About R.J. Timmis


R.J. TimmisI have been writing stories since my first year at school. I absolutely adore escaping into a book, the more enchanting and out-of-this-world, the better. Writing for me started out as a way to take all the imaginary games I played with my My Little Ponies and Barbies and put them on paper. I loved the idea of writing being permanent; thoughts and playing pretend were fleeting things, but if you wrote things down, those thoughts suddenly became real.

During school I devoured every creative writing assignment and always kept a diary (most of which I still have, and just about die of embarrassment when I re-read them). Much of my spare time was spent reading, writing and drawing; and, admittedly, watching a lot of TV. Without even realising it, the hours I spent watching cartoons and sitcoms was an education on story-building techniques like the ‘race against time’ plot device, foreshadowing, point of view, cause and effect, character development and more.

When I left high school I studied animation at Griffith University’s Queensland College of Art, where I learned that drawing for eight hours a day is not as fun as it sounds! I changed direction after two years and branched into design and illustration. Finally taking my writing seriously, I also enrolled in a professional children’s writing course through correspondence. During that course I wrote my first award-winning short story, ‘The House on Connor’s Street’, which was Highly Commended in the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association’s Short Story Competition and read aloud on international radio. It was a huge buzz and fuelled me through the rest of the course.

By the time I finished the final assignment of my writing course I was halfway through the initial draft of my first ‘real’ novel for children. It was the first story idea I’d had that was so powerful, so tenacious, it wouldn’t let go. I spent every spare second scribbling away in cheap exercise books until I had a box full of them. Then came the meticulous task of deciphering my godawful handwriting and typing up each chapter (if I thought that was bad, I had never edited a book before. Talk about ignorance being bliss …). Twenty-two exercise books and three years later I had my first completed manuscript, ‘David and the Heart of Aurasius’, sitting on my hard drive and begging to be read! After another year of editing, researching publishers and sourcing manuscript appraisals that wouldn’t cost more than my car, I started subbing my book to editors. The rejection letters flowed in! While I was well-educated on the competitiveness of publication, I was still disappointed. My list of potential publishers grew shorter every month. Friends and fellow writers started suggesting I approach overseas publishers, but after the first few rounds I realised spending $60 on postage per submission was going to send me to the poorhouse pretty quickly. Not only that, the months of waiting between submissions and rejections were adding up into years. I was going to be old and grey before I found a publisher!

This was the moment when I probably would have given up. Ironically, it was the rejections that spurred me on. Some were form letters, but many were personalised, and encouraging enough to convince me to believe that my book was worth publishing.

After seven years of writing, re-writing, submitting, failing, re-writing, re-submitting, failing again, I took a deep breath and asked myself the question most every writer entertains at some point; should I self-publish?

I loathed the idea at first. Then I asked myself; was it worse than not getting my book published at all? Worse than putting my ‘baby’ away on a USB stick and letting it become nothing more than a corrupt Microsoft Word document?

Seven years is a long time to just throw away.

I did my research. I read about the pros (100% profits, faster publication, full control of the content); and the cons (100% of the risk, poor perception of self-published books by consumers and booksellers, no assistance with marketing and promotion). To be honest, it all looked too hard, too expensive, and too much work. But I couldn’t give up on my dream that easily.

It was hard work and a big learning curve. I suddenly had to look at my writing career in an entirely different light. When I’m writing, my book is a journey, a form of escape. I now had to re-train my brain to think of my writing as a business. I worked hard. After six months I had sold 400 copies of my book. Since then I’ve published more work, tucked away a few awards and just kept writing, writing, writing.

I have learned that self-publishing is not failing, or giving up. It was not my preferred path, and it still isn’t. But for me, Plan B was better than Plan Give Up and Fail Completely. I still receive fan mail, I still sell my books, I am still invited to speak at schools and libraries like a trade-published author. And I will keep writing, and self-publishing, until I am trade published or until I have no stories left.

And I don’t think that will be for a very long time.

© Copyright R.J. Timmis, Australia, 2017