Self-Publishing Successes – Tommy Storm by A. J. Healy

(I’m re-posting this for those who attended the Onestop Self-Publishing Conference – AJ Healy was a guest speaker. This was a piece I did on AJ in September, 2009) 

Most people would not turn their back on picking up a regular pay cheque as an investment banker with Goldman Sachs, but then, Alan Healy is not most people. It certainly is the kind of dream job, wage and lifestyle many people would dream of. Alan Healy doesn’t dream about investments and fractions. In truth, he never did. He has had his share of the good life and the big bucks, but he has also had his share of berries and cheap beer in his adventurous lifetime. He’s packed a lot into forty years of life.

At three years of age, when most of us just mastered walking, talking and realising food was something to eat, not wear, Alan James Healy had attempted a drugs overdose on baby asprin and crashed the family car into the garage. This kid was on a mission. His Dad left the family home when he was five, and he became the ‘man of the house’. Following two school suspensions, he finally calmed down and studied commerce at UCD in Dublin. Despite all this, he concedes that he did actually enjoy his school years, and clearly, while he may have been filled with wayward genes, something within Alan James Healy was astir. It would be some time before he truly discovered what lay beneath the surface.
Healy spent more than eight years of his life after college globetrotting around the world, taking in places like the USA, Australia, England and South Africa. He worked for Goldman Sachs in London as an investment banker earning ‘immoral’ sums of money for two years before those wayward genes and early stirrings inside him returned. Something was missing. He headed to South Africa where he hatched an entrepreneurial venture to start a brick factory to supply the building of local houses. During this venture he escaped with his life after being held at gunpoint during a robbery, and during the tumultuous times of the mid to late 1990’s, he had his house set on fire and one of his truck drivers shot a fellow worker. The bricks just didn’t quite work out and eventually he ended up back home in Dublin. Suppressing an inner urge for something more to life, he gave venture finance a few more years before finally giving it up in 2002. Following the 911 terrorists’ attacks in America, and the start of a global economic wobble, Healy finally listened to his heart and those deep stirrings inside.
He had always promised himself when the time came, he would write that book. From a teenager, he wanted to write and avidly read C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and Sherlock Holmes. Even the school curriculum of Dickens and Shakespeare had found a place deep inside of him and sowed the seeds he was about to reap. From an early age he had always wanted to be a writer but when he was leaving school in the 1980’s, jobs and money were hard to come by in Ireland, he felt it would be an indulgence for him to go straight into writing. He also thought he should gain some life experiences and skills before thinking of making a living from writing. He just never quite figured on the life adventure he would have.
Alan James Healy wrote his first novel when he was 26 during a time of travel and adventure. He insists it wasn’t much good and he filed it away in a drawer. By May 2002, he wrote a completely new novel which he called Tommy Storm, a children’s science fiction novel with moral and global undertones. Healy began the path all new authors undertake by submitting his novel to mainstream publishers and agents and endured countless rejections.

“I rang one agency to ask were they accepting manuscripts and they just sighed, said ‘Not today’ and hung up on me. So I changed tactics. Typically you would think of the self-published author as going for it as a last resort, but it was like leaving Goldman Sachs – I thought, do I want to hang around for another two years? Maybe I can be my own publisher?”

In 2006, he decided he would publish Tommy Storm himself, knowing little of what lay ahead. Healy, with grounding in finance and business had the basic organisational skills, doggedness, and importantly, friends and family who were willing to support his new direction and re-born passion in life. He wanted what he had always wanted to do—to be a full-time writer. Healy chose to take on self-publishing in its true form, set himself a budget of €10,000 and just about managed to keep within it. He would take the responsibility of typesetting, editing, printing, marketing and distributing his book himself. He decided against using an author solutions service, and instead negotiated a print deal of 5000 copies from a printer in China. Healy contacted friends with kids and proceeded to cycle around Dublin visiting these kids to read to them and hear what they thought of his book.

It was like making a beautiful pair of shoes and finding someone that would fit them perfectly. I got all these great letters back from the kids with really detailed explanations of why they liked it and where they thought it might be better.”

Ultimately, Healy managed to shift and sell 3000 copies of his novel. A chance meeting with an editor in 2007 resulted in a copy of the book being sent to the desk of an editor in Quercus Publishing in the UK. Slam-dunk! Quercus, unlike other publishing houses, liked the idea of this quirky novel for kids with its madcap humour combined with moral and global questions for generations to come, that also had a wide appeal to adults in general.
The success for Alan Healy continues. He has written and published the sequel to his first novel, published by Quercus, called, Tommy Storm & the Galactic Knights. We wish Alan all the success in the future. His story demonstrates that self-publishing can turn into success, but once again, there is an underlining theme that it goes with business acumen as well as incredible belief and perseverance.
Some snippets on Alan J. Healy’s books.
Brilliant. Hilarious. An intergalactic Gulliver’s Travels – Declan Kiberd, UCD Professor & Media Journalist. 

Tommy Storm is a knockout achievement that succeeds on so many levels and satirises so many cultural and literary genres that, to me, it reads as if Flann O’Brien had taken to writing science-fiction – Tony Hickey in Village magazine

His latest book:
Earthling Tommy and his four Milky Way friends are Galactic Knights – on a mission to save the Universe from pending destruction. Time is running out and the knights have many challenges in their way: they face the dreaded Beast of Hellsbells, must resist the allure of fame on an intergalactic gameshow and escape the deathly intents of the sherbet-addicted Nack Jickelson and the suicidal Chocolate Terrorists. All the while evil mastermind A-Sad-Bin-Liner is planning to unleash his plot of mass destruction and Tommy will be forced to choose between his friends and his ambition, between the universe and his own life.

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