Just over a year ago, I self published my first novel, The Duke’s Shadow. I began to think about a story after I’d read a snippet in Bill Bryson’s book, Notes from a Small Island. The author had been visiting Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire and had come across some information about a previous inhabitant, the 5th Duke of Portland. There had been lots of gossip about William Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, known fondly as the mad Duke and the vast family estate which provided him with a self contained world where he could retreat. It was rumoured that the Duke had lived a dual life… and my imagination took over. I completed the first draft during NaNoWriMo 2011. And there it lay for a number of months.
Taking the decision to self-publish was not an easy one but after the book was long listed in a first novel competition in December 2013 I decided to take the plunge. By this time the novel had undergone many changes.
I sought a professional ‘edit’ from a recommended editor, paid someone to create a cover and developed a book trailer for You Tube. After researching the various options for self publication, I prepared the book for print and ebook publication. I was not skilled in any of these areas, my only experience has been part of producing an annual anthology with Writers Abroad.
So a year on, and what have I learnt?
The most important element of self-publishing (and I believe the same for the traditional route) is the marketing element. You might have the most beautifully polished and professional looking novel, with great story, plot and characters but if you don’t spend time-lots of time-shouting about it, no one will know about it.
I haven’t sold enough copies to live on, but I have received some lovely feedback and comments from readers. The Duke’s Shadow was also shortlisted as one of the finest 8 in the Writers Village Novel Award in 2014 and so I’ve learnt that you can’t qualify success in monetary terms. Not that I was surprised.
Most importantly I’ve learnt the value of feedback and support from other fellow writers. I’ve always appreciated the vast benefits of belonging to a writing group, but for this project it was a lifeline, a reason to keep going and believe in myself as a writer.
Would I do it again?
Oh, definitely but I do wish I could magic up a a young, wizzy, confident marketeer that would do the stuff I don’t like doing. But then, that’s just like a ‘real’ job and I’ll have to get on with it, won’t I?
To celebrate a year of publication (and in honour of my granddaughter, Caitlin who shall be 10 on International Womens Day, 8 March) I shall be giving away free e-copies of The Duke’s Shadow for this weekend only. See the homepage sidebar.
Next Week: I’ll be sharing how I resuscitated my writing goals