A FARMER who juggles agriculture with crime writing, plans to spoil his sheep after rights for his previously rejected books were sold in three continents.
James Oswald conjures up plot lines for his Inspector McLean crime mysteries whilst tending Highland cattle and Romney sheep on Norman’s Law overlooking the River Tay.
At night, he repairs to a static caravan, with his four dogs, to write the supernatural crime novels that have defied all expectations.
Just over a year ago, James considered quitting fiction altogether to focus solely on the farm near Newburgh after his books fell flat with all the mainstream publishing houses.
However, experts were forced to reconsider after the same books, self-published by James on Amazon, took the Kindle e-book market by storm in the UK and America.
Almost 350,000 readers have downloaded Natural Causes and The Book of Souls since February and publishers at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair were queuing up to bid.
Now rights have been sold in Germany, Canada, Italy, Brazil and Serbia and James has signed a three-book deal for UK rights with Penguin, who fought off four other buyers.
The farmer-come-author, whose initial goal was to sell a modest 1000 books online, admits the breakthrough has been a whirlwind.
The biggest transformation might yet be seen in the fields on his 330 acre holding.
“Everything has happened at once,” he said. “It is pretty gobsmacking, really.
“Just over a year ago I was very close to giving up and concentrating all my energies on the farm. Everyone liked the writing but couldn’t see a market for it. As a final attempt, I thought ‘stick them out as ebooks and see what happens’.
“One of the nicest things is that I can probably afford to buy a few new things now, like a sheep handling system and poly-tunnel, which makes lambing a lot easier.
I might even be able to get a tele-handler loader for my tractor.
“I wouldn’t be able to buy a new tractor. I would maybe have to sell the movie rights first before I could do that,” he smiled.
Within weeks of James placing Natural Causes on Amazon’s free download list, it reached number one in the UK.
It has since amassed over 215,000 downloads in the UK and the States.
The follow-up, The Book of Souls, sold over 10,000 copies in three months at £2.99 and has now been downloaded over 70,000 times.
Despite his new-found success, James has still managed to tend to the cattle and work around farm chores.
“The day after I met my editor at Penguin, I was up early to check the cows and walk the dogs and then headed off for a one-day course at Glenfarg on pesticide safety, use and storage.
“The intention is to keep things going as they are but maybe I’ll be able to get a contract stockman in now and again, if necessary.”
Penguin are set to release Natural Causes and The Book of Souls in book format from May next year.
Those hoping to see what the fuss is about don’t have long to download the titles, set in Edinburgh, before the switch-over.
“Before, when I completed a book, I used to throw it in a drawer and start on the next one because I couldn’t bear the rejection process.
“It is nice, therefore, to see things progressing at last,” said James.
•To see James’ books, go to www.amazon.co.uk/Natural-Causes-Inspector-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00796MOZ2; www.amazon.co.uk/Souls-Inspector-McLean-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B008DY0C8U