Welcome to a new feature on the blog – the Indie Author Low-Down. Some of you may remember my occasional Author of the Week spots, where I featured indie authors who had grabbed my attention in some way. Well, this new series goes one step further – here I’m inviting authors to share with us their indie journey, the ups and downs, the highs and lows – the low-down on the whole process. And first to kick off is none other than the author of Inceptio. Inceptio won our cover comp last month, and I’m really grateful to Alison for taking time out of her busy launch schedule to share her experience with us. Over to you, Alison!

Alison Moreton

“Thank you so much for welcoming me to your blog today, Joanne.

My debut novel, INCEPTIO, was published at the beginning of this month, the end of three years of slog – researching, writing, and polishing. It’s a thriller, so it’s doubly exciting!

How I started writing INCEPTIO

I’ve played with words most of my life of my life – storyteller, playwright (aged 7), article writer, local magazine editor and translator. But I came to novel writing in reaction to a particularly dire film; the cinematography was good, but the plot dire and narration jerky.

‘I could do better that that,’ I whispered in the darkened cinema.

‘So why don’t you?’ came my other half’s reply.

inceptio

Ninety days later, I’d completed the first draft of INCEPTIO, the first in the Roma Nova thriller series.

What was I supposed to do with my completed draft?

Of all things, the Guardian newspaper website came to my rescue. Their series called How to Write A Novel – advice from the great and the good, including Robert Harris, author of Fatherland, the famous alternate history story – was a pivotal step. Next, I discovered a critique partner who brought me into her writing group and the Romantic Novelists’ Association which ran a scheme for fostering novice writers.  No, the RNA is not all Mills & Boon – it ranges from light-hearted romance to some very gritty mystery and thrillers by way of historical, paranormal and epic novels all with a strong personal relationship in the story. Frankly, even the darkest of books is a tad empty without an emotional relationship of some kind.

I attended conferences, courses, researched, read, asked questions, joined online forums. I set up my blog on World Book Day in 2010 to keep a note of my experiences and discoveries. I networked like mad.

Not a path of roses

Of course, I made the classic mistake of submitting it too soon, and received a stack of rejection letters. What was wrong with my work of genius? I sent it off to a renowned publishing consultant and found out.  The classics: overwriting, not nailing my story as either a romance or a thriller, but most of all, muddled voice. Voice is how the book sounds to the reader, as if it’s a person telling the story. The words used must be right for the type of story and the tone consistent.  Consequence – restructure, rewrite large chunks and polish, polish, polish.

That done, I started getting replies like ‘If it was a straight thriller, I’d take it on’ and ‘Your writing is excellent, but it wouldn’t fit our list.’  I’d gathered a group of critical beta/test readers who gave me terrific feedback, and  acquired a mentor, Adrian Magson, who had a string of mainstream published crime and spy thrillers to his name.

But I was still getting nowhere. It’s no news that the traditional route of finding a literary agent who then secures a deal with a publisher has become very, very hard. Although they are looking out for the next big thing, agents are tending to stick to sure things rather than interesting things with no track record. As a business person, I can’t entirely blame them!

The revolution

Enter the ebook. It started a revolution. It allowed everyone and anyone to make their work available to the world via the Internet – perfect for the independent author. But what about an independently printed book? The old fashioned vanity publishers who took any text from anybody, grabbed the rights, charged a fortune and delivered a few hundred books are becoming alarmed. Thanks to new Print On Demand (POD) technology, individual authors can have their books printed as and when needed. And vanity printers are threatened by another arrival – the publishing services company who takes no rights, but provides modular services – sometimes packaged together – on a paying basis like any other professional service. Authors can now choose. Authors can have power and control.

So how was it for me?

I was (am!) passionate about my alternate history stories so I decided to self-publish with a bought-in publishing services package from SilverWood Books. They have done all the things a traditional publisher would do – editing, registrations, typesetting, design, book jacket, proofing, etc. Their beautiful cover for INCEPTIO recently won a cover design competition on this site.  I’ve had hours of support, starter packs of promotional materials, marketing guidance – lots of individual help and fast responses to all my questions.

How and why did I choose SilverWood Books?

I knew I didn’t want to DIY publish as I didn’t have the time or skills to do a thoroughly professional job. I set about finding a publishing partner who could provide these on the terms I wanted. The most important thing when you’re paying for services is to ensure you keep all your rights – further information here.

My aim was to emulate the best mainstream publishing products, both paperback and ebook.  I researched, asked other self-published writers and consulted publishing gurus. I analysed information provided by the three companies I’d selected as ‘finalists’ and drew up a list of questions. I then interviewed each company for nearly two hours, plus followed up with email exchanges. Yes, this is a lot of work, but you are spending your hard-earned money so owe it to yourself to make sure you’re spending it efficiently.

I chose SilverWood Books (SWB) for their knowledge, openness and for being book-orientated rather than purely services orientated. If there aren’t books on the home page of a services provider’s website, ask yourself why. SWB offer different publishing packages or you can pick and choose from a menu of individual services depending upon what you want. I chose the comprehensive ‘Tailored’ package at £1750 plus copy editing.

SWB have not only delivered the promised services in a collaborative and consultative way but also on-going support, something vital for an inexperienced author. In addition to a well formatted and designed ebook uploaded to a variety of platforms, I have a high quality printed book with a gorgeous cover that is selling so well that I’ve had to order a second print run.”

Alison Waterstones

Blurb

New York, present day. Karen Brown, angry and frightened after surviving a kidnap attempt, has a harsh choice – being eliminated by government enforcer Jeffery Renschman or fleeing to the mysterious Roma Nova, her dead mother’s homeland in Europe.

Founded sixteen centuries ago by Roman exiles and ruled by women, Roma Nova gives Karen safety and a ready-made family. But a shocking discovery about her new lover, the fascinating but arrogant special forces officer Conrad Tellus who rescued her in America, isolates her.

Renschman reaches into her new home and nearly kills her. Recovering, she is desperate to find out why he is hunting her so viciously. Unable to rely on anybody else, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, Renschman sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it…

Links

INCEPTIO  is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

www.alison-morton.com

@alison_morton

www.facebook.com/AlisonMortonAuthor

Wow! Well, I don’t know about you guys but I’m pretty inspired after reading all that! The photo of Alison in Waterstones talking to a packed crowd is especially interesting … I’ve a stack of questions, and I know Alison is around today to answer some so over to you: What else would you like to ask Alison?

Links to other indie author guest posts: Estelle Wilkinson; Charlie Plunkett; Samantha March; Linda Gillard; Emily Shaffer