The Girl Who Came Home: A Guest Post by Hazel Gaynor

Welcome to another week on Catherine, Caffeinated! While I recover from making Mother’s Day dinner on three hours sleep thanks to the Australian Grand Prix (Sky Sports started coverage on the new dedicated channel at 4.30am—although I should’ve just stayed in bed until the race started at six, because Sky Sports F1 is total rubbish. But anyway… ), my friend Hazel Gaynor is going to amuse you today with the story of her book, The Girl Who Came Home. With a stunning cover, timely subject matter and glowing reviews stacking up, I just know this e-book is going to be a huge success. Here’s Hazel to explain how it came to be...

“So, I did it. I finally took the plunge and self-published my novel, The Girl Who Came Home, on Kindle this week. It’s an exciting, nerve-wracking, exciting, terrifying, exciting experience! So, why Titanic? Why Kindle? Why now?

Ever since I was a child, I was amazed by the story of Titanic: the ship, the people who sailed on it and the unimaginable scale of the disaster. From the age of about twenty, I’ve been saying I’d love to write a novel, set on Titanic. People nodded politely. ‘Of course you do,’ they said, patting me on the back. When I was 27, I cried buckets as I watched James Cameron’s epic movie and fell in love with Titanic all over again. ‘I’m going to write a book about that one day,’ I said. ‘Of course you will,’ my friends replied politely, patting me on the back. The dream never went away – I knew I would do it one day.

When I was made redundant in March 2009, I finally set about taking my dream of becoming a published author a lot more seriously and last year (after various ups and downs, failures and successes in my writing endeavours), I started doing some serious research into Titanic – not realising at the time that 2012 would be the centenary year of the disaster. It seems I had got serious about writing this book at just the right time. I mentioned the idea to my agent, who encouraged me to write my book.

I soon became completely immersed in Titanic’s fascinating history, absorbing every detail of the event, from the deck plan of the ship to the handles on the dinner knives to the moving accounts of survivors. Then, I stumbled across the story of a group of fourteen Irish emigrants who left their homes in Mayo and sailed together on Titanic. They are known locally as ‘The Addergoole Fourteen’. I was so moved and inspired by their story that I wanted to write about it. Going back to the notes I’d been keeping for the previous fifteen years and using the new research, The Girl Who Came Home was written over the following four months in a blur of early mornings, late nights, twenty-minute bursts while the dinner cooked, a five hour flight to New York and snatched hours on a Sunday morning while my husband took the children swimming (they are great swimmers now!).

The completed novel was submitted to publishers last summer. Feedback was positive and very complimentary – but that elusive contract wasn’t forthcoming. I was devastated and went away to lick my wounds. I couldn’t bear to see anything about Titanic for months afterwards.

Having read the book, my mother-in-law encouraged me to keep trying to get it published and friends suggested self-publishing. I thought about it, put it off, suffered from crippling self-doubt, thought about it some more, edited my manuscript and just before Christmas 2011, decided to self-publish. I set about self-publishing the novel on Kindle. This in itself wasn’t the easiest of tasks, being a bit of a technical luddite, but buoyed by the self-publishing success I’d seen of fellow authors (Catherine Ryan Howard and Mel Sherratt in particular, I stuck with it.

The Girl Who Came Home – A Titanic Novel was published on Kindle this week. You can click on the link to read the description, or I have also taken the liberty of copying it in below!  I am so proud to see it up there with my name on it. The stunning cover (even thought I say so myself!) was designed by Andrew at Design for Writers and he did an incredible job, capturing the era and the mood of the book perfectly. The image of Titanic on the cover is from a painting by Belfast artist Jim McDonald, who very kindly gave me permission to use his beautiful work. You would be surprised to learn how tricky it is to get an image of Titanic – such is the stuff you learn when self-publishing!

From here, I can only hope that my novel does well and that self-publishing turns out to be a good decision. I am so passionate about the subject and feel a real sense of responsibility to tell the story of the thousands of people who travelled on this incredible ship with the passion, sensitivity and respect they deserve. Undoubtedly, Titanic’s legacy will live on long well beyond this centenary year. And I suspect our, and our children’s, fascination with her story will only grow stronger over time.

Of course I am still chasing the dream of being traditionally published and am already well under way with my next novel which is set in Victorian London. But more about that another time.”

The Girl Who Came Home is available now on the Amazon Kindle Store. Click here to download from and click here to download from

The Girl Who Came Home – A Titanic Novel (the blurb!)

Inspired by true events surrounding a group of Irish emigrants who sailed on the maiden voyage of R.M.S Titanic, The Girl Who Came Home is a story of enduring love and forgiveness, spanning seventy years. It is also the story of the world’s most famous ship, whose tragic legacy continues to captivate our hearts and imaginations one hundred years after she sank to the bottom of the Atlantic ocean with such a devastating loss of life.

In a rural Irish village in April 1912, seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy is anxious about the trip to America. While the thirteen others she will travel with from her Parish anticipate a life of prosperity and opportunity – including her strict Aunt Kathleen who will be her chaperon for the journey – Maggie is distraught to be leaving Séamus, the man she loves with all her heart. As the carts rumble out of the village, she clutches a packet of love letters in her coat pocket and hopes that Séamus will be able to join her in America soon.

In Southampton, England, Harry Walsh boards Titanic as a Third Class Steward, excited to be working on this magnificent ship. After the final embarkation stop in Ireland, Titanic steams across the Atlantic Ocean. Harry befriends Maggie and her friends from the Irish group; their spirits are high and life on board is much grander than any of them could have ever imagined. Being friendly with Harold Bride, one of the Marconi radio operators, Harry offers to help Maggie send a telegram home to Séamus. But on the evening of April 14th, when Titanic hits an iceberg, Maggie’s message is only partly transmitted, leaving Séamus confused by what he reads.

As the full scale of the disaster unfolds, luck and love will decide the fate of the Irish emigrants and those whose lives they have touched on board the ship. In unimaginable circumstances, Maggie survives, arriving three days later in New York on the rescue ship Carpathia. She has only the nightdress she is wearing, a small case and a borrowed coat, to her name. She doesn’t speak of Titanic again for seventy years.

In Chicago, 1982, twenty-one year old Grace Butler is stunned to learn that her Great Nana Maggie sailed on Titanic and sets out to write Maggie’s story as a way to resurrect her journalism career. When it is published, Grace receives a surprising phone call, starting a chain of events which will reveal the whereabouts of Maggie’s missing love letters and the fate of those she sailed with seventy years ago. But it isn’t until a final journey back to Ireland that the full extent of Titanic’s secrets are revealed and Maggie is able to finally make peace with her past.

The Girl Who Came Home is available now on the Amazon Kindle Store. Click here to download from and click here to download from Thanks Hazel and best of luck with your book! 

Special Guest Star Week: Author Rebecca E. Brown

Last week I had an idea. (Dangerous, I know.) There’d been a lot of Me, Me, Me thanks to Mousetrapped’s birthday week (I know it’s my blog, but still) but yet everyone seemed pretty interested in e-books. So why not get some other self-published e-book authors to talk about their experiences, their books and their success? A few e-mails and it was all arranged: an e-book themed Special Guest Star week. This afternoon our final guest poster is Rebecca Brown. Welcome to Catherine, Caffeinated, Rebecca!

Hi Catherine, and thanks for having me on the blog!

So, I decided to go into self-publishing an ebook because traditional publishing is guarded jealously by antiquated ogres and printed books went out with the dinosaurs… er, no!

I had really loved the idea of chapbooks; those little pamphlet-type books that nowadays mostly poets produce but have been used in the past for any type of writing. It seemed like a really brave thing to do, just putting your stuff out there. The same way I have so much respect for people who self-publish a full-length book (and do it properly…). I had also been totally inspired by Catherine’s journey with Mousetrapped.

It seemed to me that this is the perfect time to get into ebooks, especially those of a chapbook size. People want to read stuff, they want it quickly available and if you believe the doom and gloom, we’re developing the attention span of a gnat and need our reading material in short, sharp bursts. I don’t buy into that, but I do think that having technology available such as smartphones and ereaders is great for giving people the chance to read something short and sweet in a pause in a busy day and save the longer stuff for a good sit down time. If anything, I’d say having good quality short works readily available would make people more interested in reading, not pander to hyperactive, 21st century brains. Rant over. Er, where was I?

Yes. So, I have been playing around with short stories for a little while, and had my first short story published with a mobile publisher, Ether Books, with some success; My Beautiful Game was published a month ago and is still one of their bestselling stories. The fame of course instantly went to my head and I decided to try my hand at my own e-chapbook.

Some Life Somewhere is a collection of seven short stories told in dialogue, asking the big questions about life that we’ve all asked at one time or another. There’s life and death and the tricky bits in-between. I had an idea for a title and a cover and took it to my very clever and talented cover-designing husband who said “That’s great, but how about this…?” and did a far better job than I had come up with! I do words fine, but design? Not so much. Just a note to people thinking of publishing an ebook – covers need to stand out, and not just in a lovely big jpeg on your blog page or even in the Amazon listing. If you look at a Kindle or an e-bookstore on a mobile, the icons are tiny and often a grainy black and white. A beautifully detailed picture that works well in print can just get lost and that’s a real shame, so it’s worth making allowances for. Catherine’s book, for example, has that great white band with a big, clear title and it’s easily recognisable. That’s just my tuppence of advice.

The mechanics of it were pretty easy but painstaking. I followed Catherine’s advice from her blog and the Smashwords style guide. It’s a fiddly job, but it’s so important to do properly. Another bit of advice from me? If you know you’re likely to e-publish, do the formatting from the start. Or strip of all formatting until you’re finished and ready to edit. My book was short, and it took a fair bit of time; a full-length non-fiction or novel will require copious amounts of caffeine and cake. Actually uploading the book to Smashwords and Kindle was surprisingly easy, and it really is a huge thrill to see your book listed on Amazon. Especially if it starts climbing the charts…

Because my book wasn’t a long-term project or a full-length book, I didn’t put lots of time into marketing it and pushing it. I made a blog announcement a couple of days before it was published and ran a giveaway on my blog and facebook page. I plugged the book on Twitter a few times, especially in the first few days, and changed my Twitter avatar to the cover. This is when I really saw what a fantastically supportive bunch of people I’ve met on the Internet.  Despite my lack of marketing my book did really well in the first couple of days, going up to number 14 in its category’s bestseller chart and has three five-star reviews. That really does give you a BIG happy moment. We’re not talking loads of sales but it does make you think “Ok, so maybe I’m not so bad at this writing malarkey after all.” It also makes me feel vindicated for spending so much time, er, networking on Twitter…

I am definitely going to do another ebook; probably a novella or maybe even a novel. I have plans for world domination…

About Rebecca: Rebecca is a full time mum taking her first steps into the big, bad world of writing. As well as e-publishing selected short stories, she is a best-selling author with Ether Books, and is currently working on full-length historical fiction. You can find her on her website, her blog and Facebook, and far too often on Twitter. Find Some Life Somewhere on the Kindle store here and in all formats on Smashwords here.
And so concludes my special guest star week. Thank you so much to all who guest posted – it’s been fascinating reading about how different everyone’s experiences are. As for you, dear blog reader, I hope you’ve been inspired to jump on the e-book bandwagon yourself and/or found something new to read!

Special Guest Star Week: “Hot Cross Mum” Hazel Gaynor

Last week I had an idea. (Dangerous, I know.) There’d been a lot of Me, Me, Me thanks to Mousetrapped’s birthday week (I know it’s my blog, but still) but yet everyone seemed pretty interested in e-books. So why not get some other self-published e-book authors to talk about their experiences, their books and their success? A few e-mails and it was all arranged: an e-book themed Special Guest Star week. Today our guest poster is Hazel Gaynor (also known as Hot Cross Mum) who after getting painfully close to seeing her non-fiction traditionally published, decided to self-publish it instead. This is a great piece for writers who feel they don’t have the tech savvy to do the formatting, etc. themselves – as Hazel shows, you can find someone else to do the tricky bits for you and still get your e-book out there…

Why an ebook?

Two years ago, I didn’t know what an ebook was, or a blog for that matter! I started my blog ‘Hot Cross Mum’ as a platform for developing a writing career after I was made redundant and decided to become a Stay At Home Mum.  I started blogging just at the point when the ‘mummy blogging’ community was exploding in the UK and Ireland  and I quickly became part of an influential community of blogging parents.

After being interviewed for  ‘The Sunday Times Magazine’ in January 2010 about the transition from corporate to domestic life, my blog was noticed by a literary agent. She enquired whether I’d considered developing a book based on the blog. I hadn’t, but I started to work on it the very next day!

When it was submitted, the book received praise from publishers in Ireland and the UK and was very nearly commissioned for publication by a UK publisher; but unfortunately didn’t make the final hurdle.  That book has sat on my PC ever since; nagging at me! As ebooks became more and more popular, I started to think about putting ‘Hot Cross Mum: Bitesize Slices of Motherhood’ out in an ebook format.

The ebook market expands on a daily basis and 2011 certainly seems to be the year when, as predicted by publishers and those in the industry, ebooks will firmly establish themselves in the global marketplace – so it’s a really exciting time to be launching myself into all of that!

The process

Initially, I planned to do everything myself; sourcing a cover designer, formatting the book for the various ebook distribution channels and managing all the uploading., but with two young children to look after and a part-time freelance writing job to hold down, I just simply didn’t have the time – or probably the technical capacity if I’m honest – to do this! So, I decided to use the expertise of a self-publishing company, Original Writing. They created the cover (using my carefully crafted spaghetti letters image!), formatted the text and have managed all the technical aspects of uploading etc. It still took a lot longer, and more work, than I’d anticipated – to get the cover looking right and to proof the formatted PDF for errors, pagination etc. But it certainly got the job done and I can guarantee the book would be floundering somewhere in cyberspace without that external input.

Having put so much time and energy into writing the book, I feel extremely protective of it! Also, this isn’t fiction, this is real, honest stuff about my life and my family and I think that makes it all the more important to me. Now it is out there and available for public consumption, I just hope that it is well received. I guess that’s the leap of faith any writer takes when their carefully crafted words are let loose on the general public!


Promoting a book is hugely important – especially for an unpublished author who is self-publishing. Fortunately, through my blog and social media such as Twitter, I am connected into a great network of other bloggers and writers who I have been in contact with. A number of people who have seen a preview of the book are kindly doing reviews and guest posts on their sites. I also approached a number of successful, established authors  and parenting magazine and website editors who have given me some lovely review comments to include with my promotional material.  Having their endorsement was really important to me. I’m also working closely with Irish-based site to generate a publicity campaign for the book. This will include the book being featured on their blog and being promoted as their recommended read. I will also be running a competition, sponsored by directebooks, to win a Sony e-Reader and credit for their ebookstore.

I think that the key to creating a successful ebook is probably the same as creating a successful book in any format; it ultimately has to be the writing which engages the reader and wants them to keep turning the page – or sliding their finger across the screen in this case!  From seeing other writer’s experience of publishing an ebook, it seems to take a period of about 12 months for the word to get out there, for reviews to start coming in and for the sales to really start to increase. I am at the very start of my ebook journey. It’s a daunting but exciting prospect ; who knows where I might be in 12 months’ time.  As they say, watch this space!

Thanks Hazel! Follow Hazel on Twitter here, read her blog here or check out Hot Cross Mum: Bitesize Slices of Motherhood on Amazon’s Kindle store here.

Special Guest Star Week: Founder Vanessa O’Loughlin

Last week I had an idea. (Dangerous, I know.) There’d been a lot of Me, Me, Me thanks to Mousetrapped’s birthday week (I know it’s my blog, but still) but yet everyone seemed pretty interested in e-books. So why not get some other self-published e-book authors to talk about their experiences, their books and their success? A few e-mails and it was all arranged: an e-book themed Special Guest Star week. Today our guest poster is Vanessa O’Loughlin, who has a few words of wisdom for would-be e-publishers. (And I’ll forgive her in advance for use of the word “gatekeepers”!)

One of the things I love about ePublishing is that, as an author, you have full control over your work. This has its obvious downside. Without the gatekeepers – editors and agents – vetting new writers, there are manuscripts being published that need a critical eye cast over them – and a lot more work. But there is something liberating for an author about having an idea, writing a book, playing around with formatting and then pressing a button, and hey presto, having their book on the virtual shelf.

I recently wrote an article for Irish Publishing News about the effects of ePublishing on authors. I called it Finding Opportunity in Change, because I believe that the ePublishing revolution is a major opportunity for writers. Just like when paperbacks were introduced by Penguin in the 1935, bringing affordable fiction to the masses, ePublishing allows readers to access books easily and cheaply (although pricing is another debate) whenever, and wherever they want. In today’s fast paced society of instant gratification, an eBook fulfils a need. And as the CEO’s of Google, Bloomsbury, Harper Collins and O’Reilly Media pointed out at a seminar at the Frankfurt Book Fair last year, if readers like an eBook, they are very likely to buy it in print. But let’s not get into the debate about how eBooks will affect the publishing industry – we’re focusing on writers here, and what ePublishing can mean to them.

In the current climate mainstream publishing houses are cautious about taking on new talent, are instead sourcing work from established writers with established track records. But is it all doom and gloom for new writers? Not at all.  As Julian Gough said on his blog “The only area where Irish writing is thriving in Ireland itself is on the internet, because it’s a direct connection, writer-to-reader.” He’s right that Irish writing is thriving on the Internet, right about that direct connection – but it’s not just through blog posts.

Wherever there is change there is opportunity – and today the opportunities are there for writers all over the Internet. And this is the key thing to remember – as a writer, ePublishing gives you immediate access to a global market – that’s not just Ireland or the UK, but the entire world.

I set up Inkwell in 2006, determined to improve my own writing  –  I wanted to learn the tricks of the trade from best selling authors, and I wanted one day workshops that I fitted into my lifestyle.

Inkwell’s focus is on getting authors published, through workshops, critiquing and editorial services and I know for sure if there had been an Inkwell around when I started writing, I could have saved myself at least three years crawling up a steep learning curve.

I’m constantly asked for advice by new authors – advice I’m is only too willing to give, but increasingly, with my launch of the new Irish national writing resources website, finding the time to do this is becoming difficult. E-publishing presented the perfect answer – Writing to Get Published: Bringing the Dream Alive is less than the price of a cup of coffee and packed full with essential fiction writing tips from the best selling authors who have facilitated for Inkwell over the years. It’s a roundup of the key points all fiction writers need to make their work really sing, the points I cover when talking to new writers.

As a scout for several major literary agents and publishers, I speak to agents and editors regularly and have a good feel for what they’re looking for. It’s a fact that the vast majority of manuscripts are rejected simply because they are sent out too raw. The ink is barely dry on the last word, and the writer dashes off to buy a pile of padded envelopes to get their work out into the world.

Writing is re-writing and the difference between published and unpublished writers, is, as best selling author Sarah Webb puts it so well, bum glue.  The problem is, knowing what you need to fix in your first draft is a major problem for new writers. Writing to Get Published addresses the key techniques you need to master in order to move your manuscript from good to great. So many new writers make the same fixable errors – they just need someone to point them out. Covering everything from plotting and planning to developing character, Writing to Get Published includes information on winning short story competitions and vitally in today’s market, developing your author profile.

So time poor but information rich, I followed Catherine’s brilliant blog post, and formatted my Writing to Get Published manuscript for Smashwords, put it onto the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and recently signed with Collca in the UK to produce Writing to Get Published as an App in the Apple iStore for iPhone and iPad. Collca are traditionally a history publisher, producing the phenomenally successful History in an Hour series and this is their first non-history project – but ePublishing is all about breaking the mold and following the market.

I’m delighted to have been instrumental in many many writers getting publishing deals, whether placing articles, short stories or full length novels, and have successfully introduced many more to agents. I present regularly at literary events and festivals around the country talking about Getting Published – but not everyone can get to an event. E Publishing gives me a chance to pass the tips and advice I’ve picked up to new authors, in one place and in print. In the same way, it will enable you to get your work out to readers when the time is right.

Do I have any recommendations for writers wanting to E Publish? Get beta readers to help you get your work to the highest level. Use a professional editor if you can afford it. Get a really good cover designed. You’ll find cover designers and editors in the Services for Writers section of the Writers Toolbox on Create a marketing strategy that includes online and local exposure – to coin a cliché (strictly forbidden in fiction writing!) your book is a small fish in a big sea and it won’t sell itself. You have to wear many hats to write and sell your eBook successfully, or have a team of friends around you who can offer their expertise – it isn’t a route that suits everyone, but in today’s ePublishing world, you are the boss. Be the boss, manage well and go for it!

Thanks Vanessa! Click here to visit, or here to find Writing to Get Published on the Kindle store.

Special Guest Star Week: Author Lindsay Edmunds

Last week I had an idea. (Dangerous, I know.) There’d been a lot of Me, Me, Me thanks to Mousetrapped’s birthday week (I know it’s my blog, but still) but yet everyone seemed pretty interested in e-books. So why not get some other self-published e-book authors to talk about their experiences, their books and their success? A few e-mails and it was all arranged: an e-book themed Special Guest Star week. Today our guest poster is Lindsay Edmunds. Welcome to Catherine, Caffeinated, Lindsay!

On February 25, 2011, Cel & Anna went up for sale at Amazon and Barnes & Noble in print and ebook editions. It was a proud day.

I took the first steps on the long and winding road to February 25, 2011, a few years ago when I started querying agents. Like any first-time novelist, I had big dreams. These dreams got a boost when I found an agent within a few weeks.  She loved the book except for a flaw in the middle.

Correcting this flaw cost about 10,000 words and required a top-down rewrite.

Eventually the agent submitted the manuscript to editors at several top houses. They turned it down. Careful reading of their comments revealed a second, critical flaw. Fixing critical flaw #2 required another top-down rewrite.

After I made this second fix, I recontacted the agent, who wanted to offer manuscript to a very small publishing house (about the size of the publisher’s garage, I think). I did not see this as an opportunity.

For the first time, I started to think about self-publishing.

The agent and I parted ways. It was an amicable parting, for she did the novel a lot of good. If I had self-published without feedback from her and the publishing house editors, Cel & Anna would have been a poor shadow of itself.

In spring 2010, I contacted several other agents. This time the doors were closed. Most agents didn’t even bother to send a form rejection letter.

By summer 2010, I was on my way. I decided to publish a print edition through Createspace and ebook editions through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

I downloaded Build Your Book by Walton Mendelson, a very good 98-page guide that Mr Mendelson offers free to Createspace members. Like a homeowner who, knowing how to use a few simple tools, decides to build an addition to her house, I started the work of formatting the paperback edition of Cel & Anna.

There was a learning curve. There were more learning curves to come.

I did get help along the way. The book had a excellent copy editor, Jill Groce. Dave Hunter of Dave Hunter Graphic Design created the cover. The ebook editions available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble were formatted by a pro: Ted Risk of Dellaster Design.

During the long trek, I was reduced to tears only once. Not coincidentally, it was when I was ready to give up on something.

The Smashwords upload kept going wrong. (You can read the details here and here.) What kept me going was stubbornness. I had never before fought Word and lost. I would not lose a fight involving the most important Word document I had ever created. I did win in the end.

The early reviews have been what every writer hopes for. Readers like this novel. They gave their time—everyone’s most precious commodity—to read Cel & Anna and thought their time was well spent.

An Amazon reviewer wrote: “Ms. Edmunds has conjured up a believable tale of romance and technology that transports the reader in much the same way Star Wars transports its viewers.” What a compliment.

For me writing is vocational—no better and no worse than other people’s sense of vocation. As I worked on Cel & Anna, I had the sense I was working on my life.

Cel & Anna: A 22nd Century Love Story is about what happens when a guy and a computer both fall in love with a girl. It contains technology, romance, magic, datastorms, buggy software, Intelligent cars, and (all too briefly) a highly caffeinated brand of coffee named Bob’s Wide Awake. It is available in both print and ebook editions from these sellers.

To read part of the story, see a list of characters, and find out some facts about the book, go to

To see what I blog about, go to

Thanks Lindsay! And I have to say I LOVE the sound of Bob’s Wide Awake…

Special Guest Star Week: Author Susanne O’Leary

Last week I had an idea. (Dangerous, I know.) There’d been a lot of Me, Me, Me thanks to Mousetrapped’s birthday week (I know it’s my blog, but still) but yet everyone seemed pretty interested in e-books. So why not get some other self-published e-book authors to talk about their experiences, their books and their success? A few e-mails and it was all arranged: an e-book themed Special Guest Star week. Today our self-published e-book author guest poster is Susanne O’Leary, with Building a ‘Platform’ Using Virtual Bricks and Mortar:

As a novelist, I have always found the marketing side of things hard work. I’m happiest when I sit in my little room writing, completely absorbed by the story and going into what writers call ‘the zone’; when you are inside your characters and living in their world. Then, any thought of practical things, such as publicity and marketing are far from my mind. Ten years or so ago, when my first novel was published, there was a nice marketing manager at my publishing house taking care of the nitty-gritty of publicity. All I had to do was appear for interviews, sign books or give a little speech. Then I would go home and write the next book. Happy days.

With the decline in the publishing industry it became increasingly difficult to get published, even for an author with a good track record and excellent sales. Now, it can take over a year to hear from a publisher about a submission, even with an agent. A little over a year ago, my impatience drove me to pull my next book from my agent and go the self-publishing route in the form of e-books.

I uploaded my fifth novel, Swedish for Beginners on Smashwords and Amazon Kindle in February 2010 and went back to finishing the edits for my sixth novel, A Woman’s Place, checking sales figures on my new e-book now and then, getting a huge thrill at each sale. But when I started peeking into forums for writers, I discovered that many authors sold ten times more than me and that their marketing efforts was a large part of their success. I realised I would have to follow their example if I was to continue to sell e-books. As I am by nature both impatient and impulsive, I hardly ever read instructions or how-to books and I never pay attention to long lists of tips about ‘how to succeed at x’. Nor do I usually have a carefully laid out plan, preferring to learn as I go along (often by making embarrassing mistakes), all of which made my Internet ‘campaign’ rather a hit and miss affair. I chatted here and there, on both readers and writers forums that I found with random mouse-clicks as I surfed on the Internet, with no particular plan in mind.  I joined websites that looked interesting and then forgot my passwords and usernames, making it complicated to go back in and follow up on comments. But I ‘met’  lots of people and had fun. Sometimes I got into trouble with ‘trolls’ and arguments that led to ‘flame wars’, which was quite off-putting at times, until I realised that it was happening in a virtual world and, as long as one was cautious, it would remain there. Some of what happened even inspired me to write my recently co-written murder mystery, Virtual Strangers.

Little, by little, I e-published more books, including some from my previously published backlist and they also started to sell and now, a year later, my sales figures are good and getting better.

Is this as a result of my random chats on the Internet? Maybe. Which ones are the most efficient? I have to say I don’t really know. When someone asked me how I ‘did it’, I had to reply that I wasn’t sure, which earned me ironic comments from writer friends. But it’s true, I really don’t have any idea. That said, I have begun to realise that forum chatting has its limits and it is a good tool for getting your name out there at the start. But after a few months of this, it gets a little tired. It’s not a good long-term plan at all, in my opinion, and I have now changed tack. I feel that building your own blog and getting as many followers as possible on Twitter and Facebook a better investment of one’s time.

Networking and platform building can easily be confused. Meeting lots of writers online is useful for picking up marketing ideas or maybe getting someone to interview you on their blog. But writers who talk with writers are networking. Writers who talk to readers are building a platform. Even though some of the writers you meet may become your readers, the ratio will probably be low, because a successful writer network includes a lot of people who have no interest in your genre. Compare that to a platform where the majority of the participants are not just interested in your genre- they’re interested in you. As one perceptive writer said in a forum:  ‘networking is the oil in your engine. Platform is the fuel’

Now that I have, yet again, learned after the event, with my usual ‘cart before the horse’ method, I realise that: 1) working on my own blog and 2) using Twitter are two very important elements in platform building. The blog is a great way to get your own voice out there and it’s amazing how powerful one little article can be. I write about anything at all really, bits and pieces of my stories, fun thoughts and musings and  also about my experiences of writing and publishing on the Internet. I see it as a writer having a weekly column in a newspaper and if you’re lucky, readers out there will find it and then go onto your books. Or maybe not.

Facebook comes a close third but there are different ways of using this particular social network. You can either have two accounts; one for family and friends, one for your fan or author page. I prefer to have only one; it’s less confusing and, in any case, I want my real life friends and family to read my books and share my news, either personal or professional.

My next move? I’m going back into the ‘zone.’

You can read Susanne’s blog here,  visit her website here and her Amazon Author page here where you can view all her titles. Thanks Susanne!

Special Guest Star Week: Author Sally Clements

Last week I had an idea. (Dangerous, I know.) There’d been a lot of Me, Me, Me thanks to Mousetrapped’s birthday week (I know it’s my blog, but still) but yet everyone seemed pretty interested in e-books. So why not get some other self-published e-book authors to talk about their experiences, their books and their success? A few e-mails and it was all arranged: an e-book themed Special Guest Star week. Starting us off is author Sally Clements. Welcome to Catherine, Caffeinated, Sally!

Thanks very much, Catherine, for having me here today – it’s great to get out of the house!

I’m a newly published author, writing romance and crime, although the only genre that I have ‘out there’ at the moment is romance. My first book, Catch Me A Catch, was published by The Wild Rose Press last July. I saw a mention of Wild Rose on the inkwell newsletter (which you can have sent to you, just check out which is a great resource. Before being published, I wanted to hold a paperback in my hand with my name on the cover, and see myself on a shelf in bookshops everywhere (lol).

Once I started trying to become published I discovered how difficult this aim would be to realise. I decided to send the manuscript to Wild Rose, because I hadn’t really got to grips with the idea of self-publishing. And I also thought that I needed editing experience, which I hadn’t really had at that point. I found the entire experience very illuminating, learnt a lot, and scored a knockout cover, so I’m very happy to have gone with them for my first book. I’d also been through the Romantic Novelists Association new writers’ scheme, which gives great feedback on manuscripts for new writers.

As a bonus, Catch Me A Catch is up for the Joan Hessayon Award in May 2011, so I’ll be travelling to London to see how it’s fared. Wish me luck!

With my second book, Bound to Love, I decided to approach new UK publisher, Embrace Books. I wanted to get a feel for both markets, UK and US, and thought that publishing with Embrace would give me that opportunity. Once again, it was a positive experience, and Bound to Love came out on Valentine’s Day as one of their launch titles in both e-book and print.

In January, I’d become aware that a lot of other authors were doing it differently, and I liked what I was hearing about the self-publishing/indie option. I’d had a few short stories published in New York magazine, Love Stories Magazine, and had three unpublished stories that I thought would make a great collection. So after reading this blog, and carefully following all the instructions (which are great, so thank you, Catherine!) I produced New Beginnings, a collection of three, sweet romances about the beginnings of love. The release of New Beginnings coincided with Bound to Love, so I had two new books on Amazon on the same week! I also published on Smashwords, so that I had all markets covered.

I haven’t really any figures on sales so far, but it’s early days, and I feel I’m still getting my name out there. I’ve just altered my sales price on New Beginnings to 99c, and am spending a lot of time meeting new people on boards and blogs everywhere. I’ve found very welcoming and interesting, although I’m a complete newbie over there, just joined at the beginning of April!  I see no reason why an author should be constrained to one or other method of publishing – it’s so easy to self-publish, I think we should all give it a go!

In breaking news, I sold a new book yesterday to The Wild Rose Press, titled Love on the Vine, and I have another out for consideration. I’m working on a new story at the moment.

Thanks for having me again, Catherine! Love your blog.

Thank you so much Sally – and congrats on Love on the Vine!

You can find Sally’s blog here, follow her on Twitter here or visit Minxes of Romance here. The links to her books in the post are on’s Kindle store; you can find them on here: Catch Me A Catch, Bound to Love, New Beginnings.