I name this book… let’s launch indie style (Part 1 – The Pre-launch)

I name this book… let’s launch indie style (Part 1 – The Pre-launch)

There won’t be any billboard campaigns, bookstore displays, mainstream media interviews or big name reviews for your average indie book launch, we indies haven’t got the clout or the funds for that sort of malarky. But what we have got (in droves) are lively imaginations and a deeply personal investment in our ‘product’.

It’s three weeks today since A Bed of Brambles published in paperback and ebook. AVAILABLE AT AMAZON, IBOOKS, NOOK, KOBO AND MY LOCAL BOOKSTORE. (If my book is going to sell, I do need people to know that) so I thought I’d share my pre-launch preparations with you here.

Building buzz

You know all that time you spent blogging and tweeting, building up a following and an email list? Well, now is the time to make good use of those platforms – AND your imagination. As an indie, you’ve got the personal touch, so think hard about your options. Give updates, mention the book and the launch date but don’t be overdo it to the point of turning people off. Interaction is the key word here. Consider your (potential) readers and other interests you might have in common with them. Share topical stuff that links to your story, and pass on posts/tweets/blogs of others that catch your eye (you’re going to need these lovely people to return the favour and extend the reach of your own posts).

My golden rules are:

  • Keep it personal and interesting
  • 70% topical/witty : 30% MY BOOK is a decent ratio to follow at this point
  • Post at different times of the day to connect with more readers and time zones


This option didn’t exist on Kindle Direct Publishing/Amazon when I launched my first novel, but it does now. Also on Draft2Digital, where I publish the ebook to iBooks, Kobo, Nook etc. It’s a useful tool because it gives you a mini pre-launch, pre-launch to tempt readers in (ie, it’s something new to shout about) and will (hopefully) give a boost to first day sales. Best of all, it gets a major job out of the way ahead of the launch panic. Your ebook is there, uploaded and waiting for buyers, avoiding the stress of wondering if you’ll get your timing right. (Horror of horrors – shouting about a launch date for weeks in advance to find the book isn’t ‘live’ when the date arrives.)

It’s not so easy with the paperback, in fact, it’s nigh on impossible (without a lot of complicated contortion which I, personally, don’t think is worth it). Not only are pre-sales difficult, CreateSpace and Amazon can’t specify an exact date when the paperback will be live. Three to five days is the best you’ll get, which is something of a dilemma because, in my experience, the book is often live on day two. With a launch you just can’t risk it (see horror of horrors above), so press ‘Publish to Amazon’ five days ahead (and keep schtum if your book, like mine, is live ahead of the launch date!)

Is this book part of a series, or have you written other books of similar genre?

Crank up the buzz and redouble your marketing efforts on the other book(s). I ran a Kindle giveaway on A Bed of Barley Straw, sought fresh reviews and signed up to Bublish so I could post excerpts from both books to social media (see my earlier post: Are you using Bublish yet?) Sales of the first book went up and I hope those readers will be itching to buy the sequel!

Physical copies of paperbacks for marketing and review

You may not have published a paperback, it’s very much a personal choice, but, if you have, now is the time to stock up on those lovely, physical books. They’re a great tool for marketing. You can do your own photo shoot, run giveaways and offer them to reviewers who prefer a paperback copy (at this point we’ll do anything for reviews, right!)

The paperbacks will feature more in Part 2 – The Launch, but if, like me, you publish through CreateSpace and don’t live in America (I live in the UK) you’ll want to get ahead of the game on ordering paperback copies to avoid the exorbitant postage. Print on demand (POD) copies for the author are printed in the USA  (unlike UK customer orders, which are printed in Europe) so it costs to rush delivery and the cheaper options can take UP TO 6 WEEKS to arrive. (Please can you do something about this CreateSpace?)

Make sure you haven’t enabled any sales channels when you approve the final proof of your book, and CreateSpace will give you the option to order copies.

I’ll leave you with a pic from my photo shoot (retweeted on twitter as “the cutest book promo shot of the year” – but it does require a puppy, which I accept you may not have.)

DSC_0786 (1)

I’d love to hear how other self-published authors set about preparing for launch day, and what you do when the big day arrives. Do comment below, and tune in next week for Part 2 – The Launch

A pat on the back for me

A pat on the back for me

I’m patting myself on the back this week, and CreateSpace is my new best friend. When I first first blogged about CreateSpace (Setting my manuscript free) just ten short months ago, visiting their website felt like arriving on an alien planet. The language was new and foreign, the terminology beyond confusing. Mercy, have I learnt a lot since then.  You know how London cabbies get an over-developed hippocampus from learning ‘The Knowledge’, well I think I’m developing one of my own. It might throb and give me a headache when I use it, but the great thing is that even a fusty, middle aged brain can rise to a new problem when you push it. So now I love CreateSpace. We’re communicating, and everyone knows the importance of that. It’s all a lot easier when you’ve learnt the language.

A Bed of Barley Straw, Edition 2 is about to hit the shelves (don’t get that confused with the sequel which won’t be released until early next year) This is an updated version of the original book, with a gorgeous new cover, courtesy of Jane (my other new best friend) at JD Smith Design

Draymere Hall Volume I

Edition two has been reformatted into a slightly smaller book by me, myself and I (hence the perpetually throbbing hippocampus). Published via CreateSpace with their easy to follow (this time around) step-by-step guide to publishing your novel, and their brilliant interior reviewer which shows you what the inside of your book will look like. I have fallen out with Microsoft Word a few times during the process. It’s a devil for deciding it knows better than I do and rearranging the entire manuscript because I added a full stop. But we got there, apart from this…

Screenshot_2015-11-06-20-58-49 (2)

…can you spot the amazing vanishing page number? Try as I might I can’t seem to resolve it (hippocampus pulsing). Next book – Scrivener here I come (when the brain has recovered, I don’t want that hippocampus exploding).

And talking of messy, the sequel – A Bed of Brambles – is still with my editor, and boy has she got her work cut out. I tell a great story, but I’m raw and lack finesse so a bloody good edit is essential. I love my editor, despite and because of her honesty. Her words may smart, but she is the one who will turn my masterpiece into a work of art. Here’s a visual to demonstrate. This is where I work, where my creative juices run free (a chaotic scene which I wouldn’t usually chose to share with you)


and here’s what I’d like you to see…


The edited version, you get me?

What? I’ve got to sell it?

What? I’ve got to sell it?

The Eldest Daughter works in PR. The Brother asked what the ‘target sales’ for my book were.

The what?

“If someone buys it, I will fall off my chair with joy.” I told him cheerfully. The Brother was happy with my reply, but the ED was more persistent. “Send me your marketing materials. Would you consider a give-away competition? What about press coverage?”

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. My foray into authorship is so nervously tentative that I have hidden my novel behind a pen name (that is partly because of the raunchy scenes, which I quietly hoped my children and mother would never get to see). Too late for that. I will tell them I Googled ‘novel sex’ and copied somebody else’s words. Although that particular search might reveal more than I care to witness. I made that mistake when I wanted to buy rabbit toys for my daughter in law this Christmas (actual toys for an actual rabbit. Please).

It didn’t take much research to realise that, with the sheer number of books being published each day, a debut novel by an unknown author was destined to total anonymity. Part of me rather likes that idea. I wrote this book for myself, and I will have a copy on my bookshelf until the day I die. After my passing, the grandchildren (when they arrive – take note ED) will exclaim in wonder that Granny wrote a book. (Hopefully they won’t read the sexy bits. Although, I will be past caring by then).

My target sales crept up. One hundred books sold would put me in the top 10% of published authors (I read this – somewhere); that 90% of books sell less than one hundred copies. If this is true, it is tragic. Of course, some of those books will have been specialist or niche. Never intended to achieve mass sales. But just think of the number of wonderful stories which might be out there, that we don’t even know about!

I put the word out to extended friends and family. I reckon I’ve got twenty plus guaranteed sales, and I’ll probably buy a dozen myself.

Three hundred sales (I did the maths) would pay back the money spent publishing the book (although not the money spent buying a dozen back). Time spent writing has been a pleasure, so I don’t want payment for that. The husband might argue that the time could have been better spent elsewhere.

So, yay – I have a target. I simply need three hundred people to buy my book. If it’s a good enough read, and amuses them, maybe sales will grow from there? Or from the sequel (now underway) when I eventually publish that.

Easier said than done, though, finding three hundred people who want to buy your book. Back to Google, CreateSpace, @thecreativepenn, @JFbookman… I could go on. Hundreds of blogs, thousands of bloggers, millions of tweeters on twitter who are #writing #self-publishing #givingadvice about how to market your book. And CreateSpace tells me I should be one of them.

Gulp, here I go then. I am not ‘tech-stupid’, but I’m not “tech-savvy” either. And I am frequently ‘tech-frustrated’. I am too impatient (there we go, again) to spend time working things out and setting them up correctly. If my *avatar (*little personal picture – I have learnt that) doesn’t chose itself and load automatically, I am inclined to throw my hands heavenwards in despair and leave the Twitter/Wordpress generated, headache-inducing image in place. Consequently my blog is somewhat basic (I can see you, nodding). But it does exist. As for Twitter, well! That is a whole other blog.

And press coverage? Oh no, I’m not nearly brave enough for that. Yet.

Turkey and track changes

Turkey and track changes

I get over excited when a message from CreateSpace arrives. But the return of my first round of editing four days before Christmas wasn’t the best timing. I know what I should have done; I should have put the project on hold for a week. I had numerous family expecting turkey with all the trimmings on Christmas day, and more people arriving on the 26th. I had enough on my plate (please excuse the pun.)

I couldn’t leave it alone. It’s an obsessive-compulsive thing (character flaw number…don’t know, I’ve lost count!)

A sea of red and blue and green corrections and comments. Glimpsed briefly, before Word decided it simply couldn’t cope with the volume of changes incorporated into the document and the programme froze on me. “Word is not responding.” Uh oh. I spent three days on Microsoft forums; asking questions, searching FAQs. I Googled my scenario in variously worded forms. I emailed everyone I knew who might be able to help, and drew comfort from the fact that I clearly wasn’t alone with the problem. A lot of people struggling but not many solutions I could even attempt, because the document wouldn’t load sufficiently for me to ‘copy and paste’ or ‘change view to draft’.

Finally a response from a very nice man on the Microsoft community forum, suggested I remove the ‘final paragraph mark.’

“The what?” I hear you cry. (That was what I was crying anyway). I still don’t know what the ‘final paragraph mark’ is, maybe you do? In an effort to locate it I managed to keep the document visible for long enough to find the end of the manuscript (don’t touch anything you don’t have to… exercise extreme patience after every scroll down.) I made several cups of tea while Word stopped responding. I figured the programme needed some time to think about its actions, and behave appropriately. I did the final correction first, in the hopes that would remove a ‘final paragraph mark’. And, lo, it didn’t freeze.

Two hundred and fifty pages of tracked change edits to reject or approve. Plus the amendments my friends had pointed out. By Christmas Eve I had only reached the second paragraph, and I was still leaving the room to do a few jobs after every click on the mouse while the computer hummed and chewed and whirred and made up its mind whether to freeze or not. Technology eh? Couldn’t live without it.

On a positive note, Word grew more confident as I progressed through the pages. I had shot myself in the foot by not pointing out that the spelling should be British English. (The editor had asked for a note on the rules for the edit, but somehow that point escaped me). A lot of z’s to reject, and o’s to put back in. Some phrases that might be misinterpreted by American readers: “Bloody hard work” could read as “working until she bled” and “who could she ponce a horse off by Saturday” oh yes, I get that one.

I need to revise my punctuation around dialogue. I thought I knew how to do this until I started writing a book. School was a long time ago.

We got a Christmas dinner, and one on Boxing day. By the evening of the 26th I was desperate to get back to my manuscript.

The editorial letter included some lovely comments: “Once Bitten, Twice Shy is a heartfelt, entertaining and satisfying novel”, “Hettie is a convincing heroine, and Alexander’s growth and self-discovery is very gratifying.”

I’m learning to blow my own trumpet. Even if the voice inside my head is whispering “Ah, but you’re paying her. She’s got to say nice things.”

Second round of edits due any day now. Bring it on.

Judge a book by it’s cover

We all do, of course. I may have bypassed many good books because they didn’t look like ‘something I would read’. And that is a shame. It seems indie publishing has a reputation for amateurish book coverings, and, having now gone through this process myself, I can understand why.

My ‘vision’ for my book was a distant back view of a beautiful couple (heroine flame haired if possible) gazing out over a misty English valley. The book is set on a country estate in the Cotswolds. The story develops amidst horses, the countryside and dogs. In my mind’s eye, my cover resembled a modern day Jane Austen book. I described my vision in detail, on the telephone, to the USA (with the customary time delay throughout our discussion).

The concept I received depicted a decidedly middle aged couple. Now, I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to write that book. In fact I have given myself the giggles, planning in my head the words of a passionate mid-life scene:

“She knew he thought he was caressing her breast, as his fingers gently fondled her spare tyre and continued to search for a nipple.”


“A low groan escaped him as his back gave out.”

But this time, my book is about the beautiful people (I will write the other story if I ever get a following big enough to stand it). Not only were the couple depicted on my book nothing like my characters, the misty English scene was by definition colourless and uninteresting. Dull, dull, dull. I wouldn’t have bought the book with that cover. At the moment that is the only yardstick I have to measure success by.

My excitement at receiving the message from CreateSpace: “Your action is required to move forward with your project”, was soundly deflated when I viewed the concepts. The second concept (designed by them) showed a younger couple (better) galloping on horses (good idea)…wearing cowboy hats and traversing an American prairie. Oh dear.

I’m not knocking CreateSpace here. They listened to my ideas and tried very hard to interpret them without any visual stimulus and only spoken guidance from me. My fault, I panicked a bit. I had only paid for two rounds of editing on the concepts and had to decide which of those featured I would be going ahead with. To be honest I hated them both. I asked the design team to book a telephone conversation. Again they were efficient, encouraging and helpful. Editing changes could include a change of image. I could supply my own image, or search for one I liked from their library. Big sigh of relief.

Better late than never, I started doing some research. Searched thousands of images (bouncing them past my daughters for feedback) and found a picture I liked. I emailed the design team with images of covers I admired and would like to emulate. And I just managed to carry out all of the required changes within my pre-paid budget.

My cover is not perfect, there are a couple of details I would still change. I could have added another round of edits for $75. But I do not know if my book will even sell, so there has to be a cut-off point. Next time, if I use CreateSpace again, I will start the process by sending them an image of what I want the cover to look like, and move forward from there.

And I’m not a book designer or marketing expert. I do not know what the market is looking for. My ideas might still be awful!

Have a look, and see what you think (at the partial image which was all I could fit into ‘featured images’!). Just don’t tell me to change anything.

Setting my manuscript free (or sending it off to school)

Setting my manuscript free (or sending it off to school)

I did some more research, but Amazon CreateSpace was an easy choice for me. I felt a certain loyalty towards them, it was, after all, a programme about Amazon that got me writing in the first place. And if I wanted a broad platform to launch my book, it doesn’t come much broader than the mighty Amazon. A double edged sword, possibly. On the one hand giving me the potential to reach corners of the world I have barely even heard of, on the other I would be pitching my book against millions of others. Scatter the seeds wide, and hope a few take hold? Or cultivate a small patch of ground and nurture the seed along. I don’t know the answer to that yet, maybe future blogs will be able to share.

Several people asked me if I had considered pitching to a traditional publisher first. It did enter my mind, but you hear so many stories about manuscript rejection. I had visions of a single rejection stopping me in my tracks. My manuscript languishing in archive files for eternity (or until the computer died, and unnecessary backed up files were not transferred to its replacement).

So I opened a CreateSpace account. A rather cranky website, CreateSpace, I have to say. Given who you are affiliated with. Navigation is tricky and often not clear. And I was slightly surprised to be dealing directly with the USA. Scheduling calls for Eastern Standard Time, and suffering a lag on telephone conversations. Despite the fact that we talk the same language, guys, somehow we don’t quite do we? “Thank you for reaching out to us…” is definitely not a British English phrase. Having said that, the advisors were brilliant. No question was too stupid, each and every one of them has been polite, helpful and efficient. That is worth a lot, so thank you people. (And I’m sure there were several of my English phrases that they found slightly odd, not to mention my general vagueness!)

I checked my document for a final time, painstakingly changed all my asterisk passage breaks to fleurons and uploaded the manuscript. Then I found and read the guidelines on how to make your document ready for upload, and learnt that passage breaks should be indicated with asterisks. So I sent them a message, put the asterisks back and uploaded again. This has rather been the tale of my entire experience so far. In every task I do, I locate the information about how I should have done it after the job is done. I’m not a patient person (another character flaw), but guidance or tick-boxes which appear automatically on the site would have been very helpful. You have to search and dig for everything. My advice here would be to make sure you find the guidance for each and every stage – it is there if you look hard enough.

When I first started writing, the plan was to create an e-book without any financial outlay. But as the process went along and I did further research I realised this wasn’t the route for me. Possibly I could do it with a third or fourth book, but I definitely needed assistance this first time round. I didn’t have a clue about layout or font. No idea where to begin designing a book cover. And I liked my book enough to want a physical copy. Of course there are plenty of people out there offering their services in this regard; book cover designers, proof readers, copy-editors. I am sure that many of them provide a better, more specific service than CreateSpace can via long distance communication and the constraints of budget. Again, this is something I would definitely look in to further with a future book. But it cannot be argued that the editing package which CreateSpace offered me was ridiculously good value. The fact that it was a ‘package’ enabled me to see exactly what I would be spending, without the embarrassment of getting quotes from individuals or companies, and then working out that I couldn’t afford them.

My lack of experience and impatience (again) led me to purchase a CreateSpace editing package. I’m not saying this is the best way to go, but for me this time it provided the easy option. For those of you who are looking to do this yourselves, I purchased the ‘Editing Package’ (two rounds), ‘Marketing Copy Essentials’, and ‘Custom Cover Premier’ (two cover concepts).

Tune in next time to see if I made the right choices, and how I got on with the dreaded questionnaire!