Publish your military Memoirs - need help?

Do you have a story to tell about your service life?

  • Yes

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • No

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I can't write

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters


Hey there, I'm an ex-sapper and I'm just about to self-publish my first book and it has been one long hard slog with so many setbacks that I'm surprised that I didn't give up years ago.

The truth is that unless you have a combat story you will not get support from an agent or publisher.

Great books like 'Picking up the Brass' and 'Our Lad Ricky' are not seen as profit makers by the mainstream. [although Monday books did ‘pick up’ Picking up the brass]

There is a lot of work and expense in self publishing your unique memoir, for example it has taken me a week of fecking around with Section Breaks in word to get the header right and I have to buy 10 ISBN numbers as a minimum.
To line edit my manuscript would cost from £2800 - £800 depending on who you use.

I'm posting this here to see if there are many of us out here with a story to tell. I'm looking at the feasibility of helping publish these small Military Memoirs using the new self-publishing industry and my experience in running through the mill.

This is just a reccee, so let me know if you would be interested, if you have thought about writing your military memoir or have a manuscript but cannot get it accepted.

If you have a combat story you'll have no problem getting it published.
Email me or post here.
No one would believe a word


Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
I refuse to say anything which might incriminate me! :twisted:


War Hero
There are so many "combat story" books on the market at the moment. I prefered reading Picking up the brass and our lad ricky. Waiting for the 3rd volume of OLR to be released! If you've got enough funny stories in the book then go ahead and right it anyway. maybe get in touch with the people that wrote the before mentioned books and see how they got on.


:D Yeah, Done that mate, and the publishers that they used. [Only made comms with the author of OLR.

No joy so doing it myself with

still it's like learning French, an entirely new skill
I've got a story to write, no time to write it!

Starting is the hard part!

Funny thing is, probably written well over 500 articles in the last 10 years or so - could easily have written one!


War Hero
Ebooks will do to paper books what the ipod has done to the CD. That's my opinion anyway for what it's worth and I spent over 10 years working in the book trade.


Getting published is undoubtedly a very difficult task. What you need to do is find out who publishes your kind of book and then take it from there. Expect to get rejected as there's lots of that going on, but keep plugging away. Eventually, somebody somewhere will express an interest if they feel your story is their kind of material.

Good Luck.

Steven Preece
Author of Always A Marine
and Amongst The Marines


Someone sent me a link recently:

It's a tough one and you are right publishers are buying:

'branded' fiction writers
celebrity bios
battle memoirs

85,000 books published every year, reading in decline, economy in decline. Most publishing houses entire business is underpinned by a few authors and the rest at best break even, but most make a loss.

If you just watch how many new releases come out each day, how do you even write a book that sticks it head above the pulpit. I love reading but just don't have the time I'd like to immerse myself in books. It's a crazy situation - in addition the industry is quite nepotistic and also you need to pitch your ideas in a set format otherwise you won't stand a chance of being looked at.

This agency seems to have a positive approach to representation so if you follow their guidelines to the letter, and if it's worthy of publication they may pick it up. You definitely need an agent.

This book is also a must read.

This is a must have.

If you do self publish - all the retail charts spaces are bought by publishers, they don't reflect sales figures so marketing is an uphill slog. Especially if you don't a budget for promotion and word of mouth is a slow burn process, can take years. Ian Rankin wrote, something like , 20 books before his first was published. Dan Brown also wrote for years before hitting the big time. JK Rowling was turned down by 100's of publishers. JR Tolkien struggled to get Lord of the Rings published until Unwin's picked it up and they nearly didn't, they change their mind at the last minute.

It's quite depressing and unless you are someone like Jodi Picoult, Christopher Brookmyre, Dan Brown, or Marian Keyes, you are only as good as your next idea. It's very depressing and advances are scarce.

Good luck.
I think people also underestimate how difficult the writing part of telling their story really is.

You have to be very literate to hold the reader's attention and a bad or boring writing style will destroy any story, no matter how interesting it may actually be.

With the Rankins of this world the writing talent and the hard work necessary to develop it came long before the storyline.

It would be best to find out if you can sing BEFORE investing time and money on the song.
Apologies for the rather disjointed and abstract nature of this posting, but I’ll try to answer your questions in as succinct and straight forward manner as I can, and hopefully provide you with a few helpful ‘insider tips’.

1: Regarding time you will find it very difficult with the demands of a young family and full time job. But this is the great hurdle that most first-time authors have to somehow overcome, unless they’re already independently wealthy – which few are. I was very lucky in this aspect because I was writing about relatively recent experiences about which I had intimate knowledge; I had a multitude of copious and detailed personal diaries to draw upon as my ‘source material’; I didn’t work for a full year whilst transcribing my diaries into a sequential book format and lived off my savings entirely; I was INCREDIBLY hungry and motivated; I was free and single.

2: As a first-time non-famous author you’ll probably not be able to get an agent (I still can’t get one as they only work with big stars or ‘talent’ that they can pre-package and brand) so you’ll have to approach a publisher with your VERY BEST EFFORT, FULLY COMPLETED MANUSCRIPT, edited and revised to the highest possible standard that you can reach. In publishing time is money and nowadays they expect authors to pretty much self-edit before approaching them. All’s an editor will do is recommend cuts of non-essential text and do a basic and through grammar/spelling check. In the old days publishers would consider mere ‘proposals’ or rough ideas about potential books, but in this day and age you’re expected to fully write, edit and complete the work before sending it in, and anything less is considered unprofessional. So write the book first and worry about getting it published later!

I’d say don’t worry about agents too much because about 50% of authors – including very successful ones – don’t have one. For example Mainstream, my publisher’s, are a subdivision of the gigantic Random House, yet despite this most of our bestselling authors don’t have agents or feel they need them. The same goes for John Blake etc. Nowadays most publishers are trying to cut out the agent because it’s another 10% that neither they nor the author can afford, plus the agent will try and extract a big advance fee, which again often alienates publishers. The one area where you do need an agent though is fiction, as they control that side of literature due to film rights deals etc, but as for non-fiction they’re a pretty scarce breed unless you’re a very big name. I’m trying to get one because I’m planning to have a stab at fiction shortly. If in doubt visit the publisher’s homepage and see if they’ll accept ‘unsolicited manuscripts’ – for non-fiction most will.

3: Regarding money it’s a very cruel and unrewarding business; unless you’re a genuine bestselling author who sells six figures every year (a colossal amount!) you will have to do a second job. Most big-name authors that you see on TV and in the charts have full time second jobs as Doctors, teachers, Civil Servants etc. because the rewards are so low. In the UK alone 100,000 books are published each year, all fighting for shelf-space and most losing money.

The industry approved standard Royalty Rate according to the professional authors union, the Society of Authors, is between 7 and 15% of the cover price, with the rest going to the publisher. The reason the returns are so low is because the publisher takes on all of the commercial risk and the costs of turning a raw manuscript into a book on a shelf are enormous: editing, marketing, distribution, sales staff, author payments, legal fees, storage etc. So to make millions you have to sell millions and see your book turned into a film – otherwise it’s peanuts I’m afraid.

Do the Mathematics and it doesn’t come to much. I’ve known of genuinely successful authors retire from writing to become teachers, journalists or nurses, because you can earn more money and plan your career with more precision. Imagine how you’d feel if your book sold 100,000 copies for Tesco at £2:99 per copy; that’s a Royalty of just 29pence per copy, out of which you pay tax, NI, 10% to an agent maybe, time and labour costs etc. By the time you boil it down your ‘bestselling book’ that took you perhaps four years to write has made you approximately £30,000 – less than a Postman’s wage over the same period of time!

4: I view writing as an interesting and fulfilling part-time hobby that brings you a nice level of fulfilment, recognition and joy if you’re successful, but unfortunately very little money. I’m still plugging away at my second book and have some plans for future fiction, but as I want to have a family and be financially secure, it might have to take a back seat to ‘normal life’, sadly. I’m thinking about applying to become a Paramedic next year or perhaps a full-time ESOL teacher. We shall see…

To summarize, I’d say write for love and view whatever else comes along as merely a bonus…

Hope this has been helpful!


I echo - what's said above.

Social networking is good way of raising your writing profile and getting your text out there in an unsolicited format.

Start a blog:

(I am pretty new to it, and the community as harsh as ARRSE but Wordpress and Blogspot are two free-to-use platforms)

The above are more established and successful bloggers.

Twitter, Tweetdeck, My Space, Digg it, Facebook - etc, etc - learn how to use it and get viral.

It's hard work, little reward, a slim chance of success.....

‘Slim chance of success, certainty of death. What are we
waiting for?’ said Sam.
‘All right, Gimli, get your war axe out.’

Immediate Response, pg 158

But if you want it badly enough, then you will try, try, try have to be hungry!

(Steven - BTW - you could try United Agents, if you want an agent, especially as you are already published.)


AB: Thanks for your guidance. I'll try finding an agent that way.

Steve: That was a very interesting post. The only problem is that some publishers won't accept manuscripts unless they are presented by an agent, which I'm sure you are aware of.

If and hopefully when I manage to get one, I'll gladly pass their information onto you.

I too am currently working on a novel, which is nearly complete, so I'm about ready to start my search for an agent.

Best Regards

Some books that I have found tremendously useful are listed below. As with all things in life the key is to make a good first impression, because unless you’re already a big fish you won’t get a second chance and you won’t be forgiven – especially in publishing. By reading these books, all written by ex-editors, agents and industry insiders, you’ll save yourself a huge amount of time and trouble and vastly increase your chances of success. Many fantastic books written by superb and gifted writers never even get beyond the dreaded ‘slush pile’, purely because the approach has been all wrong.

If you are unsure if a publishing house accepts unrepresented and unsolicited manuscripts then simply check the website’s ‘submission guidelines’. Some do insist on an agent, but a surprising number don’t: Mainstream (all kinds of non-fiction), John Blake (true crime/general non-fiction) and Milo (general non-fiction) are all notable examples and there are many more. To take myself as an example, I submitted Squaddie to Mainstream completely unsolicited and unrepresented, but in a very professional and thoroughly prepared manner. The very next day the Managing Director himself rang me and asked me to send the whole manuscript in, and within a week he’d accepted it because he felt it was original and a little bit different to the usual fare.

On Writing, by Stephen King

This is an incredibly useful and practical book that focuses on the necessity of developing what King calls a ‘professional writing habit’, even when still an amateur, which is how we all start out. King points out that the only difference between an amateur and a professional is that one has already been paid and the other hasn’t – yet. He concentrates on advising us to simply ‘forge ahead’ and set yourself regular achievable targets, such as 500 words a day, 5 days a week. And most importantly, avoiding the perils of getting bogged down in constant revising and editing of text – forget it! – he forcefully states. And don’t even spell check until you’re at least several chapters in, finish an entire draft and then go back and rewrite what you don’t like; that way you make fast progress.

How to Get Published by Stewart Ferris

An extremely practical and useful guide that spells out in crystal clear fashion all the do’s and don’ts for the first time writer. Invaluable and easy to read, if I hadn’t followed Stewart’s advice I might never have been published and Squaddie would be gathering dust in my bedroom drawer.

Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2010

An absolute goldmine of critically important information. Every single question that you could possibly have is answered in this book.

Marketing Your Book: An Author’s Guide, by Alison Baverstock

This book is aimed primarily at those already published but it’s worth noting here for it’s incredibly useful and practical advice – especially for those who have decided to self-publish. Basically it advices you to ‘be your own agent’ and spread yourself as widely as possible, which really does work. Following Alison’s advice you can secure yourself book signing tours, library talks, community lectures, local and national newspaper coverage and local and national radio exposure. There are a whole host of hungry media outlets out there that are always looking out for fresh new voices and interesting stories that haven’t yet been told; approach them persistently and you can create a ‘pebble in the pond ripple effect’.

Please, please, please read these books BEFORE approaching anybody remotely connected to publishing. You won’t regret it, and whether you self-publish or manage to find a publishing house and agent, your chances of success will be increased ten-fold by what you’ve already learnt from the experts. I would advice you to write the book first before you approach anybody, because if you don’t and you get constantly turned down at the proposal stage, then there’s a real danger that you’ll just give up and not write it. Also, it can be incredibly dispiriting and depressing if you don’t know how the game really works, which again can lead to premature withdrawal. Believe it or not, it’s actually a LOT harder to get an agent than to get published (unless you’re already ‘connected’ beforehand), so don’t let an agent’s refusal put you off as a publisher might still say yes, as happened to me.

I hope this helps guys - stick at it and keep plugging away!
PS: I forgot to add this one:

The Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E B White

It’s just a wonderful little book that concentrates on the use of correct grammar and punctuation, in an accessible and easy to grasp style. I first heard of it in King’s ‘On Writing’, and quite frankly, if it’s good enough for him and is on his ‘must-have’ list then we all better bloody well buy a copy!
My tour of Bosnia was just after B20 was published and every other bloke in the battalion was bragging about the book they were going to write. The war was still on and we were expecting to push the Serbs from the suburbs of Sarajevo, but two months after we set foot in the mud peace broke out and I suppose with it the desire to brag about daring deeds. 5 years later not 1 book was published so I began to think about it. We had an interesting tour and had helped cement the peace – a success story of the British army. A few years on and I started putting memories to words. It took just under a year working part time. I had my memoir published after a few years searching for a publisher. Most replied with standard rejections, a few gave helpful tips on specialist publishers. It wasn’t looking good.

The problem with my book was that it wasn't current - that is published while the cordite was still lingering in the air. I got favourable feedback, but the military genre has a small percentage of the market and very few books make money. Just look and see how many military books are published by academics and journos – all while they hold down full time jobs.

I also found that you can’t sit back and let the publisher promote your book – they do the bare minimum, unless you are a celeb, have a TV cookery programme, or a sports star. Those books sell, and don’t blame the public either. Publishers like the lowest common denominator and that means an easy sell – and they don’t give a sh1t if its ghost written or not. For a squaddie, publishing is an unmarked minefield and easier to bypass than try and get through it.

I did get the writing bug though and am working on a novel, a much harder process than putting memories to words, but even with experience of the publishing game it hasn’t put me off.

As for military memoirs, they should end up on record in some format or those experiences will be lost forever. Without Riflemen Harris & Costello I doubt if there would be a Richard Sharpe, and with that a wider appreciation of the British infanteer in Napoleonic times.


The best way to approach writing a book is to sit down and make rough notes of your experiences. Put them in order and make sure your manuscript has a start, middle and an end, so that it flows well.

Join a writers circle if you can as it will help you to learn to adopt a writing style. Its a long slog, but keep going and you will inevitably get there n the end.

Cheers and best of luck

StevenPreece said:
Join a writers circle if you can as it will help you to learn to adopt a writing style. Its a long slog, but keep going and you will inevitably get there n the end.


Not sure if writing circles are all that good . I'm doing a feature writing course at Edinburgh university and the good news I'm the only bloke in class - the bad news is that I'm the only hetrosexual in class . I'm surrounded by middle aged carpet munching mingers who have established a clique who attended every writing course at the Uni . I'm guessing writing circles are probably worse in this respect

Mind you I learnt more in having a ten minute chat with the tutor AFTER class than I have in sitting in class for several weeks so in that respect my course is useful
I wrote my own book and published it through

Not going to make much money, more for the challenge of writing and putting my thoughts in print.

Latest Threads