The Ups and Downs of Self-Publishing (or as I prefer to say Independent Author)

The last few months have been interesting. Since the publication and launch of Dear Tosh on the 20th May 2021 there have been great surges of interest and then troughs of nothing. Social media is a fickle friend and I get the distinct feeling that followers on Instagram and Facebook get fed up with too many posts on one particular subject and that Twitter is a complete waste of time. Even though I now have nearly a thousand followers on Twitter — only a small faithful percentage of them fluff up their feathers, open their beaks and speak up about, or for me. A tweet flies in and out in seconds. It’s very difficult to be noticed however much seed you scatter and I take my hat off to those independent authors who succeed.

I am not famous, I don’t have an agent or a book deal with a traditional publisher and the stigma of self-publishing is still very much in evidence in the literary world. I am at a loss as to see why every other industry encourages ‘independence’ as a brave and wonderful thing to do, but when it comes to publishing a book, one is generally passed over or ignored. As it happens, I’m not that concerned about selling loads of copies of Dear Tosh , I wrote it as a tribute to my lovely son and sent it out into the world, so I have achieved my goal. The reviews have been amazing and the sales —whilst not reaching the Sunday Times Best Seller list — have been slow and steady. I just wish I could garner more interest with say the BBC or even local newspapers. Even those who have promised they will give me a corner in a magazine or a spot on a podcast, have yet to seal the deal. Nobody wants to give you a big window display in their bookshop even though you are prepared to lob several free copies their way.

But it’s not all gloom and doom. BBC Radio Devon gave me an interview with Pippa Quelch and the feedback from those who listened was wonderful. The Compassionate Friends printed and article in their magazine Compassion (page 10)and my local magazine The Marshwood (page 56) also gave me a page in their July issue and I am very grateful for that exposure.

I’m going to try and go the traditional route next time, I am sure more doors would open for me and more opportunities arise, simply because — if I succeed in getting a deal— I will no longer be painted with the ‘self-published’ brush. But, on the other hand, being in control of everything from the type setting, the cover, the price etc., is very satisfying. Also, do I want to have a ‘two-book-deal’ which would mean having to finish another book by a given deadline? Perhaps the traditional route is not for me — we’ll see.

Conclusion: it’s bloody hard to keep going with promotion and keep up the enthusiasm. But, I’m a pretty stalwart person, so giving up is not an option. Maybe one day, I’ll get that elusive interview on a breakfast TV show or lunchtime gig — at least I won’t stop trying. Perhaps I have to think of a really outrageous publicity stunt. . . any ideas?

PR Pressure. . . It’s Getting to Me. . .

This is me thinking….

I am tired this week as I was very busy during the end of July and beginning of August. I set up a subscriber list in MailerLite, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought. I updated my website and I wrote something everyday. It’s now Friday evening and The Man is away cycling in Northern Ireland – I’m joining him at the end of next week — not cycling I might add!

Weather looks better in NI than Dorset!

I planned to write thousands of words of my Italian memoir, but it hasn’t happened, mainly because I went to the drawer (metaphorical drawer) in my computer’s filing system and dragged out a novel that I wrote — and that has been hanging around for years — I finished writing it in 2019 before I did the MA. I actually began writing it way back in — so long ago I can’t remember. Anyway, it’s set in WW2 in Yorkshire (I’m planning a visit soon in person rather than the online stuff I’ve been doing for ages). It’s all there, the characters, the plot, the scenes etc., but it needs a lot of work.

The first thing I decided to do was to change it from the past to the present tense…ha ha ha ha. . . I hear you all laughing after my comments (if you read them) about not liking the fashion for the present tense that many authors use today. But, I have to say, I think it’s given the writing a big kick and made everything more ‘immediate’.

I couldn’t decide which genre the novel slotted into, so I did a bit of digging and having decided the tone and theme were very much like Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn, I searched to see in which genre that sat. It appears to be comfortably placed in the historical fiction department. Hmmm I would have thought it might lean more towards romance but hey, who am I to judge?

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

This might be a little controversial of me but I think the reason for this distinction is because it’s written by a man and apparently (according to some people. . .) men don’t write romance, but you know what? I think they do — but the ‘powers that be’ don’t label it romance Why would that be? Any ideas? Answers on a postcard please.

If you are in or around Barnstaple on the 2nd September then please come and find me at St Anne’s Arts and Community Centre where I’ll be talking about my book Dear Tosh, reading a few excerpts and then there will be a Q&A session. I would so love to see you. IT’S FREE and you can book a ticket here or just turn up on the door.

If you haven’t signed up to my newsletter yet please do. They’ll only be sent out once a month so you won’t be inundated and you can easily unsubscribe.

Bye for now…hope you’re all having a fabulous weekend x

Book Promotions for Indie Authors

Being a self-published author is difficult. As someone wrote this week, ‘Remember writing the book really is the easy part – publishing is simple – but marketing is expensive, time-consuming, and complex.’ How right they are! Still, gotta keep plodding on.

Today I had a wonderful video chat with fellow memoirist Helen Bouchami  — I can highly recommend her book Am I Still A Mother ?  She and I discussed the highs and lows of being indie authors. We know that there is still a bit of a stigma attached to self-publishing. This may stem from the existence of ‘vanity publishers’ who offer contracts to authors expecting them to stump up a great deal of money themselves and then the company produce a rather shoddy copy of their book. There’s an interesting article from Writers and Artists you can check out here.

We think that we have produced excellent books, both in content and quality. The covers are as good as any traditionally published book — if not better— and although the road to publication was difficult with many bumps, twists and turns, we got there. We are not young and we’re in a hurry to get our ‘stuff’ out there. Finding an agent, who then finds and editor, before pitching to publishers, takes a long time, often years and even when you do land a contract, there’s no guarantee of success. Most authors still have to do a great deal of promotion themselves even when they have taken the traditional route.

Helen and I made a few plans to promote our books which I’m not going to share here yet. . . 

However I am going to begin writing a monthly newsletter full of good things and letting everyone know what’s happening in the world of Dear Tosh as well as including lots of interesting news about books I’ve read, films I’ve watched etc.  If you would like to sign up to receive my newsletter please click  here

A Call for Reviews. . .Please . . .

First of all I would like to thank those people who have put a review on Waterstones, Amazon and Goodreads. I have been reluctant to ask people to review Dear Tosh and I’m not really sure why. I think it’s because of the content of the book and I don’t want to be saying, ‘buy my book’ all the time. The truth is, I really want people to read it and that isn’t going to happen without me pushing a little bit.

Many people have written to me via text messages, my website www.ninettehartley.com or to my email address, ninette@ninettehartley.com and on Facebook and Instagram. Everyone has given me the most wonderful feedback, some of which I have shared on social media.

If you have read Dear Tosh  and feel that you could put a review on Amazon, Goodreads or Waterstones I would be so grateful.

I think Dear Tosh is a book that can be read by anyone, not just bereaved parents. I hope that reading it will encourage discussions about many aspects of grief and loss and how much friends and relatives can do to help those who have been affected.

I would be happy to send a few books out to book clubs too — if anyone can point me in the right direction.

It’s not about selling but about sharing (though selling is a bonus!).

Thank you all in advance!

Ninette xx

Cover Reveal…Here it is….

Cover Reveal…Here it is….

You have no idea how long I have waited to write and say those words. Today is the day.

I hope you all love this cover as much as I do. This photograph of Tosh was taken by his brother Will Hartley, in December 2010. You can see more of Will’s photography here

I think the photograph makes a wonderful cover. Simple, understated, and I love the way Tosh is running towards the viewer. I’m not going to say anymore just yet. I want to give everyone time to absorb the image. More information on publication date etc., to follow.

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The Waiting Game…

The Waiting Game…

The final stages leading up to the printing and publication of my book Dear Tosh seem to be taking forever.

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My little mock-up of the book cover. I like to place myself in good company! 

We went to France in October before lockdown and returned in the middle of March, before France locked down again. I don’t regret spending those five months in the Languedoc, we had warmish weather and not a lot of rain, although it was a tad windy for a great deal of the time. The Tramontane wind gusts through the region bringing with it a chill to the air.

 

le shuttle

Le Shuttle

Returning to England was a bit of a pain with all the documents, Covid tests, etc., that had to be completed, but it was worth it all in the end. 

 

Back in our cottage in Dorset. Jpeg was exhausted after her long journey from France — as were we. 

Although our time in France was spent mostly in confinement (lockdown) I am pleased that we went. I would not have been able to finish the book had we not gone. Dear Tosh is written as twenty-seven letters to him; one for each year that he lived. Being in France enabled me to write in the moment but remembering his life and looking back from the point of view of the tenth anniversary of his death, using the dates of 2020 and 2021 as starting points for each letter. I think it works really well.

I sent the word document through to the typesetters and they have now returned it twice with amendments. I didn’t realise that I would have to watch out for errors that occured when transferring my written word through their typesetting software programme. Apparently, it sometimes picks up underlying formatting from word that is not visible when you just look at the document. There were only a couple of errors, but I’m trying hard not to let anything slip by. I’m hopeful that by the end of next week I will have given it the thumbs up and it will be sitting on the desk of the printers by the middle of April. At which point I’ll be able to do a ‘cover reveal’ and begin to put the wheels in motion for everyone to buy it through local bookshops, online or directly from me.

book printing

Printing My Book

I’m trying hard to record an audio version of the book, and have set myself up at home with all the equipment I need. It’s not as easy as I thought. Getting my head around how to save each chapter as a file,  making sure my voice is the same for each recording session, recording volume, editing, mastering… and so it goes on. I think I’m getting there now — although I have started over about three times. I once got as far as chapter 15 but then realised it just wasn’t quite right. It’s a massive learning curve!

Me in my ‘home studio’ what you can’t see is the window is covered with a bedspread and a duvet and behind me there is usually a clothes airer with a double duvet hung over it. Anything to get some kind of soundproofing…not easy when a tractor thunders by or The Man decides to have a loud telephone conversation with someone downstairs! Check out the slippers…they say you should be comfortable…download

Self Publishing. . . a steep learning curve…

Self Publishing. . . a steep learning curve…

self-publishing

 

I’ve finished the book and now begins the road to publication. I have purposely not chosen to pitch to an agent and go down the traditional route. I realise this will upset a lot of people, but I simply don’t have the time. My book Dear Tosh is a memoir that I have been writing on and off over the last ten years. Last year for one of my MA modules I wrote 5,000 words about losing my son and they were well received by my tutor and by my colleagues. It focused my mind, and with the tenth anniversary of his death coming up in 2021, I pulled everything together and the result was a memoir of twenty-seven letters written to Tosh over the period from November 2020 to February 1st 2021; covering the anniversary, being in France with The Man, living with the lockdown, all these factors contributed to the making of the book. I feel it needs to be published and available before the moment is gone.

It’s a big responsibility, publishing your own book. I do not want to send something out that can be criticised for its lack of professional appearance in any way whatsoever. I was told that one mistake people make is to try and design the cover themselves, so I’ve handed that over to a specialist company. I’ve worked with a mentor to get the structure of the book right and I’ve made sure the text has been proofread by a professional three times. Rather than exporting from my computer onto a PDF to send to the printer, I’m using the typesetters. All this is costing, and I am fully aware of the privileged position I am in to be able to do this but…I am seventy years old now, and I’ve waited a long time for this. I hope the book circulates to thousands of people — but I’ll settle for a few hundred — actually, I suppose I’ll settle for a few friends buying a copy 😂. So far, those who have read the manuscript, have given glowing reviews and endorsements. Fingers crossed for a minor success. 🤞

This is just the beginning. If it’s meant to be, I might be picked up by an agent for future books that I write, and I won’t have to be waking up at 5.30 in the morning, worrying about the next step of the process, but I’m sure there will still be plenty of panicking to do.

I’ll keep you up to date with the progress but at the moment I’m aiming for a publication date in April. That’s if I can stop fiddling with the text, worrying about photographs for the cover and put the thing to bed. This week HAS to be the final week of editing and tweaking. By Wednesday, I want it off my desktop and in the hands of those who know what they’re doing at this stage of the game.