Keep Calm and Write a Novel

The amazing success of Fifty Shades of Grey has made self and indie publishing sexy. It is no longer considered naff to publish your own book, no one sees you as that reject author who cannot get a major publishing company to sign you up. In fact self publishing or indie publishing is seen as very hip. Over the last year or so we have seen a huge amount of titles being released on amazon and even the big boys are seeing the appeal of ebooks and supporting their authors in releasing one off titles. Lindsey Kelk did it with Jenny Lopez has a Bad Week, Marian Keyes has done it with Mammy Walsh’s Z to Z of the Walsh Family and so did Carrie Duffy with Idol, which was a prequel to Diva. Hell, even Jackie Collins has embraced ebooks by publishing The Santangelo Story which is an excerpt of Little Bitch Girl. This explosion has inspired a lot of aspiring authors to get their stories out there and into the literary sphere. I caught up with three writers who have recently published ebooks.

Kwana Jackson is a native New Yorker who had two dreams; to be a fashion designer and to be a writer. She spent ten years fulfilling her dream for fashion by designing for various fashion houses. Over the last few years she has been pursuing her other dream of being a writer. Through the Lens was published last month and is on the New York Bestsellers list.

Through The Lensis the story of Mika and Alejandro. Alejandro is a hot New York fashion photographer and Mika is his longtime assistant and Gal Friday. I love Mika because she is an everywoman kind of woman, working in a world of almost unattainable beauty. The rub is she has a crush on her boss who happens to be sought after by just about everyone, including the supermodels that he routinely photographs. Sparks fly when Mika and Alejnadro are unexpectedly alone for a few days on an almost deserted island. Mika sees this as her last opportunity to let Alejandro know just how she feels about him and she’s not going to waste it. It took me a year to write the book but it was on and off. It was originally a NANO book for November National Novel Writing month and when that was done it was totally unreadable but at least I had something on the page. But I put it away and went onto another idea. I later came back to it and started to fix it up and give it an ending and after some feedback found it still wasn’t there so went in for further work before it finally got to the point where it was something that was good enough to send out and query. At first I was nervous about getting indie published. Like so many writers I had dreams of going the traditional route and being published by one of the big six or is it four or two now, who knows? But after so many years of rejections and getting close and ‘we love your voice but just don’t know where to put you,’ I see e-publishing as a wonderful opportunity take more control of my own career and finally get my stories out there and read which for me is the most important thing.

I definitely think the perception of indie and self published authors has done a shift for many in the industry though not for the general public just yet. But with some authors finding their own way and now financial success and independence with indie and self-publishing going this route has become a respected and viable career option. Of course as with all things the work is what makes the difference. You have to put out good quality work or nothing will come of it. I have also found there are many people who still don’t get the idea of eBooks and indie and want to pick up a book in the store. I can understand that, I was that. That is my family. For those people you have a bit of a tougher time reaching them and it’s still a challenge. Social Media is really the largest part of my marketing right now since my publishes are new and I’m a debut author no one really knows me except for those who may have knew me from my blog or from Twitter before my book came out. So that being said I’m incredibly grateful for any and all word of mouth I can get about my book and my upcoming books. I’m happy to say that Through The Lens is just the first in my Creative Hearts series.

Through the Lens is available from Amazon.

Follow Kwana on Twitter

Kirsty Greenwood is story lover currently living in Oldham. She is the founder of Novelicous, a site that covers chick lit and modern fiction. Last summer she published her first novel, Truly Yours.

Yours Truly is a lighthearted romantic comedy in the vein of Sophie Kinsella or Lindsey Kelk. It’s about Natalie Butterworth, a girl who would rather tell little white lies than any truths that might cause conflict. When she is accidentally hypnotised into always telling the truth she gets herself into a huge amount of trouble. In order to put things right (and to save her dignity!) she must find the hypnotist so he can stop the spell. Only problem – he’s vanished, leaving her stuck in a tiny Yorkshire village and at the mercy of her truth telling compulsion. I stopped and started a little, but writing the book too all about a year. I chose self publishing because it was a case of close but no cigar with traditional publishing and I really believed that my book was good enough to do well on it’s own steam. So I decided to publish it myself and it’s been a great experience so far.

I think there is still a lot of stigma that self published books are not up to scratch. I hate to say it, but it’s not entirely unfounded. There are some self published authors who think that just because they write something, anything, that it can be sold in its raw state. If writers take a professional approach towards the production of their book, then the fact that they have done it themselves shouldn’t be an issue, or even noticeable. I market my book by running a twitter hashtag game on my launch day and offering copies of my book and other books as the prizes. I also sent my book to my favourite book bloggers and asked them if they would review it, as well as placing advertising on my site Novelicious. Social Media plays a huge part in spreading awareness. It can feel icky trumpeting about your book too much, but Twitter and Facebook are great places to share your novel with people who you think might enjoy it. On a personal level it’s a lovely way to connect with readers and to find out more about what they like. I love Twitter.

Yours Truly is available from Amazon.

Follow Kirsty on Twitter.

Yasmin Selena Butt  is a marketing and communications expert who is based in London. She has freelanced for The Times as a music writer and has also written over a thousand poems and had her fiction and photography exhibited. Her book, Gunshot Glitter was released this month.

Gunshot Glitter is a tough one, but ultimately it’s the story of an incinerated boy who never quite goes away. His presence permeates a very divisive narrative, which ultimately questions who the real victims and villains are and the things we do for love. It took ages, forever to write. I am a fussy soul. I formally penned the opener back in 2004 and in between life, work, faffing and a million gigs penned the end on December 2010, but it took a lot of edits, dramas, proofreading and tweaking to make it the beauty it is today. I chose to go down the road of self-publishing because I discovered that the traditional route wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be and that ultimately I’d probably feel quite helpless once I was part of that world. I wanted creative control of my story and cover control and a say in everything. When you discover best-selling writers don’t have cover control and alarm bells start ringing, you cannot afford to ignore them. I also had a lovely publishing director read an early version, tell me it would be a tough commercial sell if it didn’t fit more tidily in one genre, and suggested a re-write to satisfy retail. I knew that was out of the question for me, as Gunshot Glitter’s very strength is its originality. the reviews and reactions I have had so far have proven me right on that score, nearly everyone has found it a compulsive page turner and told me they’ve never read anything like it before. Plus, I wanted to get my novel out now, rather than try and battle for a traditional publisher to take that risk for me, on my terms, and then wait a few years to see it out. Nor is there any guarantee a novel once bought will be published anyway, which I don’t think a lot of writers realise. Self-publishing is extremely hard work, but so far I feel I’ve done the right thing; however, if the right opportunity presented itself to me from a mainstream publisher, I’d definitely consider it.

I think if I am honest, the perception of indie and self-published authors veers between awful, unprofessional rank amateurs clogging up Amazon and mavericks giving the Big Six publishers a run for their money. And the truth is, is that indie/self-publishing is both. There is a brave new world out there finding its feet navigating a huge learning curve – and it’s going to take time to iron out the flaws, forgive the mistakes and for the more professional minority to rise to the top and set a standard for everyone else to abide by. It won’t happen overnight. I spent the best part of a year getting Gunshot Glitter publication ready. It was very hard work, but I did the best I could within my constraints as I wanted my novel to be perceived with the same respect granted a book by Val McDermid or Kate Atkinson. I am shocked at the literary fascism I’ve noted within the industry about self-publishing, but having seen some of the novels generating this reputation, I do understand why it exists. But to blanket ban authors from submitting their novels for review is utterly discriminatory and unnecessary in my opinion. There is a simple way around it. Set submission guidelines that clearly request a press release, cover shot and review request – if any of it stinks, ditch the submission. End off.

My marketing strategy is currently in progress, but my marketing for my novel started way before publication date. I started by telling friends about it, worked with advertising giant Ogilvy’s IdeaShop for strategy advice, created a blog to build anticipation and an audience, built a healthy Facebook and Twitter following of genuine contacts and friends, worked with a lovely proof-reader Jill Blair and my cover artist Celene Petrulak, so that by the time of the launch, I’d have real support for Gunshot Glitter. I was featured in Psychologies magazine talking about my novel; it’s a magazine I’ve raved about for years! Some lovely opportunities were offered to me just by me being myself and supportive with zero ulterior motive. The key is to be sincere and genuine. I’ve been massively supportive of writers and people who’ve helped me. Lisa Jewell is my favourite writer and I’ve been a huge supporter of hers for years. She very kindly gave me a cover quote for Gunshot Glitter because she loved the book. She completely appreciated why I was self-publishing and how tough it would be for me with perceptions being as they are. I’ve also written guest blogs for sites such as Duolit spreading useful information and views about the industry. After this I plan to send Gunshot Glitter out to bloggers and sites for reviews and offer myself up for features on the basis of several angles to generate interest in myself and my novel. Fingers crossed it goes okay. Social media, if appropriated properly, is a GOD SEND for self-publishing writers. Firstly, it is free, which is amazing, as advertising is traditionally a paid for medium and you can use it to advertise – and secondly much of the world is on it. You get a global reach if you wish to disseminate your message. That is awesome. For example, I’ve been able to send and receive tweets to people in the Maldives and India asking them about the reading community out there. Social media is a great research tool for developing and honing your message properly.

Twitter has allowed me to inform its community that Gunshot Glitter is out there. Facebook has allowed me to hold an event launch and ask my friends and followers to spread the word in digestible, bite sized chunks. Google+ too, though I am still getting my head around the latter. Pinterest is another site I’m growing to love as it’s allowed Gunshot Glitter to become a visual entity and show readers what kind of images I used to create the world of the club, the characters and the emotions engendered in the pages. So ultimately, if you factor in sites like AudioBoo, which broadcasts podcasts, which I am also looking forward to using, plus of course You Tube which I used to broadcast a visual reading of the opening chapter, you have virtually all the senses catered for by social media to enable you to have 3D experience of a story and the author.

Gunshot Glitter is available from Amazon.

Follow Yasmin Selena on Twitter.

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6 Responses to “Keep Calm and Write a Novel”

  1. Yasmin Selena Butt November 8, 2012 at 9:22 AM #

    Thanks for featuring me in your piece. Playing a little catch up with myself at the moment. I will flag this feature up in my News section soon! x

  2. Joanna (Lazuli Portals) November 1, 2012 at 10:37 AM #

    I have the greatest respect for you all. Writing a good (or even great!) book is *not* easy, no matter how talented an author is. It takes work, it takes time, it takes love. Self-publishing (and becoming a business) is also a leap of faith, and requires a heck of a lot of time, effort, and self-belief.

    My co-author and I had our own reasons for keeping full control of our trilogy (health issues, timing, niche audience, and control freak tendencies to name a few) so it’s fabulous to see an article which explores how and why other authors have *chosen* to share their work through self-publishing.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. :)

  3. Kwana October 29, 2012 at 7:11 PM #

    Thanks so much for having me here. It was a pleasure and I love hearing what the other women are doing. All fabulous!

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