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?

Titles and Covers. . .

This week I tweeted about book titles asking, ‘How much does a title draw you to a book?’ I didn’t get much response but that doesn’t surprise me, Twitter can be a lonely platform even if you have nearly 1000 followers. People are more likely to reply to ridiculous questions such as, ‘ Do you like cucumber or lemon with your gin and tonic?’ I prefer cucumber for what it’s worth. Anyway, back to book titles, or any titles come to that.

I am writing my Italian memoir and although it doesn’t need a title at this very moment, (it has an uninspiring working title, My Italian Memoir) I’m going to pitch it to an agent at the end of September at an event run by Byte the Book You can read about this event if you click on the link but I think it might be sold out now. I’m a member of Byte The Book and they do run some great events — I am famous for digressing so back to titles again —  I think I need to have some sort of intriguing title to catch the agent’s attention so I’ve been wrestling with some ideas, which may or may not end up being used. Thinking up a title is also a great procrastinator and can lead you down all sorts of avenues when googling to see if it’s been used before or what connotations it might uncover.

Here are some bad titles I thought of:

My Time in Italy

Eight Years in Italy

Le Marche Life

I think all of these sound as though I was serving a prison sentence!

I considered — for a moment only — calling it The Italian Job as titles do not have any copyright but I imagined the stick I would get from family friends let alone the film fanatics so I binned that idea

It was easy to choose the title for my first memoir Dear Tosh , I called it that from the very beginning, it is a series of letters after all. I did try an exercise once when on a memoir writing course, I dug the page out just now, so that I could take a photograph and post it for you to see. There are some good titles here but I’m glad I stuck with Dear Tosh.

We did another exercise when we ‘transposed’ other well-known, book/film titles into ones that worked with our memoir. For example, Brideshead Revisited became Porto Revisited and The Pursuit of Happiness became The Pursuit of Painting Neither of which were very good. But a great exercise none the less.

In my opinion the cover image and design, are just as important as the title and the two things should complement each other. I need to get Will Hartley working on a photograph ASAP. It’s a good idea to have some kind of mock-up of the cover stuck up on your wall where you write, it can keep you motivated. When you look at it, the project becomes real and you have a goal.

I’ll leave you with this thought. . . Do you have a favourite book title and cover? I think I have several but I’ve just picked three from my bookshelf:

Of course my absolute favourite cover to date is this one!

Sorry. . . just had to put that on. Also a reminder that my first author talk is next Thursday 2nd September at St Anne’s Arts and Community Centre in BARNSTAPLE EX31 1SX. Hoping to see lots of you arrive around 18.30. It’s free and hopefully worth turning out for! BARNSTAPLE EVENT

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

Things Have Changed. . .

There’s been a few changes to the WordPress website. It’s grown and is no longer just a blog…The domain name has changed but hopefully it won’t make any difference to blog followers. Just keep a lookout for NinetteHartley rather than Ninette90. Any problems then use the contact form here to send me a message.

The blog will continue in just the same way so please keep following or if you’re not signed up yet then please do.

Today is just a quick update but look out for another post later in the week.

Ninette 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

Independent Bookshop Week …

Independent Bookshop Week …

This week is Independent Bookshop Week so get buying down at your local.

I am a massive supporter of independent bookshops. When I published Dear Tosh I was determined to get it into the local shops or at least get the book into a situation where it could be ordered from a local bookshop.

As a self-published author it’s been difficult. I’m not famous, haven’t published anything before so have no sales records. The bookshops are unlikely to order copies on spec, but via social media, I have encouraged as many people as possible to get down to the high street and visit their wonderful bookshops.

Here’s Dear Tosh in the  Bookshop in Bridport 

You can also find it in LIttle Toller Books in Beaminster, Bookbag Exeter and order it from any local store.

New Roof Old Photos…

New Roof Old Photos…

An odd title for this post but apt. A new roof has replaced the broken leaky one on our cottage, and at last the builders have finished. The final job was for them to clean the attic. I was impressed because they brought their own vacuum. Over the years, many of mine have been ruined by builders – can you relate to that?  After they left, I popped up to check out their work. I was pleasantly surprised to see that apart from a little dust, it was okay.

Looking around, my eyes strayed to a box of old photographs and some albums. It was probably a mistake to delve into them but I couldn’t resist. I found an album from 1985, our trip to Canada, which I write about in my memoir Dear Tosh. Such wonderful memories. If you’ve read the book you’ll like these photographs I think.

Two of my favourite photographs…(I do have many favourites though) 

‘Ginger’ the pony and Jo (nanny) – we took the boys out for a picnic…happy days…

I’m going to have another root around in the attic for more photos now… Just the thing to do on a Sunday.

By the way…I’ve changed the name of the blog so that it just says Ninette90. I completed the ninety notes but I’m going to continue with the blog.

It’s Done…It’s Out There…

It’s Done…It’s Out There…

 

Dear Tosh is now out in the big wide world for everyone to see. The agony of wondering and waiting to hear what people make of it is quite something. But, I have had some amazing feedback already. I haven’t posted any names but they are genuine comments. Here are a few snippets:

“I loved the way you talked to Tosh in the letters and it was so honest and natural and beautiful. I’m so sad that he’s gone, and even though I never met him, it feels like you’ve brought him to life for us all to meet.” 

“Your story told your way has bravery, unshakeable love, loyalty, devotion and gratitude for Tosh’s life…”

“It’s a beautiful book Ninette, arrived in the post today and I cannot put it down.”

“It’s absolutely beautiful Ninette…” 

I hope many people read it and that it makes them want to write about their life experiences too. I’m not looking to be a best selling author. I hope that one book travels through many hands. You can hear me talk about it here with my son Matthew Rickard on his Youtube Channel 1095. At the end of the recording I read the poem ‘A Day in The Life’ which is a Beatles medley for Tosh. You can see it below.

I really love this poem and it comes almost at the end of the book. There are six poems dotted throughout the memoir and I love them all.

Dear Tosh is available to buy from independent bookshops or online from the bookshop.org  and many other sites.

Online Launch of Dear Tosh…

Online Launch of Dear Tosh…

Just a quick post to let you all know about the online launch of Dear Tosh which is planned for 20th May 2021 at 19.30. It’s free to register on the link here:

DEAR TOSH ONLINE LAUNCH 

Hope to see you all there.

Launch Picture

I wish I could offer you sparkling wine and canapés and book signing but that will have to wait until the autumn I think. No reason why I can’t launch again – in the flesh  so to speak!