Indie Emily directs a writing destiny

Emily5We are delighted to be joined on the blog today by Emily Harvale, a successful indie author and self-confessed chocaholic – definitely a girl after our own hearts! Emily grew up in Hastings, East Sussex, and now shares a home with her adorable cat, Phoebe, who gets in the way of Emily’s writing whenever she can. When she’s not writing, Emily has lots of other hobbies; many of which, like watching a good movie, are enhanced by a glass of wine. She absolutely adores Christmas, something which you might not be surprised to hear when you review her back catalogue.

Thanks so much for joining us on the blog today, Emily. As you know, a number of the Write Romantics are thinking of going solo. So, we’ll start with the obvious question, what made you decide to self-publish and what do you think the benefits are?

A few things influenced my decision. I have ongoing health issues, requiring a number of operations over the last couple of years, so I didn’t want to contact an agent/publisher and have to tell them I’d be in and out of hospital for the foreseeable future! I received a wonderful report from the RNA’s new writers’ scheme and I wanted to know if other people also thought I was, “a talented writer who would go far”. What better way is there to find out than to ask the general public? I heard about indie publishing via Talli Roland. (I am an indie – for independent – publisher now, thanks to Amazon’s recent change). I’m a businesswoman and, after weighing up the pros and cons and realising there were no cons, I decided that indie publishing was the perfect route for me, so I added the extra chapter as suggested by the RNA reader, and went for it. I believe in jumping in with both feet and life is too short to wait for others to make my dreams, reality.

EmilyThere are so many benefits, in my opinion, that it would take all day to tell you, but the main ones for me are: speed of publication and being able to set my own schedule; choosing my own covers/cover artist; freedom to publish as many books as I want, when I want; not having to write in a specific genre; finding and working with professional editors etc. with whom I have built a good relationship … and money! Substantially more money than if I had waited, or taken another route.

Are there any downsides or things that surprised you about indie publishing?

I was surprised by how simple it is – and how easy it is to make mistakes! Things are constantly changing and it’s important to keep up to date. It’s also important to check one’s own books once they’re live. I recently had a formatting problem that only appeared on certain devices (iPad/Kindle Fire) but on the previewer, it looked perfect on all devices. That was a surprise. Things are not always as they seem. Other than that, I honestly can’t think of any downsides; only upsides. People say indie publishers have to do more marketing but I haven’t found that. I do far, far less than many ‘traditionally published’ authors I know of. I’m a huge fan of indie publishing. HUGE!

Do you buy-in any services to deal with things like proof-reading, formatting and book cover design?

I pay for a professional editor, a cover designer, and now a formatter (I believe in learning from my mistakes). I also pay for a very talented webmaster who has been with me from the beginning and who does lots of clever stuff for me, and not just on my website.

Emily2What approach do you take to marketing, how much of your time does it take up and what is your number one tip for increasing sales?

Er … I do very little marketing. I do some posts on Facebook and Twitter and, of course, send out my newsletter when a new book comes out or when I have my new cover or any other news. When my books achieve a high position in the humour or romantic comedy charts, (A Slippery Slope reached no. 1 in humour and no. 8 in rom com and they’ve all been in the top 5 of humour and top 10 of romantic comedy) I post about that, but that’s it really. I should plan a marketing strategy but it’s something I just haven’t got around to yet. My first book only sold around 500 copies until I did a 2 day free promotion on Amazon in December 2012, resulting in more than 12,000 free downloads. Since then, sales have been exceedingly good and I haven’t had/needed any reduced price promos (my books sell for £1.99; short stories .78p). Amazon did pick one of my books for their Summer Promotion last year, which was a lovely surprise, and I’m sure that helped boost sales even more. I gave away my short stories to my fans for free, as a ‘Thank You’ in December 2013 because I’ve been very lucky and they’ve been wonderfully loyal. I think it’s important to thank one’s fans. I’m fairly certain I could increase sales further if I made some effort at marketing. It’s on my list but it’s not a high priority as doing nothing much seems to be working extremely well – for me – and I’m not sure I’d be any good at marketing anyway! Perhaps less really is more.

Do you or would you ever consider writing in another genre and, if so, would you use a pseudonym?

I’ve written a ghost story (novella) but as it’s a romance too I’ll probably publish it under Emily Harvale. I’ve written a romantic suspense but it needs some work and I’ll decide whether to use a different name for that when I’m finally happy with it. I’m also writing a ‘cosy crime’ but that may turn into a romantic suspense. Yet another plus about indie publishing: I can decide what my books are, aren’t, or may be. I love writing my light-hearted, humorous romances though (yes that’s what I call them) and a lot of people seem to enjoy reading them, so I’m concentrating on those for now.

Would you ever consider representation by an agent or a contract with a traditional publisher?Emily3

When I’ve had my ‘final’ operation this summer, I may think about seeing if I can find an agent, mainly because I’m interested in subsidiary rights. I don’t believe in saying ‘never’ because things changed, but I would only consider a contract with a traditional publisher if the advance and terms were of considerable benefit to me. I’m certainly not seeking a publisher at the moment. My books are selling well and I’m making a really good living on my own by just publishing on Amazon. A large publishing house could increase my readership but I honestly don’t think a small one could. I have friends with smaller publishers and they don’t sell as many books, or receive as much in Royalties, as I do. I don’t see the point in losing money. To be honest, I think I can increase my readership myself, over time. I’ve already had a couple of orders via Waterstones. It may take me longer but I’ll get there.

Do you ever encounter any snobbery from traditionalists about choosing the indie publishing route and, if so, how do you deal with it?

Sometimes, unfortunately, from other writers, but I usually ignore it – or offer to discuss it over a bottle of champagne! Generally I’ve got no time for people who look down their noses at others. Readers couldn’t care less, on the whole, because they just want good stories. The Society of Authors see it as, “a perfectly valid form of publishing,” so that’s good enough for me. Actually, becoming a Full Member of the SoA was one of the highlights of indie publishing. I’d always wanted to be a member of the SoA and I sing their praises from the rooftops. The emails and posts on Facebook and Twitter, I get from readers, never, ever mention it – and as they are the ones buying my books, they’re the ones whose opinions I value. The world is changing; some people may not like it but they’re going to have to accept it or remain in the past. That’s their choice.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process from the initial idea to the release of the novel and roughly how long that process takes you as an indie author?

I’m not a planner so when I have an idea I just sit and write – virtually non-stop. I can write the first ‘fun’ draft (I don’t believe in using the negative term, ‘sh…. first draft’ because writing is fun) in a couple of weeks. I then leave it and work on something else – or tackle the jungle which clearly doesn’t want to be a garden – for a week or so. I then read and rewrite as necessary and as many times as I think it needs it. My short stories are each around 10,000 words and they took just two weeks to write and rewrite. My editor had them for about a week and after the edits were done, I published them. Four weeks from the ideas to publication. My novels (around 75,000+ words) can take anything from three months upwards but if I’m not happy with a book, I won’t let it go until I am. Another bonus of indie publishing: I can set my own schedule and don’t need to ‘rush’ to meet a deadline.

Do you think it’s worth publishing in paperback, as well as digitally and how do the sales compare?

I publish a paperback via Createspace but to be honest, I never check the sales figures. I do get regular monthly payments from them so they are clearly selling some copies. Very few compared to the digital sales though – probably between 1% and 10%.

You’ve written seven novels now, do you find it easy to create new characters and storylines or do you ever worry about unconsciously repeating themes?

The characters just turn up at my desk and tell me their stories. I do worry that they may start to get repetitive and I try to make sure they don’t. I think my readers will tell me if the stories are getting boring but I also think that certain similarities are inevitable. Girl meets boy, girl gets boy – nothing new there. I hope that the path to getting him, and the people involved, are different every time. I did want to massacre everyone at a wedding, once – just to stir things up with a surprise ending – but I decided not to.

Emily4Do you read all of your reviews and, if so, have you had any that you have found it difficult to deal with or that have bowled you over?

I usually read my first few reviews, or if someone has told me via email or on Facebook or Twitter that they’ve left a review, I read that. Most of them have been good but my first one star review filled me with self-doubt. It was followed by some five star ones and that helped. I never read reviews when I buy a book because I trust my own judgement and I always read the ‘Look Inside’ sample, so I realised that it didn’t matter if people didn’t like mine (unless every single person hated it, of course!) and I stopped worrying about reviews. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but that is all it is – an opinion. I hate anchovies, and I’m sure many other people do too, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with anchovies, they’re just not to my taste. It’s the same with books. Some of the reviews I’ve had are wonderful – and all my reviews are genuine, I don’t ask family or friends to post good reviews. That’s futile and a little immoral in my opinion. It’s often the emails, Facebook posts/messages and Twitter comments that really get to me – and yes, some of them have moved me to tears … in a good way. To be told that someone was going through hell but that my books made them feel hopeful and happy is actually mind-blowing! Or that chemo was bearable because of my books! Or that an unhappy divorce didn’t seem so bad now! It makes me feel very proud but oddly, very humble. It also makes me want to write even better books.

If you could go back and give your pre-published self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Stop wasting time; go for it – but use professionals from day one.

What are the best and worst things about writing for a living?

Best: Freedom to do what I want, when I want and to have the money to do it.

Worst: Ditto. If I want to tackle the jungle, or have a long lunch with friends, I can, and do, even when I should be working/writing.

Emily1What are your writing plans and hopes for the future?

That’s the most difficult one to answer because I don’t really plan these days. I suppose I’m planning to put all my books with retailers other than Amazon later this year. I plan to put together some sort of marketing strategy. (Yeah, right!) I plan to continue writing as many books as I can/want to. I hope the future is as good and as bright as the present and that my readership continues to grow. Oh … and I hope I win the jackpot with my premium bonds – but that’s not really writing related; although if I did I’d buy a ski chalet and run writing/skiing retreats, so it sort of is.

Seriously though, I hope more people achieve their dreams by indie publishing and not giving a fig for what some people think.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog. I really enjoyed answering your questions. I know some of you are thinking of indie publishing and I sincerely hope that your experience is as wonderful as mine has been. Indie publishers are a friendly and helpful bunch. I don’t regret it for one second and I’m sure you won’t either. One of my favourite sayings is:

“The future is a blank page. You can write your own, or you can wait until someone writes it for you.”

I prefer to write my own.

Good luck and best wishes to you all.

Emily

It was brilliant to have you on the blog Emily and we hope you’ll come back and see us again soon!

Find out more about Emily and her books at the links below:

Amazon Author Central pages, (.UK and .COM) listing all her books and author bio.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Emily-Harvale/e/B007BKQ1SW

http://www.amazon.com/author/emilyharvale

My website: http://www.emilyharvale.com

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22 thoughts on “Indie Emily directs a writing destiny

  1. Thanks for sharing your expertise so generously, Emily, I have found it really inspiring and I am off now to download one of your Christmas stories. A bit unseasonal, I know, but I am working on a Christmas novella, so reading as many in the genre as possible at the moment! x

    • My pleasure. I hope you enjoy Christmas Wishes, and good luck with yours. Writing a Christmas novella when it’s hot and sunny outside does feel a little odd, I know, but it’s really the perfect time … and it’s a great excuse to bake some gingerbread and get out the Bailey’s! 🙂 xx

  2. Thank you Emily, some really valuable advice here 🙂
    I share your passion with Christmas…it’s winter in Australia and yesterday we started watching Christmas movies as it was dark, cold and raining!
    Just out of interest, was it difficult to find a professional editor and /or proofreader for your work? Are there any pitfalls that we should be aware of?
    Helen R x

    • Hi Helen, and thanks. I love the thought of watching Christmas movies when it’s dark, cold and raining. I’m a little envious to be honest. 😉
      Regarding editors and proofreaders: I contacted the Society of Authors and they told me the names of the organisations/professional associations to look at. My editor is a member of the SfEP. I checked out a few then emailed the ones I liked the look of, based on their experience. I whittled it down to two but as soon as I chatted to Christina on the phone, I knew I’d found my editor. We just ‘clicked’. I had to email her some of my work. Fortunately for me, she liked it and agreed to work with me.
      Professional editors aren’t cheap but their fees do vary. Don’t be influenced by that; go with your ‘gut feeling’. It’s important to have an editor you can build a good relationship with.
      My proofreader is a friend of a friend, so he was a personal recommendation.

  3. Hi Emily, I’ve been really looking forward to reading this post as one of The Write Romantics who has been toying with indie. Thank you so much for your generous and encouraging advice. I made a decision last night, before reading this, that indie is definitely the way forward for me and this has just confirmed what I believe. I know you say you’d have told yourself to just get on with it but I’m curious about timescales. How long did you take to get your first book online after you’d made the decision to go indie? How many books had you written at the time and how long did you leave before launching the 2nd and 3rd ones? I’m in the process of writing a trilogy and am thinking of having all of them ready (I’m editing book 2 at the moment but am also partway through book 3) before I put book 1 out so that I’m well ahead of myself with books ready to go.
    Thanks again for joining us.
    Julie

    • Hi Julie, I’m glad I could help and I’m pleased to see that you’ve made your decision. 🙂
      My journey was odd because having made my decision, life intervened and I lost my confidence. A few months later, when I picked myself up and published ‘Highland Fling’, life knocked me down again so I did nothing to promote it and instead, in between operations and grieving for my beloved cat, Sylvester, I wrote another book. I published that about five months after the first and I set up the two day free, Amazon promotion for the first. Both books really took off and my third book came out about four months later. I aim to bring a book out every four months or so – subject to life and my health problems!
      Many of the very successful indie authors bring a new book out every six weeks or so but I couldn’t do that.
      It definitely helps to have more than one book out and I think that if you brought out your first two at the same time, or very close together, it would help sales. Once they take off, bring your next book out. Some people offer the first for free or at a reduced price for a short period, and that also helps (the two free days certainly helped me!) but there are other things to consider. Covers are very important. People must ‘want’ to buy your book.
      I think it’s a matter of seeing what worked for others and then deciding what may work for you. There are several books on marketing and I’m sure they all claim to have the perfect solution (I haven’t read them so I can’t comment) but the fact is, what works for one person may not work for another. You have to try it and see. Sorry if that isn’t very helpful but if those books had the answers, there’d be many more authors selling books in the millions. x

  4. Emily thanks for such a brilliant post!! I am totally with you and will publish mine this summer. I also think SP is better from a readers point of view, you get a wider range of books too choose from, and some that are great stories but agents/publishers would say are unmarketable.
    SP is the way to go!!! Lynne

    • Thank you, Lynne. I think you’re right about the agents/publishers saying some stories aren’t ‘right’ for the market; that’s happened to at least one of my friends, and her indie published books sell really well. Good luck with yours. 🙂 x

  5. Great post, Emily. I know you’re one of the many indie success stories and your path has been an inspirational one. I’ve been interested in the indie route from the beginning and can see the fun it would be, although I also know it’s very hard work. I have the same questions as Julie, really. It’s great when authors who have gone down the self publishing/indie route take the time to offer advice and share their journeys with us. Thanks for posting!

    • Thanks, Sharon. Indie authors really are a very helpful and friendly bunch. I’ve had help from several and I’ve helped others by passing that on and by sharing what (little) knowledge I’ve gained. We all want one another to succeed and it’s great to have, and share, that support. I’ve told Julie and the others that I’m only an email away if they have any questions they think I may be able to help them with, just ask. The same goes for you. I don’t profess to be an expert but I’ll help in any way I can. 🙂 x

  6. Emily, thanks for sharing your inspiring indie story. I dipped a toe in the water when I SPd a rom-com two years ago and found it a rewarding experience and a fun one too. I may well go there again before long. Good luck with your latest.

    • My pleasure, Deirdre. I’m glad you enjoyed your experience and I’ll go and have a look for your book. I think more and more people will be taking this route but I know that some would prefer to be with a traditional publisher. It’s definitely not everybody’s cup of tea. 🙂 x

  7. Thank you Emily, for all the advice. You’ve been so helpful and forthcoming with information 🙂

    Helen R 🙂

    • Thanks, Helen. I’ve enjoyed sharing my experience. I’m no expert on indie publishing but I’m always happy to chat to people about how wonderful I think it is. It’s certainly been good for me. 🙂 x

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