How I first became a published author – A guest post from Anna Jacobs
Anna Jacobs is our Author of the Month for February 2022. To celebrate the publication of Sarah’s Gift we are pleased to share a guest blog from Anna herself, describing how she became the prolific author that she is.
I came away from my Grammar School in 1959 secure in my understanding of English grammar, which has been essential to my whole working life. I went to Leeds University, where I got an arts degree and a husband. The latter is much more important to me and this year Dave and I will be celebrating our 60th wedding anniversary. He’s still my very best friend.
I went into teaching as women often did in those days, not because I was aching to teach French but because I couldn’t see anything else to do and I had to earn a living. I liked the kids and the company of other teachers (well, most of them, not the chauvinists!) but wasn’t thrilled with the job.
My first publication was a French reader
, then a science fiction story, which stayed in print for 20 years, so you could say that it was successful. It also gave me hope that I could write publishable novels. Over the next decade I carried on working even after having two children and emigrating to Australia, because I like to keep my mind busy and the money came in useful.
At one stage I worked in the TAFE correspondence college in Western Australia, and wrote several French courses for them. The pleasure of creating them only cemented my burning desire to write the stories that have always fluttered round my brain.
It was the advent of home computers in the 1980s that made it all possible. I took to word processing instantly because it suited my way of getting the writing done. I’m still not brilliant at other aspects of the digital world.
I started a Master of Business degree at the same time and wrote as a ‘hobby’. That taught me to write fast whenever I got the opportunity. I also did a one-year unit in UK history, not for degree purposes – covering 18th to 20th centuries. This was very helpful as I hadn’t studied history at university.
It took me 10 years to get my first novel published, which was the sixth I’d written. By then I had become totally addicted to storytelling and utterly determined to get published.
I tried writing in several genres and got published in a few: romance, short stories, science fiction, historical and modern relationships tales. I learned a great deal from trying the different genres, but I eventually settled in the two latter. I now write modern family stories for Allison and Busby, and historical novels for another UK publisher.
My sixth novel won second prize in a very important Australian fiction competition in the early 90s (out of over 500 entries, I was told). I received $10,000, which paid off our mortgage, but much more important to me, I got published.
However management changed at that publisher and they wrote me a terse note saying they didn’t want my sort of story, which made me weep a few buckets. But I’m stubborn, so I started trying again and I found a wonderful agent in the UK and got published.
I’ve both won and been shortlisted for awards, but the best award to me has been giving readers pleasure. I thought I was writing ‘women’s fiction’ till I started getting emails from male readers enjoying my stories. I’m now the 5th most borrowed author of adult fiction in the UK library system, and at a similar level in libraries in Australia.
I don’t hit the bestseller charts, though, because my books are steady sellers not fast sellers. However, all my novels except for a few SFF stories are still in print and have been reprinting regularly from the mid-1990s onwards.
Little did I realise that my Master of Business degree would help my career as a novelist more than it did anything else. I have always applied business principles to how I dealt with the publishing side of things and now employ my economist husband as my business manager.
I love working for myself, and not having to do stupid or inefficient things for incompetent managers and bureaucratic systems. I produce 3 long novels per year, even at 80. I’m still not used to being so old as I don’t feel it. I therefore usually call myself a ‘valuable antique’ not, definitely not, an elderly lady.