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My Publishing Experience (by John Mayston)

24 March 2016

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Another #SelfPubSpotlight reveals John Mayston's inspiration for his first two books, the marketing problems he faced and the impact of a local radio interview.

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Here's John's Submission - His own publishing successes


My name is John Mayston and I’m an English teacher who currently lives and works in Oxford. In my spare time, I’m also a keen writer and have so far written and published three books. Back in 2002 I decided to teach English in South Korea and it proved to be an incredibly rewarding experience. I was based in a small town where very few foreigners resided and lived with two Canadian teachers, who worked at the same school as me. Being the only British teacher in the town, I thought it would be a good idea to keep a diary and write about my experiences. It proved to be quite fruitful as there were many different stories to tell over the year that I stayed there. In 2005 I set off on my journeys once again, but this time to Japan.

Two years later I arrived back in The UK and settled down in Buckingham. I recall one day picking up a newspaper and reading about primary school teachers who were struggling to teach students due to their multicultural backgrounds. After carrying out some further research I started to write lesson plans and worksheets that were specifically designed for young children who were learning English. The lesson plans I created were based on those that I had developed in South Korea and Japan with the main goal being to help primary school teachers in the UK who perhaps didn’t have this kind of experience of working with non-native speakers. After much extensive research I finally completed my first book in 2009 titled, ‘The Fun Guide: Games for Learning English’, which was a series of lesson plans and flashcards for teachers and activity worksheets for children to complete. This received a full page review in the TES (Times Education Supplement), which I was chuffed to bits about and inspired me to keep on writing.

"..some sleazy back street club in Seoul"

Next on my agenda was to type up my diary notes from South Korea as I thought that this would be a useful book for ‘would be’ TEFL teachers, who were thinking about teaching in the country. This was made possible because at that time Kindle was becoming more and more popular and enabled writers like me, who write things aimed at a small target market, to publish my work. My diary titled, ‘Kimchi with Everything: A Year in the Life of a TEFL Teacher’, was published in 2010. My diary went down a storm and thanks to the work of my editor; we made it into a profitable read, but one comment came up time and again that made me think about turning my journal into a novel. It took me five years to write and on many occasions I thought about giving up, but with the encouragement from my wife, I completed my story, ‘Lost Seoul’. It is about a girl who finds a teaching job in South Korea in order to save up money to pay off her substantial student loans that have accumulated during her time at university. All hell breaks loose as soon as she arrives in the country when she is kidnapped by an impostor just after she has been picked up from the airport. She is forced to work as a hostess girl in some sleazy back street club in Seoul. The book is a dark tale indeed as she is used as a valuable source of income by the nasty owner. It also warns people against signing contracts without reading through them properly.

"Writing was my saviour.."

Writing a book is one thing, but marketing it is something that is much more difficult when you don’t have the help of an agent or traditional publisher. I have tried a number of ways of doing this since my books have been published with various degrees of success. My highlights being my educational book being reviewed in the TES and appearing on Alex Lester’s BBC Radio Oxford afternoon show in August 2015. This resulted in more book sales as I was able to reach out to the public much more easily. I have also given talks about my teaching book to students at Buckingham University. My number one tip for writing is to make a nice cup of tea and find a quiet, comfortable place where you can relax and let your creative juices flow. Interestingly enough, I wrote half of my novel while I was off work due to a terrible, hacking cough. Writing was my saviour during these difficult times and I think this got me through my terrible ordeal. is a great starting place for ‘would be’ authors as people can read and rate your opening chapters so you can get an idea of what people think about your written work.

Looking back on my books, I think I would have changed some of the things that I did for my first book because I ended up paying a lot of money in order to get it published. It is also fair to say that the contract was heavily weighted in the publisher’s favour, but at the same time I have to be thankful for them as they accepted my manuscript and helped turn my dream into reality.


NGP Says

Great story John! The most intriguing stories come from real life experiences, and it sounds like you've had a few! Marketing your self-published book can be tricky. It's super competitive out there, and like any form of entertainment, it can often be about who you know rather than what you know or even - being in the 'right place at the right time'. Making contacts in the industry and maintaining relationships with influencers and established authors will always give you an advantage when you come to publish the next one. Glad you persevered with it!

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