Stephen Leather: The First Novels: Pay Off, The Fireman


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VJ Books Presents Stephen Leather!

I got an email today from a chap who is trying to get noticed by the big publishing houses. A company produced his first book but is doing it by POD -publishing on demand - which means that they only print copies once they are sold. It's very hard to sell in decent quantities with POD. The chap wants to get noticed by the mainstream publishers and wanted to know who he should send his second book to.


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He complimented me on my first book, which was nice. Anyway, I thought others might be interested in my reply, so here it is - Yeah, I was lucky with Pay Off. It's a very short book and the plot is full of holes and I doubt that it would be published today.

The Fireman was better, but still wouldn't be publishable in today's market, I think. It wasn't until my third book, Hungry Ghost, that I wrote a book which deserved to be published. Writers are very, very lucky if they sell their first book. The market is much harder now than it was twenty years ago. Part of that is because there are so many more novels being written.

When I started writing I had to work by hand or on an old typewriter manual first, then electric and if I made a mistake the whole page had to be retyped. These days computers and printers and Spellcheck take all the drudgery out of writing so more people are doing it. As a result, it's much much harder to get noticed. And publishers are much more demanding regarding sales these days.

The first print run for Pay Off was 1, copies in hardback and about 10, copies in paperback.

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These days publishers really aren't interested in a book unless they think theycan sell 40, in paperback. They no longer have the patience to take on a writer and build him gradually, they want to hit the ground running! Pretty much all UK publishers and definitely all the US ones have stopped accepting unsolicited manuscripts. They were simply getting too many and virtually all were unpublishable.

Now all submissions have to go through agents, pretty much, so your first port of call is to get an agent. You'll have to get a copy of the Writers and Artists Yearbook, or the Writer's Handbook, and write to every agent in it. Without an agent representing you it's going to be very difficult to get anyone to read your work. I'm assuming that you did send your first book out to agents and publishers, and that they weren't receptive. You have to learn from that and make your subsequent books better. You have to be able to look dispassionately at what you've written and work out how to improve it.

Stephen Leather

It's not a question of finding a publishing company that appreciates your style of writing , it's about you producing a book that people want to read and, more importantly, that they want to buy. There are a lot of companies around that will produce a book for you, but just because they will print the book doesn't mean it will get into the shops. And just because the book is in print, doesn't mean people will buy it.

You have to produce a book that people want to read. How do you do that? You produce an interesting story with strong characters and you tell it in an interesting way.

The Fireman

Leather was born in Manchester. Leather was employed as a biochemist for ICI , shovelled limestone in a quarry, worked as a baker, a petrol pump attendant, a barman, and worked for the Inland Revenue. Leather began writing when he was in college; however, he "never managed to get beyond a few pages," [9] and did not begin writing full-time until he had worked as a journalist for more than ten years. The novel is a thriller about a merchant banker who takes revenge on two gangsters who killed his father. The book is set in Scotland, where Leather worked for five years on The Glasgow Herald as a business writer.


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  • His second novel, The Fireman , was written while he was working as the business editor of the South China Morning Post. Both novels, and his third, Hungry Ghost , were published by HarperCollins. Leather wrote his fourth novel, The Chinaman , while working as night news editor on the business desk of The Times in London.

    The Time In London

    Having been turned away by the authorities, the man, a former Viet Cong assassin , travels to Ireland and hunts down the men responsible. Leather's novels frequently include themes of crime, imprisonment, military service, and terrorism. Settings are typically London and the Far East.

    Leather writes different series in slightly different genres.

    The First Novels by Stephen Leather

    The main character of one series, Dan 'Spider' Shepherd, is a former Special Air Service soldier who becomes an undercover policeman. Leather became successful in the Amazon Kindle market in As reported in The Guardian , Leather anticipated that people buying eBooks would be seeking bargains, and he priced his books at the minimum price for independent writers in order to get his books into the top ten. On 5 August , journalist Nick Cohen wrote in The Observer that Leather had created phony Twitter accounts in the name of another writer, and used those accounts to praise Leather's own books.

    I'll go on to several forums, the well-known forums, and post there under my name and under various other names and various other characters. You build up this whole network of characters who talk about your books and sometimes have conversations with yourself.

    Leather's comment was widely reported, [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] and, on 3 September , forty nine other British authors issued a group statement in which they "unreservedly condemn" the use of sockpuppets , or paid reviews. Jeremy Duns and Steve Mosby have alleged that Leather has harassed them online.

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Stephen Leather. Manchester , Lancashire , England. University of Bath. Retrieved 13 August Thailand Tattler. Archived from the original on 12 January Retrieved 14 August The Bookseller. Retrieved 27 May The Guardian. Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 19 January Retrieved 1 May Writing Magazine : 8—9. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 7 August Retrieved 30 June Writers Services.

    Stephen Leather: The First Novels: Pay Off, The Fireman Stephen Leather: The First Novels: Pay Off, The Fireman
    Stephen Leather: The First Novels: Pay Off, The Fireman Stephen Leather: The First Novels: Pay Off, The Fireman
    Stephen Leather: The First Novels: Pay Off, The Fireman Stephen Leather: The First Novels: Pay Off, The Fireman
    Stephen Leather: The First Novels: Pay Off, The Fireman Stephen Leather: The First Novels: Pay Off, The Fireman
    Stephen Leather: The First Novels: Pay Off, The Fireman Stephen Leather: The First Novels: Pay Off, The Fireman
    Stephen Leather: The First Novels: Pay Off, The Fireman Stephen Leather: The First Novels: Pay Off, The Fireman
    Stephen Leather: The First Novels: Pay Off, The Fireman Stephen Leather: The First Novels: Pay Off, The Fireman

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