Category Archives: Self-publishing

Dreams of an indie author

Been reading quite a lot about people’s dreams lately. Whether it’s about buying a vineyard, getting a book published or simply global peace and prosperity, there’s been a lot out there in the blogosphere about dreams. It’s good. Whether sleeping or waking, dreams can inspire us, motivate us, guide us and give us hope.

I often log my sleeping dreams in my journal. They are mercurial and invariably tell me something about my current experience that hadn’t occurred to my monolithically slow conscious mind.

The other night I had one of those dreams which yells over-commitment. It involved nudity – and not in a good way; a pressing engagement that I couldn’t be late for, but which I was doomed to miss; a giant car park in which I’d lost my car; and a vague sense of emergency and unease that didn’t leave me even after I woke.

These are warning dreams. Don’t spread yourself so thin seems to be the message; don’t be so scattered; sort out your priorities and focus. I’m always grateful for this type of dream as it’s a great reminder to slow down.

One waking dream that keeps recurring for me in the blank daylight moments as I’m brewing my tea, wiping the table or putting ingredients into the bread-maker, is the one about the indie author bookshop.

Don’t get me wrong I’m a big fan of Kindle, and plan to publish a book onto Kindle soon. But I also love books. I love the communities that books inspire, the talk that books make possible, the ideas that people bring to life in their sharing of books. So I have a dream that while the whole world may have fallen in love with e-books, we will continue to save a bit of romance for our bookshops.

I don’t advocate that bookshops in their current incarnation necessarily need to be restored or saved.

Instead I dream of the re-emergence of an old-fashioned type of bookseller. Someone who is very knowledgable and discerning, who becomes not just the purchaser of book stock for their store but also its curator and champion. And who loves coffee.

I dream of bookshops with comfy sofas and delicious treats, where people gather to be refreshed, physically and intellectually, and where local indie authors can sell their books, host talks and workshops and meet their readers. (My hubby even suggested a shop like this could be called Star-books – but I’m sure that wouldn’t be allowed.)

The gremlins in my head are screaming about prohibitive shop rental rates, the death of the High St and of books themselves. It feels like an impossible dream. But a beautiful one.

And when I read in the blogosphere about other authors’ desire to find books self-published by local writers in their nearest bookshop I just wonder…

Leave a comment

Filed under Self-publishing

Five tips to building your platform as a self-published author

Reading back over my last few entries, here’s the heads-up on the key steps to building an authentic marketing platform for your book – and for it to feel easy rather than utterly terrifying or a real ball-ache:

  1. Make friends with a local journalist or editor. Remember they need copy to keep their publication in business. As a writer you deal in their life-blood. They will love to receive your press release as a local news story.
  2. Build an authentic network off-line by engaging in activities you are genuinely interested in and feel compelled to contribute to. Let your network be a by-product of your participation rather than its raison d’etre . This way people will get to know the real you rather than the networking you.
  3. Offer yourself as a speaker to a local group or society. You could tell your writer’s story, or speak on a subject that you learned about in your research. If your book is non-fiction set up a how-to workshop pertinent to the topic of your book.
  4. Don’t be daunted by the plethora of on-line social networking sites. Start with what you know – even if it’s just emailing your contact list – and go from there.
  5. Follow your nose when it comes to broadening your marketing reach. Take a look at what other people are doing and see if it’s something that appeals to you. Keep a note in your journal of all the possible marketing ideas that occur to you, and notice which ones hang around in your head. These could be the ones that you have the greatest energy for. Alternatively check out Pete’s story in Chapter 6 of The Journal Writer’s Handbook – he could be your inspiration!


Filed under Self-publishing

Life as a self-published author #3

The internet is a mind-boggling place with so many different sites that writers can use to connect with their readers, ‘meet’ other writers, write about their topic, share their ideas, and find new channels to market. At a recent writer’s workshop hosted by crime author Jen Hilborne here in Swindon I noted down the URLs of at least 12 different author networking sites. Even for someone fairly technically ‘connected’ this was bordering on the brain-numbing – I dread to think what it was like for those who’d just got their email account up and running.

Technology is moving at a tremendous pace, with new sites springing up every day to help us build – or dilute – our online profile. From my perspective I’m sure there’s more I could be doing but at the moment the most I can manage is
blogging, Facebook, Linked-in, e-mailing and tweeting to get the word out about The Journal Writer’s Handbook.

Fact is I don’t want to spread myself so thinly, plus I don’t have the time nor the inclination to keep up with so many different sites. It’s grand that WordPress has got a sharing function which automatically ripples new content through the main social network sites. So as soon as I push the button on my blog I know the update will be visible elsewhere. This way we’re able to focus on the quality of our posts rather than making them ubiquitous.

I’ve started to check out other people’s blogs and leave comments, but again this takes time and it pays to be discerning.  Last week I commented on the blog of Moodscope – a fantastic on-line service to monitor and record your daily mood, and perhaps alert a friend when your mood plummets. It’s of great help to people who have a depressive illness, but it’s also useful for anyone just wanting to raise their own conscious awareness about their state of mind.

Moodscope is one of the recommended resources I refer to in the index of The Journal Writer’s Handbook, and provided me with some of the inspiration for my book’s Mood Index. So last week when Jon Cousins at Moodscope wrote a blog post talking about the value of keeping a gratitude journal to enhance our mood, I couldn’t resist getting in touch to tell him about my book. It was a very useful connection to make, and resulted in a couple of on-line sales of my book.

Similarly Gabrielle Lichterman’s Hormonology website gets a mention in my book – so when I wrote to her last week to tell her she very kindly included a link to The Journal Writer’s Handbook on her page.

And just this week I’ve started to make use of Facebook ads – Yeay – that could be why you’re here reading this, and if that’s so you get an extra special welcome to these pages!

Again, using the logic of following your nose, promoting your book on the internet needn’t be daunting or exhausting. Use the social media sites you’re already familiar with, or choose one and make an effort to get to know it in detail and how it might help you in your marketing. One thing’s certain, whether you’re publishing entirely independently or with a partnership publisher, your online platform is an important part of your life as a self-published author.


Filed under Self-publishing

Life as a self-published author #2

As I’m reflecting back on my life as a self-published author so far – all 35 days of it – I thought it would be useful to jot down my musings here. Of course I would normally do this privately in my journal, but maybe there’ll be something in amongst this lot that others might find helpful. Today I’m looking at the early stages of book marketing.

First off I don’t have a grand master plan for marketing my book. With me it’s more a case of following my nose and doing what feels right in the moment. This is a hell of a lot easier when you’ve actually got a real product to talk about and show – especially if it’s something you’re proud of.

But for the sake of analysing “how I do marketing” as a self-published author I guess I would have to look at the contacts and experiences I’ve had  over the past few years which have stood me in good stead for this phase of the book’s life cycle.

Being a freelance writer in the pay of a local magazine helps enormously. The whole catalyst behind my book coming out in December was because in November my editor offered me space to promote it! See what I mean about following my nose? I’m a shameless opportunist! Though I do find opportunities come along more readily when I’m truly doing what I love.

Traditional and partner publishers often talk to writers and authors about platform building, and creating a network, both on and off-line, of potential readers and fans.

I’ve always hated the concept of networking. That empty formulaic conversation where one only just manages, with the thinnest of veils, to disguise one’s intention to sell one’s product or service. Yuck. It all seems so very calculated and forced, in a ‘must-do-some-networking’ way.

Yet by following my heart and getting involved with a number of groups and events that I hold dear, I’ve managed to build up quite a large network (I suppose) of contacts. But it’s important that the network came about as a by-product of my participation in things that first and foremost I love to do. Reading, writing, expressing ideas and playing golf (!) are all things I love, and taking part in these things has given me a network of contacts well into the hundreds. The more authentic the network, the easier the marketing process, and the more likely it is to be successful.

Add to this the workshops that I have delivered on the topic of journal writing, which served to help me identify my readership – and which helped me tremendously in putting my book together in the first place. It was a great experience to showcase some of my journaling ideas to a paying audience – and to begin to create a small community of like-minded reflective writing practitioners. And it gave me a huge confidence boost that what I had to say about journaling was bringing something new to the topic, and introducing a new audience.

So when my book first came out I was able to email all my contacts advising them of it, just to raise awareness. I made a handful of sales straight off the bat from this process, which was extremely gratifying.

In the next instalment of Life as a self-published author, I’ll be looking at using online networking tools. Check back soon!


Leave a comment

Filed under Self-publishing

Life as a self-published author #1

Just over one month ago I pushed the publish button on Blurb to initiate the first edition print run of The Journal Writer’s Handbook. It was an exciting moment, and since my books arrived I’ve sold a respectable number of them – and not only to people who know me!

To celebrate my first month as a self-published author I thought I’d include the Blurb BookShow in my blog post today, which shows a preview of the beginning of it, and an idea of the indexes at the end. Here it is:

Life’s been full of surprises since I completed the book. The very first surprise came when I held the finished article in my hands. I’d heard countless people say what a special moment it is when you first have your own book in your hands, and you read your name on the front. What surprised me however was that I didn’t feel particularly moved by the sight and feel of the book itself. I saw my name on the cover and thought “about time!” I guess as a writer this is what you’d expect to happen sooner or later. It’s normal.

So no, the physical product, while gem-like and beautiful, didn’t of itself send me into paroxysms of joy. Instead I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and pride in having achieved what I set out to do. Once you’re holding your book in your hands you have the ultimate manifestation of the hours spent scribbling and editing and self-doubting and doing-it-anyway. And for me that is where the joy lies.


Filed under Self-publishing

Journaling to nail the marketing jitters

It’s been an exciting week during which I pushed the publish button on The Journal Writer’s Handbook, thus inflicting my book on the world!

My head’s been full of marketing stuff, and last evening I had the great privilege to join in on #JournalChat Live on Twitter, beautifully hosted by Dawn Herring of Refresh Journal fame, who’d chosen my blog post 7 Astounding benefits of journal writing as #JournalChat Pick of the Week. The chat was awesome – heartily recommended – and I met some great journaling folks from the other side of the pond.

Needless to say, in amongst tweeting, updating Facebook, blogging, amending websites,writing press releases and emailing to get the word out, (the joys of independent authorship) I noticed yesterday that I was starting to get a bit jittery. I know this feeling – mentally I start to jump hap-hazardly from one thing to another without completing anything, and all the while ideas are crowding each other out in my brain. Add to that a deep physical tension like my body is constantly bracing against something, shivering like crazy and with an annoying ache in my jaw, and I concluded that this was certainly not conducive to making progress.  So I did what any wise and seasoned journal-writer would do in the same circumstances, I made myself a cup of tea and reached for my notebook.

I needed to nail the jitters. I needed to rein in my desultory thinking. I needed to be crystal clear on the key tasks that would take me the furthest along my checklist of things to do. I needed to prioritise.

What’s amazing is that within the time it took me to drink my tea I’d written 3 sides in my notebook – and completely nailed the jitters. And here’s how it went:

I named what I was experiencing and described how it felt in my body.

I named what it was I was working on, and described the last discrete task I’d actually completed.

Then my brain went wandering, and I started listing out the next umpteen tasks I might possibly embark on. I swear I got to 7 tasks before I woke up. Woah!

Things were getting desperate so I threw myself a challenge. “What’s the bare minimum I must do?” Fighting talk!

But it didn’t work! Immediately I began waffling on again about this or that I could or should do. What a twit!

“Hang on,” I manfully wrote, “What’s the deal?”

I was running out of tea. I knew it was my last chance. Effortlessly a list of 4 must-do-nows plus 2 nice-to-haves flowed from the end of my pen. I wasn’t shaking any more and I ticked off all my necessary tasks within the next 20 minutes. Phew.

And that is how journaling helped me nail the jitters – and take a significant leap forward in my book marketing activity!

(BTW, click here to buy the book!)

Leave a comment

Filed under Journal Writing, Mood Management, Self-publishing

A self-publishing adventure

Yesterday my hubby, who’s doing all the techie side of getting the Handbook published, pushed the button on to order the first proof of my book. Yeayyy!

I’d written the manuscript in Word, he’d converted it to pdf (though a very specific format of pdf), then uploaded it to blurb’s ‘pdf to book’ service. All this nitty gritty left me cold. “I’m a writer,” I declared. “I need to be doing the writing and I need someone else to do the content uploading and formatting for me.” I’m lucky to have my own technical monkey to help!

Yesterday afternoon I spent in the company of local writers as we listened to crime fiction author Jen Hilborne give us the benefit of her experience getting published both the traditional way and the self-publishing way. It was a very rich workshop, packed with hints and tips about how to use Amazon and social media to promote our books, and how to decide which publishing route to take. I learned the distinctions between self-publishing, independent publishing, vanity publishing and traditional publishing, and it was useful to know that self-publishing is becoming an increasingly respected channel to market.

It also goes to show how quickly things are changing in the publishing world since I started thinking seriously about writing in 2007.  Back then self- and indie-publishing were invariably tarred with the same stigmatising brush as vanity publishing. The advances in digital technology, and the determination of the writing community to exploit as much of it as we can manage to get our words out into the world have completely changed the picture. Now, thankfully, blogs, e-books, and print on demand have begun to steal the market from the vanity sharks, who prey on the delicate egos and vulnerable wallets of new writers through their gushing letters of flattery and boiler-plate promises of authorial greatness.

If you’re a writer local to Swindon and you’d like to learn a bit more about publishing and book promotion online, Jen has offered to run another workshop at Basepoint, West Swindon, in the New Year 2013. Drop me a line at if you’re interested in attending.

If you’re struggling to upload your content into blurb using pdf to book, check out my hubby’s extensive blog on the subject: Blurb publishing.

And if you’re into crime fiction check out Jen Hilborne’s books No Alibi, Madness and Murder, and Hide and Seek via her website.

1 Comment

Filed under Self-publishing