I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Prue Batten to talk with me today about her experiences in Self-Publishing. Prue, when did you decide you were going to self-publish?
In 2008. Originally it was POD publication with a UK company funded by the UK Arts Council.
What has your experience been like along the way?
Truly excellent. The POD titles were professionally printed through Lightning Source and marketed via social media. Two years later I decided to take the books I had written at that time to e-book and signed with another independent agency. This agency marketed the books right across the globe. Within a year, however, I decided to take full control of my published works. My husband established an imprint called Darlington Press and my full list is published under that brand.
What are some of the challenges you have faced?
The first challenge is coming to terms with the market and market demands. It’s an energetic, ever-changing place and one relies heavily on commentators like ALLi (specifically Jim Giammatteo), Dave Gaughran, Joanna Penn, Anne R Allen and The Passive Guy to keep one up to the news and developments. The next biggest challenge is the need to put oneself into the public domain and engage on a wide screen with surround sound but at the same time to do it subtly. It’s not at all easy and the ground one must cover to keep one’s titles fresh in the public’s mind is enormous. But one of the chiefest lessons I learned was that there were many people (readers and writers) who were prepared to help.
What have you learned in this industry?
That the independent writer’s world is organic, ever-expanding/changing and essentially filled with people who are interested and interesting. They are all at the cutting edge of the book world and have knowledge that they pool for the greater good. It’s a force majeur and one must listen and be open-minded all the time.
What are the do’s and don’ts of self-publishing?
- Edit, edit and edit again. With a professional editor.
- Have beta-readers who are unafraid to tell you the truth in black and white. If one writes historical fiction, it would be exceptionally helpful to have a beta reader with knowledge of your timeframe and who is prepared to correct any false fact.
- Use a graphic designer for cover design. One who understands the novel first and foremost, the brand, the different size and quality requirements and what fonts work best in a given size.
- Use a professional formatter for digital output and for print preparation.
What advice would you give to a writer who is considering the self-publishing route?
- Firstly join ALLi, the international organization for all things ‘independent’. The organization can provide competent and concise information and advice to new and indeed established authors. Read and learn.
- But understand that before you even THINK to go down the indie publishing road, if you are not prepared to have novels edited professionally in the first instance, then I would say don’t become an indie.
- If you have an editor and want to move to the next step, find your cover designer and your objective beta-readers.
- Then your formatters. Then look for review sites and have the books reviewed pre-release.
- Be prepared to have an active, polite and engaging online presence. The big sellers like Hugh Howey and SJA Turney (to name just two excellent writers) are marvelous communicators and have a following because of that. You should be prepared to engage daily (it need not take hours).
- You need a website (use a competent web-designer and builder). KEEP IT SIMPLE so that it is clean and easy to navigate.
- I would also say blog if you can. I opted to have a blog but also opted to make it a ‘writer’s lifestyle’ blog. I occasionally write a hist.fict or writing post, but I live in an exceptional part of the world and like to share that with readers and writers globally. I write as much as I can as a fiction writer and it’s wonderful not to blog about what I do but about something else entirely. Refreshing.
What are the promotional techniques you use via social media and how much time a week do you spend promoting your work?
I barely ever promote my books officially. Instead, I talk about what I am working on, I place ‘last words of the day’ on Facebook. I pin relevant images to my Pinterest board. On release, I share the first reviews and will ask if anyone is interested in hosting me for their blog. To be truthful however, I much prefer to just ‘talk’ online as if I’m having coffee or a wine with friends. I have been very lucky – readers have promoted me and word of mouth has been most rewarding. In any one day, I would spend perhaps 30-45 minutes online across the social media spectrum.
What are the different sites you use to promote your book?
All the e-book sites although that changes periodically if I wish to promote more heavily on Amazon and I am in that process now with my e-books. My novels are all to be re-issued this year as well and my agent/business manager is just deciding whether to continue directly with Ingram Spark, as we have done in the past, or to publish entirely through Amazon Createspace.
Where do you see this industry in five to ten years?
It is a seriously volatile industry and I would imagine it will change and move forward rapidly. Amazon is the lead player and a major game changer, but Apple is closing the distance. The great thing about being indie is that one is always right on the edge of the breaking wave and so I can only imagine that audio-books will become even more popular and that digital will refine even more and the percentage usage will climb higher. Over half the book sales in the UK in 2014 were e-book sales according to Nielsen data. I view all these developments with excitement.
If something can be improved upon in this industry, what do you think it should be?
My independent writing life is exceptional. I have met astonishing and interesting people and made friends for a lifetime. I never thought I’d sell more than one book a month and yet I have been and remain an unbroken Amazon UK Top 100 Ranker, so to be truthful I can’t imagine what could be improved upon but am open to change for the good on any level.
How long have you been an indie author?
For seven years and it has been more than rewarding.
A former journalist from Australia who graduated with majors in history and politics, I’m now a cross genre writer who is also a farmer, dog owner, gardener and embroiderer. I didn’t plan to be a writer in those early days, I was far more a reader. But like most writers, I’ve always written – seeing the world through the medium of the word. It was inevitable that I become an independent writer simply because I love being at the cutting edge of something and together with many other ‘indies’, being at the forefront of the New Age of Writing and Publishing is like being a sea captain in the Age of Exploration. And I’ve been fortunate – winning silver medals and honourable mentions for my work and to have them ranking unbroken in the UK for the last year.
I try to make time for other things in life. I love wine, chocolate and cooking delectable cakes and biscuits. I mess about in my gardens, dirt under the fingernails and a plant catalogue alongside a cup of tea. I stitch (I love needle and silks) – to wind down. I walk (a lot) with the Jack Russells, but more than anything I like being on beaches, boats or the water – being by the sea is implicit for my writing to sing.