It's probably never been easier to get a book published. If all else fails, would-be authors can simply self-publish an e-book – at little cost and with only a scant knowledge of the internet.

Of course that doesn’t guarantee any readers, but it’s worked for some of the big names in the business.

It’s how E L James, who wrote Fifty Shades of Grey and went on to become one of the highest earning authors in the world, made her debut.

And how Huddersfield writer and schoolteacher Julie Houston launched her first novel.

But it’s not what Julie, who lives in Almondbury, is doing now.

Travel along the M62 at the moment and you’ll see what Julie has been up to. By the side of the motorway between Huddersfield and Leeds, there’s a billboard promoting her latest novel Looking for Lucy.

Looking for Lucy by Julie Houston

The book is her third in a series of romantic comedies set in the Huddersfield area, (fictionally known as Midhope) and it has been published by Amazon under its White Glove programme for authors who have an agent.

It means that Julie, who teaches part-time at Wakefield Girls High School, can see her books both in print and e-book form. And it’s one step closer to her ‘determined’ ambition of becoming a best-selling author.

So far Julie’s books, Goodness, Grace and Me and The One Saving Grace, have sold 20,000 copies, mostly in digital format, and she’s been number one for humour in the Amazon UK Top 100 charts on two occasions.

Her books are particularly popular in Australia, where The One Saving Grace made it to number two overall.

While the mother-of-two has always wanted to be a writer – and kept diaries from the age of 14 to 30 – she admits the EL James experience with self-publishing was one of the things that spurred her on.

She has an almost perfect pedigree for a writer – a life packed with experiences – starting with studies in English Literature and Education at university; working on kibbutzim in Israel during summer holidays; teaching in New
Zealand; rearing children in Yorkshire; and becoming a magistrate.

Her interests, when not writing, are genealogy and crosswords, but she is also a fervent reader.

Reading, she says, is the key to becoming a good writer.

Almondbury author Julie Houston.

“You need to read a lot,” she adds, “And then you need to write a lot. You get to the stage where you can’t not write. It’s all-consuming. On my days off I will try and write – and at the weekends.”

She is also totally professional about the way she approaches her writing. For her new book, Looking for Lucy, she researched the shadowy world of street prostitution by taking herself down to Huddersfield’s Bradford Road.

“My latest book is about identical twins girls,” she explained. “One hits the bad times with drugs and prostitution.

“I needed to know more about sex workers so I went out and met ‘M’ who gave me the low down on what she does; what she charges. She told me all sorts of things.

“At the end of the day what they do is a job. But because of meeting ‘M’, I got in touch with an organisation in Huddersfield called Sweet ( Sex Worker Empowerment, Education and Training).

“They go out with the girls, give out free condoms, listen to them and issue weekly bulletins of who to avoid.

“The other twin in my story ends up marrying an extremely wealthy man who she doesn’t love, but can give her daughter a better life. I was trying to explore at what level prostitution exists in different forms.”

Despite the serious topics covered in her books – she also features the miners’ strike and Yorkshire Ripper – Julie is known for her humour.

She describes her books as women’s contemporary fiction although acknowledges that some of her readers are men.

She’s convinced that the erotic fiction popularised by Fifty Shades of Grey is no longer worth expending energy on and adds: “psychological thrillers are what publishers are looking for now.”

Her next book is likely to be historical in context and will also be set in Huddersfield.

She’s researching the true-life mystery of two policemen who were shot while staking out Whinney Close Farm in Kirkheaton in the early 1950s. Although an arrest was made and the suspect Alfred Moore hanged, no gun was ever found and there is a theory that the true killer ran away.

Julie believes that finding an agent has been the single most important part of becoming a published, rather than self-published writer.

Almondbury author Julie Houston.

“Lots of people are offered e-book deals by publishers,” she says, “but you can do that yourself. What you want is to go one step further and get an agent.

“You send off the first three chapters of your book to every agent going – I must have sent off 30 or 40.

“Get the names from the Writers Year Book; go through it looking for your genre.

“Most likely they will say no thank you. I was lucky and three came long in one week.

“I chose the agent I have because she is from Bingley, a northerner.”

Having an agent meant that Amazon will promote her work.

However, Julie accepts that authors today have to do much of their own marketing; something that she has become particularly good at, harnessing the powers of social media.

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She also accepts that it may be a very long time before she starts to make some serious cash from her books.

“Only the biggest best sellers make a lot of money,” she says.

If a writer wants to pursue a profitable genre she suggests the Christmas novella or seasonally-themed work.

“Saving Grace was promoted for Mother’s Day in Australia and New Zealand,” she explains.

Julie is also an advocate of networking. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, an organisation that holds conferences for would-be writers to meet published authors and share experiences. And she says that getting work professionally edited is worth the costs involved.

But tenacity is, possibly, the most important quality for a writer. And Julie clearly has that aplenty.