HAVE YOU EVER WANTED TO WRITE A NOVEL BUT DIDN’T KNOW WHERE TO START? OR WONDERED HOW TO SELF-PUBLISH THE NOVEL YOU’VE WRITTEN? LORNA ROTH, AUTHOR OF KICK START, REVEALS TO LLF SOME OF THE SECRETS OF HOW TO GET INTO PRINT
You’ve had a busy life, living in Australia and Los Angeles and making a career in international horse transport. Now that all your family have flown the nest what inspired you to write a novel?
a) A determination to tackle something new and outside my comfort zone.
b) Discovering that I didn’t need to have a Masters of even an A-level in English to be able to write.
c) Wanting to “tell a tale”; to pass on all the details of the funny, sad, bonkers or idiosyncratic situations in which both men and women find themselves post fifty. Then to use my knowledge of rural and country pursuits as a skeleton on which to hang the stories.
How did you find the time to write? What was your writing routine?
Procrastination is the main enemy for writers – including me! On the days when I am not at work, I benefit from a one-hour cycle ride, straight after breakfast. Oxygen to my brain (whatever the weather), always returns me with plot ideas. It is also a good excuse to eat two biscuits with my coffee! I find it really does help (once you are "in the groove"), to stay there. Ignore the phone and remain inside the heads of your characters.
Were the characters based on people you knew?
Loaded question! The answer is both “no” and “yes”. As a complete rookie, I had never really believed it when experienced authors said, "the characters take on their own traits and decisions". Now, I know this statement to be true. A character often begins based very loosely on someone I know, but as the story unfolds and the character faces different dilemmas, I can find myself saying out loud, “No, he wouldn’t do that!” Consequently, my pre-conceptions about plot structure can change.
Did you have to do a lot of research?
I had to research the motorbike scenarios and also the dating and online details. But riding and horses are part of my life.
How long did it take you to write the book?
From the very beginning to release of the printed book has taken three and a half years.
Why did you go down the route of self-publishing?
I made the mistake of submitting my manuscript to traditional publishing houses before it was well-polished. During the time it took to re-write and edit, the landscape of opinion around self-publishing changed. The words "self-publishing" and "amateur" were less frequently sharing the same sentence. The deciding factor for me was … time. It is much quicker to self-publish.
How did you set about it?
I learned a huge amount about all the pros and cons involved by subscribing to Writing magazine.
My decision to go with Matador (an imprint of Troubador), was based on their reputation, the quality of their books and the support and guidance they provided for the practicalities of publishing including website design, marketing and distribution options for overseas markets
Do you have to do the marketing and publicity?
There are various services and options available with whichever company you may decide to use, and each comes with a price tag. I chose to pay for marketing of both my printed and e-book novel. A writer must ask themselves some key questions first. What is your aim in publishing? Is it:
a) To run-off a hundred copies to distribute to friends and family?
b) To make a profit? (Difficult).
c) To tell the story you are desperate to tell and possibly re-coup some of your publishing costs? (That’s me).
d) To achieve fame? (Extremely unlikely).
I chose to get the professionals in on marketing because they have a well-oiled system for distributing all the right information about my book to the big guns ie: W H Smith, Waterstones etc. Will your novel be chosen and included on the website of major retailers? Will it stand out? You may decide to sell exclusively through your own website or that of your chosen publishing company, in which case your marketing strategy will be very different to mine. Think ahead.
Publicity – I shall be doing most of that myself. I know my target audience better than my publisher, and I also know all the local outlets and radio stations to approach.
What have you found are the drawbacks of self-publishing – and the benefits?
a) Speed to achieve publication.
b) Not having to adapt, manipulate or re-invent my story simply to please “the market” or an agent’s idea of what they feel is “trending” on the book scene.
a) Cost – for professional editing, publishing and marketing.
b) I have been juggling balls for months in an attempt not to drop an important one! All the decisions are mine and mine alone – a daunting fact for a debut author
c) Publicity and media coverage takes time and effort. I envy those backed by the clout which comes with a publishing offer.
What words of advice and warning would you give to other people who are thinking about self-publishing – or even, one step back, writing a novel?