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

 

 

 

In a Manhattan Minute

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In a Manhattan Minute… everything can change.

And there have been a few changes over the last couple of months. My first bit of news is that my new novel, In a Manhattan Minute is available for pre-order from Amazon now!

I loved writing this book because it was a leap in setting for me. When I read I love to travel to different parts of the globe and with this story, as the title suggests, I have been living in the world of New York City. And what a lot of fun it has been!

Here’s the blurb…

Jack exists in a world that has seen its fair share of tragedy, but also success and the wealth that comes with it. One snowy night, he crosses paths with Evie, a homeless girl, and it changes everything.

Three years on, Evie’s life is very different. She’s the assistant to a prestigious wedding gown designer, she’s settled in Manhattan, has her own apartment and friendships she holds dear. But the past is lurking in the background, threatening to spoil everything, and it’s catching up with her.

Kent has kept a family secret for two decades, a secret he never wanted to share with his son, Jack. And even though she doesn’t realise it yet, his life is inextricably tangled with Nicole’s, the woman who was his housekeeper for thirteen years and the woman who helped Evie turn her life around.

It’s Christmas and a time for forgiveness, love and Happy Ever Afters. And when the snow starts to fall, the truth could finally bring everyone the gift of happiness they’re looking for.

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I loved being in New York City so much that I’m busy penning another novel set in the same place and plans are underway to release this towards the end of the year.

In other news, The Friendship Tree has been given a makeover with a brand new cover and is currently on special normal-jpeg-for-website-use-etcoffer at 99p for a limited time.

Wishing all our readers a wonderful September and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Helen J Rolfe x

 

How to research a novel

Author photo - Helen J RolfeI’ve always been what I’d call an ‘over-researcher’ if there’s such a term. Back in the days when I wrote articles for health and fitness magazines I’d read up on a subject using literature and the internet, I’d interview a couple of experts in the field and even for a short article I’d have far more information than I ever needed.

So what about when it comes to writing a novel?

With The Friendship Tree I really took the age old advice of ‘write what you know’. I knew the Sydney location well enough to send my characters, Jake and Tamara, into the city. I’d worked with a PR team, Brewer Creek was a fictitious town and I had enough knowledge to place it in the right area. To make Jake’s job as the local veterinarian realistic I chatted to Write Romantic, Rachael Thomas, who owns and runs a dairy farm.

I’m finding that as I write more novels, I need to do more research. My ideas and my characters are taking on dimensions that I’m not familiar with and I owe it to the stories to get all my facts.

So how do I know when I’ve done enough research?

At a certain point I find that the information I’m uncovering is repeating what I’ve already found, what experts in the field have confirmed, and it’s at that point I know I have enough information to go on. Sometimes questions crop up during the writing process and I’ll do a little more research at that stage, but by then it’s minimal.

So what am I researching now?

Well, for book four, which is in the editing stages, I took myself in to see professionals in the field because I knew it would allow me to make my characters jump off the page. This book focuses on a character who owns and runs a chocolaterie and apart from eating chocolate, I know nothing about what they do each day. Luckily, Creighton’s Chocolaterie in Leighton Buzzard invited me in for a couple of hours to watch them work and to ask as many questions as I liked. By the time I got home I knew I had plenty of information to start writing and as I got the words down on the page I knew it wouldn’t have been so easy without seeing the work environment for myself.

Of course, part of my research was to taste a few varieties too and bring home some samples. I couldn’t resist!

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I think research for a novel is easy to begin on the internet. There is a plethora of information out there and as long as you’re using reliable sites it’s a good foundation. I think talking / interviewing experts in the field is also really key to good research. For Handle Me with Care I interviewed a specialist who knew so much about testicular cancer. I was able to tell him the situation I’d put Evan, my character in, and ask him if this would happen. I asked him physical symptoms, the emotional trauma patients face. And most of all, it helped keep my story believable, realistic and accurate.

For my novel, What Rosie Found Next, I interviewed a firefighter from Australia and again asked about certain scenarios and technicalities for my characters and situations I’d be putting them in. This was crucial and the firefighter who helped me passed some of my writing around the rest of the team so I could get feedback from more than one source. It helped me make the writing accurate and I was so happy when a few of them said they were desperate to know what was going to happen in the book!

Another way to research is in person. It’s not always possible but I feel it really enhances the way you write if you are able to experience something yourself whether it’s doing a parachute jump (not me!), visiting a foreign country where you want to set your new book, or work shadowing to see how a job is performed and ask questions on the spot.

My first draft of book five is underway now and with it being in a totally different settting, a place I’ve never been to myself, the research is heavy but fun! All I need to do is persuade my husband to let me book a flight over to New York! It’s work-related after all!

Helen J Rolfe.

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If you want to find out more about me or my books, please visit my website: http://www.helenjrolfe.com/

Or you can find me on Amazon:  http://hyperurl.co/pxu978

 

How to Catch a (Rock) Star…

Today we’re delighted to welcome the lovely Gabrielle Aquilina to the blog, to tell us all about her fabulous debut.  Over to you Gabrielle…

Gabby cover 2First of all, I’d really like to thank the Write Romantics for having me – it’s a real pleasure and I’m thrilled to be publisher buddies with two of them!

So, I have my first book, ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ coming out in a few days which is incredibly exciting but also really, really scary. Pretty much everyone I know has said they are going to buy a copy and read it and that is, quite frankly, terrifying. Great but terrifying.

I’ve been really busy writing guest posts for various blogs as well as getting together a short story for my website but, for this guest post, I want to tell you how ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ came to be.

As with most authors, I’ve pretty much always written – picture stories when I was a kid, awful poetry when I was a teenager, mostly journals, diaries and letters (I know – old school!) when I was in my twenties and, finally, a novel when I hit my thirties.

Actually, ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ started out life as a completely different story to the one it ended up being. Originally, it was going to be a story about a group of friends and the dynamics of those all important female relationships. I wanted to explore what happens when one friend amongst a group of close friends becomes envious of another friend and how that impacts on the entire group.

But once I wrote Jed in, he wouldn’t leave the story and it became a novel of love, lust, mistrust and betrayal set against a backdrop of rock music! And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good love story? Especially one that involves super hot rock stars, relatable heroines and some good old drama and tension…

The drama in ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ comes from people keeping secrets and the fallout that happens when that secret explodes. I’ve experienced this myself in a relationship although it wasn’t quite as dramatic as either of the secrets Married Matt or Jed are keeping, thank God!

I hope a lot of readers will be able to relate to Lillie’s reaction and her subsequent downwards spiral. I’ve tried to make her a realistic heroine, one who makes mistakes and has flaws but, ultimately, is strong and picks herself up in the end.

I’m sure she’s frustrating at times, but isn’t everyone? Even my most favourite people annoy me sometimes and I try to write characters who are as real as possible because I prefer to read books where the protagonists are less than perfect. I find that makes for a more compelling and interesting story than perfection!

I enjoyed writing the characters from ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’ so much (and quite honestly, they just will not leaveGabby 2 me alone!), that I’m currently writing a follow-on novel, which will star Johnny, Jed’s best friend, and I plan on writing a third which will be all about Lillie’s best friend, Kate. So, if you read and like ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’, then keep an eye out for the next two books!

If you do read ‘How To Catch A (Rock) Star’, then first of all, thank you very much, I hope you enjoyed it! And secondly, if you have the time, please leave a review on Goodreads or Amazon…

Thanks for having me on your wonderful blog, Write Romantics! x

A Sense of Place

Deirdre’s post last week got me thinking about places and I realised that for me it works the other way round. I don’t choose a setting for a story. The setting comes first and the story comes out of it.
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Beltane which I’ve just finished (and is off being NWS reviewed as we speak) is set in Glastonbury. The original spark of an idea came from a rather odd bed and breakfast near Glastonbury Tor that I stayed in with a friend almost ten years ago. It was very alternative. People had conversations about angels over the breakfast table. Daily group meditation was pretty much compulsory. The woman who ran it was a very strong character and to be honest, my friend and I found her a little bit scary. Years later I started wondering what if someone who ran a New Age retreat didn’t have good intentions towards their guests. And from that I had my antagonist, Maeve.
Because of that there was never any question as to where I should set the book and the practical considerations of writing a book set 250 miles from home didn’t really cross my mind at the beginning. About a year in I realised that even with the help of Google Streetview I had too many unanswered questions so I planned a holiday/research trip. It was fantastic to spend a week in the place that I spent so much time writing about and huge number of new ideas came out of being there.
One of the amazing things about Glastonbury is that you never know who you’ll meet. At the Chalice Well I started a conversation about the weather and within minutes the guy I was talking to told me he was a druid and that after buying his house he’d grown a tall hedge around it because he practised druidic rituals in the garden. My imagination was obviously working over-time as to what exactly these rituals involved but the conversation sparked another idea and I knew this was all going to have to go in the book.
Once I’d decided I wanted to write a series with the same characters, I had to figure out where I would set the next one. I felt like I’d done Glastonbury. I needed somewhere else with a connection to history and myth. There are plenty of lovely locations I could have chosen but three years ago I went to Orkney and fell head over heels for the place.
As it takes me a long time to write a book (three years for Beltane) I want to write about somewhere I’m really interested in. So Orkney it is.
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However, there’s a problem and it’s not just geographical. For this book I want one of my characters to have been born and brought up on the islands, another to have grandparents from Orkney. They’re both embedded in the community with a history and a knowledge of it that I, a person who’s visited once and who lives 500 miles away, don’t have.
This week I wrote a first draft of chapter 1. There’s already a dozen things that I don’t know and some of them I don’t even know how to find out. I like doing research but getting to grips with this will involve a lot more than the internet can provide.
Over recent months I’ve been reading the Shetland books by Ann Cleeves and at the beginning of Raven Black, the first in the series, she says that it was overambitious to try to write a book set in Shetland while living in Yorkshire. She’s a highly experienced novelist. If she struggled then what on earth do I, a total newcomer, think I’m doing?
I’m going to Orkney for a week at the beginning of September. After that I’ll make a decision as to whether this is absolute insanity or if I can maybe, somehow, make it work.
So I’m wondering if any of you have experienced something similar. And if you have, can you give me any advice? I’d love to hear about the places that inspire your stories and the ways you bring them to life.
Alex
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A Good End?

For the past week I’ve been working on the final chapter of my novel.  Following the advice of bestselling author and expert creative writing tutor Sharon Kendrick I wrote the end months ago.  But when I read it again it wasn’t right.  My character had hijacked the love story part of the book since then and it didn’t work anymore.   And that got me thinking about what makes a good ending. 

It’s pretty clear that readers want the hero and heroine to be together at the end of a romance novel.  Publishers, more cryptically, say they’re looking for an ‘emotionally satisfying ending’. 

When I started looking into it a bit more I found this pretty illuminating quote from one of my writing heroines, Jennifer Crusie: “I think romance novels, like any genre stories, must provide a reader with catharsis at the end, and that catharsis is usually found in a ‘just’ ending; that is, characters get what they deserve. The bad guy gets punished, and the good guys get the happiness they’ve been striving for because they’ve suffered and grown and struggled.”   Jennifer knows what she’s talking about.  Not only has she written half a dozen best sellers but she teaches creative writing at Ohio State University.

By Jennifer’s definition to have a happy ending both characters need to grow during the book.   If one of them doesn’t then you can’t have a happy ending.  I think Gone With the Wind would be a classic example of that.  Scarlett was, in my opinion, a spoilt brat from start to finish.  I’d have felt a bit let down if Rhett had stayed with her at the end. 

The other twist on the happy ever after is the ‘duty’ or ‘noble sacrifice’ ending as in Roman Holiday.  It’s one of my all-time favourite films and it makes me cry every time when Princess Audrey choses her duty to her country over her love for Gregory Peck.  Another film classic would be Casablanca.  If Ingrid Bergman hadn’t got on the plane would that have made a better movie?  I don’t think so.  Somehow it’s enough to know ‘they’ll always have Paris’.

But there are romances where the ending seems anything but ‘just’.  For anyone who hasn’t seen or read One Day by David Nicholls I suggest you stop reading now because there will be spoilers.  The book charts the friendship of Emma and Dexter who meet on the night of their graduation in 1988.  Following their lives for just one day each year we see how that friendship progresses and eventually turns to love.

I saw the film before I read the book.  About three quarters of the way through when Dexter and Emma were happily married I thought ‘this isn’t going to end well’.  I was absolutely right.  Five minutes later Emma gets knocked off her bike and dies.  Yes, dies!  How could this heroine, who we’d come to love, die?  It just wasn’t right.  And no amount of quality father/daughter time four years later was going to make me feel any different. 

I felt cheated.  I’d gone to see a romance.  I didn’t want to come out crying.  And Emma deserved her happy ending.  She was good.  Dexter was a bit of an idiot but she loved him and together they’d suffered and grown.  They should have been together.   

However (and there’s more spoilers coming up) even if the hero and heroine don’t both live to see the final scene the ending can still have that required emotional quality.  Me Before You by JoJo Moyes has an incredibly moving ending.  I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much at the end of a book.  It was heart breaking but I understood.

It seems to me that books with endings that aren’t emotionally satisfying are seen as more serious.  They take the book out of the romance genre and lift it to something more literary.  That’s the author’s choice but it’s not a route I want to go down.

I want an ending that makes my characters and my readers happy.  My characters have definitely suffered (by the way does anyone else find themselves apologising to their characters for what they’re going through or is that just me?) and I’m pretty sure they’ve grown.  They deserve a bit of happiness.   And my readers have stuck with us.  I want them to close the book feeling happy too. 

So now I know what I’m aiming for.  Only time will tell if I can actually pull it off!

I’d love to hear what you think.  What do you want from the end of a romance novel?  What are your all-time favourite endings?  And what makes them so good?

Alex

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