I'm researching how best to self-publish my second children's book and came across a really helpful blog. Most online advice is written by and for US authors, which is helpful for Amazon but not for navigating your way through the UK book distribution system. So here you go:
On Sunday, I ventured out (nervously, I'll admit) to Farfield Mill in Sedbergh, Cumbria for my first official author's outing. Sedbergh was celebrating Sheepfest (as befits a town surrounded by sheep) and I was invited along as a "local author" to read from my book. My kids insisted I brought along our sheep stool to make up for the lack of sheep within the book…
The session was held in Clare Clayton's studio, so we had her original version of the embroidered cover design as a back drop to the session. It was a small gathering and it was lovely to read from the book and chat about families who struggle to deal with Alzheimer's when it hits someone close to them. There was some enthusiastic recognition from the kids when we also discussed how Katie has friends who are "BFF"s one day and your worst friends the next.
I sold some books, chatted about coming into a local school, and enjoyed having the opportunity to read from my book for the first time. Here's to many more such occasions!
Yesterday I was on the road delivering books again as Bookends in Carlisle and Keswick and Shades of Green in Kirkby Lonsdale had sold out. Brilliant news!
So, I have told all my friends, family and colleagues and I'm hoping that at least some of them are also telling their friends, families and colleagues about Mr. Nobody. I've contacted some book reviewers and I know that at least one of them will review my book on their blog, on Amazon and Goodreads within the next 8 weeks. I'm in 2 local papers and in 7 towns around Cumbria. What next? How do I keep the momentum going?
The answer? http://www.extremereading.co.uk
It all started when a friend sent me a photo of her son reading Mr. Nobody on top of their camper van. I thought maybe I could start a twitter campaign for people to post pictures of themselves reading their favourite book in unusual places. That fizzled out. Then a discussion one night with Adrian, my husband, came up with the idea of extreme reading.
This weekend, 5 copies of Mr. Nobody will be left at the top of 5 family friendly Cumbrian peaks, with the idea that they will be read and passed on. You can find out how it works here: http://www.extremereading.co.uk
It's fairly easy to self-publish. It's less easy to self-promote. My hope is, that if this takes off, next year I can promote another new book by a new author. So if you are someone who has found a copy of Mr. Nobody on a peak and you're wondering what to do next, please read and take back to a peak anywhere near you and spread the word. Thank you.
It's been a great day! A mini tour of Cumbria, visiting independent bookstores, resulted in Mr. Nobody being stocked in Sam Read, Grasmere, Fred Holdsworth, Ambleside and The New Bookshop, Cockermouth. And I had met some lovely people and had some interesting chats along the way.
Next I popped into Kendal Waterstones and discovered that Mr. Nobody has nearly made it through the various database and catalogue hoops. Even better than that, the Kendal branch will order copies as soon as they become available on their database. It's all down to that Neilsen book data, mentioned in an earlier post. Well, not all down to that, but friendly chats only get you so far when there's a supply chain system that needs satisfying.
After that, across the road to Kendal Library and meeting Frances, the children's librarian and sharing some mutual excitement over the book! They will be ordering it in soon, assuming I have managed to navigate the catalogue supplier system, which I think I nearly have.
The the day finished in style with a fabulous article in the Westmoreland Gazette! http://www.thewestmorlandgazette.co.uk/news/11405964.Wizard_time_for_South_Lakes_author_as_debut_novel_is_praised_by_Potter_publisher/?ref=var_0
Well, it's been just over 2 weeks since Mr. Nobody launched and I feel wiser already. Things I have learned (in no particular order):
I recently worked on a graduate development programme and to end their 10 month journey of workshops and assignments, we asked them to write a 6 word short story.
Two of my favourites are below:
Thought I was there. I wasn’t.
Need to think before I speak. Shit! (OK, not 6 words but he’s forgiven).
I think if I were to write mine about getting Mr. Nobody published it would be:
Had an idea. Wrote it. Published.
Or maybe this would be better:
Longlisted. Stunned. Rejected. Published. Cheshire cat.
I’ll keep working on them.
It had never been my intention to self publish. I always felt that if my book was good enough, I would find an agent and then a publisher. I knew that many famous authors had received a stream of rejection letters before they hit success. J. K Rowling is famously said to have had 12 rejection letters from publishers before one agreed to take her on, and even then, they only took her on at the insistence of the chairman’s eight-year-old daughter.
So, I was going to brace myself for the rejection letters and keep on trying. After all, being taken on by an agent means external recognition; it’s like a rubber stamp that your work is good enough.
In January 2014, I received a phone call from Barry Cunningham to say that I had been long listed in The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition. I was absolutely stunned. In fact, I think I asked him if it was a hoax call! I nearly hadn’t sent my manuscript into the competition because I only finished a draft two days before the closing date, and I knew the draft was still in need of a lot of work. So when Barry rang to tell me that he loved my book and I’d made it into the final 16, I was in shock. Happy shock.
I spent the next few months editing and improving Mr. Nobody and getting feedback from friends and fellow students from my MA course in creative writing. I was confident that the draft I now had was of a much higher standard than the draft I had submitted to the competition so I was ready to start contacting agents.
I still expected rejections but I thought after five or six, I might strike lucky, especially with the endorsement of the competition long list. After around ten rejections, I decided I’d had enough. I probably wouldn’t have considered self publishing, if it hadn’t been for three things. Firstly, the external recognition I’d been looking for had already come in the form of the competition long list. Secondly, self publishing was becoming more accepted as a professional means of publishing with the advent of well known authors self publishing their own works, often backlists or short stories. It’s come a long way from its roots as vanity publishing. Thirdly, my husband, Adrian, would be able to help with the typesetting, design and formatting challenges, all things that I knew would drive me crazy!
Yesterday, we quietly launched Mr. Nobody onto Amazon as a Kindle edition. It really has been a team effort. The book itself has been through many iterations with the feedback and help of friends and writing pals. Another friend has been my proof reader, another has designed the book cover and Adrian turned it from a manuscript into a book. I would love as many people as possible to read and hopefully enjoy it, not just for me but for everyone who has helped me to get it this far. So, soon I will start to shout about it. I’m waiting for the paperback version to be ready before I do that so that I can introduce it in all its glory. It is a children’s book but I also hope it will appeal to adults, especially those who are coping with a relative suffering from Alzheimer’s.
This is just the beginning: I’ve written a book and published it on Amazon. What happens next is down to how I market it. I’ll keep you updated on how that goes. In the meantime, if you have read and enjoyed Mr. Nobody, please write me a review on Amazon and spread the word. Thank you.
Author of Mr. Nobody, a novel for 9-12 year olds. Currently working on stuff!
Copyright © Natalie Gordon, 2014.