*Author Nicky Wells is here to tell us all about her fabulous debut novel, Sophie’s Turn, and to give you the 411 on Self-Publishing!
*Come back tomorrow to read my review of Sophie’s Turn and enter for a chance to win a copy!
1)Why did you decide to take the route of self-publishing?
That’s a really good question. The market for my kind of writing (ok, let’s call it what it is: chick lit, aka commercial women’s fiction) is very crowded. Agents and publishers alike appear less than willing to consider new talent. So, I decided to take matters in my own hands. Self-publishing in electronic format is risk free for the author. At the same time, I get to say where I publish, when I publish and at what price. The royalty program for potential earnings is very transparent. Moreover, if I change my mind on any content (or spot those dreaded typos after publication), I can overwrite the file as often as I like without even interrupting the sales process. So I am 100 percent in control: what’s not to like?
2) That truly sounds wonderful for an author actually. So how did you do all of it?
I was lucky to have a fully complete draft of Sophie’s Turn before I decided to self-publish. I had done several rounds of self-editing over the years, but also had friends, family and work colleagues review and proof my work. That part of the process was iterative, and even then I’ve still found the odd mistake here or there after I published (but… I’ve corrected them all, as per above!).
When I decided to self-publish, KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) was an obvious choice. The company’s link to Amazon meant that I could reach a global market, but it also made it trustworthy for potential customers. The next step was to take my beautifully and traditionally formatted file and strip out anything that looked remotely ‘book-like’: for conversion to e-book, you need no page numbers, headers, footers… not even page or paragraph breaks, except to mark chapters. That turned out to be surprisingly labour intensive!
My husband designed the cover for me following a joint brainstorming session, using traditional methods (i.e., pen and paper) here at home. The result was a beautifully crafted—and it really is crafted—cover page that made my heart sing. We scanned it, converted it into the right format and size… and there it is! Can I just comment that covers are somewhat contentious issues for female romance writers at the moment, as quite a few writers (and publishers) seem to distance themselves from the classic ‘chick lit’ design (pinks, pastels, that kind of stuff). I have to confess, I went the other way: I wanted a pink background, purple writing, a flower, a butterfly. I wanted to signal that this is a cheerful, happy book that will entertain and make you smile. And never mind the battering chick lit is receiving in the press right now, I stand by our cover design for Sophie’s Turn.
Once I had the text file and the cover image sorted, I needed to convert everything into e-book format. For Kindle, I used an application called MobiPocket Creator which was really easy. And that’s it! Upload the whole thing onto the KDP website, put in all your details… and you go live within about 24-48 hours. I nearly cried (well, ok, I did cry) when I first saw my book appear on Amazon for the world to see!
3) You have such a beautiful cover–way to go! Congratulations on becoming an author. Now that you’re work is out there, have there been any challenges that you’ve faced?
The biggest challenge, and one that I naively didn’t anticipate at all, is having to promote my own work. When I uploaded Sophie’s Turn to Kindle, I didn’t have a Facebook account (let alone a Twitter one) and I didn’t really know what a blog was meant to do. That all changed within two weeks, and it was an overwhelming learning curve. I’m still not sure I’m quite there!
That accomplished, I kind of assumed I’d get on with writing the next book. O-ho, not so! Turns out I need reviews, lots of them. And interviews. And give-aways… the whole virtual book tour! Little did I know how much work and mental effort would be involved. That was a complete shock! Now that I have started to establish ‘my platform’, things have calmed down a little. The challenge is to keep the promotional side of things ticking over while getting down to writing the sequel!
4) I’d have to say that online promotion is one of the hardest challenges facing authors today. It takes a lot of effort! What’s been the best part so far being an author?
Absolutely the best part of being an author is when people get back to you and tell you, not just that they really loved your book, but what they loved about it! One reader told me a particular scene set in a particular place here in the UK made her realize after eight long years that that time when her date didn’t turn up, she wasn’t being stood up…. She and he were in different (but very similar sounding) places! Another person told me she really loved the slugs extermination scene… and yet another person felt she was ‘there’ with Sophie in that hotel with Dan… That level of feedback makes it all worthwhile!
5) What tips would you give to writers who want to self-publish?
Acquire a thick skin, fast! Don’t expect too much, too soon. Build your platform before you self-publish (not after, like I did) (still works, but it’s much harder). Find out about bloggers that review books of your genre, and send them preview copies—have reviews lined up before you publish! And don’t give up!
6) Hear, hear! How did the idea for your book come to you?
The idea for Sophie’s Turn was born one night when I was watching TV with my husband. I should tell you that I’ve always had a soft spot for rock bands (especially singers) and do still to this day. So when a program featured one of my all-time favourite movie stars or rock stars (can’t remember now who it was), I made some delighted noises, and my husband teasingly said something like, ‘oh dear, if he ever proposed, I wouldn’t stand a chance!’ I laughed it off, but it did get me thinking: what would I do, if…? And suddenly, I had the core conundrum at the heart of a beautiful story.
In terms of taking the plunge, that wasn’t such a big deal for me. I’d always wanted to write a book, and the time was right for me to do so, especially after I found my story. I spent several weeks planning the plot (in several layers of detailed drafts) until I had a ‘storyboard’ that I could put up on the wall. That was a complete blueprint of everything that would happen in the novel, from start to finish. Obviously there were changes along the way, and my characters took me for the odd ride or three…. But that’s in broad terms how I worked. Full length wasn’t hard to achieve! I’m chatty and prolific… so once I get going, I just produce. In fact, the book you are reading now is actually… ooh, I’d say, a good 10,000 words shorter than the original first draft!
7) Wow–way to go! So did you tell everyone you were writing a novel?
I told a few people when I first started writing. My husband obviously knew, as did my mum and his parents. We’d only recently moved into our new house, so I didn’t really know any local people then and it was a pretty secluded time for me—which worked out just fine. It wasn’t a big secret, but I felt a bit self-conscious about it all until it was actually done. By then, I’d made loads of mummy-to-be friends and met most of the neighbours, so I had a little ‘coming out’ season when the first serious draft was ready to be presented to the world. Which means, I printed out five copies (that was a lot of paper), whole-punched them, stuck them into folders… and distributed those copies far and wide. I got some invaluable feedback from that, and quite a lot of curious questions.
8 ) That’s a brilliant idea. What’s it like being a mom of two boys and a writer at the same time?
Busy, I think is the overriding reaction here. The boys are both full-time at school now, so I get most of the day to do my own thing. That said, I do volunteer in a local primary school and I’m also having to find some sort of paid position as a teaching assistant somewhere soon to help with the bills… 🙂 But when I’m at home, I write. Simple as that! The hard thing is stopping in time to collect the boys from school, and then switching out of writer mode into mummy mode. When you really get immersed in your writing project, it tends to be with you at all times and has no respect for clear-cut boundaries. I get around that by carrying a little notebook so I can scribble down ideas at least when they come to me. I do find that I can be really distracted, and I have been known to hold conversations with my characters… no wonder some people think writers are a little… mad.
9) Lol! Tell me all about your debut book, Sophie’s Turn:
I see Sophie’s Turn as a modern day fairy tale, and it would make a terrific film in the vein of Notting Hill! I call it a ‘rock star romance’ because it involves a rock star, but it also rocks! (sorry, bad pun!) (but very true!). Sophie’s Turn tells the story of one young woman’s entanglement with a rock star… never mind her very recent, but very prior, engagement to her boyfriend Tim. The novel describes how Sophie gets into this impossible situation and how she turns it around. It will make you laugh, and just occasionally it might make you cry.
10) Love it! Are you writing a sequel or working on anything new?
Yes, I am working on the sequel. It features Sophie and Dan, as well as Rachel and someone else… I can’t give away too much here so I don’t spoil Sophie’s Turn for folks who haven’t finished reading it yet! Rachel will have a much bigger, and not always pleasant, role to play. And there will be at least one wedding… possibly two. But who’s marrying who, and why? You’ll just have to wait! I’m hoping to bring the sequel to market within the year.
11) Now I can’t wait for the sequel, thanks for the extra hints! You live in Bristol! What a lovely place, can you tell some of your favorite things about it?
Where to start? The air smells of the sea, even though we’re technically only on the Bristol Channel. There’s a lovely harbor in the city which means you can get that holiday feeling any day of the year, taking ferry boat trips, licking ice creams…. The Downs (a huge expanse of wide open grasslands open to the public) are a fantastic place for walks, picnics, kite-flying, that kind of thing. And Bristol is a really friendly place with a relaxed pace of living. When we first moved from London, I felt I was on a perpetual holiday!
Thanks, Brittany, for your amazing questions and for hosting a stop of my virtual tour for Sophie’s Turn on your blog. I really appreciate the support! 🙂
You’re more than welcome!
*Come back tomorrow to read my review of Sophie’s Turn and enter for a chance to win a copy!