’ve been sitting on them both for a little while with the, ‘Did that really happen?’ question whirring round my mind. Now that the news is out there, I still can’t quite believe it as I never in a million years believed that either of these things would happen to me.
So, what am I talking about? The first announcement was that the worldwide sales of my books across all formats (digital, print, audio) have passed one million. Eek! This is for sales across eighteen books up until the end of March 2023, the first release being The Secret to Happiness in September 2019 and the most recent being Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn, released in January. I’ve had another release since then – Summer Nights at The Starfish Café – but, as it was released at the start of April, sales for that aren’t included in the million milestone.
It’s such a turnaround from how things used to be for me. I joined the NWS in 2012 and submitted the same manuscript two years in a row due to making significant changes to it. Those first two feedback reports were amazing and gave me the encouragement that I could write, had a good plot, and rounded characters, which gave me the confidence to submit to publishers and agents. Many rejections followed, but so did a publishing deal and I honestly thought I’d made it.
Things don’t always work out how you’d hoped or expected and this was one of those occasions. After releasing three books and a novella across a sixteen-month period, my publisher ceased trading and I needed to quickly get my books back out there as an indie author. They tanked. I continued to write and I continued to hope, but my time as an indie author was a bit of a disaster. Even with nine titles out there, I frequently had days where I sold nothing and, as I’m sure you can imagine, it was soul-destroying.
I had friends in the same genre as me who were doing really well as indie authors and none of us could work out why things hadn’t taken off for me. I felt like such a failure and started to question whether I could write after all, although I just needed to look at my reviews to know I could. Hardly anyone seemed to find my books, but those who did clearly loved them; a chink of sunshine in the darkness.
Hindsight’s a great thing and I now know why my indie career never took off. Amazon’s algorithms respond to regular activity and my activity wasn’t regular enough. Trying to fit writing round a demanding full-time day job meant large gaps between releases, so those algorithms to make my books more visible to potential readers never kicked in. I also needed to invest in adverts but I didn’t have the time to explore how to do that. The day job often demanded a 60-70 hour week so it was a miracle I managed to write, never mind fit in anything else.
When I joined Boldwood as one of their first twenty authors in spring 2019, I desperately hoped that things were going to change for me. They have done, beyond all recognition. Through Boldwood, I’ve ticked off so many things on my writing bucket list – becoming a full-time author, having my books available in audio, becoming a top ten bestseller, foreign rights deals – but being a million-copy author was such a huge thing that it wasn’t even on my bucket list. I was used to days on end with zero sales so never dreamed I could go from that to a million sales.
My second announcement was that I’ve signed my third publishing contract with Boldwood. During my very first conversation with Boldwood’s Publishing / Sales & Marketing Director, Nia Beynon, we talked about them taking on some of my indie backlist so my offer was for a whopping nine books, made up of five backlist titles and four new books. Rapid release of those freshly edited backlist titles was a great success so they added contract addendums for the rest of my titles, bringing this up to a twelve-book deal. In October 2020, I signed a second twelve-book deal.
I still have four books to deliver on that second contract but my next release on 17th July, The Start of Something Wonderful, is the first book in a brand new series set in the Lake District called ‘Escape to the Lakes’. We anticipate this being my longest series so far (maybe 10-15 books) but, with other books we had planned, I could only fit two of these into my existing contract. It felt a bit strange to be planning a long series while only being contracted for two books so we had a conversation about future plans and Nia said she’d come back to me with an offer. My husband and I discussed what this might be. He reckoned it would be twelve books again, but I thought maybe six or eight. I nearly fell off my chair when Nia gave me the number: sixteen! With all the ideas I had, she said it could easily have been twenty or more but they decided that, writing four books a year, a four-year commitment felt fairer to me than tying me in for longer.
I was invited down to London for a celebratory afternoon tea in Fortnum & Mason in mid-March, which was such an amazing treat. We’d been hoping to announce the million sales and the new sixteen-book contract after that. Unfortunately, my February sales figures didn’t quite get me to the million but March’s did so there needed to be a slight delay in announcing it. I was presented with a gorgeous glass plaque but couldn’t bring myself to display it until I knew I’d definitely hit that milestone. It sat in my office in its box for a month but is now displayed proudly on my desk.
There are many qualities an author needs and one of them is resilience. This doesn’t always sit easily with the sensitivities of being a romance author, but it’s absolutely essential for this tough industry. There’ve been so many points in my eight years as a published author where I could have given up. Rejections, negative reviews, poor sales, low chart positions and a host of other challenges can massively knock our confidence, trigger anxiety, reduce us to tears, make us want to walk away. When Boldwood opened up for submissions in February 2019, I was at my lowest ever point with my writing. ‘One more submission,’ I told myself. If it was a no, I had some serious soul-searching to do around whether I could keep doing this to myself. Thankfully, it was a yes.
Would I have walked away if the outcome had been different? I’ll never know for sure, but I suspect I would have kept going because I have so many stories burning inside me desperate to be told and, to be honest, it’s who I am. On the day my first full-length novel was published in 2015, my husband presented me with a set of three canvases – the covers of that novel and a prequel novella which had been released a few weeks earlier, and a quote from Mark Twain: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why”. I found out why the day I became an author and I couldn’t imagine being anything else. It’s hard work and can be worrying and frustrating, but it’s also beautiful, rewarding, and an absolute gift. Books can change lives and to all those who dismiss romance as an inferior genre, I challenge them as to whether there’s another genre that can speak to a reader in the way that a romance novel can, providing escapism, reassurance, hope, and a great big comforting hug.
I’m really looking forward to expanding on my journey and sharing the lessons I’ve learned (and am still learning!) at the RNA Conference in August.
My HR day job included specialisms in training, coaching and mentoring. It has been a delight to combine those skills with writing by becoming an RNA Learning Tutor. In March last year, I ran a one-month online course on the importance of setting. The feedback was incredible and I was honoured to be invited back to run the same course this year. An even greater honour has been hearing from some of last year’s participants about the successes they’ve had as a result of the course. What a thrill to play a small part in someone’s writing journey.
In September this year, I’m back with a brand new course – ‘A Series Bestseller’s Guide to Writing a Series’. Tickets are available now and I’m already excited about helping the participants working towards their dreams.
My parting advice is to keep believing in yourself and keep going because you never know what’s waiting for you round the next bend. And the view might be even more spectacular than you ever imagined. Mine was.
Big encouraging hugs
About the Author
Jessica Redland is a bestselling author of emotional but uplifting stories of love, friendship, family, and community. Her Whitsborough Bay books transport readers to the stunning North Yorkshire Coast where she lives with her husband, daughter and sprocker spaniel. Her Hedgehog Hollow series, set in a hedgehog rescue centre, takes readers into the beautiful rolling countryside of the Yorkshire Wolds. All of Jessica’s books are available in a multitude of formats: eBook, paperback, hardback, large print, and audio. Her eBooks are all available for FREE via Kindle Unlimited and six of her audiobooks can be listened to for FREE as part of the Audible Plus programme for Audible subscribers. Libraries internationally also stock Jessica’s titles in a variety of formats.
Links to author landing pages:
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3tNQgh9
Amazon USA: https://amzn.to/3ne3zU9
Audible UK: https://adbl.co/3n8jOlK
Redland’s Readers (Facebook group exclusive for fans of Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow): https://www.facebook.com/groups/409519133635791
Jessica – you are a legend! What an inspirational post, huge thanks for sharing xx
Jessica, as you know, I’m someone whose floundering writing career was turned around by your course in March last year.
You’re amazing, an incredible role model and this post is so inspiring. Thank you for sharing your fascinating story!