Surprise success for Sheffield author Billy Taylor as debut novel Just Friends goes global

Billy Taylor, 19, has sold 25,000 copies of his book Just Friends, in two months. Picture: Andrew Roe
Billy Taylor, 19, has sold 25,000 copies of his book Just Friends, in two months. Picture: Andrew Roe
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A teenage author from Sheffield is taking the literary world by storm, with his debut novel selling thousands of copies worldwide.

First-time author Billy Taylor, aged 19, from Ecclesfield, self-published Just Friends on March 31.

Just over two months later it has sold more than 25,000 copies, with praise for the book and its author coming in waves from the US in particular.

“It came as a surprise – I wasn’t expecting it to achieve the sales it has so quickly,” said Billy.

“I set myself a goal of just 1,000 originally. It’s an achievement just having your own book out.”

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The story follows two friends, an aspiring actress and a magician. Something unexplainable happens when they are involved in a car crash, and they must both deal with the consequences.

Billy said: “The idea for the book originally came from a dream. When I sat down and started making notes and putting bits together, I realised I actually had what I thought was a great storyline.

“I researched what I would need to do to publish it myself and then I started to write. I was working at the time, so every break I had I was at my laptop typing. I took a leap of faith and quit my job to focus on finishing the story.”

Things began slowly, but picked up when the US branch of Apple iBooks contacted Billy and asked if they could officially launch the book on their homepage. Sales soon soared to up to 300 per day, and Just Friends made it into the Apple iBooks US chart top 10.

“It’s quite overwhelming really, because there are so many people giving positive reviews and saying it’s their favourite book,” said Billy.

“There are lots of people saying how much they love it on Twitter.

“It puts a smile on my face – it’s like my own little kid.”

Billy has always had a passion for writing but admits struggling with English at school.

“I had to get a tutor in,” he said. “But by the time I finished it was my best subject.”

His interest in magic is evident in the story of Just Friends and Billy says his main inspirations were films such as Now You See Me and The Prestige.

He has ‘four or five’ ideas for follow-up books but at the moment is focusing on his first creation.

He said: “I don’t want to rush into anything. I’m just going to see how it goes.”

The book is available online at itunes.apple.com and in paperback form at www.amazon.co.uk.

A spokesman for Apple iBooks US said: “We recently launched a feature title, Best Books of 2016 So Far and we selected Just Friends to be featured in our ‘standout debuts’.

“We were very selective about what books we chose but Just Friends is one that was really a no-brainer for us.”