Introducing Titans of the Teardrop Isle

When I published The Boy in Brazil in 2014 I never thought I’d end up writing a sequel. As far as I was concerned that was my footballing adventures done.

And so it remained, until one evening I received a notification on Twitter. There was someone looking for British footballers to play in Sri Lanka. Did I know anyone who’d be interested? 

In fact, I was pretty interested myself. I’d taken redundancy at work with the idea of writing, and I could write from anywhere. Even better, I could write about my experiences in Sri Lanka. 

A few months later, the manager of Trinco Titans got in touch. I was to be his first signing. I asked if he wanted to see me play first, conscious that becoming a professional footballer shouldn’t be so easy as replying to a tweet. But the manager, Thaabit, had read The Boy in Brazil and that was enough for me to be given a contract. Well, almost enough. ‘How tall are you, Seth?’ he asked. When I replied that I was almost 6ft that was more than enough. I was to be Thaabit’s first signing.

Brazil had taught me to be cautious when it came to contracts and so it proved here. My departure date came and went. There were visa issues. No flights. No official contract. And when all was finally sorted and I arrived in Sri Lanka, I found similar organisation with regards to the league, which had no official start date and no end date in sight.

That sense of chaos and confusion never quite left me for my whole time in Sri Lanka: from the cows that grazed in the eighteen-yard box while we trained around them to the hordes of fans who attempted to attack us after we lost yet another game.

Still, I embraced my new surroundings. As far as I’m concerned, Sri Lanka is one of the most fascinating countries in the world. It’s a baffling mix of cultures, traditions and religions that is not long out of a brutal civil war. That led to amazing stories, many of them told by my new teammates.

Everyone I came across went out of their way to make me feel welcome. They made sure that I had an amazing time in Sri Lanka. Even the fans who attacked the team and set fire to our posters in anger weren’t all bad. I wrote everything down as it happened, which has eventually become my new book: Titans of the Teardrop Isle. I hope that it does my nanbans justice. 

You can pre-order it for the special price of £8.99 from the Floodlit Dreams website ahead of its release on April 26th. Leave a note when ordering and I’ll even sign it for you.


The Best Books I Read in 2020

I like to approach writing in the same way that I approached football: spending plenty of time in training. That pretty much translates as reading loads of books from lots of different authors in lots of different genres. I aim for at least one a week, and because there hasn’t been much else to do in 2020 I’ve managed to get through quite a few. I’ve listed my favourites below, split into three categories: sport, fiction and non-fiction.


Both Sides by Nicklas Bendtner

I came to this book with low expectations having rashly bought it off the back of a Donald McRae interview in the Guardian. It turned out to be brilliant, well-written and engaging throughout. Bendtner doesn’t come out of it very well, but at least he explains why.

The Breath of Sadness by Ian Ridley

There’s a reason this book features in so many ‘Books of 2020’ lists. The Breath of Sadness covers Ian’s reaction to the death from cancer of his trailblazing and inspirational wife Vikki Orvice. Seeking solace from his grief by watching county cricket, what follows is deeply poignant.

Raised a Warrior by Susie Petruccelli

There’s a section in Susie’s book where she goes off the rails as she searches for her identity. It ranks among one of the best sections of a book I’ve read for a while. Raised a Warrior won the Vikki Orvice Prize, run by Floodlit Dreams, and deserves to be read widely.

Johnny Ball: Accidental Football Genius by Matt Oldfield

Matt is one of the best at his craft. His writing leaps off the page at you, full of energy and personality. Johnny Ball took me back to my days of primary school football tournaments and all of the joys that came with them. 

Europe United by Matt Walker

Football. Travel. What’s not to like?


The Century Trilogy by Ken Follett

At over 3,000 pages this isn’t a quick read. Or it shouldn’t be. I’ve only recently got into historical fiction but I found myself reaching for each book as soon as I woke up and for at least an hour before bed.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier, too, is a recent discovery. I’ve loved everything of hers I’ve read and Rebecca was no exception. 

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

It’s ridiculous that it took me so long to read such an iconic book. 

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

Normal People was absolutely brilliant. This was not quite as good, but still up there in the last year. Sally Rooney has got a great style of writing and develops her characters well. 

The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer by Joel Dicker

Joel Dicker’s Harry Quebert Affair remains among my favourite books. It’s tough to replicate such a brilliant story, and though not a classic The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer proved to be a real page turner. 


Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Anything by Malcolm Gladwell is always going to make a best books list. There are knowledge bombs left, right and centre in every page as Gladwell details why certain things happen to be successful. Disclaimer: it’s not what you may think. 

A Bit of a Stretch by Chris Atkins

I picked this up through Bookbub (if you haven’t signed up I’d recommend doing so – it’s a daily email with all the latest eBook offers) and as with the Bendtner book, didn’t have massive expectations. What followed was a thoroughly readable tale of Atkins’s time as a very middle class man in prison after being found guilty of a tax evasion scheme. It’s his sections as a ‘listener’ which are most revealing, while the prison system itself emerges as woefully underfunded.


The 392 by Ashley Hickson-Lovence

Born Fighter by Ruqsana Begum with Sarah Shephard

Blue & Gold Passion by Dan Williamson

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

War Journey: Diary of a Tamil Tiger by Malavaran



Last week I released my new book, Tekkers. It’s the story of 13-year-old Zak, an aspiring young footballer who uploads a video of his skills to YouTube and becomes an overnight sensation.

The book has been a few years in the making. Back in 2017, while working as a social media manager, I was an at event to promote my client’s latest football boots. As part of the night’s running order, I was asked to create some content with a young football influencer. This involved asking the influencer to show off some of their skills while wearing the product, then making sure they said a piece to camera. The influencer was great: enthusiastic, humble and well supported by his parents.

But it got me thinking. Not everybody who goes viral has such a support network to keep their feet on the ground. There are countless examples of children who are thrust into the limelight and struggle to cope. Pressures pop up that never existed before. Especially in social media. Algorithms must be met. Followings must be grown. Merchandise must be sold.

I began to imagine what could happen to the influencer without such guidance. After all, when I visit schools and hear about the pupils’ aspirations, they often involve social media. So what would happen, for example, when agents start to swarm? When the trolls emerge? When social media gets in the way of real life?

The result is Tekkers, published by Polaris. It’s described as ‘an amusing and entertaining story about the power of social media with the core message that followers are great, but friends are even better’.

You can order a signed copy direct from me by clicking here. Or you can buy it from any one of the usual outlets.


A Question

You don’t ask you don’t get: it’s an ideal that drives both football and writing. Questions come as a form of currency. The more you ask, the more opportunities tend to come your way.

And sometimes those opportunities are better than you ever could have imagined.

Together with Paul Watson I’ve been running an event called Great Football Adventures. We invite people who’ve had interesting experiences of football abroad to come and give talks in London. When the feedback for our first events was good, the logical next step was to create a book. 

It wasn’t as easy as we thought. Speakers became hard to tie down. People stopped replying. After six months we had just a handful of chapters. 

And so I started to chase new opportunities. I contacted more speakers, learned new stories and revisited older ones. One of those was In the Hands of the Gods. A favourite film of mine growing up, the documentary features five football freestylers who attempt to busk their way from the UK to Argentina to meet Diego Maradona.

I browsed various websites and eventually managed to contact all five. Just one replied.

That one was Paul Wood.

I arranged a time and a date then set about booking a meeting room at work for ‘an important client call.’ I suppose it was half right.

We spoke for an hour. Paul – or Woody, as he liked to be called – was a great speaker and gave me plenty of content. He even passed me on the details of others he knew who could be part of the book. 

A few days later I’d written the first draft of his chapter. I sent it over and Woody called back later that day. He loved the chapter and spoke through a few necessary changes. ‘And by the way,’ he finished. ‘I like what you’ve done. I’ve got a project that might interest you.’

Woody, it turned out, wasn’t just a football freestyler. In fact, that was in the past. Now he was one of the world’s biggest content creators. Along with his partner Kleiny (and manager Darryl), @WoodyandKleiny had more than 10,000,000 followers across their social channels. And now they wanted to write their first book.

At the time I was working in an office job as a social media manager. I knew YouTubers and had worked with many. But I didn’t really know YouTube. The craze had passed me by. I’d seen the impact it had on people up and down the country, the potential of what they did, the power they held in their hands. 

I couldn’t have been more excited.

I followed all of @WoodyandKleiny’s channels. I watched their pranks, gave them likes, showed my mates. Then we met in person.

We clicked straight away. I brought along my business partner in Floodlit Dreams, Ian Ridley, and we outlined the book process over a dinner at Zizzi’s. They had plenty of options, we told them. We’d be happy to help them get a literary agent and pursue their project with a big publisher. Or they could go with Floodlit Dreams. Ian outlined the pros and cons with each option then left me alone with Woody and Darryl, Kleiny being unable to attend due to illness. 

We spoke for a couple more hours and by the time I got the last train home to London I was filled with positivity. 

Another meeting was arranged. They wanted me to help them write their book. They wanted that book to be published with Floodlit Dreams.

Over the next few months I got to know Woody, Kleiny and Darryl well. I saw parallels in their experiences with mine as I attempt to turn a passion into a livelihood and become a full-time author. So inspirational did I find their journey that I even took redundancy to focus fully on writing. 

We set about into a routine: they’d pick me up from the station, take me for dinner, I’d get out my dictaphone and then we’d talk late into the night. They’d always pay for my Uber home. 

It took eight full sessions to get enough content. Then the back and forth really started. There were changes to make, designs to approve, covers to sort. Writing ended up being the easiest part of the process. 

That process is now almost complete. The Social Struggle: How We Took Over the Internet is available to pre-order. It’s been an incredible journey with three people I now consider to be friends, rather than collaborators. Their story inspires me and I hope it will inspire readers all over the world. 

And it all came about from a question.


How to Get Published

They say that everyone has a book in them. And with the way that publishing has changed, it’s becoming ever easier for everyone to get that book into print.

But it isn’t as easy as putting pen to paper and then selling books by the millions. Publishing houses receive hundreds of submissions a day. Competition is fierce. So to stand out from the crowd, you first need to create an engaging proposal.

A proposal is essentially a summary of your idea, allowing a publisher to make a quick decision on whether your book is for them. This should include an elevator pitch, chapter breakdown, author bio, target audience and a sample of writing. It’s also helpful to include similar titles that have been published. To do this, look on Amazon and Waterstones or ask at your local bookshop and library. When looking, it’s also handy to see who has published the similar titles, as these publishing houses may well be interested in your own book.

You can find an example of a proposal I’ve previously submitted here: https://tinyurl.com/ybbwjq7h

It’s absolutely essential that any proposal is formatted correctly and free of any spelling or grammar mistakes. With publishing houses inundated with submissions, any error – no matter how small – can be enough to see your submission tossed to the side. To try and prevent this, it’s recommended that any submission is checked over with friends or family, who often provide useful feedback. Contacting other authors and running your ideas by them is also encouraged. Even though you’re essentially going to be competing against them for sales, I’ve found authors often go out of their way to help others.

Once you’ve written your proposal and are happy it shows your story in the best possible light, you need to decide how to publish your book. Broadly speaking, there are four options: mainstream, independent, crowdfunding, self-publishing.

There’s a well-known saying that ‘a week is along time in football.’ Well, I’ve found that a year is a short time in publishing. If you decide to pursue a mainstream publisher, expect long turnaround times. Before your proposal even reaches a mainstream publisher, however, it has to be vetted by a literary agent. 

How do you get a literary agent? Well, it helps if you know someone. Publishing is quite old school in that connections can get you a very long way. But not everyone has a literary agent on speed dial. If you need a literary agent, the best thing to do is search for one online. When you’re searching through literary agencies, make sure that they’re accepting submissions in your genre. There’s no point in sending a book on Cuban history to an agent looking for science fiction. 

Make a list of numerous agents. The reality is that even if you’ve written the next Harry Potter, most of them won’t reply. The greater the number of suitable agents you contact, the more likely your chance of success.

Once a literary agent likes your proposal, they’ll probably suggest a few changes. Remember, they know what publishers are most likely to want, so their advice is important. You can’t be too protective of your work.

A literary agent then takes your proposal to mainstream publishing houses. If any editors at these publishers like it, they’ll ask to meet you. This will allow them to find out a bit more about you and get a feel for a working relationship. 

After this meeting, the editor takes the proposal to an acquisition meeting where the sales and marketing teams predict the likely success of the book, whether it’s commercially viable and if so how much to offer as an advance payment. 

For the lucky few who get chosen, this long process is only the beginning of a much longer process. Publishing with a mainstream publisher will give you access to excellent editors and designers, allow your work to be stocked in bookshops up and down the country, help you develop links within the industry and pay you an advance upfront. However, you have less ownership over the work and the royalties are small. Many authors never receive payment beyond the advance. 

Independent publishers are small companies that produce books. My new venture, Floodlit Dreams, is one such company. If a literary agent doesn’t receive an offer from a mainstream publisher, they’ll often then send the proposal to independent publishers. 

However, you don’t always need a literary agent to be published by an independent company. Most will accept a proposal directly from an author. Though a literary agent provides advice, simplifies the entire publication process and gives your work validation, they do take 15% of any payment. And not everyone can get a literary agent.

Prospective authors should search for independent publishers that publish works similar to their own. After selecting appropriate publishers and submitting their proposal, they should expect a response within eight weeks. It is advisable to contact numerous independent publishers rather than wait for each to reply individually. 

When they do reply, the journey to publication is much quicker then at mainstream publishers. If they like the proposal they’ll request a meeting, and if that goes well then a contract will soon be drawn up.

Expect to be involved in every aspect of publication with an independent publisher. The actual writing side of things is only a small part of creating a book. Ideas on cover design, launch parties and marketing techniques are all welcomed. As such, independent publishers allow much greater ownership over each project and also allocate a greater percentage of royalties to authors. However, advance payments are rare and not all independent publishers can get their authors’ books into shops up and down the country. To sell thousands of books with an independent publisher, authors need to be prepared to work hard at marketing their book, appear at talks and events and chase PR opportunities. The greater share of royalties available means that effort is often well rewarded.

Producing a book is a risk. Analysts at publishing houses can obsess over forecasting potential sales, but nobody really knows exactly how well each book will do – and whether it can pay back the money spent on its publication – until it’s actually out in the world. Crowdfunding takes away all of this risk for the publisher. The onus is on pledgers to fork out for the production costs of each book.

Working with a crowdfunder requires an author to think of different ways to incentivise pledgers. Methods include signed copies, first edition hardbacks and even lunches with the author. Though the crowdfunding website provides an audience to see an author’s project, raising the production costs is very much down to the author. Crowdfunding companies usually have multiple projects going on at once and therefore can’t give each individual project much time until it’s funded.

To crowdfund a book therefore requires plenty of energy on behalf of the author. As with independent publishers, proposals can be submitted directly to the crowdfunding companies for their consideration.

It’s never been easier to self-publish a book. Though some look down on self-publishing and dismiss books as ‘vanity projects’, the reality is that it can be a lucrative business. 

Authors get total ownership over their work, choosing every aspect. Unfortunately, that also means it’s on them to fund each project. This means payment is needed for cover design, formatting, typesetting, editing and marketing. The risk is therefore solely on the author, but once production costs are paid off every sale gives good profit. 

Turnaround times are quick, and choosing to self-publish means that authors can skip the proposal phase and go straight into production.

Authors should be aware that bookshops rarely take self-published works and it therefore lies on the author to promote their own book. However, the ability to have the final say on every aspect and turn each project around quickly is an attraction for some.

In Summary
Writing a book is a fantastic achievement no matter which publishing option you choose. The connections you make and the people you come across can often lead to other interesting projects. And there’s no greater buzz than receiving a positive review from a reader.

Seek advice where you can, do your research and check your work over and over again. 

And if you do have a proposal you’re working on, feel free to ask for our advice at Floodlit Dreams. We’ll be more than happy to provide feedback – and who knows what will come of it…