How Not to Self Publish, the Rosen Trevithick Way
Books on self-publishing are two-a-penny now. Every author who wants to be noticed writes a book about self-publishing. I've read a few of them and some are fantastic. Others, not so much. Self-publishing is an attractive choice for some: one click and the book is online. No agents, no publishers to convince – just get it out there. You get 35% or 70% royalties. An author has the freedom to choose his own covers and the manner in which he markets and the book stays online, forever. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
It’s not. Traditional publishing companies have experience first-time self-published authors don’t. They have contacts indies might never have. They know the business of publishing. Successful self-published authors consider themselves both authors and publishers, so they have a lot to learn beyond writing a great book.
What Rosen Trevithick has done is lighten the load of that learning. She has made it fun. In How Not to Self-Publish, she has taken a self-deprecating look at what can go wrong, and how to avoid those mistakes. It's a cosy-up with a mug of coffee sort of read, but the lessons will stay with you.
So I thought I'd ask her about it...
What was the catalyst moment which made you decide to write How Not to Self-Publish?
I jotted down a series of scenarios over two or three years. I hadn’t decided whether to publish them, share them with close friends, or keep them for just my own amusement.
Then a number of catalysts stacked up like Jenga, until the tower toppled and I decided to publish.
Catalysts included things like being frustrated with self-appointed ‘experts’ trying to tell everybody what to do, stumbling across painfully unprofessional books while creating long lists for the SpaSpa awards and having, on a daily basis, to deal with people who can’t define the word ‘title’.
Every morning I sit with my cornflakes sifting through submissions for the Indie Book Bargains daily newsletter and despite clear instructions ‘Enter the book title and only the book title’ almost every submission included some form of extraneous keyword.
Eventually, I snapped. Alienating a minority of readers seemed like a small price to pay in exchange for bashing out the use of ‘you’ll laugh your head off LOL’ in book titles.
How long do you generally research before beginning the first draft of a project like How Not to Self-Publish?
Fortunately, How Not to Self-Publish didn’t require much proactive research. I waited until ideas presented themselves and then added them to the manuscript. When the project was almost finished I had a quick peak at the contents pages of serious self-publishing guides to help fill in a few gaps.
Where does your inspiration tend to come from?
The inspiration came from my own experiences as a self-published author. Many of the scenarios are based on learning the hard way – making a blunder and then regretting it. The few scenarios based on people who tried to fleece the system were inspired by authors who made me cross. Writing helped let out my frustration.
What do you think authors will think of it? What do you want them to take from it?
I hope that new and aspiring authors will see it as a light-hearted way to learn a rope or two, and that it with resonate with experienced authors who share some of my frustrations. I don’t expect the contents to be viewed as serious advice.
Although the book is written from my point of view, I’m not writing as my true self. Instead I’m writing as a painfully self-assured, one-dimensional caricature. I hope that authors will get the joke but it does concern me that one or two might take certain remarks seriously, e.g.
‘Just quietly enjoy the fact that the reviewer does not possess the level of intelligence necessary to identify satire, when you and all your talented friends do. You can’t help having an IQ of 135 (snigger).’
How long did it take to write the first draft?
I really couldn’t tell you. I spent an hour here or there over a long period of time.
How many times did you edit that draft yourself?
The earlier scenarios were editing four or five times before going off to my editor. The later scenarios were edited two or three times.
What is your writing background and how have you developed your craft?
I’ve always written as a hobby but haven’t had any formal creative writing lessons since my GCSEs. In the mid-noughties I started writing blogs and that eventually led to writing longer stories. I take a very experimental approach – I write things that I would like to read and then use readers’ reactions to refine my next project. Publishing online helps me connect with readers and take a client-focussed approach to developing my work.
Do you use a professional editor? If so, for what – developmental editing, line editing or copyediting? Or a combination?
My main editor is Olivia Wood from TextMender. We’ve worked together on a number of books and the continuity has certainly been beneficial. She’s familiar with me author voice and therefore can easily distinguish what I meant to say from what I accidentally said. I always get a proofread but she often gets involved at the line-editing stage, too. This input greatly improves my work and I’d encourage all authors to employ a line-editor and proofreader if they can.
Like many others, I worked with David Wailing on my submissions for Off the KUF. He is a strong editor and though his business Storywork Editing Services is fairly young, his experience is in editing independently-published fiction.
I also use beta readers. There are many lovely people out there who offer beta reads just for the joy of books, such as Joo Stacey.
How do you choose your editor?
Olivia was recommended to me by a good friend. At the time I was working with three different editors. One was much cheaper but I found he was introducing mistakes and the other was busy expanding into corporate work. I found Olivia pleasant to work with and felt she gave comprehensive feedback without treading on my toes. Mutual respect between an editor and author is key, otherwise the more dominant person calls all the decisions and there should always be a balance.
Tell us about the cover design – how was it put together and what input did you have?
I designed the basic layout myself but my efforts to draw were terrible so Katie W. Stewart stepped in. I have worked with Katie before because she illustrates my Smelly Troll children’s series. I had been reluctant to ask her to contribute to my adult books because I didn’t want to confuse my two distinct brands. However, Katie is so versatile that the style of her cartoon is very different from her depiction of trolls, so there will be no confusion.
Katie, quite sensibly, advised me not to split ‘Self-Publish’ across two lines but I chose to do it anyway because I wanted the title to be readable in the thumbnail. I felt a cover faux pas was acceptable given the subject matter.
What marketing do you tend to do to increase your public face?
On this occasion, I asked other authors to contribute additional material for my blog to increase exposure and the sense of people mucking together, rather than me sitting on a self-build pedestal looking down to everybody else. I was really interested in everybody else’s opinions and humour.
Regarding marketing in general, I often work in cafes with a sign inviting people to come over and chat. I attend craft fayres and visit school. I try to take regular photos of my lifestyle to give readers a sense of who I am. Many readers buy into the author before they buy a book.
How do you see the landscape of publishing developing over the next 24 months?
I’m deeply concerned by the power Amazon has. They have done some tremendous things for self-published authors. They reinvented the wheel when they made Kindles mainstream. I’m grateful for those opportunities. However, they’ve also done some unsettling things to damage competitors, such as offering authors perks in exchange for Kindle exclusivity, and more recently, encouraging us to gang up on a large traditional publisher.
I’m concerned that if they monopolise the market even further, they will be able to dictate whatever terms they please and that might not go in our favour.
For this reason, I have published How Not to Self-Publish across multiple platforms. I am also considering publishing the paperback with Ingram Spark because although it’s more expensive to use than CreateSpace, it’s not owned by Amazon.
It’s important that authors really think about what we actually want and need, instead of letting intermediaries with different agendas set the rules.
What is your next work in progress?
I’m working on My Granny Made a Sex Tape, which is a set of three interlinked novellas progressing the story from My Granny Writes Erotica - Threesome.
Rosen was born in Cornwall and grew up on Restronguet Creek. She studied Experimental Psychology at St Catherine's College, Oxford, before moving back to the West Country.
In 2011 Rosen was an aspiring author. Writing was a hobby. The following January sales of her books took off. Readers have now downloaded over a quarter of a million copies of her books.
Rosen has a variety of books in print including My Granny Writes Erotica - Threesome, Pompomberry House and two Seesaw collections, as well as over a dozen digital titles.
In 2013 she founded the Smelly Troll series - children's chapter books written by Rosen and illustrated by Katie W. Stewart. The series, which begins with The Troll Trap, has inspired hundreds of children to get involved in creative writing.
Rosen loves wild swimming, interesting boots, quiffs, 'sampling' chocolate and cooking tasty treats. She dislikes house spiders, doing laundry and people putting costumes on their cats.
HOW NOT TO SELF PUBLISH
Rosen Trevithick has threatened to eat celebrities, produced a podcast in which she interviews herself and posed with a gummy triangle stuck to her face – all in the name of marketing. Yet she has somehow managed to shift over a quarter of a million books.
A keen advocate of ‘What works for one probably won't work for the thousands who try to replicate it’, Rosen recommends finding your own path, with a focus on learning from mistakes rather than success stories.
Penned using a combination of her own catastrophic blunders interspersed with wry observations, How Not to Self-Publish provides a light-hearted, informative and sometimes surreal look at selling books in the modern world.
Cover design: Rosen Trevithick
Artwork Katie W. Stewart, Magic Owl Design