It takes a whole team to indie publish a book!

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Even when you indie publish, it’s not something you do entirely alone.

My fifth novel, In a Manhattan Minute, was published on Thursday 20th October. I have been indie publishing my novels for a while now, but contrary to what many people think, it’s not just me sitting in a room until the final novel is finished and then pressing a button. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of sitting at a desk and getting those words written, but once the first draft is finished and I’ve been through the book at least another three, four or sometimes five times to edit it myself, it’s time to involve a few other people.

Usually, by the time I’ve gone through my novel that many times I can’t even look at it and I need to take a step back. Most writers will tell you this works very well and I usually take a step back after my first edit. But then the real letting go comes when I send it for the substantive round of edits.

Substantive edits are thorough. They look at how the story works as a whole, taking into account the plot, pacing and structure. It’s scary to get the substantive report back because it’s usually several pages long, in addition to comments throughout the manuscript. To manage the substantive edits, I take a deep breath, then separate the report into manageable chunks.  I also cross out sections once I’ve been through the entire manuscript to ensure they’ve been dealt with, and it’s quite satisfying!

Once the substantive stage is finished, the manuscript is returned to the editor and it’s time for the copyedits. I find this stage much less scary. Copyedits are a lot more specific. So, for example, does your character sit down for breakfast and then on the next page clear the table after finishing their lunch? Or do they have blonde hair at the start but then all of a sudden their hair is described as ebony?

Following the copyedits and my subsequent changes, it’s time to use the services of a proofreader. I like to use someone different to who I used for the editing, because it’s a fresh set of eyes on your manuscript. This is the least painful stage because by now the big issues have been ironed out and the story is almost ready. The proofreader will particularly focus on grammar and spelling but they will also spot any inconsistencies you may have missed. When the book is 70k plus, mistakes are easy to overlook.

When the proofed manuscript is returned, I make changes and then go through yet again to check. Next, I pass my manuscript to my husband. I either print a paperback proof or put the book onto my kindle for this. He’s a great final proofreader because he’s not afraid to tell me if there are any mistakes! And again, it’s a fresh pair of eyes. Once he’s checked and I’ve made any necessary changes, I go through yet again and then it’s time to load the manuscript up onto KDP.

During the editing and proofreading stages, I usually get in touch with my cover designer and we discuss my requirements for the book. I may find examples of styles I like, or I may want the cover to tie in with a particular theme. Once we’ve discussed the brief, my cover designer will send me about half a dozen visuals. Usually there’s something there that I either really like, or that we can tweak. It may be a case of taking a font from one, an image from another and putting those onto something new. It takes a few goes back and forth but I end up with a cover I love.

When it’s time to publish, I use Amazon’s KDP. It’s pretty straightforward, especially once you’ve published a few books. You can also read through on the screen again which I usually do, and it’s particularly good to check the layout. I make sure chapter headings are centred, there are no mysterious blank pages, and the cover is as it should be.

I usually multitask too. So right now I’m working on promoting In a Manhattan Minute, I have another Christmas book with my editor for the substantive stage, I’m writing book seven, and I’m thinking about what I’ll do for book eight. It’s hard work but I absolutely love it and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

It’s so important, if you’re self publishing, to take the time to get each stage of the process right. It does cost, but it’s an investment and good edits, proofreading and book covers will last a lifetime. By investing in each stage it will also help you to produce a book that is just as professional as those titles produced by a big publisher. And it will give you the best chance of success and great sales.

I hope you enjoyed the blog post…if you’d like to sign up for my newsletter, I have an exclusive giveaway coming in mid-November!

Helen J Rolfe x

 

 

 

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Location, location, location – it’s all about heavenly Hampstead for Carol Cooper

MSP_8587-Edit-2 cropWe are delighted to welcome back Carol Cooper, a long-time friend of the blog, to tell us all about how she decided on the setting for her second book. Carol is a doctor, journalist, and novelist. She writes for The Sun newspaper and teaches medical students at Imperial College.

After a string of trade-published non-fiction books and an award-winning medical text, she chose self-publishing for her fiction debut One Night at the Jacaranda. Her latest novel, Hampstead Fever, is out in June. Her novels are all about Londoners looking for love, and they’re laced with inside medical knowledge.

Like her fictional characters, Carol lives in leafy Hampstead, North London. Unlike them, she got married again in 2013. She loves a happy ending.

Over to Carol…

Why did I set Hampstead Fever in Hampstead?

Some fiction writers like to invent entire locations, but it’s not for me. I prefer to deploy my imagination on characters and plot rather than geography. It seems an unnecessary headache to make up a whole town. Besides, there’s always the risk that the street map in the author’s head is physically impossible.

Real places already have meaning for readers. Think of Liz Fenwick’s Cornish romances, or Glynis Smy’s choice of EastHampstead Fever FINAL EBOOK COVER London as the setting for Ripper, My Love.

In case you didn’t know, Hampstead is one of the most charming parts of London, and, logically, I also chose it for the title of my novel Hampstead Fever. The area is beautiful, trendy, and has a rich cultural heritage, although, on a Monday morning when Camden Council arrives to empty the bins in my street, you’d be forgiven for missing all of that. On bin day, a queue of irate drivers builds up, many of them turning the air blue because they can’t drop off their little darlings at school without walking a few extra yards.

The area is full of character, but it’s not edgy. Neither are my characters in Hampstead Fever. If you want edgy, you’d be better off reading Irvine Welsh or Chuck Palahniuk.

The people in my books have relatable problems, and Hampstead means different things to each one of them. For Harriet, the area is aspirational. She is a freelance journalist who finds it increasingly hard to pay her bills. Commissioning editors for the magazines she writes for don’t want well thought out features. They prefer pieces like “What’s My Bottom Line?” (the topic is literally pants). Harriet does her best but is overawed by all the successful authors and journalists in London NW3.

At 40, Laure is a first-time mum who panics every time her toddler develops a new symptom. Her partner works long hours and there’s no extended family, so Laure’s parenting guidance comes from books and the uber-competitive mothers at toddler group. Alas, Laure is so wound up in her child that she has little time to spare for her partner.

I think many readers will identify with single mum Karen. Her style is the opposite of helicoptering. I call it submarine parenting. She has four children ranging in age from six to 12 and is facing an early menopause, so energy is at a premium. No wonder Karen lacks the enthusiasm for a suitable relationship.

There are plenty of men in Hampstead Fever too, like Geoff who’s a doctor, and Sanjay who works as a fundraiser. Laure’s partner Dan is now an up-and-coming chef at a new restaurant in the heart of Hampstead Village. It’s the perfect place for a trendy bistro, but Dan complains he’s not paid enough, so, rather than use one of the existing restaurants as a setting, it seemed fairer to make up a new one. But I sited it in Flask Walk, a very real street.

A plus is that I live in Hampstead. Researching a location involves little more than a brisk walk, unlike, say, a writer in the UK who chose Venice as her setting.

I wanted my new author photo to fit in with the locale, but as I discovered you can’t always take one when and where you want. Hampstead Heath proved a little windy and wet on the day, which wouldn’t have been right for a book set in mid-summer.

My photographer got me to pose in the street near the Freud Museum. While the connotations may be a little heavy for my brand of contemporary fiction, the building is attractive. Alas, I hadn’t bargained on the crowds of people arriving to pay homage to the father of psycho-analysis. The Freud Museum doesn’t open till noon, so they were outside, waiting to be shown in to worship at the great man’s couch (yes, it’s still there in his study). One of the prospective visitors had even brought a suitcase, so there he was, on the pavement with his baggage. Now that would have been a great picture.

Hampstead Fever was released on June 30 and available on ebook platforms and in bookshops.

Measuring success as an author

IMG_0544How do you do it? The concept of what success means is constantly shifting, not just for writers as a collective, but for each of us as individuals. Even when we achieve what we thought we wanted to achieve, there’s no guarantee it will actually make us *feel* successful. There are always others who seem to be doing better or perhaps doing things differently to us, who will make us question whether we’ve made the right decisions or whether we should be on a different path altogether.

 

So what’s writing success? Perhaps it’s…

  • Getting a publisher?
  • Getting an agent?
  • Owning your writing journey as an indie author?
  • Seeing your novel in a book shop?
  • Appearing in an Amazon top one hundred chart?
  • Receiving lots of 5 star reviews from people you’ve never met?
  • Making a decent amount of money from writing?
  • Getting an email from a reader to tell you how much they loved your book?
  • Making your mum, dad, children or next door neighbour proud?
  • Creating a social media presence with followers in their thousands?

Maybe it’s lots of these things or something else entirely. In the last couple of years, between us, the WRs have achieved more of these measures of success than I think we ever really thought possible. But, lately, I’ve been questioning what it is that would make me feel I’ve been successful as a writer and I happened upon a quote that really resonated with me:

‘Success should be measured by how much joy it gives you.’

For my writing life, this is so true. Whilst I’ve ticked a lot of things off the list above, there are several still to achieve.Chart position AATS However, I’ve discovered if I approach writing chasing too many of those measures of success, I can rob myself of that joy. I started writing just because I loved it and that’s how I want to measure my success. If my writing gives me joy, then I can’t really ask for more. The rest is all just garnish.

As for my social media presence, that’s probably strongest here, on this blog, with the rest of the WRs. There might be lots of blog awards we could have won with a different approach and there are writing collectives with a higher profile than ours. However, if success really is measured by the amount of joy something brings you, then being part of this blog and, more importantly, this group has also been a resounding success for me.

I’d love to know how other writers measure their success and, whatever form that takes for you, I wish you lots of it.

Jo

Aspiring writers step away from the scorpions! The WRs are here to tell you why…

Hello and happy bank holiday weekend!

If you’re a regular follower of our blog, you’ll know that a Saturday normally means The Saturday Spotlight in which we interview writers at all stages in their career – aspiring to chart-topping, indie or traditional – as well as the occasional interview with an editor, publisher or agent. Today, though, we’re doing something a little bit different. We want a little exploration of the past, present, and future of the Write Romantics…

conf 2014 10In the beginning, there were just a pair of Write Romantics. Jo and I ‘met’ when I was in my first year of the RNA’s NWS and Jo was in her second year. I’d finally got around to joining Romna, the RNA’s online community, where newbies are invited to introduce themselves so I tapped in a “hi, this is me” kind of email. Jo immediately contacted me as we shared a writing genre and other interests. A friendship was instantly formed and we exchanged incredibly long and detailed emails over the next few months. In early 2013, the idea developed to set up a blog. We found our name, we found a format, and away we went. But it soon became apparent that finding enough writing-related things to say to regularly contribute to a blog when there were just two of us, neither of whom were ready to seek a publishing deal, was going to be a massive problem. But a problem shared is a problem halved. Or tenth-ed in our case because we put an offer out on Romna to extend the group and were quite overwhelmed to find eight other writers who wanted to join us. Phew. Because it could have been a bit embarrassing if we’d had no response!

Conf 2014 3We don’t mind admitting that we hadn’t a clue what we were doing! None of us were expert bloggers. In fact, we weren’t bloggers at all! I’d set up a blog a couple of months previously following my journey to get fit and lose half my body weight through a beach-based bootcamp (which I still run although I’m slightly ashamed to say that I’m still, 2.5 years on, trying to lose half my body weight – oops!) so I had a little bit of experience of regularly posting, and Rachael had some experience of being part of a writing group who blogged, but that was it. So we had to pretty much start from scratch.

It’s been great working together as a team to develop the format for the blog into the regular bi-weekly slots we have now. We all contribute posts and we all bring interview guests to the party. Two years ago, after about 4-5 months of blogging together, we asked the WRs if they’d like to re-affirm their commitment. Were they happy with what we were doing? Was it what they expected? Did they have the enthusiasm and willingness to really move the blog forward and start posting more regularly? At that point, one of the WRs decided to dip out because her commitments outside writing meant she was going to struggle to contribute and, for a year, we were nine. Then last September, we asked Sharon to join us. I’d met Sharon the year before, as had WR Alys, and she’d become a great supporter of the group. She already felt like one of us so it was a natural step to officially invite her into the fold, restoring the power of 10.

Although we live all over the country – Cumbria, North & East Yorkshire, Gloucestershire, Wales, East Sussex, Hertfordshire, Somerset, Kent (hope I haven’t missed anywhere!) – and have never all been in the same place at the same time, we’ve become really close through the power of social media. We’ve celebrated the highs, sympathised during the lows, built each other up during down moments, and learned from the various paths the group’s writing journeys have gone down. It’s often said that writing can be a lonely business but the WRs are never really alone and we’d massively recommend all writers find themselves a support network, whether that’s a writing partner or a large group like ours. We’re all convinced that some of the amazing things that have happened to the group over the last couple of years have been thanks in part to the support and encouragement of the group. So what are those amazing things? I’ll hand over to Jo to let you know more …

Reproduced by kind permission of © Ra\'id Khalil via Dreamstime Stock Photos

Reproduced by kind permission of © Ra\’id Khalil via Dreamstime Stock Photos

‘What a difference a day makes, twenty four little hours…’ or so Dinah Washington’s song goes. It might have taken more like twenty four months since deciding we wanted to stay Write Romantics, as Jessica says above, for our fortunes to really change, but the sentiment’s exactly the same. Even on our down days, when we do consider giving up to take up scorpion petting instead, as one of the Facebook jokes about writing goes, it’s been a pretty incredible two years.

If you’d told us back then what we might have achieved by now, we’d probably have given you a bitter little laugh – how little you knew. Most of us were wearing the battle scars of rejection already and some had been pursuing the publishing dream for ten years or more. Did we give up? No, but boy did we talk about giving up! That’s the beauty of the group though, just when you are about to put a down payment on a pair of breeding scorpions, someone is there to talk you off that particular ledge.

I’m about to give you a round-up of what those two years has seen for us. Not because the WRs like to big themselves up, as my kids would say; in fact, the other eight don’t even know Jessica and I are doing this and they’ll probably cringe when we sing their praises. The reason we are writing this blog is the opposite. It’s because we remember exactly what it’s like to be an aspiring writer – not one who used to write for Tatler or produce radio plays for the BBC and has the sort of connections you don’t get when the height of your networking involves spotting Bob Geldof buying carrots in your local branch of Tesco – but ordinary people who just love to write.

Is it really possible to get published if that’s your starting point or will it only ever be your mum who downloads a self-published tome from Amazon, as you languish at chart position number three million and thirty two? We want to tell you, if you are an NWS member reading this, or an aspiring writer of any sort, that it’s not only possible but there are lots of ways to get your work out there and, whether indie, traditionally published or some hybrid of the two, there are also lots of ways to measure success. Not everyone is lucky enough to be part of a group like this, who will tell you to step away from the scorpions, but we hope reading a round-up of our journeys so far will reassure you that if you keep going, it can happen for you too.

So what is it we’ve done? Well, being of a certain age – I think Helen R was just clinging to her thirties when we first joined together, but we are now all in our forties or beyond – I think IMG_0076most of us dreamed of having a paperback with our name on and maybe even seeing that on the shelves of WHSmiths or Waterstones. Okay, so we know that all the statistics reveal that books in the commercial genres we write in sell better as ebooks than in print, but we’ve had this dream since before Kindle was even a twinkle in Amazon’s eye. So are we living the dream? Well, of the ten of us, eight of us now have paperbacks out there or are in the process of going in to print and four of us have had books in WHsmiths and/or Waterstones and supermarkets, with Jessica’s about to appear in some of the Yorkshire Waterstones really soon and Sharon’s pocket novel hitting the shelves in October. Nothing beats seeing your book on the shelf, despite how times have moved on… although being caught taking a selfie with it is a bit embarrassing, hence me using my son as bait in Smiths! Our books are also starting to hit the shelves of libraries too, with Jessica leading that particular charge.

Helen P, Rachael, Jessica and Sharon all have multi-book deals with the same publisher and I’m awaiting finalisation of my contract before revealing some news of my own on that front.  We’ve also seen the launch of The Write Romantic Press for our anthology and a number of us have dipped our toes into the world of indie publishing, with Lynne riding consistently high in the charts with her first indie published title. Fabrian Books, which started off as a small indie publisher, is now handing over the ownership to its authors, giving them the benefits of having more of a say in their publishing journeys and hoping to follow in the footsteps of other publishing cooperatives like The Notting Hill press, with two of the Write Romantics breaking new ground in this exciting venture of what’s termed publishing’s ‘third way’.

We’ve had almost twenty five books published (or about to be) between the ten of us, through publishers including Carina, Crooked Cat, DC Thomson, Fabrian Books, Mills and Boon and So Vain Books, with more news pending and work under consideration by a number of places that are the stuff of dreams, including the BBC no less!

Chart position wise, Deirdre, Helen R, Jessica, Sharon, Lynne and myself have all appeared in the top hundred or higher of our genre charts at one stage or another, with a number in the top ten. Helen P and Rachael have hit even dizzier heights than that though, with Helen P regularly knocking her own hero, Stephen King, off the top spot and Rachael hitting number two across the hugely competitive Mills and Boons chart, although the rest of us know that the number one spot is hers for the taking.

author 2Alys secured something else we’ve all dreamt of at one stage on another, with agent representation, and her debut novel will be out in time for Christmas. Jackie made the top ten shortlist of a hotly fought Mills and Boons contest and is about to make a round of submissions which we are sure will see all ten WRs published by 2016.

So for all you NWS members who’ve recently submitted your manuscripts – or, if you are like I used to be, who’ve just run down to the post office to send it last minute, days before the deadline, with your hair stuck to your forehead and a hopeful surge in your heart as you send it off – or if you’re an aspiring writer of any sort, it can happen. There’s a hackneyed phrase that says the difference between a published writer and an unpublished writer, is that the former never gave up. It’s the sort of advice that used to make me want to French-kiss a scorpion after yet another rejection, but believe me it’s true. So step away from the poisonous arthropod and keep going, it really is worth it in the end.

Jo and Jessica xx

Saturday Spotlight: Adrienne Vaughan

It’s an absolute pleasure to welcome Adrienne Vaughan to the blog today. Author of the romantic suspense ‘Heartfelt’ series, editor of Romance Matters and aspiring Bond Girl, Adrienne is also one of New Romantics Press, an  inspirational group of self published authors  who have recently taken part in an author showcase at Waterstone’s Kensington branch.  With her being such an amazing lady the Write Romantics had lots and lots of questions for Adrienne… 

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We know you’re a journalist and editor of Romance Matters as well as a writer. How hard is it to find time to write? 

I was given a turquoise Petite Typewriter when I was seven and my fate was sealed. I used to sit at the kitchen table and cut out articles and pictures, then paste them onto pages, making my own magazines. My mother would often sit down with a nice cup of tea and Woman’s Own, only to find I’d snipped out half the magazine when she wasn’t looking! I run a busy PR practice, and Romance Matters is just one of the magazines I work on, the others are more corporate, featuring architecture, construction and property. My creative writing is what I do when I’m not at my ‘official desk’. I write long hand – so my first typescript is an edit – usually very early in the morning,  or when I’m on holiday, in an aeroplane, on a train, anywhere really. I think you have to make time to write, I know I do.

How has being a member of the New Romantics benefitted you? 

Being a founder member of the New Romantics Press was, and still is, totally inspirational. Four very different writers, with distinct styles and voices, yet  I now have three buddies I just can’t imagine being without. We support each other, nag each other, admire each other and love each other. I say unreservedly, I would not be a published writer without  Lizzie Lamb, June Kearns and Mags Cullingford. They’ve helped my dream come true. End of.

June, Adrienne and Lizzie at the Waterstones Author Showcase (Unfortunately Mags Cullingford was recovering from knee surgery and couldn't join them)

June, Adrienne and Lizzie at the Waterstones Author Showcase (Unfortunately Mags Cullingford was recovering from knee surgery and couldn’t join them)

How big a help has social media and the New Romantics blog been in promoting your books?

Social media – particularly for an independent – is the main route to our audience, our readers. Without it I wouldn’t have readers who have both enjoyed my books and written some great reviews too. My first novel, The Hollow Heart has been downloaded by over 30,000 people, how else would I have reached even 300 without social media, Amazon and the internet.

We know you’re lucky enough to own a horse (Sharon Booth will be so jealous!) When did you get it? Does riding influence your writing at all?

My beautiful horse was extremely elderly and went to heaven at the end of last year. It was his time and it was a happy ending but I do miss him. One of the most fascinating things about riding, is that you have to communicate with another animal in a way it will understand and you must always remember, the animal you have given your complete trust has a brain of its own too. When it goes right, like a fabulous hack out, or winning a competition, it’s the most amazing feeling. My latest novel, Secrets of the Heart, features riding within the story and of course, the book is dedicated to my horse, Marco, as well as my late grandfathers …all wonderful gentlemen.

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 What’s next now the ‘Heart’ series of books are finished?

Tough question. I currently have two on the go. The Scandal of the Seahorse Hotel and A Most Deadly Affair – both romantic suspense and both totally different, although ‘Deadly’ will involve a lot more research, so I think that will take a back seat to ‘Scandal’ until that’s finished.

  •  Why do your books have an Irish setting?

Although born in England, I was brought up in Dublin and my family are all Irish. I have lived in the UK for over thirty years now, although I flit between the two countries very regularly.

My first novel – still (unsurprisingly) unpublished – was written thirty years ago, inspired by Maeve Binchy’s, Light A Penny Candle, so maybe writing about Ireland keeps me connected. I do have to check with family and friends I don’t fall into what they call ‘Plastic Irish’ – if my ‘voice’ wasn’t authentic, they’d soon tell me about it!

Did you have anyone in mind when you created the sexy Hollywood actor Ryan?

Yes.

(And that was all she’ll say on that one, I’m afraid!)

How did you become editor of Romance Matters (the magazine of the Romantic Novelist’s Association) and what does that involve?

I’d just joined the NWS – a total godsend to me – and there was a notice in the magazine to say the lovely Myra Kersner was standing down after eight years, could anyone help. My hand shot up! The job involves all the wonderful things about being an editor, commissioning articles, planning features, interviewing really important people and making lots of new friends. What’s not to like?

What are your writing plans for the next year?

Hmm, good question. I’m hoping 2015 is the year I start on that long road to becoming recognised as a writer. With three books under my belt, two of which have been shortlisted for an award at the Festival of Romantic Fiction, I’m currently seeking an agent, so we’ll see where that leads. Plus the New Romantics Press has plans for a very special short story anthology later this year, and I also have a small collection of short stories I’m hoping to publish too. I’m hoping I can become a true hybrid, published both traditionally and independently. Although, at the heart of things, it doesn’t really matter, I’ll always write, it’s what I do.

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We see that you had ambitions to be a Bond Girl. Have you based any of your heroes on James Bond?

Had? What do you mean HAD ??? Look, if Dame Judy Dench can do it, there’s hope! The character Ryan plays in his movies, Thomas Bentley is based on a sort of James Bond, but for me, Ryan is a true ‘James Bond’. Daring, single-minded, handsome and very hot – yet totally loyal to both Marianne and Joey – even when things get a bit rocky, he sticks to his guns and gets his girl in the end. Well, thanks for having me and a very happy and fruitful new year to you and all the Write Romantics …keep at it and never, never, never give up. Now, must dash …booked my first skiing lesson …well, you never know, do you?

 

You can check out Adrienne’s website at here, buy the Heartfelt series here and follow her on Twitter at @adrienneauthor. You can find the New Romantics Press here. If you’d like to read Write Romantic Sharon’s review of The Hollow Heart then click here

Huge thanks to Adrienne for joining us today. If you’d like to leave a comment or ask Adrienne a question then please click where it says ‘leave a comment’ or ‘comments’ in tiny little writing at the bottom of this post.  Have a great weekend! Alys x

 

Lizzie Lamb on teamwork, the glass ceiling, and that Waterstones event!

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.blog3

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.

blog43. We’re thrilled to hear about your Waterstones news. Tell us more!

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.blog1

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.

Lots of writerly support!

Lots of writerly support!

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
http://t.co/0WkwlH8bgg
UK: http://tinyurl.com/bootcampbride
USA: http://tinyurl.com/nnmzjha
Tall, Dark and Kilted – Notting Hill Meets Monarch of the Glen – 2012
http://t.co/xj2T54mE6j
UK- http://tinyurl.com/o9js6pl
USA – http://tinyurl.com/o4vor4z
https://www.amazon.com/author/lizzielamb
http://tinyurl.com/TallDark-Kilted
Hocus Pocus 14 short story anthology
http://tinyurl.com/Hocus-Pocus14
Lizzie’s Links
Amazon page: http://tinyurl.com/mpcv6bn
http://www.facebook.com/LizzieLambwriter
http://www.facebook.com/newromantics4
lizzielambwriter@gmail.com
website: http://www.lizzielamb.co.uk
blog: http://www.newromantics4.com
Linked in: uk.linkedin.com/pub/lizzie-lamb/18/194/202/
Goodreads http://tinyurl.com/cbla48d
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/lizzielamb/
twitter: @lizzie_lamb twitter: @newromantics4

Saturday Spotlight: Alison Morton on Romans, self-publishing and the butterfly effect

We’re excited to welcome Alison Morton to the blog today.  She is the author of the Roma Nova series of alternative history thrillers.  As the first alt history writer we’ve had on the blog we thought we’d start by asking about that.  Over to Alison…

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What is ‘alternate history’ and why did you want to write it?

It’s where the historic timeline has split at a ‘point of divergence’ in the past and the new timeline follows a different path from the one we know. Classic ones are what if the Germans had won the Second World War, or the Spanish Armada had succeeded in 1588? I sometimes wonder how English history would have developed if Elizabeth I had married and had children…

Sometimes, the change in history could have been caused by something quite small, but which eventually had a huge impact – the ‘butterfly effect’. In my Roma Nova books 400 Romans trekked north in AD 395 to found a new colony; their descendants survived into the 21st century and their existence has changed the rest of the world.

And why I wrote my thrillers in such a setting? I didn’t know you could change or ‘alternate’ the historical narrative until I read Robert Harris’ Fatherland. Perhaps my idea of a women-led modern Roman society could turn into a real story…

What gave you the original idea for the Roma Nova series? 

I was 11 years old and on holiday in north-east Spain. Fascinated by the mosaics in Ampurias, I asked my father, “What would it be like if Roman women were in charge, instead of the men?” Maybe it was the fierce sun boiling my brain, maybe early feminism peeping out or maybe just a precocious kid asking a smart-arse question. But clever man and senior ‘Roman nut’, my father replied, “What do you think it would be like?”

That idea bubbled away in my head until the novel writing trigger was pushed in 2009.

AMM Ampurias 1_sm

Have you always had a great interest in Roman history? 

Yes! I think I clambered over every Roman ruin in Europe with my parents, but I loved it. So much that was left was elegant and solid; their history so concrete and purposeful.

As I grew older and studied the Romans more formally, I appreciated what a complex, clever and determined society they had made. ‘Rome’ in the West lasted for 1229 years – that’s the equivalent of from AD 785 to today. It passed from mud hut tribal subsistence farming to the heights of the Pax Romana with its rule of law, art and literature, trade, engineering, and ability to learn; Romans set the template for the western nations that emerged over the following centuries.

I don’t want to sound too much like the John Cleese video, but you get the idea I’m impressed! However, we should remember not everybody lived well, especially at the lower end of the social spectrum, but the majority of people had a standard of living that wasn’t achieved again until the nineteenth century.

How much research do you do for each book?
In my stories, the standard timeline had diverged 1600 years previously in AD 395. This gave me a known baseline of the end of the fourth century so I researched the social, economic and political conditions of that time. By then, much had changed, even the everyday stuff like coinage; solidi had replaced sestertii and denarii, for instance. Regional government was localising with ‘barbarian’ warlords acting less like client kings of Rome and more like autonomous leaders. The late fourth century was much less secure and prosperous than in the golden years of Vespasian’s or Trajan’s rule.

I had to consider what would seem important to the Roma Nova colonists in those transitional times: security, food, and hope, ultimately survival. Their core Roman values would have bolstered them and formed a social glue while they struggled for existence. Thus, I had to be sure what those values were and what Roman history was to that point.

And finally, a good general knowledge of/addiction to European history came in very handy!

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Why did you decide to self-publish?

I was getting full reads and ‘good’ rejections; “fresh, intelligent writing”, tight dialogue”, “good action sequences”, from agents and small publishers. I even had a full read from a US agent! Most concerns were about how to market “such innovative, high concept stories”.

My first book, INCEPTIO, had been through the RNA New Writers’ Scheme as well as other professional assessments. I was burning to get my stories in front of readers – they are the ultimate arbiters, so I investigated self-publishing.  I wanted my books to be have the higher possible production values and I opted for assisted publishing with SilverWood Books.

The main disadvantages of self-publishing are the terrible twins of visibility and discoverablilty, ultimately, of not being in the bookshops. The other one is bearing the cost of marketing. But the benefits are freedom, including the freedom to make horrible mistakes, but also to make decisions about your book at all stages, and the flexibility to choose timing to suit you and the proportion of your input into production.

What advice would you give any writer who is considering self-publishing?

Sleep a lot now because you won’t have any time once you start! Serious self-publishing is for the self-driven, but there is a lot of support out there whether you’re doing it completely DIY or using a publishing services provider. Two places to research options would be The Alliance of Independent Authors and The Independent Publishing Magazine.

Essentials include a properly designed cover, a thorough edit from an experienced and recommended editor and a well-formatted book. Readers hate trashy looking books and cannot abide bad formatting. Worst of all they are critical of overblown, ungrammatical prose, and rightly so.

As much as, or really more so than, traditionally published authors, self-published authors need to build a strong online presence. Even if you commission print books for local hand-selling or marketing purposes, the majority of your sales will be ebooks online. So start your blog now, open up a Facebook author page and get tweeting. I started my blog (www.alison-morton.com) on World Book Day three years before my first book, INCEPTIO, came out. When I launched INCEPTIO, I had a crowd of ready-made supporters to help me. But you may find you’re spending 50% of your time on promotion.

How do you go about promoting your novels?

Social media, talks, library and bookshop events, local fairs, fetes, etc. and writing articles. And, of course, appearing on blogs like The Write Romantics!

What’s been your most exciting moment as a writer? 

Can I have three? I really can’t choose!
– The arrival of the box of my first book, INCEPTIO.

Box_of_INCEPTIO

–  Simon Scarrow agreeing to endorse PERFIDITAS, my second book

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–  Broadcaster Sue Cook interviewing me at the launch of my third book, SUCCESSIO.

Sue Cook_Alison Morton

You can check out the video of the interview here

What are your future plans?

Well, I’m finishing the first draft of book 4 in the Roma Nova series, set in the 1960s and 1970s. Romance does not run smoothly for our new heroine…

Then there are two more planned in my head.

Thank you so much for having me on Write Romantics – do feel free to ask me anything you like about Roma Nova, research or self-publishing here or via my site www.alison-morton.com

Alison Morton writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with strong heroines. She holds a bachelor’s degree in French, German and Economics, a masters’ in history and lives in France with her husband.

INCEPTIO, the first in the Roma Nova series, which was also shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award, and PERFIDITAS, the second in series, have been honoured with the B.R.A.G. Medallion®, an award for independent fiction that rejects 90% of its applicants. INCEPTIO and PERFIDITAS were shortlisted for Writing Magazine’s 2014 Self-Publishing Book of the Year Award. Alison’s third book, SUCCESSIO, which came out in June 2014, was selected as the Historical Novel Society’s indie Editor’s Choice for Autumn 2014 and has also been awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion.

Connect with Alison on her blog http://alison-morton.com/blog/

Facebook author page  https://www.facebook.com/AlisonMortonAuthor

Twitter @alison-morton

You can buy the Roma Nova series as follows:

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INCEPTIO: http://alison-morton.com/inceptio/where-to-buy-inceptio/

Perfiditas - Front Cover_520x800

PERFIDITAS: http://alison-morton.com/perfiditas/where-to-buy-perfiditas/

SUCCESSIO cover300dpi_520x800

SUCCESSIO: http://alison-morton.com/successio/where-to-buy-successio/