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Bookish. Publisher at Louise Walters Books. Reader, writer, and editor. Working class gal.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Book launch speech!

My second novel A Life Between Us is published today after a year of very hard work! I can't quite believe I've got here in the end... but here I am. Tonight I will share a bottle of champagne with my husband and quietly enjoy the feeling of having two books "out".

Self-publishing my second novel has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. But I didn't do it alone, of course, and I have plenty of people I need to thank. So here goes!

Firstly, I need to thank all the staff at Troubador Publishing who have been helpful, courteous and most importantly, calm, throughout my dealings with them. It's been a pleasure working with them and I'm so glad I chose my "assisted publishing" helpers wisely. Thank you!

Secondly, I am indebted to book cover designer Jennie Rawlings who designed the beautiful cover for A Life Between Us. Here it is again, in case you haven't seen it yet(!):

Jennie was delightful to work with and came up with this marvellous concept for the cover. She also designed leaflets and bookmarks, which are equally stunning:

Thanks to printers T J International for the beautiful look, feel and smell of the finished books. They really are quality!

Next up is my writing friend and wise counselor Susan Davies, AKA author Sarah Vincent. Susan has the sharpest eye in town and never hesitates to point out to me where my writing has gone a bit, well, crap, and she has saved my arse over the course of three novels now. She is also a stunning writer, and her novel The Testament of Vida Tremayne is a fantastic read. Just sayin'! Many thanks, Susan. (She also recommended Jennie Rawlings to me!)

Next up I must thank all of the The Prime Writers, who have been so supportive of me and my project since I announced back in February 2016 that I was going indie! I appreciate every re-tweet, interaction, review and encouraging word. Thank you!

Since becoming an author I've met so many lovely people, many of whom have become good friends. Here I must mention Isabel Costello, Rebecca Mascull and Louise Jensen. You are all wonderful writers and wonderful people and I'm honoured that our lives have touched.

I must also mention The Alliance of Independent Authors and their supportive members, and their seemingly endless advice and information for us indie authors. So glad I decided to sign up and join in!

I can't lie - being a self-published author is tough. My book has been ignored by people and publications that I think may not have ignored it if it had been trade published (but that is for another post)! The disappointment of being ignored in some quarters has been more than made up for by the support I've enjoyed from the book blogging community and many fellow authors. A Life Between Us has had some wonderful reviews from Anne Williams, Cleo Bannister, Rachel Burton, Louisa Treger, and many others. I can't mention all of them, but I am so grateful for all the reviews. And, hey, even the occasional one star review or rating is still acknowledgement that my book exists!

I must thank my local indie bookshop The Old Hall Bookshop in Brackley, who are stocking A Life Between Us. That means so much to me - I used to work there (too many years ago now!) and they generously hosted the book launch party in 2014 for my debut novel, Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase.

Finally, I have to thank my husband and kids who have put up with me bashing away at my laptop, sometimes in tears, sometimes swearing; and of course many members of my family have had my book foisted on them, with demands to know what they think!

My husband Ian, last but not least. Thanks for being so kind, helpful, hard working, supportive and generous. I couldn't have done this without him. He's also a dab hand at applying car stickers!

So, that's more or less it for Book 2...

... next up: Book 3...!

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

From the Other Side: Book Blogger Sarah Hardy

Welcome to the first of a new series of blog posts in which I chat to book bloggers. I thought it would be fun and informative to host bloggers on my (author) site, as it's usually the other way round. I think book blogging is sometimes misunderstood, so I hope these interviews will dispel a few myths that seem to have grown up around the book blogging scene. 

One of the great things about the social media revolution is, I think, the ability for book people to communicate on a daily level. Readers, bloggers, writers, authors, publishers and agents (and all the overlap that exists among us!) can chat to each other like never before. It's an exciting time to be a book lover. And I don't know about you, but I never tire of talking about books! So, I thoroughly enjoyed my chat with book blogger Sarah Hardy. Sarah also freelances as Submissions Advisor at Bloodhound Books.

Here's what she had to say...

All book bloggers are surely book lovers. How and when did your love of reading begin?
From ever since I can remember I have always loved reading. I would spend many an hour as a child with my head stuck in a book and it’s stayed with me ever since.


When did you start your blog?
My blog will be two in April. Can’t quite believe I have been doing it nearly two years and I enjoy it as much now, if not more than when I did when I started it.
Is there a particular genre you enjoy reading and reviewing?
My choice of genres has changed over the years and even though I still read a variety of genres my firm favourite without a doubt has to be crime/thrillers.
Do you have a “day job” (work, children, and/or caring responsibilities) - and if so, how do you fit in all your reading, reviewing and blogging? Yes, myself and my husband have a small carpet shop which I run on my own whilst my husband is out fitting. I have also started recently doing some hours for Bloodhound Books which I am absolutely loving. We also have two teenagers, I would say the hard part of parenting of running around after my children is over with but I am beginning to learn that it seems to be never ending!
I basically read wherever and whenever I can. If the shop is quiet I will spend some time reading there and I hardly watch television anymore so will read on an evening also.
If I don’t like a book, I usually don’t review it on Goodreads, Amazon, Netgalley or on my blog. For me, that’s the kindest thing to do. As a writer, I know how disheartening negative reviews can be. I also appreciate not every reader enjoys every book. Where do you stand on this issue?
If I don’t like a book I don’t review it on my blog. If it’s an ARC/review copy I won’t review anywhere other than Goodreads, as Goodreads is my bible of what I have read. If it is a book I have purchased then I do tend to still leave a review on Amazon but I always try and be constructive. I personally read a mixture of all the ratings before helping me decide whether to purchase a book or not, as what someone else doesn’t like about book could be something that I don’t like. Also what someone else may not like I may enjoy. It would be a boring world if we all liked the same thing.
Have you ever had a negative response from an author after reviewing their work, and if so, how did you handle it? (No names needed!)
I can’t say I really have, no. I know some authors are not overly happy with a three star review but for me it still means I liked it but there was just certain parts that either didn’t work or I didn’t like but overall it is still a decent read.
How do you feel about indie authors? Do you consider self-published books? Yes, certainly. When accepting review copies, for me it is all about the book. If I like the sound of it then I will read it regardless of if it is self published or through a publisher.
On the other hand, how do you feel about those over-hyped books from publishers?!
I have fallen a few times into buying or requesting books on Netgalley due to all the hype about certain novels. Some of them the hype has been very much deserved whereas others I really struggled to see what all the hype was about.
There has recently been some negative stuff on social media about book bloggers. I know how this feels, as I am self-publishing my second novel, and I know how indie authors get looked down upon in some quarters! So - how do you respond to that negativity?
I try not to take it personally. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If people don’t want to read my blog that’s fine, I have no issue with that, I don’t personally like that many readers think that book bloggers are paid for what we do as I can assure you we don’t. I started my blog to support lesser known authors that deserve to get their name out there and to share the books that I have enjoyed reading. Yes, I my get sent free books from time to time but I have to spend how ever many hours reading that book, writing up my review and sharing it on different platforms. That is a lot of hours, but we do it because we are passionate about books.
Sadly a lot of book groups on social media have very mixed views about what we do also, and I have been blocked from a few for sharing my blog reviews on there which is probably what riles me up the most. How me sharing a review via a link instead of doing a status telling people what I thought of a book is any different I will never know.
Have you made “real life” friends as a result of your book blog?
Yes, lots. I have been to a few events and meet ups and have made some good friends who include authors as well as bloggers. I have a BBFF (best blogging friend forever) Noelle Holten over at Crime Book Junkie book blog, who I hit it off with immediately. There are lots of others who I would love to give a shout out to but they who they are.
Tell us about the art of writing a review. How do you avoid spoilers but manage to convey the sense or feel of a book? I find it difficult, so any tips will be gratefully received! I’ve seen some fantastic reviews, which I suspect were pretty tricky to write…
I'm not sure if there is an art to it. Some reviews flow really easily in that the words just come straight out, whereas others it has taken me ages to write them. I never feel that they are good enough as I am not a writer, but I go with how it made me feel and what I liked.
Big question: Have you ever been tempted to write, or have you written, a novel (or any kind of book) yourself?

I would love to write a novel but to be honest I don’t have one in me and I think I make a much better reader than I do writer.
Quick fire: E-reader or print?
Finally, what are you reading at the moment?
I have just started The Crying Boy by Jane E James

Sarah Tweets @sarahhardy681

Thanks so much to Sarah for joining me on my blog today. It's been interesting to hear what makes a book blogger tick! I'll be interviewing more bloggers soon, so do look out for my next post in this "From the Other Side" series.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

International Women's Day and the self-published author...

On Wednesday 1st March, I took delivery of 100 copies of my second novel! It was a thrilling moment after all these months of writing, editing, fretting, and all the other things that happen when you are bringing out a book. At last the book exists, and is real. Always an amazing moment!

These books are lovely. The paper is white, and thick, and the colours on the cover are just right for this story. Perfect tones, not too garish, not too pastel. The book even smells delicious! I couldn't be more pleased with the book as object. I feel so fortunate to have worked with Jennie Rawlings, Troubador Publishing and TJ International.

A Life Between Us is currently available on Netgalley (until 17 March); there are 3 signed copies up for grabs over on Goodreads (giveaway running until 10 March). The print book is available for pre-order on Amazon, and the e-book is up for pre-order on Apple.

I guess this all means there really is no going back now! The decision I made just over a year ago to self-publish has come to fruition. It feels appropriate to write this post on International Women's Day. It's been quite a year! Here's what I've learned:

1: Self-publishing is not giving up. I know some people think you should never "give up" looking for a "proper" publisher, and for many writers, that is true. But for me "giving up" would have meant stuffing this novel away in a drawer and forgetting about it; followed by starting a new novel, not knowing if that one would meet a similar fate. I wasn't prepared to do that. For a start I couldn't afford to, both financially and time-wise. I'm going to be 50 this year. My time on this planet is limited. If I want a novel I've written to be published, it's going to be published. End of.

(That's an advantage of becoming older... you stop worrying about what other people think, and you get on with your life, and your work. The need for validation diminishes. For women especially, that's very freeing, and I'm so relieved I've finally arrived at this point. It took too long, but I made it).

2: Self-publishing, or in my case, "assisted publishing", is "real" publishing. Believe me, when you hold in your hand the book, fresh from the printers, it is "real". The early reviews on Goodreads are "real". The work that has gone into this book is "real". I've invested money and time in this project, and both of those are very "real" too! I've worked so hard to make this novel a viable novel, to rival anything you will find in a bookshop. I even gave myself a "real" lead in time, thirteen months, just as a "real" publisher would do (and am I ever glad I did that! I've needed those months).

3: Self-publishing is frustrating. This is because too many people resent it, look down on it, regard it as a threat. I really wish that attitude could change because self-publishing is here to stay and those of us who do it professionally, for "real", care passionately about our work and we are doing our best to bring out books of the highest quality, in every respect. I would contend that the best self-publishers out there produce work that is indistinguishable from the work of traditionally published authors. Yet most of the major book prizes still keep their doors firmly bolted against the self-published (looking at you today in particular, Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction...!)

4: Self-publishing is hard work. There is so much to do. Editing, re-writing, copy edits, proofs (no different to "real" publishing, of course) but on top of that comes the marketing and publicity, both of which are hard to do as a self-publisher. It kind of links in to number 3  above of course. A few of my - polite, not pushy - e-mails and letters have elicited zero response; but only in some quarters. Many other people have been nothing but interested, and some intrigued, and none more so than my fellow authors, and that now indispensable group in the book world, the venerable book bloggers. I am so grateful for their interest in this project, their offers of blog posts and interviews, their wonderful reviews on Goodreads, and the many encouraging messages of support I've received.

5: Saving the best to last... the autonomy is mind-blowing. In both a good and a bad way! I've lost a lot of sleep worrying about copyright, historical facts, grammar, punctuation... you name it. BUT... I got to pick my own cover designer. We worked together (which for me meant sending quite a detailed brief) resulting in a cover which is, I think, perfect for this book. I had the final say over every aspect of the writing... the book is very much "mine", and reads exactly as I want it to read (at least, as far as my limited talents could take it). I decided on the length of my initial print run. Tricky stuff, but a useful exercise. I even got to decide the price, both of the print and e-book.

I also decided not to plaster the book in quotes or endorsements. I wanted a clean, uncluttered look on the cover, and more importantly, I need it to stand on its own two feet. There is one concession. The cover announces I am the author of Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase. But that is all. No "Stunning!", no "Thrilling!", not even a "Compelling". This of course also meant I didn't need to badger authors for quotes; thereby cutting one task from my workload!

So, despite the hard work, the industry resistance, the hard work, the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction (and others) barring my book's entry into their prize, the hard work, the self-doubts, the hard work, the sleepless nights, the hard work... would I self-publish again*...?

A Life Between Us is published on 28 March 
in paperback and e-book. 

  * I will ask myself that question in 6 months time! (But Yes)