Ducks in a Row

 

DucksInRowLIZZIE LAMB, one of the four founder members of New Romantics 4, now New Romantics Press shared her experiences of self-publishing with us.

HOW TO SELF PUBLISH A NOVEL
Summer 2012, hybrid author Amanda Grange (Jane Austen, Regency, historical fiction) advised Lizzie Lamb, June Kearns, Adrienne Vaughan, Margaret Cullingford, they had nothing to lose by self- publishing. The time is now, Amanda said.
With Amanda’s help, the New Romantics 4 collaboration was formed.
By November NR4’s debut novels had been published as eBooks (Amazon Kindle), in paperback (by Create Space), and they were all set for a series of launches in pubs and church halls. In Lizzie’s opinion paperback versions are an important validation of an indie author’s work, and an obvious necessity for physical launches.
As an indie author, Lizzie emphasised the desirability of employing professional help, an editor (~£600), a proof reader (~£200), and having your manuscript properly formatted (~£150). Also, although she prefers to design her book covers using Create Space templates, others in the quartet use a designer.
She also advised anyone contemplating independent publishing on the flexibility of buying their own ISBNs available in batches of 10 from Nielsen. Ten numbers were by no means excessive since one number was required for each eBook, and one for the paperback version of the same title, plus if an audio version were contemplated, that too would require its own number.

HOW TO KEEP YOURSELF IN FRONT OF YOUR PUBLIC
Primarily on Twitter and Facebook: Lizzie suggested quoting a snatch from a good review of your book, and be sure to copy and paste the Amazon (ASIN) number in your post so that potential readers are directed to it. Reviews are essential in boosting sales, and it is important to encourage your readers to post reviews if they have enjoyed your novel. They need only be a few lines in length.
In her opinion, Facebook is the better way to build up your readership; also ideally establish a broad friendship base well before publication of your first book. A word of warning, if you have an author page, FB expects you to pay to boost posts.
A Smartphone is an essential tool of the trade because it makes it easier to keep in touch.
Once your readership base is established, a regular Newsletter is a good way of keeping them interested, possibly better now than Blogposts.

ADVANTAGES OF BEING AN INDIE AUTHOR
You are in charge of your own timescale – Deadlines are of your own making.
Within realistic parameters, you can dictate the price of your books (eBook and PB). On Amazon KDP Select, above a certain, not excessive price, an author receives 70% for every download. Also on Kindle Unlimited (where an author is paid per page actually read) pages mount up. No publisher or agent to take a cut.
As an Indie, an author can check sales on Amazon every day.
Lizzie ended by saying, being a self-published author did not preclude being represented by an agent, citing Alison Morton, author of Aurelia, Inceptio, now represented by Blake Friedman for worldwide rights.

Following the break, Lizzie answered questions posed by Siobhan Logan
Siobhan: Tell us about the Exeter Award.
Lizzie:
Creative Writing Matters – http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk – was set up by Cathie Hartigan, Sophie Duffy and Margaret James to help rookie writers. They produce guides, e.g. How to Self-Publish, provide courses and workshops, offer a mentoring service, and manuscript appraisal. The 2015 Award received 340 entries, and I was privileged to be long-listed, then shortlisted by Award Judge, Broo Doherty of the DHH Literary Agency. I didn’t win, but was delighted to receive £70 and an attractive paperweight.
Siobhan: Tell us about your journey before the four of you got together.
Lizzie:
Little Black Dress (Headline) imprint showed interest in Tall Dark and Kilted (first three chapters and synopsis). However, by the time I finished it, Little Black Dress had folded, so I had to start all over again on the treadmill.
Siobhan: What you’re saying, it’s a long apprenticeship, 3 chapters plus synopsis, from Agent to Publisher to, hopefully, publication.
You were a member of Leicester Writers’ Club, and are a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. What value has membership been to you?
Lizzie:
I learned a lot from the RNA: keeping up to date with what’s happening in publishing, meeting agents, meeting, talking and learning from the experience of established authors who are, by and large, supportive of aspiring writers. I first joined the New Writers’ Scheme (currently £120 a year), and more recently became a member of the new category of Indie Author.
Siobhan: Is the status of Indie authors changing?
Lizzie: Yes, because of sales success, etcetera.
Siobhan: Do readers’ responses feed into your next work?
Lizzie:
Yes, I had more success with Tall Dark and Kilted than with Boot Camp Bride which is set in Norfolk. The Americans buy into Scotland, but don’t seem to get Norfolk. The American market is becoming more important – metadata indicate the runaway success of Highlander – hence my third novel, Scotch on the Rocks, and my current WIP is set in a Scottish Castle.
Siobhan asked for questions from the audience.
 Rosemary Hoggard – Are the four New Romantics writing buddies?
Lizzie:
We meet from time to time to discuss current state of play, our work in progress, and our future plans. Speaking for myself, when I’ve finished a novel, I send it out to my Beta readers for comments.
Question from Cathy Mansell – You seem to doing well on your own. What would you do if you had an offer from a publisher?
Lizzie:
I am glad I’ve stayed on my own. A best-seller friend with Random House for 40 years was taken on by Blake Friedman who immediately asked her to produce a Christmas novel – “just like that”.
Siobhan: Tell us about Sarah Houldcroft – Authors Uncovered.
Lizzie:
Sarah provides promotional services for authors. She will format manuscripts for publishing, promote your novels, and schedule Tweets for you. Recently she has produced a Newsletter for me. I send her text and photos, and she does all the time-consuming fiddly bits.
If you’re strapped for time and not that technically savvy Silverwood Books provide a similar service. Also check out Robert Hale.
As far as promotion’s concerned, a reader who enjoyed one of my novels wrote an article about me which appeared in the Scottish Daily Record, which reminded me of what I didn’t do. Next time, I plan to write my own press release. Also look into a Goodreads give-away.
My advice:
1. Write the best book you can.
2. Have it professionally edited (try the Hilary Johnson Agency)
3. Have it professionally formatted.
As I’ve said get your ducks in a row. Best advice of all, perhaps: write all your books and publish them sequentially.
Siobhan: In the period before you get published, sounds great to write what you like.
Lizzie: I’m still enjoying writing. And have to say, the best advice I had was from a one-to-one with an agent who told me she didn’t like my title, Big Bad Wolf. Off the top of my head, I came up with Tall, Dark and Kilted, which she loved, because she said it told her exactly what my novel was about, something else to think about.7

[Report by Mags Cullingford – April 2016]

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