Had I written the seminar title in full, I would have needed an extended title space. The full title is ‘Top 10 Tips for Self-Publishing from Two of the Top New York Times Bestselling Indie Authors’. See what I mean?
The two authors who gave this excellent seminar were Bella Andre and Barbara Freethy.
I made notes throughout the seminar and have written them up here. I must confess that there are one or two terms with which I’m not familiar, and it’ll be my homework to find out what they mean. A note of caution (well, perhaps that’s a bit too strong). Barbara and Bella are American, and some of the sites to which they refer may be effective only for novels that originate in the US.
Barbara and Bella’s credentials are eye-wateringly impressive. Both were traditionally published before going it alone, and both now count their sales as indie authors in the millions. I heard this, licked the top of my pencil, and prepared to learn. This is what I found out:
1. BRANDING is all important. The brand must be recognisable, able to be identified at a glance, be honest about the nature of the novel, be consistent (in font, art, titles, etc) and be fluid enough to change with the ever-changing market.
a) The NAME OF THE AUTHOR, when creating a brand, is the most important thing on the cover.
If the author writes books in different genres, there should be a different author’s name for each genre. To build a brand and make it a success, though, you should write 5 or 6 books in a genre before trying something else. You will, however, make more money by staying in one genre.
Choose an author name that communicates the genre to a potential reader.
The name of the author should be short enough to be written large on the cover.
The picture on the cover should evoke the emotion of the novel. (Some people outsource cover design; Bella and Barbara have learnt how to do it and do it on their own)
b) TITLE LINES. Titles lines are a part of the branding. The line should tell the reader what the book is about. Watch the sales’ figures and, if necessary, alter the title line if you think it might be holding the novel back.
c) Try to spot a HOLE IN THE MARKET, and plug it. Barbara and Bella spotted that a wave of anti-chick lit criticism had resulted in a slump in the number of chick lit novels being published, but their instinct told them that there was a demand for such novels. The demand from readers wasn’t being met, so they wrote and self-published their own chick lit novels. The title, cover, title line and author’s name proclaimed the genre. Their instinct had been right, and their novels sold in huge numbers.
d) THE POWER OF THE SERIES. Series’ novels are extremely popular – they’ve become a part of our culture now. (I’m butting in to tell you that at the Romantic Times Booklovers’ Convention in Kansas City in 2013, I was amazed to see the popularity of series’ novels. Readers couldn’t put them into their trollies fast enough at the Grand Book Fair.)
Don’t write yourself into a hole. Don’t give so much away about a minor character in one book that you close your options for using that character in another book. Keep your novels open-ended when concluding your novel. The conclusion should be satisfying for the reader, but you should leave something in the background that can be developed into another novel for the series.
2. FREQUENCY OF PUBLICATION
Aim for one novel every 2-4 months. You need a consistent production schedule – consistency in all aspects is all important.
3. EXPANDING YOUR MARKET
Look for ways in which to increase your revenue. While you can learn a lot from things such as youtube, for example ebook formatting, you won’t be able to do everything yourself and you may do well to take help. Pick what you’re good at to do yourself, and hire in the people to do the things you can’t do. The increase in income will justify the initial outgoings. Barbara and Bella’s advice - THINK BIG!
Things you can do are:
Bundle your novels together.
Print as a subsidiary right
audio books, which can be lucrative (which can also – apparently fairly easily – be put inside the print book). ACX.com has opened up to UK authors now. This is the only site available for royalty split deals right now.
4. RETAIL DISTRIBUTION
You will have to choose whether to go direct or whether to use a distributor. Bella and Barbara do it all themselves. You can go direct to Amazon KDP, CreateSpace, Barnes & Noble NookPress (which has now opened up to authors from outside the US), iBooks, Kobo, google.
The pros of going direct are that:
* it’s easier to change prices, cover, sales’ description, keywords, blurb, and so on. Both authors closely watch their sales and if they feel that their sales are sluggish, they can easily make any changes that they think will enhance their sales
*you have easy, speedy access to sales figures as there’s no middle person. This enables you to spot any sudden changes and to respond quickly to them.
*you can build a good relationship with the retailer
* you will develop the ability to understand the sales’ patterns on specific retail sites, which can be useful.
The cons of this are that:
*you are taking on a lot of work
*you have to learn different forms of conversion.
Bella and Barbara advise that everyone chooses the way to proceed with which they are most comfortable.
5. MARKETING & PROMOTION
Your marketing begins with your novel and the presentation of it – the content of the novel, the title, the cover, etc..
Both authors recommend 80% writing to 20% marketing. Each book will sell the next book so you should do more writing than promoting. Weigh up what promotion you do in terms of how much time it will take you from your writing. During your 20% marketing, think like a publisher.
Whatever your feelings about the social media, you will have to use at least one form of it as you need to connect with readers. To promote on the social media, Barbara and Bella use:
*Facebook page, and perhaps boost posts. Readers need to have a place in which to find the author, and this is a good place.
*Facebook Reader Groups/Street teams. These are outlets for readers to talk to each other.
*join writers’ groups, like Romance Writers of America, if you’re in the US. You want to be part of a community.
*goodreads, with giveaways (To encourage reviews, at the end of the message with the giveaway, ask the reader to sign up for the newsletter, and add that hopefully they’ll love the book. You could add that an honest review would be appreciated.)
*Pinterest, to build interest in the book
*google+, where your newsfeed is shown to everyone in your circle
*Amazon Author Central
*overdrive.com (a library distribution company)
Always respond to your readers, no matter how much time it takes.
Generally, network when ever you can, and cross promote with other authors.
Both authors were asked if they blogged. They said that they didn’t feel that blogging was necessary. Barbara said that in the time that she ‘d take to think of three paragraphs worth putting in a blog, she could have written another chapter of her work in progress.
(NOTE from me: neither author blogs, but both have a newsletter and have built up an email list of readers.)
6. LONG TERM PLANNING.
They have a five-year plan. In your plan, set yourself realistic expectations.
They have a pricing strategy. Write more than one book. The first book in a series is frequently put on sale or offered free. The others in the series would usually be around 1.99. Make sure that when you put out the first of the series at a reduced price or free, there are others in the series that they can promptly click on to buy.
Their advice: think like a publisher. If something doesn’t work, a publisher will change it – so should you.
Always keep an eye on the market – you can learn a lot from what other successful authors are doing.
Make sure that your book is as good as it can be. Don’t shortchange the book or the readers – reviews last a long time. Both Bella and Barbara hire professional editors, proof-readers, artists, file-formatting, audio narration quality control.
That’s it then!!
Good luck to everyone who’s thinking of going it alone.
Over and out.
This week, from 8th – 10th April, the Earls Court Exhibition Centre, of the cavernous interior and art deco-style exterior, played host to the London Book Fair 2014, a magnet for people involved in every aspect of the world of publishing, from both at home and abroad.
In what was my first visit ever to the London Book Fair, I spent the Wednesday at the Book Fair. It was an absolutely fabulous day, and if I hadn’t had edits waiting for me at home, I would have been back at 9am the following day for more.
Since I had my camera with me – of course – I thought I’d show you a few pictorial highlights of a day filled with chatting to friends old and new, with interesting and informative seminars, and with the opportunity to peek at the promotions on the various publishers’ stands, not to mention the highlight of the day – spending time on the brilliant Choc Lit stand.
Arriving at the Earls Court venue…
… it took some minutes to orientate myself inside the vast hall. Well, that’s not totally true. To be honest, I don’t think I’d orientated myself even by the end of the day. To the very last minute of my visit, the building remained a glorious, bewildering mass of books and people, and I loved every single minute of wandering hopelessly around, seeking one destination after another.
A map in my hand, my first destination was, of course, the Choc Lit stand.
Minutes after I arrived at the Choc Lit stand, I bumped into my good friend, Alison Morton. I was delighted to see Alison again, and we promptly headed for coffee, stopping en route to say hello to the Silverwood Books stand, on which Alison was spending some time each day, and then to the Kobo stand, where we had a delightful talk with the charming René d’Entremont from Canada, the P.R. Manager of Kobo.
After a most enjoyable coffee with Alison and friends Jenny Haddon and Evelyn Ryle, I headed with Alison to the first of the four seminars I’d booked, which was Darren Hardy in conversation with best-selling authors Mel Sherrat and Tim Ellis. The discussion included the use of Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace to fuel readership growth, and gave plenty of food for thought.
My second seminar was called Development Hell. An excellent panel comprising screenwriter and novelist, John Niven, Jamie Wolpert, whose work for the National
Lottery Fund involves making films and scripts better, and Rhodri Thomas of The Ink Factory, chaired by literary agent Sheila Crowley, answered questions put to them by the audience about the route from book to film in a way that was both greatly entertaining and informative.
After lunch, I went to the only workshop I’d booked in the day. Paul Andrews a led a discussion that ranged over the many aspects of marketing one’s novel. I was fortunate in my companions on either side, and came away with two new friends – writers Ahyiana Angel and Nikki Okoroma. I was delighted to learn that Nikki was a member of the RNA and look forward to seeing her again at the RNA Summer Party on 22nd May.
The final seminar of the day was Ten Top Tips for Self-Publishing from NY Bestselling Indie Authors, Bella Andre and Barbara Freethy. The points made by Bella and Barbara were so interesting that I shall be writing a blog about the advice that they gave.
When I left at the end of my first day ever at the London Book Fair, I was inspired. It may have been my first visit, bit it certainly won’t have been my last!
On Friday evening, April 4th, a number of Choc Lit authors, their families and friends, gathered together at The Chocolate Factory in the south of London to celebrate the publication of two of the latest novels from Choc Lit – Flight to Coorah Creek, Janet Gover’s debut novel with Choc Lit, and The Maid of Milan, by Choc Lit’s Australian author, Beverley Eikli, who was in the UK for a fleeting visit.
As the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft stray. This was one such occasion. Full of good intentions about taking loads of photos to show friends who couldn’t be there, I had my camera in my bag, its battery freshly charged.
But you know how it is – as soon as you get together with people you know, or with people you’ve always wanted to meet but hadn’t yet had the chance to do so, all thoughts of doing anything other than chatting to them can fly out of your mind. At any rate, all thoughts of taking photos certainly flew out of mine!
Happily for me and for those who’d like to see some pictures of the event, my very kind friend, Catriona Robb, took a number of photos during the evening and she’s sent them to me so that I can put them on my blog. A huge thank you, Catriona. As they say on twitter, Mwah!
Thank you, Catriona, for allowing me to put up these photos. Over and out!
Many thanks to my friend and colleague, Beverley Eikli, for asking me the following questions about my writing. Beverley and I are colleagues because we’re both published by Choc Lit, and we’re also friends – we’ve been friends since we met last May in Kansas City at the RT Booklovers’ Convention, and we’ll be meeting in May this year in New Orleans for the same convention. Click here to visit Beverley’s website.
SO – WHAT AM I WORKING ON?
I’m working on my third e-book for Choc Lit Lite, the digital branch of Choc Lit. My first two e-books, EVIE UNDERCOVER and THE ART OF DECEPTION, are set in contemporary Umbria.
For A WESTERN HEART, however, I’ve returned to the American West of A BARGAIN STRUCK (available in paperback and on Kindle), setting the story in Wyoming, 1880.
Will Hyde and Rose McKinley, the older son and the older daughter of successful neighbouring ranches, have grown up together like brother and sister, knowing that one day they’ll marry and thereby unite their two ranches. Their families and friends know this, too, and are now wondering aloud with increasing frequency why Will and Rose’s engagement hasn’t yet been announced.
Rose, too, has started to wonder why. Will loves her and she loves him, so nothing can stop them marrying. Or can it?
HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN THIS GENRE?
Everyone writes with a voice, and no two voices are the same. My voice and style are a part of me and the way I express myself, just as the subjects I choose reflect my interests. I love strong stories, and I believe in telling the historical truth. My novels, therefore, both paperback and digital, tell page-turning stories (I hope!!) that grow from an authentic background, be the novel historical or contemporary.
WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?
I love a good story, and I’ve always been fascinated by history, which is the story of the past. I’m also extremely interested in other countries and in the way that other cultures live. My novels are born out of these interests.
Very excitingly, one of these interests is taking me to AUSTRALIA, both in the pages of In a Far Place, yet to be published, and in real life. Yes – I’m off to AUSTRALIA in September of this year for what will be my first visit!! I’m going to Sydney, and I can’t wait!!!
But back to my writing. What I have no interest in, is writing about true people. I prefer to write a fictional story, with fictional characters, that grows organically out of an authentic background.
HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?
I write every minute that I can. Real life (too) frequently intervenes. There’s nothing I like more than having a whole day ahead of me in which to write. Just me and my laptop. I might research; I might write; I might develop the plan of my story – I always firm up my plan when I’m about a third of the way through the novel – but whatever I do, the day will not seem long enough.
To create a world that didn’t exist until you put your fingers on the keyboard; to people it with characters that didn’t exist before you gave birth to them – being an author is just the very best job in the world.
It was great meeting you, but I’m afraid it’s over and out now! Do call in and see me again.
Many thanks to Cathy Mansell for inviting me to be a follow-on guest on this blog tour. If you’d like to find out more about Cathy and her work, you’ll do so on
SO – WHAT AM I WORKING ON?
I’m working on my third book for Choc Lit Lite. My first two, EVIE UNDERCOVER and THE ART OF DECEPTION, are set in modern Umbria. For A WESTERN HEART, however, I’ve returned to the American West of A BARGAIN STRUCK, setting the story in Wyoming, 1880.
Will Hyde and Rose McKinley, the older son and the older daughter of successful neighbouring ranches, have grown up together like brother and sister, knowing that one day they’ll marry and thereby unite their two ranches. Their families and friends know this, too, and are now wondering aloud with increasing frequency why their engagement hasn’t yet been announced.
Rose, too, has started to wonder why. Will loves her and she loves him, so nothing can stop them marrying. Can it?
HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN THIS GENRE?
Everyone writes with a voice, and no two voices are the same. My voice and style are a part of me and the way I express myself, just as the subjects I choose reflect my interests. I love strong stories, and I believe in telling the historical truth. My novels, therefore, tell page-turning stories – I hope – that grow from an authentic historical background.
WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?
Because I love a good story, I’ve always been fascinated by history, which is the story of the past. I’m also extremely interested in the way that other cultures live. My novels are born out of these interests.
I have no interest, however, in writing about true people. I prefer to write a fictional story that owes something to a true event, or events, and to set the whole against an authentic background.
HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?
I write every minute that I can.Real life (too) frequently intervenes.There’s nothing I like more than having a whole day ahead of me in which to write.Just me and the laptop.I might research; I might write; I might develop the plan of my story – I always firm up my plan when I’m about a third of the way through the novel.
Well, that’s me. Following me in this blog tour are Christina Courtenay and Alison Morton.
CHRISTINA COURTENAYwrites historical romance, time slip and YA contemporary romance, all published by independent publisher Choc Lit. She is half Swedish and was brought up in Sweden. In her teens, she moved to Japan where she had the opportunity to travel extensively in the Far East. Christina is the current chairman of the RNA and her third novel Highland Storms won the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel of the year award in 2012. Her latest novel The Secret Kiss of Darkness is published next week.
Christina’s website is http://www.christinacourtenay.com
ALISON MORTONwrites Roman themed alternate history thrillers. She holds a bachelor’s degree in French, German and Economics, a masters’ in history and lives in France with her husband.
A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, she has visited sites throughout Europe including the alma mater, Rome. But it was the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain) that started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by women…
INCEPTIO was shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award and awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM in September 2013. The next in the series, PERFIDITAS, was published October 2013. Alison is working on the third book SUCCESSIO.
Connect with Alison on her blog http://alison-morton.com/blog/
It’s becoming a habit of mine, putting up photographs after each RNA event, but the events are so enjoyable that I want an excuse to look at them again, and I want a permanent reminder so that I can return to them in the future. Indulge me, therefore, and allow me to share with you the photographs I took at the latest of the superb RNA parties.
The venue: The Royal Over-Seas League, Park Place, St. James’s Street, London.
Waiting for the party to begin …
And the party begins …
Bowing out, but not with shoes – with BOOTS …
… and BALLOONS!
The RNA Conference 2013 took place in the middle of July in Sheffield, at a conference centre called The Edge, situated in Sheffield University’s Endcliffe Village.
As always, it was a superb conference – very inspiring and I came away full of new ideas.
Once again, I’m putting up a gallery of photos and I’m going to take a back seat and let them do the talking. They’re focused on people at various moments during the conference, and hopefully they’ve captured at least some of the warmth and friendliness which made the conference the pleasure it was. It’s the members of the RNA who make the RNA events the fun that they always are.
I feel it’s appropriate to begin with a gathering of the chocliteers. We are swelling in number, as you can see.
With what better signature could I close my RNA Conference photo gallery than with …
All there’s left to say is, roll on RNAConf14!
One of the most enjoyable things about this year’s Chipping Norton Literary Festival was meeting author Chris Hill and having a most enjoyable conversation with him. I thought that you, too, would enjoy meeting Chris, so here goes …
First of all, Chris, let me say congratulations on winning one of Britain’s biggest story awards, The Bridport Prize, and on the publication of Song of the Sea God, your first full-length novel, which has already been shortlisted for two national awards including the Daily Telegraph Novel in a Year prize.
Thanks for having me, Liz – lovely to talk to you on your blog having met you recently at the Chipping Norton Lit Fest!
Song of the Sea God has been described as ‘a visionary and delightfully bizarre novel’. Where did the idea come from for the book?
I suppose the honest thing to say is that the idea evolved. The book is about a man who washes up on a small island off the coast of England and tries to convince the local people he is a god. Perhaps it began with wanting to write about the nature of god and religion in people’s lives – what faith means to them. I’m not particularly religious myself and I guess I’d describe myself as agnostic – but saying that I don’t know the mysteries of the universe is not the same thing as saying I think there are no mysteries. So I wanted to write a book about the god shaped hole in people’s lives – with jokes.
The research for a novel that takes the reader on a ‘microcosmic wild ride’ must have created particularly challenging problems. How did you set about your research?
Well, I made some of it easy for myself by setting the book on the island where I grew up – Walney Island off the coast of Cumbria. That meant I knew where everything was, the geography of it was second nature to me which gave it a basis in reality.
But the characters and the plot are nothing to do with Walney or the people there. There was a lot of research went into the rest of the book – everything from how to do psychological magic tricks like cold reading, through to the beliefs and traditions of ancient religions.
I’m flattered that since publication I’ve had experts in some of these areas tell me they think it rings true. That’s down to reading lot of library books, plenty of research on the internet and so on. I think as far as research goes, it’s always best to know more than you put on the page – it should inform what you write, rather than cause you to regurgitate information like a school essay!
Which did you find the hardest part of the novel to write, and how did you overcome any problems?
The ending is pretty intense. The way I structured it, the book starts out quite calm and even light-hearted, then gets gradually darker. There are some genuinely disturbing scenes which I think work for the reader partly because of what’s gone before. I just had to go for it, in the knowledge that what I was describing was backed up by research and in the hope that my readers would be invested enough in the plot and characters by that stage to ride the tiger with me.
What is your own favourite novel, and are there any particular novelists who have inspired you?
Hard to name just one isn’t it? I suppose my first love was the work of the American novelists of the last half of the 20th century – now recently deceased. People like Updike, Heller, Vonnegut, Bellow. They combined fabulous writing, great narrative voices and amazing plots and characters.
The novels that Sea God most often gets compared to are different ones though – all great works of course and I’m very flattered. People have said Lord of the Flies, they’ve said Tin Drum by Gunter Grass, Perfume by Patrick Suskind, then there’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, The Magus by John Fowles, the list goes on. I can see what people mean with all of those. A curious one I had was someone telling me I wrote a lot like Magnus Mills in The Restraint of Beasts – but I’d never read the book. I have now and love it. How can you write like someone you’ve never read? I guess perhaps we had similar influences?
What is the worst thing anyone’s said to you?
I’m guessing you mean in terms of writing here rather than say, romantic rejection? I’m going to assume you mean writing. The first novel I wrote was a kind of thriller – it was me trying to be liked, trying to be conventional and popular. One agent who rejected it said it was too ‘safe.’ I thought right – next time I’m going to give full vent to my imagination, and nobody is going to get to call it safe. So I wrote Sea God – my tale of a would be god told by a dwarfish mute on an island full of magic. And nobody has said it’s safe!
Would you tell us something about your next novel?
It’s called the Pick Up Artist and it’s lighter and gentler than Sea God. It’s a kind of rites of passage book about a young man’s attempt to attract women using the PUA system of ‘psychological techniques’ which he hopes will persuade them into bed with him.
And lastly, a question I’m sure that readers will be asking, Where can we buy a copy of Song of the Sea God?
It’s published by Skylight Press and the simplest way is probably through Amazon. Just click here.
Thanks very much, Liz – great to talk to you! If people want to link up with me they can find me here:
As always, a fabulous time was had by all at the RNA Summer Party 2013 – the ambiance at The Royal Overseas League, the company, the food – all were lovely. But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself …
I’ll begin with the Joan Hessayon Prize contenders. Yes, that’s because I’m among them!
Yes, once again I’ve let my photos do the talking. Bye for now!
MANIC! That’s the word that springs to mind when I think of the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention, held in Kansas City, Missouri, from which I returned last week. MANIC and FUN!! There was so much on, both day and night, that it’s hard to remember all of the things that I went to. There were three parties/balls/dances every evening to give you a hint of what the week was like.
I went to the event with a team from Choc Lit. To give you an idea of the sort of things we did, and the ambiance of the place, I shall share a few of the photos that I took with you, and I’ll let the pictures and their captions do most of the talking.
I travelled from Heathrow, via Newark Airport, to Kansas City, in the company of two other Choc Lit authors. Here they are in Newark Airport, New Jersey.
Upon arrival at the Sheraton Hotel Crown Center …
And so the fun began.
We were there to promote Choc Lit and to sell our books.
A taste of the Wild West at Rosie Gulch’s Saloon …
Gearing up for another day…
There were workshops. Some we gave, some we attended. A fun Choc Lit workshop, organised by Juliet Archer, tested the readers about their knowledge of Pride & Prejudice. With chocolate and cover models, of course. There was even an interview with Mr. Darcy at the end!
I ought to show you a glimpse of two of Kansas City.
Farewell from Kansas City!
See you next week, when I blog from the RNA Summer Party. Yes, with pics!