Self-publishing wasn’t for me – or so I thought until there I was with what I arrogantly considered a passable novel on my hands that was obviously going nowhere.
‘Flying Leap’ had been through the NWS twice, once as a partial, and got good reports both times. I couldn’t stop grinning as I read the final one. This is it, I thought, I’m on the way. Then came the rub: ‘…do remember the competition is fierce and having talent is sadly not enough to ensure success; a big dose of luck plays a huge part in such a competitive field,’ my reader warned. Undeterred, I submitted, and submitted, and submitted, until after forty or so attempts I decided enough was enough, as, no doubt, did the lucky agents on the receiving end.
So now what? I made a mental list of my writing ambitions:
- Write – and finish – a whole novel. Box ticked.
- Give pleasure to others with my writing. Unticked – the RNA reader doesn’t count as she may be lying to be kind.
- Make some money from my writing. Unticked – the book tokens I won in a comp don’t count either.
- See someone reading my book on a bus or train. (Is it just me?!) Unticked.
It took only a small leap from there to have me scouring the websites for a suitable cover for my soon-to-be published ebook. After several days at this (yes, days!) I chose a colourful, eye-catching image of a falling leaf but along with the image I had also bought myself a problem: a falling leaf didn’t really fit with my title, ‘Flying Leap’, so – and I don’t necessarily recommend what I did next – I took a long look at my novel, made a few minor tweaks and gave it a new title, ‘Falling to Earth’. As I say, it probably isn’t the best plan to let the cover play such a leading role but it worked for me. After all, this was an experiment so it didn’t matter that much.
Pinning down the genre caused a bit of angst because I genuinely didn’t know what I had written. I examined all the evidence and realised, with some surprise, that it was a rom-com and duly wrote the blurb to go with it. So now I had the whole package ready to go. I won’t go into detail here but suffice to say that Amazon’s instructions on how to publish your book through Kindle Direct are really clear and frighteningly quickly my book was out there for the world to take pot shots at. One thing I would say, though. Send your book to your Kindle and read it there before you publish because that’s the only way to test how it will look and there will be typos and funny spacing, no matter how many times you’ve checked it.
Tentatively I gave the good news to rellies, friends and everyone I vaguely knew but disappointingly few of them owned a Kindle. I joined Twitter and begged a couple of well-known tweeters to retweet me, which they kindly did. I’ve never joined Facebook because of the time factor and I don’t like the whole ethos of it anyway, but to be honest I don’t believe social media makes a jot of difference to book sales. I could be wrong, of course…
Anyway, to cut to the chase, Amazon did a sterling job in promoting my book all by itself. In the first two months I sold only 20. Then I put it up for free for five days (a Kindle Direct facility) which might sound counter-productive but wasn’t because I gathered an astonishing 11,600 free downloads. The effect of this was to send my book soaring close to the top in the ‘free Kindle’ chart and because it hung about in the chart for a while after the free promo ended (don’t ask me how, it just does) its ‘visibility’ was increased and the following month I raked in 1,500 actual sales, which again led to the book hitting the Amazon charts, this time in the ‘paid’ list. At one dizzy point I was only five places behind Fifty Shades! Sales continued at this rate for quite a few months and I can’t tell you how exciting it was to log on each day and check the figures. I’m not telling you all this to blow my own trumpet, mind. I just want to say how it worked for me, and it could work for you too.
I returned to my checklist and merrily ticked all four boxes. I’d made a tidy sum from the sales, not a fortune but far more than I’d dared hope, and people had enjoyed my writing, at least according to the better reviews. (Let’s ignore the others, shall we? Some of them are quite funny though). As for the bus and train thing, one reviewer said she read my book on the bus on her way to work and although obviously I didn’t see her (wouldn’t have anyway, since it was on a Kindle), she said it and that was enough for me.
A year on and ‘Falling to Earth’ has, well, fallen to earth, not with an almighty thump but more of a gentle drifting. Cutting the price from £1.49 to 77p caused a little spike in sales – people do love a bargain – but it’s tailing off again now and that’s fine because it’s what you’d expect.
And what about the book itself? Well, no, I wouldn’t write it again, not like that. I’m still proud of it but it’s not my best work and if ever I succeed in getting something published ‘properly’ I would probably take it down. But it’s been great fun, I’ve ticked those boxes, and yes, if I come to the end of the road with my latest and find no traditional publisher for it, I will do it again because there’s nothing to lose, is there?