Like me, many of you may recognise Vivien Hampshire’s name from her monthly column, ‘Book Deal or Bust’, which appeared a few years back in Writers’ Forum magazine. As Vivien wrote and edited her novel, ‘Losing Lucy’, she shared her experiences with the magazine’s readers.
‘Losing Lucy’ is about the abduction of a baby and the impact this loss has on the adults in the baby’s life. Vivien tackles this difficult subject well and the story takes an unexpected turn towards the end (you’ll have to read it to find out what happens!).
The novel is now available on Kindle via Amazon.
I asked Vivien about the process of publishing her book in this way:
Without the backing of a traditional publisher and editor, how did you know when your work was good enough to be published?
The suggestions, advice and encouragement I received from the readers of Writers’ Forum (largely struggling authors themselves) were wonderfully helpful! The manuscript also received a full critique from the Hilary Johnson Authors Advisory Service, whose positive comments gave me added faith in my book and the confidence to carry on, even when traditional agents and publishers kept turning me down. As for self-editing, I have been writing magazine fiction, teaching creative writing, and producing a small magazine as part of my ‘day job’ for years, so I have a good feel for what looks and feels right. Having said that, I did re-read my manuscript many, many times to eliminate even the tiniest errors!
How did you decide between uploading the book onto Kindle yourself and using a paid for service?
I am not the most technical person, and felt that the e-book uploading process, although relatively straightforward, might just be beyond me! I paid a modest fee (less than £100) to a company called New Age Publishers who really held my hand throughout the whole process, reformatted my Word document so the layout of the book was right for Kindle, made sure my royalties went to the right place, and gave me the opportunity to check and make changes for up to three months after the book went ‘live’. They did a grand job, well worth the fee.
How important do you think the cover is for a digital book?
Ebooks without covers look very unappealing, and I certainly wouldn’t look twice at one, let alone buy one. As professional artists can be costly, I took my cover photo myself, and New Age tweaked the wording for me. The cover is not perfect but it serves its purpose. (See Vivien’s cover here).
What are the pricing considerations on Amazon?
Very fair to the author – but then, there are no paper or storage costs, so Amazon’s cut is actually quite easy money! By pricing at around the £2 mark, my readers can buy the novel much cheaper than the average paperback, and I get 70% of the sale price. Royalties drop to only 35% if the price is set at less than £1.49, so I may think about lowering the price some time later if sales start to flag.
How did you go about marketing ‘Losing Lucy’?
Marketing is by far the hardest part, and that’s where the absence of a big publisher’s budget really tells. I used my own blog, writers’ groups and Facebook to publicise the book. Talks and book signings are difficult, if not impossible, without a physical pile of books to sign. I recently took advantage of Kindle’s 5 day promotion offer, and more than 800 free copies were downloaded – no royalties for me, but at least the book is being read, talked about and reviewed, which should help future sales.
Many thanks to Vivien for sharing her experience. E-publishing has made it so much easier for writers to self-publish and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t all be doing it – as long as we are absolutely sure that what we are about to release on the world has been edited to within an inch of its life and is absolutely the best it can be!
And don’t forget the possibilities for non-fiction – Vivien has also written ‘How to Crack Cryptic Crosswords’ which has recently been published by How To Books Ltd.
#1 by Tracy Fells on September 10, 2012 - 5:48 pm
Thanks Sally for this excellent post. Hearing how Vivien epublished is really helpful.
#2 by susanjanejones on September 10, 2012 - 6:38 pm
Interesting Sally and Vivien. I love real books, but e.publishing is the way to go for writers I think.
#3 by Sally Jenkins on September 10, 2012 - 7:37 pm
Susan & Tracy – Glad you found the post useful. There are so many opportunities now for writers to get their work out into the big wide world.
#4 by Viv Hampshire on September 20, 2012 - 3:04 pm
Just to make it clear that How To Crack Cryptic Crosswords is NOT a self-published book. For that one, i did have a real publisher!!
#5 by Sally Jenkins on September 20, 2012 - 6:35 pm
Apologies, Vivien. I’ve now updated the post to make that clear. Best wishes with both books!