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Most Read Interviews

All TopShelf Interviews


Author Bio

As a youngster growing up in the cobbled streets of Stockport, UK, Clayton Graham read a lot of science fiction. He loved the ‘old-school’ masters such as HG Wells, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov,
and John Wyndham. As he left those formative years behind, he penned short stories when he could find a rare quiet moment amidst life’s usual distractions.

He settled in Victoria, Australia, in 1982. A retired aerospace engineer who worked in structural design and research, Clayton has always had an interest in science fiction and where it places humankind within a universe we are only just starting to understand.

Clayton loves animals, including well-behaved pets, and all the natural world, and is a member of Australian Geographic.

Combining future science with the paranormal is his passion. Milijun, his first novel, was published in 2016. His second novel, SavingPaludis, was published in 2018. They are light years from each other, but share the future adventures of mankind in an expansive universe as a common theme.

The sequel to Milijun, entitled Amidst Alien Stars is currently at the editing stage, with release scheduled for late 2019.

In between novels Clayton has published ‘Silently in the Night’, a collection of short stories where, among many other adventures, you can sympathize with a doomed husband, connect with an altruistic robot, explore an isolated Scottish isle and touch down on a far-flung asteroid.

He hopes you can share the journeys.


Readers' Favorite
International Award winner 2018 - Saving Paludis,
Book Excellence Awards Finalist - Saving Paludis
Top Shelf eBook Fiction Award winner 2019 - Saving Paludis
Authors Show 2016 Winner - 50 Great Writers you should be reading,
Top Shelf Indie Book Cover Award - Milijun,
Literary Titan Book Award - Milijun,
Top Shelf Indie Award Nominee 2019 - Silently in the Night


How would you describe the current state of the traditional bricks-and-mortar bookseller market?

Like most retail businesses, I would say it depends where it is located and how long it has been there. There is no doubt that online selling has had a detrimental effect on the purchase of books from the ‘local bricks and mortar’ store, but it is the advent of eBooks that has totally changed the book scene. The exception would be the sales of large ‘coffee table’ books, but they are infrequent events. Most ‘bricks and mortar’ booksellers are, of course, selling on-line also, but they have tremendous competition from the large, high turnover, source retailers.

Would you say that the bulk of your book sales come from traditional print editions or ebooks?

There is no doubt that eBooks are the main source of revenue from my book sales. It is not planned that way, it just happens to be so. One major reason for this is the ease with which
eBooks can be harvested on-line, and the thirst of the general public for them. Also, eBooks immediately land on your chosen device and can be read instantly.  Many online advertisers [of which there are many] run low-cost eBook promotions, which the reading public loves. If a reader wants a print edition, I think it is generally ordered as a Print on Demand, rather than off the shelf [or from the back room] of a book store. Thus, there is a waiting period.

Do you believe there is still a bright future for independent bookstores?

I think there will be fewer of them, and they will have to diversify the way they sell books and advertise accordingly. They have to compete with the giant online enterprises or suffer the consequences. Like a lot of things, it will depend on their turnover. It depends on how they get the word out—these days fewer people will just stroll through the door and browse. They can do that at home. The lamp is still shining, but the wind of change is blowing strongly.

Do you write an outline before you start a novel? If yes, how detailed is your outline?

I don’t write a complete outline; I believe that would be too rigid a philosophy. I do have a conceptual idea of events within the novel, but not necessarily in temporal order. My characters tend to lead the book onward: their feelings, their actions and reactions, their relations with themselves, other people and events, and their surroundings. That’s how the novel grows.

What are your feelings on authors giving away thousands of copies of their ebooks, hoping it will raise their rank on Amazon? Is this a viable strategy? Or are these authors making a terrible mistake? And why?

Whilst I have used this technique on one or two occasions, I think it is a monster that has grown excessively cumbersome, and somewhat of a nuisance. It makes life particularly difficult for new writers, making the future even more of an unknown.  It also spawns a whole army of readers who will not ‘purchase’ a book unless it is either free or at very low cost, say 99 US cents: the offer price that is usually encouraged these days. Authors are encouraged to write book series, with the first book being free, and are ‘promised’ that if readers like your first offer,
they will buy the next at full price. It ain’t necessarily so. Some will; some will just move onto the next free book. This practice also encourages short books, although there are notable exceptions. Incidentally, raising your rank on Amazon with a free book is fine, but it will be fleeting: a mere flicker in the passage of time. too.

Do you believe there is still a bright future for independent bookstores?

I think there is always going to be a niche for independent bookstores. The second-hand market seems to still be going strong, and the independent stores may actually outlast their “big-box” competitors. They usually don’t have the overhead, and if they’re intelligently managed, they have additional revenue streams. If all the physical stores disappear, I think they’ll be the last to go.

For the aspiring authors reading this who have dreams of making writing their career, how long did it take you before you started earning enough money from writing to pay your bills?

As an indie author, I never got an advance check. I took the plunge into self-publishing after being signed by an agent, who did nothing during her contract except keep me out of print for a year through her inactivity. After plunking down some real money to get my first novel off the ground, the first few weeks after publication were anything but encouraging. In the first month, I sold about twenty-five books. Friends and family. The second month, about fifty; the third, about a hundred. Then, word of mouth started kicking in (the best advertising you can have), and by month number six my book was selling 1,000 copies per month. It kept that average going until Amazon decided to open its other revenue stream with the Kindle Unlimited program. That hurt sales but opened some other, slightly-less-profitable, doors for me. It’s still a revenue stream for writers that a self-published author can’t ignore. The books have never paid all my bills, but they’ve provided enough extra money after that promising start to help, and I’ve been encouraged enough to keep writing.

Have you ever been part of a writer's workshop or group? Was it helpful? Or a waste of time? Any advice for writers looking to start or join one?

I am a member of several writers groups, and would always recommend joining a group particular to your genre if you can find one. They can often lead you to new advertising techniques, and new markets that may be useful.  And they may run author collaboration processes, for example, newsletter swaps that will help spread the word

What is the most difficult part by far about your craft? What's the one thing about being an author you wish you did not have to do?

That’s an easy one. Being an indie author involves marketing your books—after all, you are the only one who will do it. Whilst there are a plethora of entities that will offer help to find you, readers, there are very few who are genuinely useful. Unfortunately, you have to slog through and find the ones which work best for you and your genre. It’s never-ending, and things are always changing.

On the flip side, what is the best part about what you do? That one thing that makes the answer to that last question worth every minute it?

The best part of writing is sharing my characters’ adventures with readers, describing new worlds, and interacting humans [usually] with other-worldly circumstances. I want to leave readers with feelings of wonder and intrigue; feelings that will linger in their minds and have them enjoy being transported to strange, yet believable new worlds. Above all, I would like them to empathize with the characters, and maybe even wish to help them on their quests and forge their futures. If readers spread their own wings and enjoy the journey, I am happy.

How do you feel about self-publishing in today's market? Is it a good idea? Or should authors still be trying to find an agent and get traditionally published?

Self-publishing is the only way to go for me. It leaves me free to write when I want, which is often, and means I have control over my own scripts. Unless you are an established author, searching for an agent and pursuing traditional publication is an extremely time-consuming activity. Unless, you happen to know one, of course!

In a bookstore or library what do you think makes a patron pick up a book and want to take a closer look? Is it the cover, the display, the lighting?

All of the above, but assuming the book is well-displayed, firstly the cover, then the blurb on the back cover or inside the book. If a book is displaying the spine only, then that is not as attractive to a potential buyer. This is obviously somewhat of a conundrum when space is at a premium.

How do you work with an editor without pride making a guest appearance like Jack Nicholson in The Shining?

I love working with both Copy Editors and Proof Editors—I find it fascinating. In nearly all cases, I agree with their suggestions, and always gather useful information that I can use for my next piece of writing. If I have any questions on their recommendations, they are always willing to elaborate further. If their changes read better, or their suggestions are sensible, I will always use them. So far, touch wood, I have not received any suggestions for plot or character changes.

How should an author divide their time between writing and marketing?

It depends what stage your books are at. No point in marketing if you don’t have a book. Once you have something to sell, and it is in stores, then the question is— market that book or write another? The answer, of course, is do both. If you have a lot of books already out, you may spend most time marketing, and writing the next one at leisure.  But be wary, marketing can suck up time and destroy your creative juices. You should always leave some time to write.

What steps should an author take to build their platform?

Firstly, make sure you have a good cover and your work is edited professionally. Then invest in an author website, or maybe just an Author Facebook page. Primarily, and this is not revolutionary advice, try and build up your reader numbers. The best way to do this is by having a newsletter, which you can build up over time. There are various enterprises out there that can help you do this correctly, keeping in mind the new privacy laws.  Don’t expect overnight miracles. Building a platform takes time, measured in years.

Do you edit and proofread your own work at all or do you just write it and hand it off to an editor?

I always check and re-check my work before sending it out for editing.  My method is to use the computer first, then I print the result to date, find a comfortable chair and a cup of tea, and check it over with a red or blue pen, marking changes as I go. Then it’s back to the computer. I would usually work with two or three chapters at a time.  Sometimes, but not often, this procedure may need repeating.  Then it’s a full Copy Edit, revision, and then a final Proof Edit.