The Saturday Spotlight with Jenny Harper – A Journey of Publishing, Self Publishing & The RNA

As regular followers will know, The Write Romantics all met through being members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) New Writers Scheme. Within the RNA, there’s an incredible amount of knowledge and experience that members are eager to share so we’re always really excited to secure a guest Saturday Spotlight with a fellow-RNA member to hear all about their writing journey and any words of wisdom.

Today, we’re particularly excited to welcome Jenny Harper. Jenny has been published, self-published and is also a very active member within the RNA. We bombarded her with questions about these three different aspects of being a writer and she’s rewarded our curiosity with a really insightful and interesting overview of all.

On behalf of The Writer Romantics and our followers, thank you so much, Jenny, for joining us today. Over to you ….

Julie

 

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My writing journey

Back in the early eighties, when I was a young mum trying make my way in the world, I was lucky enough to come runner up in the BBC Woman’s Hour/Woman’s Weekly Romantic Novelist of the Year competition.

I thought I’d got it made. I completed the novel – but it was turned down! Turns out I’d broken a whole load of ‘rules’ for romantic fiction I knew nothing about, and despite kind encouragement from the editors, I didn’t have the time or energy to rework it at that stage in my life.

I was, however, offered a number of non-fiction commissions – three books about Scotland (where I live), several books on aspects of Scottish culture, a history of childbirth. I also did manage to get a romantic novel published (under a pseudonym) and a short book for young children was picked up by Hamish Hamilton.

None of it amounted to a living. I made my money from freelance journalism, writing feature articles for daily and weekly newspapers and for magazines such as Country Living and World of Interiors. I set up a company that produced magazines for big organisations in the oil industry, energy, heritage, banking, insurance and the public sector. I was still writing – but I made real money.

Recently, I was able to free up some time to take up creative writing again– and when my story ‘The Eighth Promise’ was accepted for Truly, Madly, Deeply, I decided I had to get a couple of novels out there. Why waste a great promotional opportunity? I took a deep breath, got my head down, and got to grips with uploading to Kindle Direct Publishing and Create Space. I’ve also found myself trying to learn the inexact science of ebook marketing.

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There are pros and cons of indie publishing. On the plus side, you are completely in charge. You can commission your own cover designs (I love mine, which get loads of praise!). You can price your book as you wish and put it on special offer every so often. You can follow its progress in minute detail – almost hour to hour. On the negative side, you’re on your own. You’re not in a catalogue, you have no expert help on tap. And getting your work visible can eat precious writing time. Do I regret doing it? Absolutely not! It’s fun, rewarding, and I’m making loads of friends on both sides of the Atlantic. Plus, I love learning how to do new things.

Is it for everybody? I can’t answer that one, but I do think that the digital revolution is transforming the lives of both writers and readers. It’s an infant market, and is going to keep on changing and growing, so if you honestly believe your work is good enough, I would certainly encourage you to get it out there.

Would I still like a publishing deal? Yes I would. My writing is getting more accomplished and confident all the time, I’m a grafter, I have loads of ideas, and I believe that any publisher would do well out of me – and the experience I have garnered on my journey. (That’s a pitch, if there are any publishers reading this!). 

 

The RNA and me

RNA stalwart Anita Burgh introduced me to the Association some years ago and I’ve been a member ever since. Soon after I joined I spotted an advert in the RNA newsletter appealing for someone to take over. I’d done well out of magazines and felt it was time to give something back, so I offered my services as designer and production manager, joined forces with Myra Kersner (who was in charge of content), revamped the magazine into the full-colour production we get today, and eventually stood for the Committee.

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The RNA was fast approaching its fiftieth anniversary. The wonderful Katie Fforde took up the Chair and we were plunged headlong into a couple of years of whirlwind activity. There were plans for all kinds of celebrations, Jenny Haddon and Diane Pearson wrote a history of the Association, Fabulous at Fifty, which I designed and – quite by accident – I found myself in charge of a complete rebranding exercise. The ‘new look’ RNA, the RONA logos, the pop up banners, stationery and the website, were all part of this exercise. Oh – and I commissioned the beautiful glass bowl engraved by glass artist Julia Linstead that is now the Romantic Novelist of the Year Award.

(One day, I might even win it myself! Sigh…)

The RNA is a non profit-making organisation. It depends on volunteers to keep it going. Under the current constitution, you can’t be on the Committee unless you’re a full member – but there are still plenty of opportunities for helping out on one-off initiatives, at Conference or events, admin tasks, handling tickets and so on. And if you’re not published, it’s much easier to approach an agent or editor and introduce yourself as ‘the RNA member who handles ….’ than just as a wannabe! So if you have a skill, or even just lots of enthusiasm, I would urge you to get in touch with the Chair or any Committee member to offer some of your time. It can be a lot of work, but you’ll make many friends and have a load of fun too.

Many thanks to The Write Romantics for hosting me.

 

You’re very welcome, Jenny. You can order Jenny’s books through the following links and find out more about her via her website, Twitter and Facebook:

Loving Susie

Amazon.com http://amzn.to/1pfOeR2

Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/1gtESsk

 

Face the Wind and Fly

Amazon.com http://amzn.to/1hGByxC

Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/1gueVZu

 

Please Like me on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/authorjennyharper

 

Follow me on Twitter

https://twitter.com/harper_jenny

 

Visit my website at

http://www.jennyharperauthor.co.uk/

 

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21 thoughts on “The Saturday Spotlight with Jenny Harper – A Journey of Publishing, Self Publishing & The RNA

  1. Fab interview Jenny and thanks for sharing your insight into self-publishing. How difficult is it to get to grips with all that on a scale of 1 to 10 would you say? I’d love to try, but I’m still a bit scared. I think I need to feel the fear and do it anyway, as they say! I can see why your covers get so much praise, they are beautiful 🙂 I really like the tagline for ‘Loving Susie’, so I will pop over to Amazon now and grab myself a copy. Jo

    • Thanks Jo! The process of formatting and uploading is just that – a process. I wasn’t scared of it because I’ve designed books and magazines and know my Mac inside out, but it was time-consuming. It would be a lot easier to pay someone to do it! I don’t know how much that costs though. If you’re not afraid of working your way through Word and digital documents, then go for it! And good luck.

  2. I love your covers too Jenny, especially the tagline too, it looks beautifully hand written. What a lot of wonderful experience you have in writing, I helped run a workshop too once and really enjoyed it, it was televised too. I’m very tempted to self publish too and its really helpful to hear from someone who has already done it, thanks so much for your post 🙂

  3. Fabulous post Jenny. Really interesting to hear about your journey and why you decided to self-publish. I’m intrigued by your story about wind farms as I do work with wind farms in my day job. Going to have to go and download it now!

  4. Hi Jenny,
    Thank you for coming onto the blog and sharing your experiences.
    I absolutely love the covers…they are the sort of covers that, in a book shop, I would be immediately drawn to. I’m afraid I am one of those people who does often judge a book by its cover 🙂
    Could you tell us a bit more about your experiences with Kindle Direct Publishing and Create Space? Also, did you learn everything you needed from websites before you delved into the self publishing option, or attend a course? Like some of the other Write Romantics, self publishing is an option that I will explore later this year but I’m not sure how to go about it. Maybe it’s a case of biting the bullet and just taking a chance, but any tips you can give would be very much appreciated.
    I just bought two books today but now I can line up more, so thank you Jenny.
    Helen R 🙂

    • Thanks for your kind words, Helen. If you are going indie, I’d say you need to do three things. Get edited. Get proofread. And get a professionally designed cover. I failed on the proofreading – I dived in too quickly and because I used to proof read professionally, I mistakenly thought I could do it. Wrong! You are FAR too close to your own work to see the mistakes. And they’re not usually spelling mistakes that a spell checker could pick up, they are things like the word ‘is’ instead of ‘if’ or ‘is’ instead of ‘his’. See what I mean?

      As for KDP and CS: KDP is quite straightforward. You can get lots of advice from all sorts of sources and Amazon do a downloadable guide themselves. My problems all arose from being a Mac user – things just don’t work the same in Microsoft Office for Mac as they do in Word. For example, building a Table of Contents (to help you navigate around the book on an ereader) is straightforward on a PC, but drove me nuts on the Mac. Even the User Forums weren’t much help. It wasn’t till I found a great little clip on You Tube that I managed to get it done, and even then it had to be done manually, which is tedious. Likewise, for CreateSpace you have to embed the fonts, which I believe happens automatically in Word on a PC. In Office (which is Word too, by the way!), you have to save as a PDF. It’s not a problem, it just took me ages to find out.

      I didn’t go to a course, I just jumped in. My RNA pal and fellow indie author Jan Sprenger aka Rosie Dean was a few weeks ahead of me in the process and answered loads of idiotic questions with great patience!

      Strategy is difficult – like, pricing, for example. How much do you charge, how do you run a promotion and so on. (Loving Susie is going on countdown at 99p for five days from 19 May, by the way – tell your friends!!).

      And the hardest thing of all is getting noticed. In a truly overcrowded world, that’s the killer. You do have to be prepared to put in a lot of work on getting readers engaged and I am very far from cracking that one! But thanks to this blog, hopefully I have reached some more people who will enjoy my books.

      The best thing we can do as writers is support each other – so here’s a plea: if you buy my books and enjoy them, please put up a review on Amazon UK AND Amazon US, then tweet, Facebook and share that you’ve enjoyed it. It really does help!

  5. Hi Jenny, as you can see from the comments above, we’re all fascinated by the world of self-publishing. A few of us have set deadlines at which point we will SP if we’ve not got anywhere with our current subs so I’d also welcome insight into the questions raised above. I love your covers so much and they absolutely make me want to read your books so I’ve just downloaded them both onto my Kindle. Thanks again for joining us.
    Julie x

  6. Thanks for your support, Julie – and thanks to the Write Romantics for having me on the blog. Hopefully you’ll see some answers above, but it’s a really big subject. Someone should write a book about it. Oh wait – they already have! (vbg). When you get to the end of the book on Kindle, you will see a clickable link asking for a review. As I’ve said above – reviews really do help, so I’d really appreciate even just a couple of sentences. But the main thing is, I want you to enjoy my books – all writers do, that’s why we write. Please let me know how you get on!

  7. A great blog, Jenny. It reflects your writing – never a word wasted, never too many. However there is a downside to Jenny’s beautiful style – put simply she proved to be too good for some editors but too entertaining for others. I am glad she decided on the self-publishing route and that it will result in her being noticed and that acknowledgement of her talent follows.

    • Annie, your faith in me is what has helped to sustain me – thank you so much for your lovely words.
      By the way, if anyone wants to know to to really write a book, read one of Anita’s for a masterclass!

  8. Excellent interview, Jenny. As more and more fine writers like you take the indie road it will help change attitudes towards self-publishing.

  9. Jenny, I agree with all you’ve said on indie publishing, it is spot on! And you don’t need to pay for a course, you just need folk to help if you get stuck, and they are out there and willing to share. I think the Smashwords guides are the best ones for beginners and they are free to download. Better than the Amazon one, I think for some of the generic formatting.
    I’m in awe of your story leading up to self publishing though – I’m a Kiwi and my mum and I just love those Country Living type magazines.

    • Thanks Joanne. I had some great times writing for magazines. The best Country Living one was flying up to the island of Harris to interview a fantastic old woman who was the last person to make Harris Tweed completely by hand. Wonderful trip, wonderful woman. But that was all a long time ago!

      I have to confess I haven’t tackled Smashwords yet! See how much of a beginner I am!

  10. Hi Jenny, Great article. But now I’m so curious. I’ve decided to write a romance novels and I need to know the rules! Please let me know. When I first starting writing, I too broke all kinds of rules (who knew there were rules to writing a book?) Can’t wait to hear more about the do’s and don’t’s of romance.

    • Oh Abby, if only I could! I don’t really write ‘romance’ ie category romance. I write contemporary women’s fiction, and books always have a strong romantic element. There are other who can tell you the rules! My particular sin, as I recall, was killing the hero in a car crash!! Oops.

      But there is truly an enormous amount to learn about writing novels, I think you carry on learning all the time – and the best advice I’ve ever had is, make sure you keep reading a lot yourself.

  11. Thanks Jenny for some invaluable advice…you are right in that writers need to support each other too 🙂
    Look forward to reading your books..I can’t keep up with the reading lost of all these great people we have on the blog!
    Helen R 🙂

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