Paper Tigers

By Toby Howden

Martial arts and misadventure in Japan

Friday, 22 April 2016

The (publishing) Journey is my home - Basho


It came as something of a shock upon completing my book Paper Tigers that getting it published was going to be a whole other game/almost impossible. I’d always naively assumed that if you actually finished writing a book you could simply send it off, don a polo neck, light a pipe and retire to an island hideaway and begin work on the tricky second novel. Well, despite being utterly wrong about nearly everything, and against all the odds, the second novel is underway. I now have the obligatory black and white photo of me in front of my bookshelves on my Unbound authors page, and thanks to your incredible belief, generosity and enthusiasm, Paper Tigers is now tantalisingly close to getting professionally published. I’m sad to say however, that I do not (yet) own a secret island hideaway.

The truth is, however you go about it these days, getting published is hard. It involves trying to persuade agents and publishers to firstly, read your work (an almost impossible task), and then take a massive financial gamble on your writing in a highly competitive and saturated market. You’ve got to be determined, resilient, and you have to have a plan of action. (All this I now understand in retrospect). Getting published can be a full time job in itself and will almost certainly involve hundreds of submissions and rejections (there is specific software to keep tabs on them). Most publishers either want something new but done in a tried and trusted way, or something old but reinvented. Ideally, from an established author who can belt out the bestsellers.  

Paper Tigers turned out to be one of those unlikely stories that didn’t quite fit a specific genre. Not a bad thing in itself, but definitely a slightly trickier beast to pitch. Particularly the two minute “stuck in a lift” pitch which any self respecting author is obliged to master...

“So, it’s kind of a book about martial arts, except its not. It’s funny, sad, and there’s nothing out there quite like it...and, er, I’m the next JK Rowling, and my Mum loved it? Let the bidding war begin!”

Of course it's easy to self publish these days, but to go it alone you need to be much more than a writer to stand any chance of making a success of it. There's the editing, proofing, typesetting, copy editing, cover and book design, and the ever tricky and vital issue of marketing and publicity to worry about.  To be honest, from the very beginning I just wanted to write. This is where Unbound comes in. They recognise that there are a lot of great books out there that don’t quite fit the traditional publishing model, but are as worthy of making it into print as any ghost-written celebrity cookbook, (some would argue more so).

Once we hit the crowd funding target then the editing process can finally begin. Unbound will take my manuscript and fine tune it into a polished,  professional book truly worthy of your support, to a quality that I just couldn’t produce on my own. Like anyone who writes, my ultimate dream is to be read. Paper Tigers was actually written several years ago and has been burning a hole in my hard drive now for way too long. I hesitated submitting it for a very long time, quietly tweaking it, tidying the pens on my desk and pondering different fonts (as is traditional for aspiring writers). I also spent time digesting the wise and valued feedback from a few incredibly encouraging friends (you know who you are X).

More recently though, and eclipsing all other motivations, I needed to tell this story as a tribute to my unique friend Bryan Endacott who shared my adventures in Japan and had a similar passion for martial arts. Tragically, Bryan died last year aged only 40. He was one of the most talented and determined people I ever knew, and also one of the first to encourage me to write. ‘The worst that can happen is that its shit and everyone laughs at you’ he pointed out truthfully. I'll leave you with his first impressions regarding my earliest draft (I've toned down some of the expletives, and for the record, the start was completely re-written). As ever, and mirroring his attitude to life, Bryan never pulled his punches...

March 2010.

Hey Tobe,

Just started reading your book............... the first 2 chapters are shit. Gosh I'm such a critic, but then you really start to just talk and it flows! Really nice.

Hey, reading on... what a riot!!!!!!!!!! did we really do that? I don't think anyone is ever going to believe this actually happened...

You couldn't make up these characters if you tried!

Much love B


Bryan (left) & the author (I’ve always wanted to write that) in Japan.

To read an extract from Paper Tigers: Martial Arts and Misadventure in Japan, pledge your support and reap some rewards check out:





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Carianne Furness
 Carianne Furness says:

You had to Love Bryans honesty, he was also to the point which made me laugh xx

posted 25th April 2016

Carianne Furness
 Carianne Furness says:

That was meant to say 'always' to the point ^

posted 25th April 2016

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