12 Days of Kindle

THE ACCIDENTAL LIFE OF GREG MILLAR FC copyChristmas News: The Accidental Life of Greg Millar is being included in Amazon’s 12 Days of Kindle promotion in the UK and Australia. From today, it will retail at 99p in the UK. From Christmas Eve, it will retail at 1.49AUD. Click here for more: viewBook.at/GregMillar

This is a story that makes you question if you ever truly know the person you are with. Averaging 4.5 stars on Amazon, it is a Number One International Bestseller.

‘A captivating and moving story’ – THE IRISH INDEPENDENT

‘Will challenge and entertain in equal measure’ – THE SUNDAY INDEPENDENT

‘A fantastic read’ – THE RTE GUIDE

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An Unexpected Step in my Publishing Adventure

Yes, I have been quiet. So quiet that when I went into Wordpress to write this post I thought: Will I remember how to do this? 

It seems I do. So now the news…

Lake Union Publishing has acquired The Accidental Life of Greg Millar. I have signed a contract. I have edited my baby one more – very enjoyable – time. And I look forward to publication in April 2016.

originalHere’s how it began. One day, I received a phone call from one of Lake Union Publishing’s commissioning editors. She had read the reviews that my novels were receiving on Amazon, had read each book personally and then fallen in love with ‘Greg’. She made an offer. It was as simple and unexpected as that.

This most recent publishing adventure has been a lovely experience so far. Everything has moved ahead at a lovely pace. The editing has been superb, my editor inspiring. I have been consulted at every step of the process. I now look forward to seeing my new cover.

Until April, The Accidental Life of Greg Millar remains available on Amazon. And I hope to be a little less quiet here on my blog.

The Inspirational Publishing Journey of New York Times Best-seller, Hazel Gaynor

Winner All Right
Winner All Right

Three years ago, Hazel Gaynor could not get a publisher. Last night, she scooped the Romantic Novelists’ Association Award for Historical Fiction, having already become a New York Times Best-selling Author and a USA Today Best-seller. Here is her inspirational story of determination, hard work, self-belief and a refusal to give up on her dream:

How long had you been trying to get traditionally published before you chose the self-publishing route?

I’d been through the submission process with three different books, over three consecutive years. I started writing seriously in 2009, following redundancy, and I self-published my first novel, The Girl Who Came Home in 2012, so although at the time it all felt very painful and frustrating, in hindsight I realise that I took my first steps as a published author relatively quickly.

Was there one particular incident that decided you to try self-publishing? If so, what?

Yes. It was ultimately the forthcoming centenary of the sinking of Titanic in April 2012 that gave me the final push. As an unknown author with a novel about the Titanic, I knew I had to have the book ready for then to stand a good chance of getting noticed. My agent had suggested self-publishing after the book had been rejected by traditional publishers and I was also fortunate to have some great friends to help and advise along the way. Catherine Ryan Howard was particularly brilliant and really helped to steer me in the right direction and avoid unnecessary pitfalls. My family was also hugely encouraging and really pushed me to go for it. I really had nothing to lose by trying.

Were you nervous?

I was absolutely terrified! Self-publishing a book that had been rejected by ‘the experts’ seemed like a ridiculous thing to do on one level but I just couldn’t put it away. I really believed I had written a book that people would enjoy and I was so passionate about the story that I felt frustrated by the prospect of it lurking under my bed forevermore. I felt that the only way I could move on from that book and write another was to get it out there to readers. Self-publishing was the obvious choice.

What was your biggest fear?

That readers wouldn’t like the book. I honestly don’t know what I would have done if it hadn’t been well-received. I suspect I would have continued to write the next book and start all over again anyway – either that or crawl into a very large hole! Fortunately, my fears were unfounded.

At the time, did you feel that if you took the self-publishing route it would close the door to traditional publishers?

No. I just felt that it was now or never for this particular book and the decision was made. I’d heard conflicting views on whether or not a self-published author was a no-go for traditional publishers but I’d also heard of self-published authors going on to get traditional deals. When it came down to it, all I could do was what felt right for me at the time. I honestly didn’t expect The Girl Who Came Home to ever come back as a traditionally published book – and I cannot emphasise that enough. Self-publishing the book was a way for me to let go of it in order to make creative space for the next one. I hoped that it would be the second book that would find me a traditional deal. In the end, it was both books!

What was the hardest thing about self-publishing?

The lack of fanfare. There really wasn’t that significant ‘Ta Dah’ moment that I’d always dreamed of when I published my first book. It was all very low-key and really was a case of pressing Publish and going outside to hang the washing on the line! I said to my husband that if a hundred people downloaded the book, I would be happy. I did spend a lot of the year following self-publication feeling frustrated. I think it boiled down to a sense that I was somehow lacking in credibility, that as a self-published author I wasn’t as good as the traditionally published ones. I also found that being self-published excluded me (literally) from many interviews, appearances, competitions and other forms of publicity. That was really hard to accept at times but it also made me more determined to find other ways to be discovered and to work harder on the next book.

What was the best thing?

MemoryVioletPB c (2)Gaining confidence as a writer. The success of the book gave me a huge boost and really helped me tackle my second novel, A Memory of Violets, which is, in many ways, more ambitious and was certainly more challenging to write. If I hadn’t put myself out there and taken the gamble with The Girl Who Came Home, I would never had known if my writing was any good. Getting positive reactions from readers was a significant factor in keeping going and pushed me on to keep writing and to keep trying for a traditional deal.

What was the most surprising thing?

The positive reviews. The generosity of readers with their praise and the warmth of feeling the book generated within people. I received the most amazing personal emails, many of which reduced me to tears. I’d become so caught up in the frustration of trying to get published that I’d forgotten about the readers. Their reviews and comments really made me sit back and believe that maybe I was a decent writer after all. It also made me remember why I loved writing and what this was all about.

What was the most disappointing thing?

Negative reviews. It’s impossible not to take them to heart (anyone who can is a brick!). To hear people being critical about something you have spent years working on and made many personal sacrifices for is heart-breaking but – as I now know – it is all part of the package! Experiencing this ‘under the radar’ as a quietly self-published author was, in many ways, a great place to learn and to toughen up. I was ready for the naysayers when the book came back as a traditionally published paperback!

How many books did you self-publish?

Just the one. The Girl Who Came Home.

How long did it take for things to take off?

A month. I timed the publication very carefully to coincide with the centenary of the Titanic’s sinking. I knew there would be huge media interest in Titanic and that I had a good chance of getting the book noticed if I could tap into that. I offered the book as a free download for a day and it had around 20,000 downloads. It shot up the rankings on Kindle and from then it was off and running. Once the reviews started to come in, the momentum was maintained throughout April and it became a Kindle best-seller in the Historical Fiction and Historical Romance genres. The volume of sales continued well into the summer of 2012.

Did you do anything immediately to capitalize on that?

I stopped any further free promotions after the success of the first free day as I knew people would be willing to pay for the book if there was that much interest in it. I set the price at 99c for the first five months. When sales were maintained, I increased the price to $2.99, which was still low, but which gave me a significantly higher royalty percentage.

What was the most effective promotional strategy you employed as a self-publisher?

I’d have to say it was down to the cover of the book and the timing of the publication. I had very little time for promotional activities (I have two young children) and literally zero budget, so it all came down to visibility in the Amazon rankings and tapping into the resurgence of interest in Titanic. That said, I also made sure to attend book launches and writing conferences. I connected with people through social media. I kept up my personal blogging and my guest blog for writing.ie. I reviewed other books, wrote articles for the press and contacted anyone I knew who had a blog or website that might be able to interview me or review my book. You really have to keep your eye on the ball and have your marketing and promotion hat on at all times.

The world of traditional publishing sat up and took notice of your success. How did that work? Who approached you? And in what context?

Harper Collins cover of The Girl Who Came Home
I adore this Harper Collins cover of The Girl Who Came Home

It was actually just over a year after I’d first self published The Girl Who Came Home that everything happened in terms of the traditional publishing deal. To set that into context, I’ll give a little background.

Towards the end of 2012, my second novel was submitted to around a dozen publishers in the UK and Ireland. It was rejected by all. The Girl Who Came Home was still a Kindle best-seller, selling around 80,000 copies by that time, and yet I still couldn’t find a traditional publisher. To make matters worse, at the start of January 2013, I parted company with my agent. Things were definitely not going to plan. I started to query new agents – all of whom turned me down. I continued to edit my second novel with the intention of self-publishing. In the April, The Girl Who Came Home was selected for a Kindle Romance Daily Deal and shot back up the best-seller charts. A few weeks later, I received a Facebook message from an agent based in LA. She had read The Girl Who Came Home  and was interested in talking to me about representation. A week later, I received another Facebook message from another agent, based in New York. She had also read The Girl Who Came Home and was also interested in talking to me about representation. Both agents were sent my second novel and I ultimately signed with Michelle Brower from Folio Literary Management in New York. Within a matter of weeks she had secured interest from several publishers for both The Girl Who Came Home  and my second novel. In June 2013, an auction was held and I signed a two-book deal with William Morrow, HarperCollins. It was agreed that The Girl Who Came Home  would be re-published as a paperback and ebook in April 2014, followed by my second novel, A Memory of Violets, in February 2015. The Girl Who Came Home  went on to be a New York Times and USA Today best-seller and I have subsequently signed a deal for a third novel with William Morrow.

How do the two publishing worlds compare, in your experience?

In many ways, I am doing exactly the same job – writing the book, researching, interacting with other writers and those within the industry and engaging with readers. What has changed significantly for me has been the support and experience of a team of experts. The team at William Morrow and HarperCollins has brought so much more to my writing and to the packaging, distribution and promotion of the books than I could ever have achieved on my own. When I first set out to write a novel, a traditional publishing deal was all I wanted. Having had to change my plans along the way, I now have experience of both sides of the publishing industry. Having self-published originally, I definitely think I am wiser, have thicker skin and am more realistic. It is easy for people to romanticise the profession and there is a lot of talk of dreams coming true and being lucky. While a part of me accepts that, I also believe that success really comes down to sheer hard work and determination. The luck will only happen and the dreams will only come true if the hard work and the determination come first. I am so excited to see my books published traditionally and to be working with the brilliant team at William Morrow, but I am so glad that I took the decision to self-publish initially. I took a lot from that experience.

Are you still involved in self-publishing? In what way?

No, although I still talk and write regularly about my experience of self-publishing. I spoke at the Romantic Novelists’ Association annual conference in 2014 about self-publishing. A lot of aspiring writers and published writers were very interested to hear my experience of both aspects of the publishing industry. What I always emphasise is that you shouldn’t go into self-publishing with the aim of being ‘discovered’ and offered a traditional deal. It very rarely happens and I think writers are going into it for the wrong reasons if that is their aim.

Are you still actively involved in promotion?

Absolutely. There is really no change in the amount of time or effort an author is expected to put into promoting their book when they are traditionally published. In fact, I spend more time working on promotion now than I ever did because I’m promoting the books in the USA as well as the UK and Ireland. Of course, I have the fantastic resources of the publicity and marketing team at HarperCollins and they can get me into publications and set up blog tours with a far greater reach and readership than I could ever manage on my own. But I still do a lot of work myself, looking for opportunities, approaching publications, venues, bookshops and libraries about ways in which to promote my books and engage with readers. I visited a lot of book clubs in 2014 to discuss The Girl Who Came Home and that is just one example of something I would work on myself.

What is the best piece of advice you could give someone setting out on the road to self-publishing?

Hazel Gaynor, copyright Deasy PhotographicWrite the best book you possibly can. Get it professionally line, copy and proof edited. Get a brilliant cover design. Think about your target market for the book and how you can make them aware of it. Time your publication to coincide with any significant dates or events. Tie in to any media stories that relate to your book. Be media savvy as well as a great writer. Also, celebrate your achievements. It’s very important to mark your successes and to be your biggest fan. Self-publishing, just like writing, can be a lonely experience at times. On that note, make sure you don’t hang the washing out after finally pressing the Publish button. Open the champagne and celebrate this momentous achievement. You have written a book, and published it. That has to be an occasion worth celebrating!

Thank you, Hazel, for your honesty in sharing the secrets to your success. I love, in particular, what you say about dreams being based on hard work and determination. My own motto comes from Finding Nemo: Keep On Swimming.

Call It Magic

original

Well, that was a lovely week. Don’t want it to be over, really. Over 60,000 people  downloaded The Accidental Life of Greg Millar. For three days, it ranked #1 in free books on amazon and for five, stayed at #1 in British and Irish fiction, #1 in Sagas and #1 in Women’s Fiction.

‘Well, it WAS free,’ I hear you say. True. It was. My coffers are not bulging. BUT. My baby has travelled – as evidenced by some of the reviews, my favourite from ‘Cajun great grandmother.’ Cajun great grandmother. I LOVE that.

Writing is solitary. And with three million books on amazon (at least), it is easy to feel a little lost. When I announced this promotion, so many people got behind it. They shared news of it on Facebook. They tweeted. Told their friends. When this kind of support pops up uninvited, it is the most wonderful, special thing.

So thank you, thank you, to everyone who downloaded my baby, everyone who reviewed it, signed up for my newsletter and everyone who has – and continues to –  spread the love. I call it magic.

a little bit of magic…

This is not a picture of fairy dust. But it is a picture of magic. My kind of magic.
This is not a picture of fairy dust. But it is a picture of magic. My kind of magic.

It feels like fairy dust has been sprinkled on my little publishing endeavor.

Two days ago, I offered Pause to Rewind free on amazon for a day. And, like the wave of a wand, everything changed. With every passing hour, the downloads climbed and climbed. Until, at one-thirty am, I had to finally tear myself away from the amazon sales rankings and go to bed.

In one day, over 40,000 people downloaded Pause to Rewind. It became the most read free kindle book on amazon. It ranked #1 in medical fiction and #1 in family fiction. So excited was I that, for no logical reason, I kept punching my husband in the arm. There was also a lot of jumping up and down. And some fist pumping.

Next morning, I contacted my self-publishing genie, Catherine Ryan Howard, and asked her if I should cut the normal price of the book from $2.99 to 99¢. She said one word: ‘Do.’

Two days later, Pause to Rewind, is still the #1 Bestseller in Medical Fiction on amazon.co.uk, where there is a tiny orange flag to say so, on my author page. The excitement! On amazon.com is #4 in medical #33 in family fiction and #925 in the Paid Kindle Store.

This blows my mind.

I had offered the same book for free, three weeks ago, for four days, and while downloads jumped nicely, the blip was not spectacular and fell away immediately afterwards.

‘What has she done differently?’ You may ask. I may, also, ask. And have done. I can think of four things:

  1. This time round, I paid to advertise on BookBub that Pause to Rewind was free.
  1. I had about 27 reviews on amazon.com and 17 on amazon.co.uk, by this time. Earlier, I had maybe four or five on each.
  1. I lowered the price immediately after the promotion. (Thank you, Catherine.)
  1. I had started a 21-day meditation on the Energy of Attraction with Oprah and Deepak. I use their first names, here, because they do, not because we are buds, (unfortunately).

I should also say that, on both occasions I have offered my book as a gift, people have been lovely on social media, tweeting, sharing on Facebook and saying good things about the book. More than anything, this adventure into self-publishing is showing me, again and again, the power of the people.

Introducing Mel Sherratt, the author who made it happen

Isn't she gorgeous?
Isn’t she gorgeous?

Once upon a time, four girls went for a pizza. I was one, Mel Sherratt another. At the time, Mel had been trying to get published, without success. She longed for our ‘success’ as traditionally published authors. We told her that it was not all it was cracked up to be. Mel went on to self-publish to TREMENDOUS success. I am now following her down that path. The two other pizza-eating girls are seriously considering doing the same. I love that. And I love that I can interview Mel now about her success in taking control of her publishing career. So, here we go…

How long had you been trying to get traditionally published before you chose the self-publishing route?

Twelve very long years.

Was there one particular incident that decided you to try self-publishing?

Yes. TAUNTING THE DEAD, my first novel, went out on submission to eight publishers with my previous agent but it was rejected by them all. However, I received lots of positive feedback amongst the rejections. I even got to acquisition meetings twice with it so I knew it might have something.

Were you nervous?

HELL YEAH!

What was your biggest fear?

That it would flop and I would make a fool of myself, therefore ruining my chance of ever getting a traditional deal. Mad when I look back on it, but in 2011, self-publishing was still frowned upon.

At the time, did you feel that if you took the self-publishing route it would close the door to traditional publishers? 

Yes, back then, it was either one way or the other.

If so, what made you go ahead anyway? 

I had nothing to lose – Kindle ereaders were the big Christmas present that year, 2011, so I self-published TAUNTING THE DEAD purposely mid December, hoping to capitalise on this.

What was the hardest thing about self-publishing?

Learning everything – but in a way it was a great experience and I’m glad it happened like this now.

What was the best thing?

The freedom and control – and the first good review from someone I didn’t know.

And here it is, the book that started it all
And here it is, the book that started it all

What was the most surprising thing?

Selling over 100,000 copies of TAUNTING THE DEAD – in total, I’ve now sold nearly 300,000 copies of my books.

What was the most disappointing thing?

The self-doubt ate at me – I wasn’t good enough for a book deal, was I? So why should anyone take me seriously? But I actually think this is more of a writer thing –lots of writers think their books are never good enough either, no matter how they are published. Self-doubt is a demon!

How many books did you self-publish?

I’ve self-published eight altogether so far. TAUNTING THE DEAD was the first, then three in THE ESTATE SERIES, a box set of THE ESTATE SERIES and a companion, SECRETS ON THE ESTATE. I also self-published two women’s fiction novels under a pen name.

How long did it take for things to take off?

A few weeks.

What was the first sign that things were taking off?

Four weeks after TAUNTING THE DEAD was released, it sat just outside the Kindle top 100. A week later, it went into the charts at Number One in Police Procedurals and stayed there for three months, reaching its highest overall charting of number 3.

What started the books to move?

TAUNTING THE DEAD was priced at 99p so I think many people would have taken a chance on a new author for that much. It had an unusual cover at the time too. Also, I had a blog at the time, High Heels and Book Deals, where, for four years, I did a lot of book reviews and author interviews. So when it came time for me to publish my own book, I had a lot of people ready to return the favour and help me with retweets, mentions, recommendations etc. All without asking – it was such a great feeling and it helped to spread the word, I think. Even now my marketing is organic. I don’t market my work but, equally, everything I do is marketing.

Did you do anything immediately to capitalise on that?

Yes. THE ESTATE SERIES had been rejected too because it was cross-genre between women’s fiction and crime thriller so I devised a strategy whereby I published books One, Two and Three within six months, creating a bit of a buzz – by cover reveals, publishing a blurb and a prologue at intervals – in between them as people waited for the next one.

What was the most effective promotional strategy you employed as a self-publisher?

The one above. If readers have another book to download after enjoying one, then that’s what they do. The best advice I ever got was ‘write another book’ – that’s the best marketing you can have.

The world of traditional publishing sat up and took notice of your success. How did that work? Who approached you? And in what context?

When FIGHTING FOR SURVIVAL, the third book in THE ESTATE SERIES, was due to be released in Dec 2012, SOMEWHERE TO HIDE and BEHIND A CLOSED DOOR were doing really well, so I had seven agents approach me. I met with three and then signed with Madeleine Milburn who has her own agency.

She submitted WATCHING OVER YOU, a standalone psychological thriller, to publishers at the London Book Fair in 2013. Within two weeks, I was offered a two-book deal by Thomas & Mercer, Amazon Publishing’s mystery and thrillers imprint, who wanted to re-publish TAUNTING THE DEAD as well. I’ve since taken another two-book deal with them and I’m making TAUNTING THE DEAD the first in a series featuring Detective Sergeant Allie Shenton. Book 2 and 3, FOLLOW THE LEADER and ONLY THE BRAVE, are out in February 2015 and May 2015.

How do the two publishing worlds compare, in your experience?

Both have advantages and disadvantages. I’ve enjoyed the control and freedom of working for myself but I’ve also enjoyed having a team behind me, working with a developmental editor therefore learning how to write better with my publisher. It really is the best of both worlds – something I never thought would be possible. I enjoy them both equally.

unnamedAre you still involved in self-publishing? In what way?

Yes. This year, I’ve created a box set of the original three ESTATE books; I’ve published a companion to the series and am getting Book Four, WRITTEN IN THE SCARS, ready for publication early next year. I’m also planning a new series and Book Five of THE ESTATE SERIES for next year.

Are you still actively involved in promotion?

I’ve never done any promotion as such. All I do is blog and tweet and interact with my readers on Facebook and Twitter. I like to share other people’s work so people freely share mine too. Too many people use social media to shout about their books. Of course it can be a way for people to discover books but the clue is in the word social.

What is the best piece of advice you could give someone setting out on the road to self-publishing?

Do it properly. I literally learned from my mistakes but, because self-publishing was so new, everyone else was learning too. Now there are no excuses. I pay for a structural editor, a copy editor, a proofreader and a cover designer. I’m also having the interiors set out for the print editions and re-publishing them next year, plus getting them into audio. Being professional is the key – writing is a business for me. I work hard at it but I’m very lucky to be doing it.

Thanks so much, Mel, for taking the time to share your story. Feeling a sudden urge to get back writing! Learn more about Mel Sherratt and her books by visiting her website, following on twitter and checking out her amazon author page. Oh, and be inspired!

You know who your friends are…

Why the photo of a seagull? Well, I still haven't learned how to use images from the internet with permission. This is one of my own and, well, I like it.
Why the photo of a seagull? Well, I still haven’t learned how to use images from the internet with permission. This is one of my own and, well, I like it.

When writing Pause to Rewind, my eight-year-old daughter fell suddenly, seriously and terrifyingly ill. We were stuck, our lives on pause. I remember every phone call, every visit, every card, every gift. During the darkest of times, I learned who our true friends were.

Almost two weeks ago, I announced news of my ‘adventure’ into the world of self-publishing. I did not admit to being terrified – in particular of how I would cope with the whole technology side of things.

A friend volunteered a morning to help me set up my WordPress account. (Yes, I know this is not rocket science to normal people). One reminded me to include a link to amazon so people could buy the book (yes I’d forgotten). Another gave me a crash course on ebook promotion (I’d never heard of BookBub). Others tweeted and shared news of Pause to Rewind on social media. My favorites were the people like me, those struggling with technology, who contacted me wondering how to download an ebook – my ebook.

I have always believed in People Power. Now I am truly feeling it. Had I ignored my fears and not boldly gone into the world of self-publishing, I would never have known the love and support that is out there. If anyone reading this is thinking of diving into a new world, in the words of Starsky and Hutch, ‘do it!’