Carol Cooper on why being indie and seeing your book in a High Street chain aren’t mutually exclusive

As regular readers of the blog will know, we like to celebrate the success of our writing friends whenever we get the opportunity. Carol Cooper has been a great friend to us over the years and wrote the introduction to our charity anthology ‘Winter Tales’. So we are delighted to announce that Carol has another reason to celebrate. Her second novel ‘Hampstead Fever’ has already been featured in several shops, including as a featured book in Waterstones Piccadilly, alongside David Nicholls no less. However, Carol’s latest success is to secure a deal with WHSmith for ‘Hampstead Fever’ to be part of a high profile promotion with a special offer of buy one, get one half price.

As more and more authors are taking the decision to go indie, and some feel the main sacrifice is missing out on the chance of seeing their book on the shelves of a bookstore, we asked Carol if she could give us some insight into how she’s achieved all she has with ‘Hampstead Fever’. Here’s what Carol had to say:

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I knew I had to have a quality product. Not one that was just good enough, but that would really hold its own amongst other titles from the biggest and best publishers. So I used professional editing and proofreading, and an experienced designer for layout. The inside was, in short, the best I could make it. Then I commissioned a really eye-catching cover from designer Jessica Bell.
 
When it came to WH Smith, I got in touch with their buyer for their travel shops, and asked nicely. That was it. Or nearly it, because it takes more than a quality product – an author has to think about distribution too. It helps that “Hampstead Fever” was printed by Clays, a market leader in print books, and is available through Gardners’ distribution network.
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We’d like to thank Carol for sharing both her great news with us, and some insight into how being indie and achieving that dream of seeing your book on the shelves of WHSmiths don’t need to be mutually exclusively. If you are an indie author who wants to see how it’s done, or just someone looking for a really great read, check out the details of Carol’s WHSmith’s offer below.

WH Smith Catches “Hampstead Fever”

 
 
Carol Cooper’s self-published novel Hampstead Fever has been chosen for a prestigious promotion in WH Smith travel bookshops from March 30th.
 
This outstanding novel will be available in over 30 of their key bookstores at airports and rail stations throughout the UK on a buy one, get one half price offer over the busy Easter holiday period.
 
The perfect read for a voyage, Hampstead Fever follows the intertwined lives of six Londoners as they struggle to keep relationships from falling apart during one hot summer.
 
As a well-known media doctor and award-winning author, Carol Cooper has been a regular in print and on TV and radio over the last 20 years, giving her medical opinion on a range of topics.
 
With Carol’s in-depth understanding of people gleaned from medical practice and the media, Hampstead Fever wittily captures modern urban living.
 
About the book:
 
In a London heatwave, emotions reach boiling point…
 
Ex-con Dan has it all. The perfect job and a new baby with his dream woman. So why is he still an outsider?
 
Laure had baby Jack late in life. It’s only natural she’s a little over-protective. Motherhood is terrifying.
 
After surviving serious illness, Sanjay’s got his life back. Now he wants adventure. Where does that leave girlfriend Harriet?
 
Karen’s love life is reduced to casual sex with the football coach. As a divorcee with four kids, romance is on her to-do list, just below the laundry.
 
Doctor Geoff’s relationship with actress Daisy is bound to be a bit dramatic. But why all the mystery?
 
A slice of contemporary multi-cultural life to make you laugh, cry, and nod in recognition.
 
“Combines the observational wit of Nick Hornby, the emotional depths of Anna Maxted, and the complex cast of Armistead Maupin.” JJ Marsh, author.
 
“Cooper has an impressive way of evolving her characters until you feel you’re reading about your own friends.” Sue Moorcroft, author.
 
“Fun and frolics, racy and pacy. The good doctor has done it again!” Matt Bendoris, The Sun.
 
About the author:
 
Carol Cooper is a doctor, journalist, and author.  Between Cambridge University and general practice, she spent years in hospital medicine, worked at supermarket checkouts, typed manuscripts in Russian, and proofread manuals on rebuilding dual-diesel engines. 
 
Following a string of popular child health titles and an award-winning medical textbook, she turned to fiction with her acclaimed debut novel One Night at the Jacaranda
 
Carol lives in Hampstead and Cambridge with her husband. She has three grown-up sons and three step-children.  She wrote Hampstead Fever while co-authoring another medical textbook.
 
Hampstead Fever was first published on 30th June 2016
Hardwick Press, £7.99
ISBN 978 0 9954514 0 7
 

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

You can choose your friends, but not your family. Isn’t that how the old saying goes? Well actually, that’s not strictly true, some of us choose our families too and I think those families are every bit as special – sometimes even more so – because of that.

As one of the Write Romantics, I write about love, of course; the clue is in the title. The funny thing is that although there remains an element of boy-meets-girl in my novels, I’ve always had an equally strong focus on wider relationships  – mothers and fathers, friendships and even the pivotal role of the family pet!

I’m not remotely linking the title of this blog to anything I’ve ever written, but I think I have discovered the greatest love story ever told… It’s not in any Amazon top ten lists, or gracing the shelves of Waterstones, but I’ve seen it with my own eyes and it’s called adoption. swalecliffeChoosing to love a child, who needs that more than anything in the world, with all your heart, has to just about sum love up, don’t you think?

Here’s a little picture of me and my childhood best friend, Claire, back in our primary school days. I won’t point us out in the photo, but we were a little bit nerdy if I’m honest, top of the class and slightly swotty back then, so we’re the only ones wearing the proper summer dresses and rocking some seriously horrendous sandals!  We both came from traditional families, a mum and dad, a sibling (or three in my case) and I bet back then we both expected we’d follow suit…

christmas2014-no1Life turned out to be a lot more interesting than that, though, and I’ve got the most cfwonderful jigsaw family, as we’re now called, made up of my children and step-children, oh and my husband of course. Not a lot of romantic novels have that sort of set-up, but I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world and it’s far and away the greatest love of my life. But Claire’s story is even more amazing. After a journey to motherhood that could probably fill a whole shelf of novels, Claire and her husband took the last leg of that journey to China, to bring their beautiful daughter home.  I won’t tell you all the details, because I’m still hoping that Claire might write that story herself one of these days and it really will be the greatest love story ever told.

claire-on-kindle-2I love Claire to bits, for a friendship that goes back so far, but more than that for being one of the people to teach me that love and motherhood are about so much more than genetics. Let’s face it, that’s the easy bit. When I wrote ‘The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come’, Claire was on my mind. The story isn’t hers, but the sentiment is. There are two books in the St Nicholas Bay series so far and whilst you’ll find a traditional love story in them both, you’ll also find the love story of motherhood that comes about in unexpected ways. I hope I’ve done that justice and there was only one person I could dedicate The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come’ to – Claire, a friend I chose, and the beautiful family she chose to build.

 

tgocytc-artwork‘The Gift Of Christmas Yet to Come’ is available as an ebook priced at 99p here.somebody-elses-boy-cover-final

‘Somebody Else’s Boy’ is available in paperback and ebook form here and for one week only is on special offer at 99p in ebook format.

Please, sir, I want some more

IMG_0910I’ve become a bit Oliver Twist lately. I keep wanting more. Okay, I confess, it’s not just been lately. The desire has always been there. Ten more minutes in bed? Ooh, can I have an hour more please? One lottery number in the draw? No, thanks. I’d rather have all six! One jaffa cake? No, thanks. I’ll take the whole packet instead! And when the tendency to munch my way through too many full packets of jaffa cakes (or tubes of Pringles … or pieces of cake; they’re interchangeable!) takes its toll and I toddle off to Slimming World or WeightWatchers for the millionth time, step on the scales and discover I’ve lost 6lbs in my first week, I feel disappointed that I haven’t lost 7lb or 8lb or, let’s face it, five stone in one week!

And I suspect I’m not the only one.

I decided to ask Google the question, “Do humans always want more?” A multitude of links came up offering thoughts and opinions, but all of them pointed to just one thing: it’s human nature. Good. Because I feel a little less guilty about it knowing that I’m not alone and that my “Please, sir, I want some more” attitude is not about me being greedy. Well, my desire for the extra jaffa cakes may be about me being greedy, but I hope my writing-related desires are purely human nature.

IMG_0900It started when I submitted my first manuscript Searching for Steven to the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme in 2012. Like every aspiring writer who submits to the Scheme, I prayed that I’d get some positive feedback. I did. But I found myself wishing my MS had been good enough to be put forward for a second read. Please, sir, I want some more! Maybe the following year? I re-submitted Steven the following year as I’d made some significant changes. Perhaps I’d get my second read then? As it happens, the second read system was scrapped so I’ll never know.

The next big moment came when I clinched a publishing deal in September. Woo-hoo! It was an eBook only deal and, you’ve guessed it … Please sir, I want some more! Whilst absolutely astounded, flattered, and thrilled to have secured a publishing deal, I found myself wishing it was for a paperback as well as an eBook. Doesn’t every writer long to hold their own paperback in their paws? Sometimes wishes come true and, before I’d signed, another publishing deal materialised and, this time, it was for an eBook and paperback. Double woo-hoo!

But, please sir, I want some more. It wasn’t enough for me to have a paperback available via Amazon or my publisher’s website. I wanted people to be able to walk into a bookstore and buy a copy of Searching for Steven. My publisher is new and small and they don’t have the links to make this happen … or at least not just yet. So it was down to me to be brave, like Oliver, and ask for more myself. Waterstones in Scarborough were my target and, although a change in manager meant that the enquiry slipped through the net several times and we missed the summer market completely, they stocked Steven. I knew they’d placed an order, but I didn’t know how many or when it would arrive so I kept popping in during my lunch hour at work. It was on my third or fourth visit that I finally spotted him nestling on the bookshelves and …

Please, sir, I want some more! It’s human nature to imagine scenarios and many of us will imagine the best possible scenario. IMG_0911My best possible beyond my wildest dreams scenario was a huge quantity of paperbacks piled up with pride of place on one of the tables rather than the shelves, with a sign beside them reviewing the book and pointing out that I was a local author and that Steven was set in a fictional version of Scarborough. Realistically, I knew that wasn’t going to happen, but I couldn’t help but feel a pang of disappointment that there was no signposting whatsoever. I’ve seen little review cards before pointing out recommended and local books, but Steven didn’t have one. I had to admonish myself to be grateful that (a) they’d stocked it, (b) there was more than one copy (there were 4 or 5) and (c) it was on the shelves forward-facing. I wanted to take a selfie of this amazing moment, but this would have involved an embarrassing lying on the floor moment because it was on the second from bottom shelf so I had to settle for a shelfie instead!

My next drama was whether it would sell. Four or five copies, not signposted, not on the tables, probably most likely to be selected by someone actually looking for my book rather than browsing on the shelves … would Waterstones be doing a return to distributor? I was therefore stunned and excited when Michelle, with whom I do a bootcamp, said to me a week gone Friday, “I bought your book in Waterstones yesterday. It was the last one on the shelf!” Eek! There’d been 4 or 5 on the Monday that week! I know where another two of them have gone – two of my work colleagues made a purchase – but I don’t know where number four and five went which is very exciting.

Of course, this has brought on another please, sir … moment because I now want Waterstones to restock! I want them to say, “Goodness me, those Jessica Redland books flew off the shelves. We must stock some more. And put them on a table in the middle of the sales floor. The best table. Ooh, and let’s add one of those review signs. In fact, let’s put some in the window too and flag up our local talent.” Hmmm. Might be getting a bit carried away there!

Yes, I think it’s human nature to always want that bit more. Yet that doesn’t mean I’m not satisfied with everything I’ve achieved so far. When I started writing, I had an idea and felt compelled to put it to paper. I didn’t really imagine that I’d be a published writer one day; I just needed to write a book. It’s amazing to think I managed that, never mind that it’s now out there for the general public to (hopefully) enjoy.

I’d love more. Who wouldn’t? I’d love to be top of the charts in Amazon, I’d love to appear in bookshops nationally, I’d love to have my books translated into other languages and available around the world, I’d love to sell the film rights. I doubt any of these things will ever happen and that’s fine because my main dream has already come true and I’ll be forever grateful.

Speaking of wanting more, though, where’s those jaffa cakes?

Jessica xx

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… 

Ade_at_Waterstone_Kensington_High_Street,_13.11.14[1]

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.

Front_Cover_Secrets_of_the_Heart[1]

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

Write Romantics Bookclub – The School Gate Survival Guide

IMG_2074Bringing humour and emotional buy-in to a story in equal measure takes a real gift, which Kerry Fisher has in bucket loads. We’ve been featuring her debut novel ‘The School Gate Survival Guide’on our Goodreads Book Club for the last month and have discussed everything from fellow parents who are at least 50% Botox, to going back to feeling like the new kid in the playground all over again.

The novel itself tells the story of Maia Etxeleku, a character whose down to earth intelligence and humour shines out from the first page. Maia works hard, in a cleaning job, to keep her family afloat, whilst her partner, Colin, could earn a part in Shameless and does very little at all – apart from blaming Maia for their problems.

Life starts to change in a way that Maia could never imagine when her favourite client, a professor, dies and leaves her a legacy that leads all the way to the school gates. Despite her surprise at the inheritance, and the stipulation that the money can only be spent on private education for her children, Maia carries out the old lady’s wishes.

School_Gate final jpegMaia soon discovers that appearances at the school gate, as everywhere in life, can be deceptive. Meanwhile, life at home becomes increasingly tense as she battles to fit in to a world where money spent on education is just the tip of the iceberg. Throw into the mix Zachary Peters, a teacher at the school who is everything that Colin isn’t, a very unhappy teenager and secrets that have been buried for a generation, and you have all the ingredients for a cracking good read.

Don’t just take my word for it though, here is what some of the contributors to our Goodreads thread had to say:

‘Loved this book…so much fun to read and very true to life!’

‘There is a real warmth in this book and lots of humour! Anyone considering reading it should go for it.’

‘Finished reading this brilliant book last night. The characters were amazing and I so wanted everything to come right in the end. You’ll have to read it to see if it does!!!’

If this has convinced you to read Kerry’s book, you can access it here. Kerry will also be a featured author in The Write Romantics’ anthology ‘Winter Tales’, due for release on 8th November.

Our next featured novel on the blog and for the Goodreads book club will be chosen by Lynne, who will be leading the discussions over there, as well as posting a review on the blog at the end of November.

Happy reading

Jo

Kerry Fisher on coming out from under the stairs!

IMG_2074Hi Kerry, welcome back to the Write Romantics blog and thank you for agreeing to be our guest this week, for a second time. Last time you stopped by to see us, you’d just self-published The Class Ceiling and we know a lot has happened since then… We’d love to start by asking you a little bit about what’s happened since your last visit.

What’s the best thing about being a traditionally published writer and have there been any unexpected elements?

I’m finding it very relaxing to be able to say ‘I’m published by HarperCollins’ and for everyone to nod because they recognise the name. When I was self-published, I always felt that I needed to explain my reasons for that. However, self-publishing was such a valuable experience so I’m really glad that has been part of my route to publication – I use everything I learned from that to make the most of my traditional publishing opportunity now. The most positive unexpected element is how supportive and generous-spirited the online community – Twitter and Facebook – has been. Disappointingly though, I thought I’d be absolutely sure of my place in the writing world and breeze along thinking, ‘I have a book deal therefore I am a capable author’ but I still sit at the laptop wondering how the hell I ever wrote a novel before, with self-doubt ready to screech in and fill any available space. I think that’s my personality though (damn it!).

What did you do to mark your publication days and do you still get a thrill every time you spot your book in a store or supermarket?Tesco

Even though the big focus for publicity was the paperback launch of The School Gate Survival Guide, the ebook coming out back in July felt like a huge milestone, so I made a little video of how it felt to be published.

I do still get a thrill when I see the book in a supermarket. I asked a woman to take a picture of me in Tesco on paperback publication day and blushed so horrendously when she asked if I was the author that the poor woman was practically backing away from the heat.

The School Gate Survival Guide is, amongst other things, a fascinating insight into the impact that school life can have on the parents, as well as the children. What are your top tips for surviving playground politics and have you ever experienced anything like that in real life?

Oddly enough, my own school gate experiences have been largely positive and I’ve made some very close friends at my children’s schools. We all know a parent who’s taken ‘giving their child every advantage in life’ to the extreme but fundamentally, I think most parents only want the best for their children, it’s just that some are quite pushy about it! My top tip for surviving playground politics is not to get dragged into them in the first place: be friendly, smile and give genuine compliments about other people’s children when the opportunity arises.

What are you working on now and what would you say your biggest writing ambitions is?

I’m just on the downhill slope to the end of the first draft of my third novel, which is about how small secrets get bigger and more toxic as they pass down the generations. My biggest writing ambition is to take time to enjoy the moment, the small successes along the way, rather than immediately finding a new goal to strive for. I do have an ambition to write a sit-com – the cheek and backchat from my teens are too priceless not to earn their keep somehow!

How do you keep creating new and entirely different characters as you write more books and do you ever worry about similarities, such as recurring themes, between your novels?

I don’t find it too hard to write entirely different characters. I ask myself with each one what it is that the character wants most in the world and the answer to that defines everything they do. So, in The School Gate Survival Guide, Maia wants her children to have a better life than hers. In my next book, The Divorce Domino, the middle-aged protagonist, Octavia, wants to feel young and as though life is full of possibilities again. That’s the easier bit. I do worry about similarities as my novels are about real people with real problems – and usually, people tend to have the same sorts of problems – marital, financial and child-related!

WaterstonesHave you had any strange encounters or messages from readers and, if so, how have you dealt with them?

I get lots of lovely messages from readers and I can’t begin to explain how uplifting they are, especially when I first self-published and people I didn’t know bothered to find me on Facebook to tell me how much they’d enjoyed my novel. So far, I haven’t had any really weird encounters although a man came to my book signing recently and asked me to sign his autograph book as well as the novel in case I became really famous…hope he makes thousands out of my signature!

 

Who is your favourite character from any of the books that you have written so far and was (s)he based on anyone in particular?

My favourite character is Clover from The School Gate Survival Guide – she’s warm, generous-spirited and doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. She’s the person I’d like to be if I wasn’t afraid of embarrassing my children. I got the idea for her at a party years ago. The six-year-old birthday girl was giving the entertainer a heart attack by ripping the paper off all her presents willy-nilly. The entertainer ran to her mother to say that no one was writing down what she’d received from whom (at a time when the norm was to spend a miserable Sunday pinning a six-year-old to a chair to write fifteen laborious thankyou letters). The mother replied, ‘Oh I couldn’t give a *bleep*, I never bother with thank you letters’. It was so un-PC I had to admire her!

Where did you get the idea for The Divorce Domino and what do you think of the advice that you should “write about what you know”?

Unfortunately, I got the idea for The Divorce Domino from witnessing the impact on friendship groups when one couple gets divorced. I realised that for a period of time, the trauma is so great for the person getting divorced that the usual to and fro of friendship trivia gets suspended – it seems entirely inappropriate to talk about the fact that you can’t get your child to practise the piano/you can’t find a reliable electrician when your poor friend is worrying about whether or not she’ll have to sell the house. Later on, when everything settles down, the person in the stable marriage can often feel left out of their friend’s new life because they are dating again, socialising more, making new single friends and having exciting child-free weekends.

I do tend to write what I know because all my books are driven by my fascination with relationships so I get my ideas from daily life. Exotic locations sometimes feature in my books because I used to be a travel journalist. The Divorce Domino is partly set in Corsica and my next one has some scenes in Florence as I lived in both of those places. I suppose my advice is, if you’re not going to write about what you know, then be prepared to spend a lot more time checking your facts – there will always be someone out there who knows and is prepared to put you right publicly.

What piece of advice would you give yourself about writing if you could go back to your pre-publication days?

Take a creative writing course as soon as possible. Don’t spend your twenties and most of your thirties procrastinating by telling yourself that you’ve got no literary connections and ordinary people from Peterborough don’t get published. Build a network of writers and authors you like, so that you have someone to bounce ideas around with. Find people to talk to who don’t nose-dive into their scrambled eggs as soon as you get to the second sentence about your plot problem. Don’t tell everyone you’re writing a novel so you don’t have to keep saying, ‘No, not published yet. No, not the next JK Rowling yet.’ And probably the most important piece of advice – you’re going to have to believe in yourself for a long time before someone else does.

Would you recommend self-publishing as a starting point for authors wanting to get their foot in the door and do you think self-School_Gate final jpegpublishing authors should invest in professional proof-reading and editing services?

For me, it was a tremendously uplifting and motivating experience because it proved there was a demand for a book that had been widely rejected by agents. However, I was utterly naïve about how much effort I would need to make with marketing my novel. I quickly realised that 400 Facebook friends equals about three and a half sales. If you can’t or don’t want to dedicate the time to marketing both online and in the ‘real world’ (i.e. speaking to writing/reading groups, going to networking events, meeting with local ‘target’ groups – in my case, mums with children) then it’s going to be exceptionally difficult to get your book to stand out. I read as much as I could on the subject and launched myself into marketing wholeheartedly, but it does take up valuable writing time.

I cannot stress enough the importance of investing in professional proofreading and editing – plus a professionally designed cover. If you don’t take yourself seriously, why should anyone else?

Who are your biggest influences in writing?

In terms of writing, I’ve been so lucky to meet some fabulous authors who’ve been generous with their time and help. I met my writing buddy, Jenny Ashcroft, at the York Festival of Writing a few years ago and I utterly trust her judgment. When I’m throwing myself on the sofa in despair, I send her my manky old pages of jumbled up first draft drivel and she helps me make sense of them. Another author, Adrienne Dines, whom I met at Winchester Writers’ Conference, is brilliant at taking my lazy, hazy ideas of a storyline and shaking them about until there’s some grain of coherence in the plot. Networking and conferences are never wasted! My agent, Clare Wallace, is also a great sense check – I feel utterly comfortable about asking her advice about anything.

It sounds horribly arrogant to say I’m not influenced by other writers – of course, I read widely and it would be astonishing if some techniques and ideas didn’t soak in – but I don’t deliberately set out to write like another author, or at least, not consciously. I did sit down and dissect Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret to see how she intertwined all the different strands of the story because I thought she handled a large cast of characters with complete aplomb. And I admire Caitlin Moran’s unique expressions – she makes me laugh out loud. I’d love to be more outrageous but I’m still a bit constrained by what people think. (Cringes and hides under kitchen table at the thought that my ageing relatives will be reading about actual, rather than hinted at, sex in the next novel).

What do your children and family think of your writing success?

WP_20141002_11_49_02_ProMy son has just about stopped telling his teachers I’m ‘an unsuccessful author’ when they ask if I work. I think my daughter is quite proud – she gave me a lovely postcard for my birthday that said ‘I can. I will. Watch me.’ I was delighted that she’d seen my perseverance pay off…I hope it will make her feel she can do anything, even when people are doubting her. My mother chases after women with children (target audience!) at car boot sales to give them a promotional bookmark and my husband is a shameless salesman. Taking my dad to see the books coming off the presses was probably one of the most joyful days of my life. That was a true WOW moment.

Anything else you’d like to share with us or advice you can give would be gratefully received!

I’d like to reiterate the advice my husband gave me: you can’t sell a book hiding in the cupboard under the stairs. Write the best book you can, then understand as much as you can about the industry, be generous-spirited – share information and introduce people, network like mad, be brave and pursue every avenue.

Good luck and thanks for having me.

Find out more about Kerry Fisher

Kerry’s fabulous ‘The School Gate Survival Guide’ is The Write Romantics’ Book-Club book of the month on Goodreads this month. You can join in the reviews and discussions here.

The ‘The School Gate Survival Guide’ is available to buy here.

Kerry’s website is: http://www.kerryfisherauthor.com/

Follower Kerry on Twitter: @KerryFSwayne

Like Kerry on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kerryfisherauthor?fref=ts

Indie Emily directs a writing destiny

Emily5We are delighted to be joined on the blog today by Emily Harvale, a successful indie author and self-confessed chocaholic – definitely a girl after our own hearts! Emily grew up in Hastings, East Sussex, and now shares a home with her adorable cat, Phoebe, who gets in the way of Emily’s writing whenever she can. When she’s not writing, Emily has lots of other hobbies; many of which, like watching a good movie, are enhanced by a glass of wine. She absolutely adores Christmas, something which you might not be surprised to hear when you review her back catalogue.

Thanks so much for joining us on the blog today, Emily. As you know, a number of the Write Romantics are thinking of going solo. So, we’ll start with the obvious question, what made you decide to self-publish and what do you think the benefits are?

A few things influenced my decision. I have ongoing health issues, requiring a number of operations over the last couple of years, so I didn’t want to contact an agent/publisher and have to tell them I’d be in and out of hospital for the foreseeable future! I received a wonderful report from the RNA’s new writers’ scheme and I wanted to know if other people also thought I was, “a talented writer who would go far”. What better way is there to find out than to ask the general public? I heard about indie publishing via Talli Roland. (I am an indie – for independent – publisher now, thanks to Amazon’s recent change). I’m a businesswoman and, after weighing up the pros and cons and realising there were no cons, I decided that indie publishing was the perfect route for me, so I added the extra chapter as suggested by the RNA reader, and went for it. I believe in jumping in with both feet and life is too short to wait for others to make my dreams, reality.

EmilyThere are so many benefits, in my opinion, that it would take all day to tell you, but the main ones for me are: speed of publication and being able to set my own schedule; choosing my own covers/cover artist; freedom to publish as many books as I want, when I want; not having to write in a specific genre; finding and working with professional editors etc. with whom I have built a good relationship … and money! Substantially more money than if I had waited, or taken another route.

Are there any downsides or things that surprised you about indie publishing?

I was surprised by how simple it is – and how easy it is to make mistakes! Things are constantly changing and it’s important to keep up to date. It’s also important to check one’s own books once they’re live. I recently had a formatting problem that only appeared on certain devices (iPad/Kindle Fire) but on the previewer, it looked perfect on all devices. That was a surprise. Things are not always as they seem. Other than that, I honestly can’t think of any downsides; only upsides. People say indie publishers have to do more marketing but I haven’t found that. I do far, far less than many ‘traditionally published’ authors I know of. I’m a huge fan of indie publishing. HUGE!

Do you buy-in any services to deal with things like proof-reading, formatting and book cover design?

I pay for a professional editor, a cover designer, and now a formatter (I believe in learning from my mistakes). I also pay for a very talented webmaster who has been with me from the beginning and who does lots of clever stuff for me, and not just on my website.

Emily2What approach do you take to marketing, how much of your time does it take up and what is your number one tip for increasing sales?

Er … I do very little marketing. I do some posts on Facebook and Twitter and, of course, send out my newsletter when a new book comes out or when I have my new cover or any other news. When my books achieve a high position in the humour or romantic comedy charts, (A Slippery Slope reached no. 1 in humour and no. 8 in rom com and they’ve all been in the top 5 of humour and top 10 of romantic comedy) I post about that, but that’s it really. I should plan a marketing strategy but it’s something I just haven’t got around to yet. My first book only sold around 500 copies until I did a 2 day free promotion on Amazon in December 2012, resulting in more than 12,000 free downloads. Since then, sales have been exceedingly good and I haven’t had/needed any reduced price promos (my books sell for £1.99; short stories .78p). Amazon did pick one of my books for their Summer Promotion last year, which was a lovely surprise, and I’m sure that helped boost sales even more. I gave away my short stories to my fans for free, as a ‘Thank You’ in December 2013 because I’ve been very lucky and they’ve been wonderfully loyal. I think it’s important to thank one’s fans. I’m fairly certain I could increase sales further if I made some effort at marketing. It’s on my list but it’s not a high priority as doing nothing much seems to be working extremely well – for me – and I’m not sure I’d be any good at marketing anyway! Perhaps less really is more.

Do you or would you ever consider writing in another genre and, if so, would you use a pseudonym?

I’ve written a ghost story (novella) but as it’s a romance too I’ll probably publish it under Emily Harvale. I’ve written a romantic suspense but it needs some work and I’ll decide whether to use a different name for that when I’m finally happy with it. I’m also writing a ‘cosy crime’ but that may turn into a romantic suspense. Yet another plus about indie publishing: I can decide what my books are, aren’t, or may be. I love writing my light-hearted, humorous romances though (yes that’s what I call them) and a lot of people seem to enjoy reading them, so I’m concentrating on those for now.

Would you ever consider representation by an agent or a contract with a traditional publisher?Emily3

When I’ve had my ‘final’ operation this summer, I may think about seeing if I can find an agent, mainly because I’m interested in subsidiary rights. I don’t believe in saying ‘never’ because things changed, but I would only consider a contract with a traditional publisher if the advance and terms were of considerable benefit to me. I’m certainly not seeking a publisher at the moment. My books are selling well and I’m making a really good living on my own by just publishing on Amazon. A large publishing house could increase my readership but I honestly don’t think a small one could. I have friends with smaller publishers and they don’t sell as many books, or receive as much in Royalties, as I do. I don’t see the point in losing money. To be honest, I think I can increase my readership myself, over time. I’ve already had a couple of orders via Waterstones. It may take me longer but I’ll get there.

Do you ever encounter any snobbery from traditionalists about choosing the indie publishing route and, if so, how do you deal with it?

Sometimes, unfortunately, from other writers, but I usually ignore it – or offer to discuss it over a bottle of champagne! Generally I’ve got no time for people who look down their noses at others. Readers couldn’t care less, on the whole, because they just want good stories. The Society of Authors see it as, “a perfectly valid form of publishing,” so that’s good enough for me. Actually, becoming a Full Member of the SoA was one of the highlights of indie publishing. I’d always wanted to be a member of the SoA and I sing their praises from the rooftops. The emails and posts on Facebook and Twitter, I get from readers, never, ever mention it – and as they are the ones buying my books, they’re the ones whose opinions I value. The world is changing; some people may not like it but they’re going to have to accept it or remain in the past. That’s their choice.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process from the initial idea to the release of the novel and roughly how long that process takes you as an indie author?

I’m not a planner so when I have an idea I just sit and write – virtually non-stop. I can write the first ‘fun’ draft (I don’t believe in using the negative term, ‘sh…. first draft’ because writing is fun) in a couple of weeks. I then leave it and work on something else – or tackle the jungle which clearly doesn’t want to be a garden – for a week or so. I then read and rewrite as necessary and as many times as I think it needs it. My short stories are each around 10,000 words and they took just two weeks to write and rewrite. My editor had them for about a week and after the edits were done, I published them. Four weeks from the ideas to publication. My novels (around 75,000+ words) can take anything from three months upwards but if I’m not happy with a book, I won’t let it go until I am. Another bonus of indie publishing: I can set my own schedule and don’t need to ‘rush’ to meet a deadline.

Do you think it’s worth publishing in paperback, as well as digitally and how do the sales compare?

I publish a paperback via Createspace but to be honest, I never check the sales figures. I do get regular monthly payments from them so they are clearly selling some copies. Very few compared to the digital sales though – probably between 1% and 10%.

You’ve written seven novels now, do you find it easy to create new characters and storylines or do you ever worry about unconsciously repeating themes?

The characters just turn up at my desk and tell me their stories. I do worry that they may start to get repetitive and I try to make sure they don’t. I think my readers will tell me if the stories are getting boring but I also think that certain similarities are inevitable. Girl meets boy, girl gets boy – nothing new there. I hope that the path to getting him, and the people involved, are different every time. I did want to massacre everyone at a wedding, once – just to stir things up with a surprise ending – but I decided not to.

Emily4Do you read all of your reviews and, if so, have you had any that you have found it difficult to deal with or that have bowled you over?

I usually read my first few reviews, or if someone has told me via email or on Facebook or Twitter that they’ve left a review, I read that. Most of them have been good but my first one star review filled me with self-doubt. It was followed by some five star ones and that helped. I never read reviews when I buy a book because I trust my own judgement and I always read the ‘Look Inside’ sample, so I realised that it didn’t matter if people didn’t like mine (unless every single person hated it, of course!) and I stopped worrying about reviews. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but that is all it is – an opinion. I hate anchovies, and I’m sure many other people do too, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with anchovies, they’re just not to my taste. It’s the same with books. Some of the reviews I’ve had are wonderful – and all my reviews are genuine, I don’t ask family or friends to post good reviews. That’s futile and a little immoral in my opinion. It’s often the emails, Facebook posts/messages and Twitter comments that really get to me – and yes, some of them have moved me to tears … in a good way. To be told that someone was going through hell but that my books made them feel hopeful and happy is actually mind-blowing! Or that chemo was bearable because of my books! Or that an unhappy divorce didn’t seem so bad now! It makes me feel very proud but oddly, very humble. It also makes me want to write even better books.

If you could go back and give your pre-published self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Stop wasting time; go for it – but use professionals from day one.

What are the best and worst things about writing for a living?

Best: Freedom to do what I want, when I want and to have the money to do it.

Worst: Ditto. If I want to tackle the jungle, or have a long lunch with friends, I can, and do, even when I should be working/writing.

Emily1What are your writing plans and hopes for the future?

That’s the most difficult one to answer because I don’t really plan these days. I suppose I’m planning to put all my books with retailers other than Amazon later this year. I plan to put together some sort of marketing strategy. (Yeah, right!) I plan to continue writing as many books as I can/want to. I hope the future is as good and as bright as the present and that my readership continues to grow. Oh … and I hope I win the jackpot with my premium bonds – but that’s not really writing related; although if I did I’d buy a ski chalet and run writing/skiing retreats, so it sort of is.

Seriously though, I hope more people achieve their dreams by indie publishing and not giving a fig for what some people think.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog. I really enjoyed answering your questions. I know some of you are thinking of indie publishing and I sincerely hope that your experience is as wonderful as mine has been. Indie publishers are a friendly and helpful bunch. I don’t regret it for one second and I’m sure you won’t either. One of my favourite sayings is:

“The future is a blank page. You can write your own, or you can wait until someone writes it for you.”

I prefer to write my own.

Good luck and best wishes to you all.

Emily

It was brilliant to have you on the blog Emily and we hope you’ll come back and see us again soon!

Find out more about Emily and her books at the links below:

Amazon Author Central pages, (.UK and .COM) listing all her books and author bio.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Emily-Harvale/e/B007BKQ1SW

http://www.amazon.com/author/emilyharvale

My website: http://www.emilyharvale.com