Guest Post: Dipping a Toe into the Digital Pond

Did you miss me? (Don’t answer that.) I don’t think I’ve ever gone for a whole week without blogging without being justifiably far from internet access, but I have been pretty busy. Last Saturday I did a self-publishing workshop in Dun Laoghaire—which I had to do without any sleep, thanks to staying in a haunted hotel room the day before—and then I was hardly home again when it was time to go back up to Dublin for an Irish PEN debate about self-publishing versus traditional publishing. (And a spree in Muji and the purchasing of a box of Ladurée macaroons…) So there. Normal service will now resume, or it should do as soon as I replenish my coffee stocks. In the meantime, here is a guest post by Vanessa Fox-O’Loughlin, who many of you may know on Twitter as @inkwellHQ. In it Vanessa explains why, despite being represented by a major UK literary agency, she has decided to self-publish. Welcome to Catherine, Caffeinated, Vanessa! 

“Any writer who reads of the huge successes of authors who are publishing in digital, must be curious about whether it will work for them.

Working with writers who are publishing both in print and online, through digital publishing houses as well as self-publishing, I have been watching the steep curve in Irish success from authors who have blazed a trail into the global market place, and who are now doing very nicely thank you as their books are snapped up by the increasingly hungry Kindle owning public, desperate for their next fix of words.

Like many writers, I have a stack of completed manuscripts – books that almost were, books that were praised by editors but just not quite right for their list, or the market, or the prevailing mood. And like all writers I love my characters, their lives and loves and complexities. I love it when they do the unexpected, and I love it when they talk to me. But some of them just won’t keep quiet.

Quite simply they have stories to tell – they want to be read.

So, having spoken to a lot of people, having gathered intelligence on exactly how the tide runs in the great digital pond (do ponds have tides? This metaphor could be running away on me), I decided it was time get one of my books out to the sunshine.

So which one?

If you take a look at the Kindle top ten, it’s primarily crime and romance, genre fiction selling in the tens of thousands. Fortunately I write genre fiction, so I reached for a standalone contemporary romance, one with larger than life a characters, a hint of mystery, lots of sexual tension, and lots of crossed wires.

Getting the book copy edited I was horrified to discover just how little I knew about the use of the capital letter, or just how many words crop up, repeated in a sentence. But that’s why getting a set of professional eyes to run over your book is so important – if you are going it alone, as Catherine is always telling us, it’s essential that you go through the same process a publisher would to achieve a top quality product. Your book needs to stand out. There are a lot of frogs in the digital pond, many of whom will never be princes.

A great cover comes next, and professional design is essential. Your cover is the gleam of the dragon fly’s wings as it catches the sunshine. Make it beautiful and everyone will see it.

And then you press a button. It’s like switching on the fountain. It’s as simple and fast as that. After a year spent writing the book, hours editing, and in my case eight proofs of the cover with the very patient and rather wonderful Andrew Brown, your book is published in a micro second.

Phew. Quite a change from the traditional route.

But then the waiting starts, as the sound of water falling from the fountain starts to patter on the surface of the pond, the wondering starts . Will it trickle or gush? Will those savvy Kindle owning readers like it? Will they actually take a risk and invest their valuable time and money in YOUR book. And will they like it?

Thankfully they appear to like my book so far. Launching True Colours as a free book on World Book Day, it went into the UK Amazon Contemporary Romance chart at No.13, and now it costs real money, it’s bobbing along in Women’s fiction and writers at No. 25.

Crucially for me, it’s had three 5 star reviews.

Phew.

So if you like a good read, a page turner to spice up your coffee break and add a little romance to your life (with a generous helping of interior design), True Colours is out on Kindle now! (UK readers can get it here).”

About Vanessa: 

Vanessa Fox-O’Loughlin is originally from St. Albans in Hertfordshire but has lived at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland for (almost) more years than she lived in the UK. Founder of Ireland’s leading Publishing Consultancy The Inkwell Group, and the Irish national online writing resources magazine http://www.writing.ie. She makes time for writing by juggling her dedicated husband, two children, three cats and two fish. Sometimes it gets messy. Represented by Curtis Brown, London, Vanessa writes crime and romance and is on the board of Irish PEN and the Irish adviser to the Alliance of Independent Authors. Follow her on Twitter @inkwellhq and follow @writing_ie for writing tips, interviews & articles.

Praise for True Colours:

“The last time I enjoyed a book this much was when I read one of Jilly Cooper’s doorstops, and True Colours has all the raunchy (but none of the racehorses) page-turning qualities of said books. An absolute pleasure to read.” –KatyO

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4 thoughts on “Guest Post: Dipping a Toe into the Digital Pond

  1. Greever Williams (@GreeverWilliams) says:

    Great post! It is stuff like this that really boosts my confidence in going the indie publishing route! I have thoroughly enjoyed being “in control” of the creativity, even if I have had help along the way! I’ve designed my own cover which I am very happy with and I had great fun working up a book trailer as well.

    And you are so, so, so right about the value of a great editor! After 8 peer reviews and 10 drafts my lovely editor found head-smack-inducing stuff throughout that seemed so obvious once she marked it up.

    Thank you very much for your words of wisdom: “There are a lot of frogs in the digital pond, many of whom will never be princes.” I shall now and forever more endeavor not to be froglike. Congratulations on your book’s success!

  2. Kate Dunn says:

    I find it incredibly heartening to hear such positive accounts of going down the self publishing route. With the world of conventional publishing apparently in such terminal decline, it’s exciting to think that there are viable options emerging and it’s brilliant that writers are generous enough to share their experiences with the rest us. Good luck with the book.

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