Kay Jay is a 43 year-old teacher, trying to write around that, raising a 9-year-old (with help from my lovely, supportive husband) and training for marathons.
The Good thing about publishing your own work as an unknown, middle-aged author is most definitely the freedom. It’s important to me that writing is fun. Like running, it’s something I want to get as good as I can at, but I’m under no illusions it’s going to allow me to quit the day job. I wrote a book that I would want to read, and I knew that the chances of landing an agent and a publishing deal were pretty much zero, so I didn't really try.
It took me nine years to get 'Dunn' – my ‘darkly humourous psychological suspense’ novel- right.
Dunn is set in London circa 2010 and is named after the main character, Aidan Dunn. Aidan is a self-centred, greedy young man. He’s horrible, and he was meant to be. I like character driven books that give a detailed insight into why people do what they do. I also get fed up with reading books about bad things happening to nice people. I wanted to show how anyone could fall for a psychotherapy cult without creating and torturing nice people. So, that's what I did. My characters are all pretty horrible and my plot is intricate and detailed (more on my motivations for ‘Dunn’ on my blog). It won't be everyone’s cup of tea, as we say in the U.K – but so far, ‘Dunn’s received enough positive reviews to keep me motivated with the marketing.
Self-publishing – The good, the bad and the downright frustrating
There are loads of companies offering self-publishing packages that include cover design, formatting, production, distribution and the terrifying marketing. I wanted my novel to look good and to get an idea of marketing options for future books. So, I went with a company with a good reputation – Matador/Troubador.
My questions/queries were addressed quickly and effectively from the start. The production of my paperback and eBook was a breeze. They listened to me, and I am extremely happy with the end product.
They also offered various marketing options.
I opted for extended eBook marketing, which listed my book for free download by 'reading professionals’ on Netgalley and created an Amazon ad. They also tried to help me get my book featured in local media. This was also all good. I got some mixed reviews, but that was to be expected.
The bad and downright frustrating
So far, I have to conclude that most of the local media here in Sussex aren’t interested if you are self-published and unknown. Even independent bookshops seem unwilling to host book signings (with no pressure to take stock and not even a courtesy reply), and many book bloggers have lists. I knew that marketing was going to be hard, and I didn't expect 'Dunn’ to be a best seller, but I don't think I had really grasped just what a time-eating, draining process promotion would be. Or how restrictive it was to publish with a company that handles your sales and distribution internally. And I don't think I had any idea that no one would give me regular updates on sales numbers. That, and the fact that it's hard to make my book visible, could be extremely demotivating. But I’m not like that. If my short career as a research scientist taught me anything, it was that if one thing doesn't work, you try something else. I just have to work out what.
What's next/what will I do differently
I am extremely pleased with Troubador’s product.
Independent Netgalley listings and Amazon ads aren’t cheap, so the extended eBook marketing was good value.
The social media marketing wasn’t worth it, though. I've done better with that myself and I need to research further marketing options more thoroughly to build my platform (all suggestions welcomed).
I also feel that I had little real choice in pricing and that giveaway options etc are restrictive with Troubador (that may be misunderstanding on my part). I find it really frustrating how little information I get about sales, and whilst this is not entirely down to the company, I feel they should do more here. I also think they should offer to help arrange book signings/ blogtours etc.
I am currently writing a young adult, mythology-based, urban fantasy (just longlisted for the 2018 Wattys), and I will investigate my publishing options more for this one. I am considering trying to get an agent, but I don’t think I would go to the other extreme and go totally independent. I want a well-produced end product, and marketing services that include Netgalley/ amazon ads seem a good idea (though I have no evidence that they affect sales).
Guest post opportunities like this are really important, so I need to do some legwork and try to make my work more visible. I did a blog tour with Silverdagger, and that was well-organised; motivating and fun, but I think I really need to get more of my writing ‘out there’. I’ve made a start with this on Wattpad, but need to check out other options – being longlisted for the Wattys is a great encouragement. Maybe I will look into other competitions and developing a few short-stories too. I'll just keep trying new things.
Aidan Dunn is a man driven by money and power – he just doesn’t have any. What he does have - he thinks - is charm. He’s been honing his manipulation skills as a charity collector for years, earning enough commission to rent a bedsit and keep him in lager. But it’s time for bigger and better things. He needs a break or a meal ticket.
Rich, vulnerable looking Sophie Harris could be the answer.
The problem is, Sophie seems immune to his charms.
When she isn’t at work, she spends her time at a group which she won’t tell him about. Worse still, she won’t commit to seeing him. It’s infuriating and addictive, so when Sophie finally seems to melt and asks him to come with her to a Salvation program meeting, Aidan is putty in her hands.
Because nobody's perfect
At the meeting, ex-model front woman, Yvette Blake, and the program’s charismatic founder, doctor Jeffers, seem to be offering the route to money and power that Aidan seeks. All he has to do is climb the ladder and become a ‘Savior’ with the chance of securing a lucrative ‘Salvation program’ franchise.
The problem is, it costs too much. Fortunately, Sophie is willing to pay for him. She needs recruits to progress in the program, so what has Aidan got to lose? Nothing but his sanity, his freedom and his chance of true love with fellow initiate, Lizzie.
Find Kay Jay at her website, and on Facebook, and Twitter
Where to Buy Dunn
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.