Noting the success of author/lawyer John Grisham in spotlighting his profession in fiction, C.M. Nevill thought it was about time real estate took the dramatic stage of the action-adventure novel. His first book, Due Diligence, follows the trail of Sam Reid, a struggling newbie real estate professional in Houston, as he unwittingly becomes involved with an international drug cartel.
Nevill, a residential salesperson with Jim Stewart, REALTORS®, in Waco, Texas, talked with us about finding the inspiration and time to write, the difficulties of publishing a first novel, and how aspiring authors in real estate can follow his lead into the literary world.
Due Diligence is an action-adventure novel, but the story is still firmly entwined in Texas real estate. How much do you draw on your everyday life to craft Sam Reid’s world?
Nevill: I have a really wild imagination, and it’s very easy now in today’s world to actually get involved in just about anything you want to by getting on the web. You can pretty much find out any information that you want simply by Googling. And, so as far as my own personal involvement in the story, maybe a few little odds and ends, but mainly it’s just creative imagination.
How did you get started?
Nevill: Real estate really comes first in my life, and in real estate you sometimes have some down time. A lot of people go out and they play golf or tennis or fish or something like that. But I like to read. And it just occurred to me that, you know, a lot of this reading that I do, I could probably get involved in writing too.
From reading John Grisham, he involves lawyers in a lot of things, and I thought, “Well, we ought to be able to come up with something that would involve a young real estate agent.” And so, my creative juices just started coming together.
What was the publishing process like?
Nevill: It took me probably about eight to ten months to write this story. In the residential end of our brokerage we have about 60 full-time agents, and a lot of them like to read. So when I started writing this book, I picked a couple of people and bounced the manuscript off of them as I developed it, and they helped me along the way.
As for talking to publishers, I really spun my wheels on that. It was really difficult to get anybody to take the time to look at my manuscript. Getting on the Internet, I found some self-publishing companies that were interested—obviously, because I had to get my checkbook out to get them involved with it! I didn’t spend a lot of money getting it published. But this Xlibris Publishing, they were probably the most cooperative group. I was able to make things happen quicker with them. We got the book actually in print in March.
It’s not in bookstores, because you have to pay a fee that guarantees the bookstores being able to return it… We went through Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com where you can order it online. Basically, this publishing company can produce as few as one copy of the book. They can produce it in paperback or in hardcover. The most intriguing part of it is that they were able to put it into e-book. So Kindle, Nook, iPad—any version of those, it’s available.
That’s so interesting that it’s self-published, because it doesn’t look like it.
Nevill: They do a really good job. I can’t complain. Except for the fact that they don’t report the royalties as fast as I would like. But hey, that’s life. And [once the information is available], you can get online and look at all the numbers in a spreadsheet and everything.
It’s been fun. I’m basically just trying to get the word out on the book. I think that a lot of REALTORS® would find it interesting, you know, just to see something in their lifestyle played out with a pretty interesting twist on it.
How do you find time to write and still maintain your real estate practice, what with the round-the-clock nature of most real estate work?
Nevill: Yeah, you’re 24/7. Basically, my business is on my laptop. So I can pretty much be anywhere and somebody will call me about a property and within our multiple listing system, I can pull it up whether I’m out of this office, or at home or whatever.
When I work on my book, I work on Microsoft Word. So, it’s easy to flip over from whatever I’m doing and bring the story back up. So that’s how I do it.
But yeah, it’s sporadic. I’m probably not a typical writer, although I don’t know what the typical writer is, because I’ve never really studied one. I have kind of an outline in my head of the way I want it to go, but depending on what I read that day, saw on the TV, or whatever, things change in my mind when I put words to it. So, to answer your question, it’s basically when I have a spare hour. That’s the way it works. Because you’re right. In our business, you get a call, and you’re going to go show a property.
So, mobile devices are really key to this balance.
Nevill: Oh, definitely. Mobile devices are going to keep you going in this business. And we live and die by appointments. So the more appointments you have, the better results you’re going to have as far as sales are concerned. So I’m constantly trying to do that. But when I reach that point where I’ve pretty much gone through the exercise of the day to try to get appointments, then I’m good to go on my book.
How does your writing help you be a better real estate professional?
Nevill: In our business, you have to be as creative as you possibly can. I can give you an example. We just listed a property that is on the access road for Interstate 35 and it had been listed with another brokerage for close to a year and they got very few showings on it.
The opportunity came to list it and I co-listed it with another person. We decided what we would do was go after truckers. This is a property that’s got a little over five acres, and it’s got several outbuildings. It’s got a RV hook up, it’s got a guest house, it’s got two different garages that you can store things or work out of. We designed a marketing strategy and actually went after the truck stops, getting information to the managers of the truck stops all the way down to the border and all the way up through Oklahoma. And we’re getting some really good calls on it, just haven’t sold it yet. That was something that nobody thought about. So you can kind of use your creative juices to come up with some different marketing strategies.
Do you think that your fellow real estate professionals could benefit from creative writing?
Nevill: It is a good diversion. I call it “chewing gum for the mind.” It’s fun to be able to create something and put it down on paper and just have fun with it. So, yeah, I would think others—I don’t know that everybody could, you know a lot of our people would rather get out on the golf course or go out on the lake and go fishing. But if you don’t like one thing, some other kind of diversion is going to be good for you, because it redirects your thoughts. You get kind of a fresh approach to things. And you really need that. Real estate business has its peaks and valleys, its ups and downs. You know, one minute you’re riding high on a really big sale, and the next minute something falls apart on itself. It kind of taxes your energy sometimes.
You can express yourself. You can say, “Hey, I can’t control this sale, but man, I can control the way that this story is going.” You get to take your frustration out in a little bit different direction.
Do you have any advice for somebody who’s looking to follow your path?
Nevill: My only advice is to get out there and do it. So many people think they want to do something, but they just never take that step to do it. And that would be whether it’s writing or learning to fish or play golf. You need to get out there and attempt to do whatever you want to do. And I think if you do, you’re going to find out that you’re a lot better than you thought you were.