As submissions open for One Big Book Launch 2015, previous winner Atulya K Bingham shares her experience of what it was like to be involved in the collaborative book launch everyone is talking about. Emerging authors can submit their books to be included in this year's event here before April 19th 2015. It's a prize not to be missed!

It was March last year. I was slumped on a kilim in my mud house in Turkey gaping out of my window. A green mob of pine trees clung to the slopes plunging out of sight. I had just pressed the publish button for my debut novel Ayse’s Trail. I never thought I’d see the day; it had taken five years. Now I was broke. This wasn’t Can-I-make-it-until-pay-day? broke. I hadn’t earned a penny for well over 18 months. I was in the realm of broke that prods ‘normal’ people to stare pityingly at the state of your coat. 

It was my own fault. I had quit a career in teaching to build a small mud home and write a novel. Although both were now by some fluke complete, I was squeezing the few remaining lira from my bank account. This is not a sensible place from which to launch a writing career. It’s downright harebrained, in fact. I knew nothing about publishing, author-publishing or marketing. I didn’t even have a Twitter account. Sometimes, however, the brook of life takes surprising twists.

Within two weeks of publishing, what should pop into my inbox but the Completely Novel newsletter. I read about the One Big Book Launch competition they were running. The ten winners would enjoy a publicised launch at the Free Word Centre, Farringdon. The timing was perfect, as though destiny was yanking the strings. But . . . London? Flying back was an expense I could only manage by borrowing money from my long-suffering Dad. Exhaling, I clicked on the Skype icon.
My Dad is a good business man. He understands things like R.O.I and measured risk-taking. So when he told me to submit, I quickly downloaded my manuscript and hurled Ayse’s Trail into the sky of possibility. Set in Turkey, I presumed it unlikely to win.

The stars must have aligned at odd angles on the first Sunday in April. It was election day in Turkey, and I was hunched on a cushion glumly watching the ultra-Conservatives take over the country. Turning off my news feed, I flicked open my inbox instead. I blinked. I reread the mail in case I’d missed something. Good God! I’d won the One Big Book Launch! For a new writer, winning a prize is the stuff of dreams. Thus I floated out of my hermit’s life on a hill to Another Place. 

Over the next week, my life changed. My Facebook status went (by my standards) berserk. I was churning out blog posts like wordy donuts. I had to do unfamiliar things such as purchase clothes and hold conversations. At April’s end, surfing on a month-long crest of adrenalin, I flew to the U.K.

Being an author often reminds me of driving along a Turkish street with its slalom of wayward dustbins, bagel sellers and axle-murdering potholes. The main obstacle on the writer’s road is finding a way to be heard, as opposed to being politely endured or subtly smirked at. The benefits of winning the One Big Book Launch were many. It enabled me to hook reviews with Turkey’s expat papers and top bloggers. Ultimately, these generated enough sales to live on. But what I savoured most as I stood for my five minutes of glory was a room full of literary enthusiasts, eyes glued on me, ears straining, minds open. They were hearing me, giving me a fair shot. And if you're reading this as an author thinking, 'should I apply?' I say yes. Go for it. Now.

Atulya K Bingham is author of Ayse’s Trail, joint winner of the One Big Book Launch 2014. She is also author of The Mud website for natural building and The Mud Mountain Blog.

Submissions for One Big Book Launch are now open until 19th April 2015. Whether you are traditionally or self-published, enter your book here for the chance to win the book launch of a lifetime.