We had a fascinating April HighlandLIT event last Tuesday – an author evening with Adam J. Jackson, a prolific writer on personal development. It’s the first time that a HighlandLIT guest has appeared on-line rather than in person - Adam was interviewed by HighlandLIT Committee member Scott Forrest who was present at the Glen Mhor hotel, and their conversation was watched both by the in-person audience, and a wider audience on Zoom.
Adam’s work is known internationally. His series, The Secrets of Abundant Health, Wealth, Love & Happiness has been translated and published in over 30 countries around the world and The Flipside: Finding the hidden opportunities in life is currently available in 17 languages. He told us that the ‘Secrets’ series has had 100 printings in Spain alone.
Despite his success with his publications – many issued via commercial publishers including Headline and Harper Collins, others self-published, he is a humble man, motivated by his passion for the subjects he writes about. A solicitor who re-trained in Natural Therapies, he went on, as his bio tells us, to become a monthly columnist for the Nursing Times and Health Guardian, specialising in reviewing the latest research in natural health sciences,
complementary medicines and drug-free therapies. Adam quickly became a leading proponent in his field, and this led to his first publication, a book on Irridology (health analysis through examining the iris.)
Why does he write a particular book? He suggests that you write the books you’d like to read yourself. Perhaps the books he wrote were the books he needed to read, he adds.
He writes, his bio says ‘in the mind, body and spirit and business/personal development niches,’ but he tells us that he finds himself in the ‘self help’ category on Amazon – about which he’s ambivalent. He doesn’t seek to be as presumptuous and directive as ‘self-help’ implies. Rather he likes to research the issues he is writing about, and encourage people to ask questions rather than providing instant answers. He read us a section from one of the ‘Secrets’ series – an inspirational story rather than directive prose. He writes, he says ‘Very simple parables about the things we seek in life.’
What makes a good publisher, Adam is asked. One who walks with your through the whole process – including the ‘desperately’ important promotion and marketing, though he tells us that increasingly commercial publishers are expecting authors to contribute substantially to marketing their works.
What’s his approach to writing? It’s important, Adam tells us, to get to know your audience, and the category in which your book will find its place – exploring competing books on similar themes. He always carries a notebook, and plans out his books in advance. Length is important – up to 70,000 words is ideal. Go higher, and the costs will eat into the publisher’s profit margin.
He doesn’t use any technical tools for writing such as Pro Writing Aid – no tech is going to look at the story arc, Adam says, and every book including non-fiction have story arcs. All writers do need an editor. And Adam has also put together a team of previewers, people who read an comment on his MSS before publication, which, he says can be ‘hugely beneficial.’
It’s important to recognise that writing takes an investment in time. Writing involves discipline, and Adam advises us to ‘treat writing like a business’ If you have a day job, for example, set aside 8pm-10pm on a couple of nights per week for writing. Adam, as a full-time author, gets down to work at 9.30pm each morning after his morning run and Tai Chi. He strongly recommends Stephen King’s On Writing.
When he’s self-publishing, how does he promote his work? He mentions the importance of a large email list, and a social media presence, though he tells us he’s ‘never been one for blogging.’ He warned us that Amazon, with its massive share of the book trade, allows other authors and publishers to pay to have their titles displayed prominently when someone searches for your title.
When it comes to overseas publication, he advises us that to do this successfully it’s important to have an agent – and of course, agents are difficult to come by. Harper Collins had the world rights on his first book, but eventually he was able to get back the international rights.
Despite the success of his writing which provides ‘a residual form of income’ he advises that he finds it necessary to have other sources of income. ‘You need to have two professions,’ he advises. An author can, he suggests, provide services to other writers.
What is he working on currently? Currently Adam is writing a book on walking the Camino in northern Spain (during which he met Scott and Annie.) Most people, he says, don’t walk the Camino for particularly religious reasons, but because they want to find themselves. His book will be different from others on the same subject in that it is not a travelogue, but uses his Camino as a parable for life, drawing life lessons from his experiences. He described an experience in a hostel he was sleeping in which reminded him how easily led we are as human beings, doing things thoughtlessly, just because other people are. The book sounds fascinating – we look out for it with interest.
Adam is a writer and speaker who addresses not simply the mind, but the spirit. He assured us that writing is a healing, therapeutic process which brings us in touch with our true selves. The healing power of writing – a wonderful, reassuring take-away from this talk.
Do it because you love it! Adam said of our writing. Keep it as simple as possible. Write like you speak. Focus on the next step, not the outcome. This was the approach to life and to writing which he advised; the joy is in the journey, not in the destination.