Today on the blog we’re talking to the fabulous Lizzie Lamb. Lizzie is a truly inspirational character – a fantastic writer and a whizz at social networking and marketing, as well as being a genuinely lovely lady. As part of the New Romantics Press (formerly the New Romantics 4), Lizzie has recently flown the flag for indie writers everywhere by hosting an author event at Waterstones, Kensington, no less! We were thrilled when she agreed to appear on our blog and had a lot of questions we wanted to put to her. So without further ado, over to Lizzie.
1. Tell us more about the New Romantics Press. How did you meet? What made you form an “indie powerhouse” together?
Originally, three of us: Mags Cullingford, June Kearns and I were members of Leicester Writers’ Club and the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. Adrienne Vaughan joined the RNA, came along to one of the chapter meetings which June and I organised at Grange Farm in Oadby. The rest – as they say, is history. As members of the NWS we were constantly polishing and re-polishing the first three chapters of our novels and synopsis with a view to sending them out to agents. Amanda Grange (RNA chapter member and author of over 25 novels) advised us to grasp the nettle and self-publish through Amazon. This we did. I think we work well as a team because we bring different strengths and skills to the group; we are also good friends which helps – but we don’t live in each other’s pockets which probably helps, too.
2. Did you seek a more traditional publishing deal or has it been indie all the way for you?
In the 1980’s I was looking for an agent and did in fact have one – Dot Lumley. Unfortunately, I couldn’t give my writing the time it deserved. I was Deputy Head teacher of a large primary school and that took up all my time. So, we parted company (amicably) and I settled down to furthering my teaching career for the next 16 years. Now, I enjoy being an indie author and I don’t know if I would be willing to give that up unless I could find an agent/publisher who could offer me a really good deal. Maybe after I’ve finished and published number three in 2015 I might think again about it.
Adrienne and I attended a book launch at Waterstones, Kensington, in the summer and boldly asked if we could host an author event there. The lovely manager said: YES. I think it was probably the appeal of four indie authors appearing together and offering four different sub-genres of romance which landed us the gig. I write rom coms, Adrienne romantic adventure, June historical and Mags women’s fiction. But, who knows? I think he just liked the cut of our collective jib, okayed it with head office and on we went. We’d already had a mini-launch in Waterstones, Mkt Harborough, in February 2014 and were on ‘the system’, which helped. We believe that they are no longer adding new indie authors to their data base – but I stand to be corrected on that one.
4. What have you been able to do/experience differently as an indie writer that you may not have done/experienced through a traditional publishing deal?
We can choose our own covers, set our own price (and raise and lower it) as we wish and as our book sales fluctuate. I have been able to order paperback copies through Create Space as I see fit, whereas some of the agents I’ve spoken to have said the POD would be up to my publisher to decide. I don’t simply want my novels to be available for e-readers, having paperbacks is important to me as I sell them at talks etc which I give to writing groups. And, with Create Space you can order one book or one hundred – it’s that flexible.
We can also say, no – we don’t want to give our books away for free, thank you, as a promotional tool. Or to settle for 35% royalties (or less) when we can get 70% off Amazon. We can also write the book we want with the characters we believe in; I’m not sure how easy it would be handing over my novel and being told to edit it to suit the market/ an agent/editor without any guarantees that the changes would make a better book, or sell more copies. I respond to what my readers tell me that they like about my novels. I also know, to the day, how many books I’ve sold, what I’ve earned and where the sales need boosting – thanks to Amazon’s daily sales figures. I don’t think I’d like to have to wait for quarterly sales figures from my publisher. I can also make the most of Kindle Countdown, Kindle Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited because I’ve stayed exclusively with Amazon. Lots of writers would disagree, but KDP Select works for me. Now – if I could just get a WHITE GLOVE DEAL, I’d be in clover.
5. Conversely, is there anything you haven’t been able to do/experience as an indie writer compared to traditional publishing?
There is a definite ‘glass ceiling’ which is hard to break through. For example, getting my novel into bookshops and libraries (those that are left!), although Waterstones, Kensington, has agreed to take three of each of my novels to see how things go – and have kindly agreed to put my books out on their Romance Table. It would be nice to be reviewed in some of the women’s magazines and to be offered a Kindle Daily Deal with the weight of Amazon behind me. But those things seem to be offered almost exclusively via one’s publisher. I would also like to graduate from the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and become a full member, albeit it a self-published one. But I don’t know how much longer I’m prepared to wait for that to happen. I heavily promote my novels across all media sites and I gather that traditionally published authors are expected to do that in any case. Oh, and, an advance would be nice – thank you very much.
Establishing myself as an indie author has been quite expensive. Some of this cost could have been borne by my publishers – proof reading, formatting for kindle, buying images and producing a front cover and so on. All of the above are allowable expenses against earnings, of course, but you need a pot of money to get you started.
6. As a collective of ten, The Write Romantics find the support we can give each other absolutely invaluable. What value have you found in being part of a group of writers?
Help is just a phone call away. Literally. Adrienne and I talk most nights after she’s finished work, June and I meet regularly for coffee, chat daily over the phone and read our work out to each other and Mags is always on hand to give another perspective to my ideas for taking the group forward. Being a ‘collective’ also means we can ‘divi’ up the jobs, blog posts, promo and so on and spread the workload around a bit. When I lose belief in what I’m doing, I know I can call on ‘the team’ to give me the support I need to keep going. We also have four of us finding out new things about the self-publishing industry and sharing them with each other. Having a ‘tweet team’ helps enormously, too. Going it alone is do-able, but so much more hard work than being part of a team.
7. What does a “typical” day look like for you? (E.g. do you always write in a morning, say, or only check social media at certain times of the day?)
I am one of those annoying people – a LARK. I’m usually at my pc straight after breakfast when I check all the social sites I belong to and comment. Then, after my husband (aka Bongo Man) tells me how many sales I’ve clocked up overnight, I tailor my tweets, blog posts accordingly. I write throughout the day in ‘snatches’, to give my eyes a break from the screen. I very rarely write in the evenings, preferring to watch movies and to recharge my batteries. We have recently bought a second hand caravan and hope to do it up a bit over the winter and then take off into sunset next spring. I always take my trusty pc with me wherever I go as I find if I don’t write for a week, getting back into the novel is hard for me. When in the caravan I generally check emails in the morning and respond, have the day exploring the location where we’ve camped, and then write in the afternoons while Bongo Man and the parrot (yes, he comes with us) chill out at the other end of the caravan. Does the snoring annoy me? Oh yes!
8. Is there a pivotal moment when you can say that you truly felt you were a writer?
I was having coffee with June and Amanda Grange in a local café when Bongo Man joined us with the proof copy of Tall, Dark and Kilted, which had just arrived. My hands were shaking as I couldn’t believe that my book was finally in my sticky little hands. Magic. When I wrote and published my first blog post, joined the Society of Authors and people started asking me for writing advice were pivotal moments, too. I would have to say that our Author Event in Waterstones in November was the icing on the cake for all of us.
9. What’s been your greatest reader interaction moment and why?
It has to be the email I received from a reader in ISTANBUL. She’d read Tall, Dark and Kilted and had cried so much at the end that her husband thought she’d received bad news over the phone. I hope to publish the email in full one day on my blog. I think the other ‘moment’ is when the most unlikely people tell me they’ve downloaded, read and loved my book. By unlikely I mean people who I would never have dreamed would read romance, let alone my novels. I am also quite overwhelmed by the love and support I receive from the ladies I’ve befriended on Facebook. They buy my novels, leave me reviews on Amazon and spread the word amongst their friends. The best kind of social networking IMHO.
10. What challenges have you faced as an English woman writing about Scotland and Scottish characters?
I’ve been giving this one some thought. I was born in Scotland and lived there until I was eleven. My family are Scots and I’ve been surrounded by ‘Scottishness’ all my life. If you are English and want to write about Scotland the best thing is to GO THERE. Although, conversely, Diane Gabadon who writes the Outlander series and D.K. Broster who wrote the Jacobite trilogy The Flight of the Heron etc had never visited Scotland before they wrote their novels. Immerse yourself in Scottish history, movies and read Scottish themed novels by other authors to get a feel of what feels real for you. Scout charity bookshops and purchase large picture books of Scotland and thumb through those for inspiration. Use Google Earth to inform what you write about the landscape and the weather. Be aware of the difference between those Scots who live in the Central Belt and those who live in the Highlands and Islands, their accents are different as is their outlook on life and how they speak. I like to include some Scottish Gaelic phrase in my writing and am lucky enough to have a native Gaelic speaker who helps me with this. Always double check your research if you’re weaving Scottish history into your novel. I’ll give you an example of this: I read a Scottish themed novel recently where the author referred to the hero’s sporran as his codpiece (!) and her copy editor/ publishers hadn’t picked up on it. Hoots Mon!
11. What does the future hold for you and for the New Romantics Press?
My ambition is to write six novels. Three set in Scotland and three set in Norfolk. Then I will market them as box sets. Once I have three novels under my belt with attendant sales figures, I might think of approaching some of the larger literary agencies to see what they can offer me, and take it from there. As for the NRP – originally, we all published our novels at the same time and held joint book launches, but we all work at different paces and that is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. We will continue to support each other and to promote ourselves as the New Romantics Press because we think that more accurately reflects who we are and where we are headed. Whatever happens, we will always be there for each other and our friendship and support for each other will continue.
12. What advice would you give to any writers out there considering an indie route?
Think carefully before you set out on this journey. If, as a writer, all you want is a copy of your novel to pass round your friends and relatives, that’s achievable with a little help and lots of hard work. HOWEVER, if you want to make a career of it – be prepared for a hard slog: promoting your current novel(s) and writing THE NEXT ONE. I try to aim for a novel a year, allowing for health and family commitments. In many ways, I’ve been lucky – I had all my social networking ducks in a row before I published so I was able to promote myself and the other New Romantics – if you are doing that from a standing start it can be quite overwhelming. Meet with other writers, learn from them but, ultimately, know who you are and what you want to write. Glue your derriere to the chair and get on with it.
Thank you so much for talking to us today, Lizzie! The Write Romantics are great admirers of The New Romantics Press and we wish all four of you continued success.
Boot Camp Bride – Romance and Intrigue on the Norfolk marshes – November 2013
Tall, Dark and Kilted – Notting Hill Meets Monarch of the Glen – 2012
USA – http://tinyurl.com/o4vor4z
Hocus Pocus 14 short story anthology
Amazon page: http://tinyurl.com/mpcv6bn
Linked in: uk.linkedin.com/pub/lizzie-lamb/18/194/202/
twitter: @lizzie_lamb twitter: @newromantics4