Lizzie Lamb on teamwork, the glass ceiling, and that Waterstones event!

Today on the blog we’re talking to the fabulous Lizzie Lamb. Lizzie is a truly inspirational character – a fantastic writer and a whizz at social networking and marketing, as well as being a genuinely lovely lady. As part of the New Romantics Press (formerly the New Romantics 4), Lizzie has recently flown the flag for indie writers everywhere by hosting an author event at Waterstones, Kensington, no less! We were thrilled when she agreed to appear on our blog and had a lot of questions we wanted to put to her. So without further ado, over to Lizzie.blog3

1. Tell us more about the New Romantics Press. How did you meet? What made you form an “indie powerhouse” together?

Originally, three of us: Mags Cullingford, June Kearns and I were members of Leicester Writers’ Club and the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. Adrienne Vaughan joined the RNA, came along to one of the chapter meetings which June and I organised at Grange Farm in Oadby. The rest – as they say, is history. As members of the NWS we were constantly polishing and re-polishing the first three chapters of our novels and synopsis with a view to sending them out to agents. Amanda Grange (RNA chapter member and author of over 25 novels) advised us to grasp the nettle and self-publish through Amazon. This we did. I think we work well as a team because we bring different strengths and skills to the group; we are also good friends which helps – but we don’t live in each other’s pockets which probably helps, too.

2. Did you seek a more traditional publishing deal or has it been indie all the way for you?

In the 1980’s I was looking for an agent and did in fact have one – Dot Lumley. Unfortunately, I couldn’t give my writing the time it deserved. I was Deputy Head teacher of a large primary school and that took up all my time. So, we parted company (amicably) and I settled down to furthering my teaching career for the next 16 years. Now, I enjoy being an indie author and I don’t know if I would be willing to give that up unless I could find an agent/publisher who could offer me a really good deal. Maybe after I’ve finished and published number three in 2015 I might think again about it.

blog43. We’re thrilled to hear about your Waterstones news. Tell us more!

Adrienne and I attended a book launch at Waterstones, Kensington, in the summer and boldly asked if we could host an author event there. The lovely manager said: YES. I think it was probably the appeal of four indie authors appearing together and offering four different sub-genres of romance which landed us the gig. I write rom coms, Adrienne romantic adventure, June historical and Mags women’s fiction. But, who knows? I think he just liked the cut of our collective jib, okayed it with head office and on we went. We’d already had a mini-launch in Waterstones, Mkt Harborough, in February 2014 and were on ‘the system’, which helped. We believe that they are no longer adding new indie authors to their data base – but I stand to be corrected on that one.

4. What have you been able to do/experience differently as an indie writer that you may not have done/experienced through a traditional publishing deal?

We can choose our own covers, set our own price (and raise and lower it) as we wish and as our book sales fluctuate. I have been able to order paperback copies through Create Space as I see fit, whereas some of the agents I’ve spoken to have said the POD would be up to my publisher to decide. I don’t simply want my novels to be available for e-readers, having paperbacks is important to me as I sell them at talks etc which I give to writing groups. And, with Create Space you can order one book or one hundred – it’s that flexible.
We can also say, no – we don’t want to give our books away for free, thank you, as a promotional tool. Or to settle for 35% royalties (or less) when we can get 70% off Amazon. We can also write the book we want with the characters we believe in; I’m not sure how easy it would be handing over my novel and being told to edit it to suit the market/ an agent/editor without any guarantees that the changes would make a better book, or sell more copies. I respond to what my readers tell me that they like about my novels. I also know, to the day, how many books I’ve sold, what I’ve earned and where the sales need boosting – thanks to Amazon’s daily sales figures. I don’t think I’d like to have to wait for quarterly sales figures from my publisher. I can also make the most of Kindle Countdown, Kindle Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited because I’ve stayed exclusively with Amazon. Lots of writers would disagree, but KDP Select works for me. Now – if I could just get a WHITE GLOVE DEAL, I’d be in clover.

5. Conversely, is there anything you haven’t been able to do/experience as an indie writer compared to traditional publishing?

There is a definite ‘glass ceiling’ which is hard to break through. For example, getting my novel into bookshops and libraries (those that are left!), although Waterstones, Kensington, has agreed to take three of each of my novels to see how things go – and have kindly agreed to put my books out on their Romance Table. It would be nice to be reviewed in some of the women’s magazines and to be offered a Kindle Daily Deal with the weight of Amazon behind me. But those things seem to be offered almost exclusively via one’s publisher. I would also like to graduate from the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and become a full member, albeit it a self-published one. But I don’t know how much longer I’m prepared to wait for that to happen. I heavily promote my novels across all media sites and I gather that traditionally published authors are expected to do that in any case. Oh, and, an advance would be nice – thank you very much.
Establishing myself as an indie author has been quite expensive. Some of this cost could have been borne by my publishers – proof reading, formatting for kindle, buying images and producing a front cover and so on. All of the above are allowable expenses against earnings, of course, but you need a pot of money to get you started.

6. As a collective of ten, The Write Romantics find the support we can give each other absolutely invaluable. What value have you found in being part of a group of writers?

Help is just a phone call away. Literally. Adrienne and I talk most nights after she’s finished work, June and I meet regularly for coffee, chat daily over the phone and read our work out to each other and Mags is always on hand to give another perspective to my ideas for taking the group forward. Being a ‘collective’ also means we can ‘divi’ up the jobs, blog posts, promo and so on and spread the workload around a bit. When I lose belief in what I’m doing, I know I can call on ‘the team’ to give me the support I need to keep going. We also have four of us finding out new things about the self-publishing industry and sharing them with each other. Having a ‘tweet team’ helps enormously, too. Going it alone is do-able, but so much more hard work than being part of a team.

7. What does a “typical” day look like for you? (E.g. do you always write in a morning, say, or only check social media at certain times of the day?)

I am one of those annoying people – a LARK. I’m usually at my pc straight after breakfast when I check all the social sites I belong to and comment. Then, after my husband (aka Bongo Man) tells me how many sales I’ve clocked up overnight, I tailor my tweets, blog posts accordingly. I write throughout the day in ‘snatches’, to give my eyes a break from the screen. I very rarely write in the evenings, preferring to watch movies and to recharge my batteries. We have recently bought a second hand caravan and hope to do it up a bit over the winter and then take off into sunset next spring. I always take my trusty pc with me wherever I go as I find if I don’t write for a week, getting back into the novel is hard for me. When in the caravan I generally check emails in the morning and respond, have the day exploring the location where we’ve camped, and then write in the afternoons while Bongo Man and the parrot (yes, he comes with us) chill out at the other end of the caravan. Does the snoring annoy me? Oh yes!

8. Is there a pivotal moment when you can say that you truly felt you were a writer?

I was having coffee with June and Amanda Grange in a local café when Bongo Man joined us with the proof copy of Tall, Dark and Kilted, which had just arrived. My hands were shaking as I couldn’t believe that my book was finally in my sticky little hands. Magic. When I wrote and published my first blog post, joined the Society of Authors and people started asking me for writing advice were pivotal moments, too. I would have to say that our Author Event in Waterstones in November was the icing on the cake for all of us.blog1

9. What’s been your greatest reader interaction moment and why?

It has to be the email I received from a reader in ISTANBUL. She’d read Tall, Dark and Kilted and had cried so much at the end that her husband thought she’d received bad news over the phone. I hope to publish the email in full one day on my blog. I think the other ‘moment’ is when the most unlikely people tell me they’ve downloaded, read and loved my book. By unlikely I mean people who I would never have dreamed would read romance, let alone my novels. I am also quite overwhelmed by the love and support I receive from the ladies I’ve befriended on Facebook. They buy my novels, leave me reviews on Amazon and spread the word amongst their friends. The best kind of social networking IMHO.

10. What challenges have you faced as an English woman writing about Scotland and Scottish characters?

I’ve been giving this one some thought. I was born in Scotland and lived there until I was eleven. My family are Scots and I’ve been surrounded by ‘Scottishness’ all my life. If you are English and want to write about Scotland the best thing is to GO THERE. Although, conversely, Diane Gabadon who writes the Outlander series and D.K. Broster who wrote the Jacobite trilogy The Flight of the Heron etc had never visited Scotland before they wrote their novels. Immerse yourself in Scottish history, movies and read Scottish themed novels by other authors to get a feel of what feels real for you. Scout charity bookshops and purchase large picture books of Scotland and thumb through those for inspiration. Use Google Earth to inform what you write about the landscape and the weather. Be aware of the difference between those Scots who live in the Central Belt and those who live in the Highlands and Islands, their accents are different as is their outlook on life and how they speak. I like to include some Scottish Gaelic phrase in my writing and am lucky enough to have a native Gaelic speaker who helps me with this. Always double check your research if you’re weaving Scottish history into your novel. I’ll give you an example of this: I read a Scottish themed novel recently where the author referred to the hero’s sporran as his codpiece (!) and her copy editor/ publishers hadn’t picked up on it. Hoots Mon!

11. What does the future hold for you and for the New Romantics Press?
My ambition is to write six novels. Three set in Scotland and three set in Norfolk. Then I will market them as box sets. Once I have three novels under my belt with attendant sales figures, I might think of approaching some of the larger literary agencies to see what they can offer me, and take it from there. As for the NRP – originally, we all published our novels at the same time and held joint book launches, but we all work at different paces and that is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. We will continue to support each other and to promote ourselves as the New Romantics Press because we think that more accurately reflects who we are and where we are headed. Whatever happens, we will always be there for each other and our friendship and support for each other will continue.

Lots of writerly support!

Lots of writerly support!

12. What advice would you give to any writers out there considering an indie route?

Think carefully before you set out on this journey. If, as a writer, all you want is a copy of your novel to pass round your friends and relatives, that’s achievable with a little help and lots of hard work. HOWEVER, if you want to make a career of it – be prepared for a hard slog: promoting your current novel(s) and writing THE NEXT ONE. I try to aim for a novel a year, allowing for health and family commitments. In many ways, I’ve been lucky – I had all my social networking ducks in a row before I published so I was able to promote myself and the other New Romantics – if you are doing that from a standing start it can be quite overwhelming. Meet with other writers, learn from them but, ultimately, know who you are and what you want to write. Glue your derriere to the chair and get on with it.

 

 

 

Thank you so much for talking to us today, Lizzie! The Write Romantics are great admirers of The New Romantics Press and we wish all four of you continued success.

 

 

Boot Camp Bride – Romance and Intrigue on the Norfolk marshes – November 2013
http://t.co/0WkwlH8bgg
UK: http://tinyurl.com/bootcampbride
USA: http://tinyurl.com/nnmzjha
Tall, Dark and Kilted – Notting Hill Meets Monarch of the Glen – 2012
http://t.co/xj2T54mE6j
UK- http://tinyurl.com/o9js6pl
USA – http://tinyurl.com/o4vor4z
https://www.amazon.com/author/lizzielamb
http://tinyurl.com/TallDark-Kilted
Hocus Pocus 14 short story anthology
http://tinyurl.com/Hocus-Pocus14
Lizzie’s Links
Amazon page: http://tinyurl.com/mpcv6bn
http://www.facebook.com/LizzieLambwriter
http://www.facebook.com/newromantics4
lizzielambwriter@gmail.com
website: http://www.lizzielamb.co.uk
blog: http://www.newromantics4.com
Linked in: uk.linkedin.com/pub/lizzie-lamb/18/194/202/
Goodreads http://tinyurl.com/cbla48d
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/lizzielamb/
twitter: @lizzie_lamb twitter: @newromantics4

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31 thoughts on “Lizzie Lamb on teamwork, the glass ceiling, and that Waterstones event!

  1. Fascinating and honest insight to Indie publishing, Lizzie. You really are an inspiration and a wonderful success story. I know you have worked really hard to achieve it, though- and it is well deserved.

  2. Thanks, Jackie, and thanks to the lovely Write Romantics for giving me the chance to look back over the last two years. I wouldn’t have got this far without my three mates: Ade, June and Mags. Good luck to all indie writers, say we !!

  3. Hi Lizzie,
    Lovely to have you on the blog and thanks for answering our questions so honestly. It was me who wanted advice on writing about Scotland as I’m currently struggling with my second novel which is ambitiously set in Orkney. I’m feeling a definite need for another research trip at the moment. I had no idea that Diane Gabaldon hadn’t been to Scotland before she started writing the Outlander series. How did she manage?
    I’m so impressed by your Waterstones event. What an amazing thing to achieve! You’re such an inspiration.
    Good luck with finishing book 3.
    Alys x

    • Thanks Alys, I know its not Orkney, but have you read the ‘SHETLAND’ novels by Anne Cleeves. I know its a different island but you might get a ‘flavour’ of the place? I also find reading local newspapers on line helps, too. I don’t know how Diane G managed it, either. Perhaps the romance blinded everyone to the rest of it !!

  4. Great post! Lovely interview.
    Apart from writing smashing books that people want to read, Lizzie works incredibly hard at everything else involved in self-publishing.
    She’s always on to the next idea, new trend – and without her push, The NewR Press wouldn’t have been half as successful.
    She’s very generous at helping others, too – (and at clipping us round the ear if we don’t come up to scratch.)

  5. Thank you June. Ear clipping comes as an optional extra as a member of the NRP. I prefer to see myself as a three line whip. LOL. Seriously, thought, I couldn;t have done any of this without ‘gals’ behind me.

  6. Pingback: Lizzie Lamb on teamwork, the glass ceiling, and that Waterstones event! | New Romantics 4

  7. I know from personal experience that you’re always there to offer advice and support, Lizzie. I messaged you with a question a few years ago. You didn’t know me and yet you took the time to respond and were really kind and encouraging. I’ve never forgotten that. All you lovely New Romantics are a true inspiration, showing the rest of us what can be achieved with hard work, determination, and an undeniable talent. I’ve loved all the New Romantic novels I’ve read so far and look forward to reading more. Thanks for such an interesting and informative blog post. X

    • Sharon, what goes around, comes around. You have work selfishly to support and publicise the work of fledgling author like myself and the other New Romantics. I was very happy to help you as I know how bewildering it can be when one takes the first, tentative steps to becoming an indie author – or otherwise. Thank you for reviewing our novels, too. Looking forward to the day when we can return the favour.

  8. What a fabulous interview. Lizzie, you not only write humorous and romantic novels, but are a true entrepreneur. You sheer energy and enthusiasm is infectious, and I’m delighted for all of you that your joint publishing enterprise has proved such a success.

    • Margaret, you have been such a help to us as we’ve taken those faltering steps to becoming published authors. Like so many authors out there, you have a wealth of talent and knoweldge at your fingers tips. Unlike many authors out there, you are always willing to help, share and give good advice to the ‘rookies’.

  9. Great post! 🙂 Lizzie, you’re such an inspiration to us all. Your wise words, encouragement and support never fail to lift me. This is a fab post, so much detail and written with your usual warmth and enthusiasm. You’re a top writer and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your novels. Congratulations on your success and a MASSIVE cheer for the Waterstones event. It was a great evening and a joy to see how far all of you have come. Chuffed to bits for you! Xx

  10. Jan, it was fabulous to see you at our Waterstones event and we’re so glad that you braved the elements to get to darkest Kensington. A London gig without you would be unimaginable. You;ve been such a help to me – proofreading my work and being a sounding board for my ideas, I can’t wait to read your novel when its published and return the favour.

  11. As always,Lizzie a comprehensive account of what it means to be an indie author. I guess ten per cent inspiration and ninety per cent perspiration. What I do know is I would never have published my debut women’s fiction novel in 2012, nor be about to upload my second (eBook and paperback) without your encouragement, support and chivvying, and that of the other members, June and Adrienne of New Romantics Press And oh the joy, though you know you may never make your fortune, when a reader tells you “I loved your book, and was sorry when I came to the end”.

    • Mags, I can’t wait to read your second novel THE TWINS OF A GAZELLE when its ready to download. Its great to have writer mates like you other three gals. I’;m sure that the Write Romantics know what I mean. As for chivvying – its my default mode. Thirty four years as a teacher have left their mark . . .

  12. Thanks for such a great post, Lizzie, it was certainly informative hearing about your indie publishing journey.
    I feel lucky to be a part of The Write Romantics and it sounds as though we work in a similar way to the New Romantics Press. I know that I’m a lot further along my writing path now that I’ve got my girls 🙂
    Helen R x

    • Thanks for leaving a comment, Helen. There is certainly strength in numbers and I know that when I get stuck or lose the faith, morale boosting is just a phone call away from the NRP gals. I can’t imagine doing this alone, must be very scary. And, as you say, when one of the group has success, it spurs the rest of us onwards and upwards.

  13. It’s been the most amazing experience publishing my novels with Lizzie, June and Mags, and apart from Lizzie’s incredible vision and drive, there are other elements that make it work, June’s quiet yet measured ambition, Mag’s stoical and razor-like assimilation and my ‘let’s give it a go’ almost teenage impulsiveness. It works, and to achieve what we have in two years is amazing. But when all’s said and done we have been writing for many years, we just needed a platform, and a push from some of our amazing friends in the RNA. Great interview Lizzie, telling it like it is.

    • Adrienne, it seems incredible to imagine that there was a time when we didn’t know each other, doesn’t it. When I think that you not only work full time but edit and put together Romance Matters AND you’ve finished your third novel from a standing start, I am all admiration. POwer to our collective elbows!

  14. Fabulous interview Lizzie and congratulations to you, Adrienne, June & Mags. You are all huge inspirations for all aspiring writers, especially me. I think that it’s nothing short of amazing that you had your Waterstones Event, well done. Good luck with everything you all do although I’m sure you don’t need it 🙂

    Helen xx

    • D’youknow Helen – I still can’t quite believe that we held an author event in Waterstones – LONDON only two years after launching. Good luck to the WR girls too, the only thing that holds any of us back is not believing enough in ourselves.

  15. Thanks for joining us, Lizzie, and what a wonderful post. I’m so impressed and inspired by your story and love that you’ve been able to get into Waterstones. Look forward to hearing how those 3 copies of each novel sell and whether they come back for more! Wishing you all continued success. I have one more question, though: Why’s your husband called Bongo Man? Does he play the bongos (bongoes?) or is there another explanation? 😉
    Jessica x

    • Ha ha, Jessica. He’s called Bongo Man because he wanted to remain anonymous in all my posts. He drives a Mazda Bongo which is a sort of camper van which can seat eight passengers. He’s our go-to chauffeur, although I was amused at the Waterstones gig to hear him describing himself as our ‘ROADIE’. And, of course, he loves it when writers and readers approach him and call out; BONGO MAN!! wILL LET YOU KNOW HOW THE NOVELS SELL.

  16. That is a really interesting post Lizzie. I had a similar start in writing to you, I was on and off for about 16 years cos I kept going back to work as a social worker. I know what you mean about scottishness too, my dad was scottish and although we lived in London Scottish things were part of our life, I still call my dogs ‘wee blethers’ although dad’s no longer here! I totally agree about independent publishing, I don’t think I’d be patiently changing my book to suit an editors whims, who is to say that their idea is better anyway?
    Lovely to meet you and to hear about the rest of your group, I’m a member of a similar group, the Write Romantics and they’re a fabulous bunch too, I wouldn’t be without them for anything, 🙂

    • Lynn, Scottishness is deep rooted in me although I sound 100% English. Eileen Ramsey, future Chair of the RNA and fellow Scotswoman came to our Waterstones Event, and we were thrilled an honoured to have her there. We exchanged a few words of Scottish patois and had a good laugh. Just to say that my husband is either known as Bongo Man or – HIMSELF.

  17. Wonderful interview with Lizzie, as I knew it would be. I have downloaded both novels to my Kindle and they look ideal to cosy down with on a wet and wintry day like today. Good luck to all of the New Romantics Press team, it sounds like you have the perfect strategy for success 🙂

    • Thanks for downloading both my novels Jo, they are rainy day reads in this depressing season. Like the Write Romantics, the New Romantics Press goes from strength to strength – long may it continue, for all of us.

  18. Thanks to the Write Romantic girls for hosting me on their fabulous blog – and to everyone who’s left a comment. I’ve flagged the post on Romna today and will continue to RT today and tomorrow on #MondayBlogs.

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