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Surviving Self Publishing: One Year On by MC Browne

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MC Browne

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It’s a year since I finished my second creative writing course (Curtis Brown Creative aka CBC) and two whole years since I decided to actually sit down and write a novel. My journey began with acceptance on a writing course (Faber  Academy aka FA) which is both a very very long time ago, and a New York minute, depending on what mood you find me in.

I left CBC full of hope and mindful of how blessed I am to be able to afford the luxury of the experience. I have extensively shared my knowledge of both courses and remain a committed fan of all and every form of education.

Autumn 2014 turned into winter and this year I decided to self-publish my manuscript. A friend who used to be a ‘hack’, on what was Fleet Street, had read through my MS and said it was good enough. Let me share with you – IT IS NEVER GOOD ENOUGH. No matter what you do, someone will find a reason to fault, and of course, they will be right. But to be fair, it wasn’t ready to be published.

Having spent a day or so, OK more than a day, sorting out margins and pages I uploaded the book onto our friend Amazon Kindle. It is free. Completely free. And for every copy sold you either get 70% or 30% of the profit. OK, it is 70% of, up to, £4.99, but don’t let that ruin a good story. Moving swiftly along.

Then came the first challenge – what is my book? It isn’t crime, as no one gets murdered; it isn’t a typical romance in the traditional sense; and all the thrillers without murders seem to have covers of people where their clothes have been ripped off! Oh err. Yes, my novel has romance, and mental health, and there is a psychological aspect, but it straddles all of those areas. The word straddle leads one back into the thriller section. See, you have to be so careful. It dawned on me that in two years no one had copied the Amazon bands of genre and said, ‘Here you are – we can only sell within these boundaries, either find me a murder or make it more mad!’

So if you are yet to finish your first draft, download the Amazon categories and make your novel fit, before you write another word. If that stifles your creativity, just think, you will sell a shed load more if it fits perfectly.

Two unexpected events happened simultaneously.

No 1.  I received a ‘let’s nip this in the bud’ letter from a major publisher (legal speak for I’m going to come over there and rip your teeth out one by one if you don’t do as I say) suggesting I was imitating one of their novelists and objecting to my tweets!

limerenceI would have been concerned in some small way if I hadn’t been submitting my MS to anyone who could read for months. So politely but firmly we agreed to disagree, with the help of my lovely legal expert, a Pinot swilling, posh, sweary, beer buddy who also runs a very non sweary sombre chambers. He knows who he is. I also sent him a copy of my MS after FA and CBC, so that helped.

Another lesson learnt – copy and let someone you trust have copies of every one of your drafts and titles. When he suggested it two years ago I thought he was mad – but listened; see – all forms of education. Oh, and you may believe you are a middle aged women tweeting to no one in particular in the middle of a night sweat but …

The other major event was that I realised that the Amazon Kindle version of my book was a mess. Text jumping like a kangaroo all over the place, word gaps etc. And it was also clear, even to me, that I needed to reformat and edit my book for spelling and grammar errors. It didn’t matter, I protested, as no one knew about it – right?

Then I discovered Create Space. Our friend at Amazon’s print arm. They print your book for free and distribute and sell it on Amazon. And you set your profit margin. Really? Notice though that I didn’t use the word marketing. Although I still needed to solve the need for a MS edit. I stopped relying on my friends and paid an editor to have a relook at the MS. Karma instantly rewarded me for parting with some cash as I discovered Calibre – free software to turn my MS into a jump free Kindle readable copy.

I uploaded the book again onto Amazon, by this time I knew them pretty well, and away I went. Third time lucky. By the way, the other book – by the big publisher – with a great legal department – was tepidly received by the press and readers. My daughter read it and said it was OK but mine was better. She is smart.

I decided, as I now had a new shiny edited version, to amend my title – to the original title. The one all the agents said they hated and I had loved. Limerence, Losing You Saving MeAfter all, my book would now be free of grammar and spelling errors and it seemed like a great idea. Ahh – but to try and change a book title a month after initial publication. Crazy.

So I did it.

So many people wished me well. I remain charmed. Two small publishers got in touch. My local library asked me to do a reading to their book group. I received an initial book order from the USA.

The reviews began. It’s actually worse than sending your MS off to agents, waiting for a response. So far so good. Amazon promoted my book via email. Then again. I did a Kindle Countdown Deal – that is a whole other blog.

The downsides have been few. I tried to join a new group for published debut authors of a certain age and was told it was for ‘traditional published authors only.’ No worries, just a piece of advice to the lovely ones. The word tradition has kept women and minority groups in their place for centuries. It’s an explosive word with a health warning attached. And if you want to sell to the US: be prepared, snobbery is loathed and self-published authors are adored. How are you all going to cope with that?

And that is what I have found. People are truly delightful, critical but flattering with a few angry, snooty or just downright patronising. I have experienced the same nonsense in my past, regarding my accent, the size of my house, the schools my kids go to. I will never forget asking my FA tutor for advice when my MS was called in for the first time, by agent Shelia Crowley. I remain staggered at the response to my febrile message, asking for help. Two words, Good Luck”. I guess not everyone gets that success is collective.

I received a load of five star reviews. OK ten or so.  But all five star. Then someone posted a horrid review. I spent a whole hour and checked the source, (grateful for years of IT training), it lead me to what I now know was one of my close friends. The review was written incognito. That’s life I guess. We did discuss it. There are no winners, just a deep sadness and regret that I checked. Maybe. The five stars keep coming, smattered with a few others, but it’s all good.

The book reached no 66 in June in the US Amazon Kindle chart, psychological thrillers, only for one day, but again another high.

I sent out book copies and a press release in July. In return I have a few articles coming out this year and one of the books, (they have a slightly different cover), appeared for sale on eBay. You have to laugh.

I did a first print run and sold it, then another. Then I crunched the numbers and began a trial offering book shops two for one deals. It has gone well as I only have one left. Upps. Am I making any money? Noooooo. Not in return for the time I have devoted.  Even at 70% the earnings are Calcutta-like and pitifully poor.

But if I convert the joy of a stranger saying, “I read your book and I loved it. I couldn’t stop – my book club are all reading it for next month,” not much else beats that feeling. But feel good doesn’t pay the bills. It could be worse, I could have been drawn to yogi chanting, or knitting.

Where next? I have a couple of writing slots, which are paid. I am half way through a first draft of book two. This time edited within an inch of its life and fitting a specific genre. Someone suggested I donate the earnings from my first book to Cancer Research and it suddenly seems like a lot of money, if I gave it away, that is. Whatever happens I will actually write a specific marketing plan and strategy instead of a bit of this and a bit of that. For me, the education of the last year has been time consuming but hugely rewarding. I have met some really wonderful people who have spent their time and effort helping and advising me, wishing me well, for no other reason than they can. I have always enjoyed helping people more than being helped. Maybe that is why my dreams tend to come true.Who would have thought, little old me, a paid writer, a published author…

(c) MC Browne

About Limerence, Losing You Saving Me

A contemporary romantic thriller – with edge. A triangle of grief, obsession and unrequited love.

Set in New York, Thailand, Sydney and London, it is the summer of 2014. Juliet tells of leading a duplicitous life of appearing to be in a happy, successful marriage with the seemingly steady Mark, while beginning to obsess about her ex – lover, Luka. Interspersed throughout the book are the perspective of Juliet’s husband Mark, and the object of her obsession, Luka. Filling in the parts of Juliet’s life that she cannot see or understand.

Can Juliet trust herself? Events unfold that change everyone’s lives forever.

Ultimately she has to make a choice: to accept the ultimatum of a life with Mark or lose everything.

Limerence Losing You Saving Me is available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon, Waterstones and all good book shops.

About the author

MC Browne was born in the US and moved to N Ireland at the height of the troubles.  She says, “Ever since I was a child, I wanted three things. To be loved. To love. And to write a book that people would love.

In case you are wondering – My title ‘Limerence’ means ‘The romantic attraction to another person combined with an overwhelming, obsessive need to have one’s feelings reciprocated.’

My husband and two children encouraged me to write and finish the book and in doing so it helped me understand what life is like for my children at school – working to get something right – it’s challenging!

I have always loved Juliet – the book is her story. The object of her obsession finally got his name, Luka, in March 2014.”

Find out more at  http://www.mcbrowne.com/

or follow MC Browne on Twitter @LimerencebyMCB

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