Tuesday 23 October 2018

Maybe it's time to take the plunge and become self-published like me

Fiction: The Accidental Life of Greg Millar, Denise Deegan amazon.co.uk, £8.99

The art of reinvention: Denise Deegan took charge of her own work and became self-published.
The art of reinvention: Denise Deegan took charge of her own work and became self-published.
The Accidental Life of Greg Millar.

Denise Deegan

I found excitement on a whole new level when I self-published writes Denise Deegan.

Authors, like artists, live with rejection. We meet it when trying to get published. We meet it trying to stay published. We write, and then others decide if our work is good enough to be let out into the world. Or at least, that's how it used to be. 

In 2001, I gave up my PR business to write a novel. I had no agent, no publisher, no experience. I didn't even have an idea. In retrospect, it was crazy. But then, maybe sometimes craziness is exactly what's required to change your life. I wrote the novel in six months, sent it out to publishers and agents and prepared for rejection.

It came!

Thankfully, I also received feedback on my writing. I edited the manuscript and sent it out again. I got to work on a second novel so that the next batch of - inevitable - rejections wouldn't stop me writing. I told myself that it didn't matter if I never got published. Of course it mattered.

The edits worked. That first novel was published. Three more followed. After that, I wrote a Young Adult series called The Butterfly Novels. And can I just say, the reaction from teenagers to these books would make up for any rejection ever.

Meanwhile, the world of self-publishing was being born. For the first time, authors could reach readers directly and globally. The fact that royalty rates were higher meant lower prices to the reader. This transformation in publishing was exciting to watch. Such was the success of self-published novels like Fifty Shades of Grey and Still Alice that traditional publishers began to offer contracts to their authors.

By now, the publishing rights to my first four novels had reverted to me. I decided to have a shot at self-publishing. To mark my new adventure, I reinvented myself. Choosing the pen name Aimee Alexander (my children's names combined), I began to edit my original novels, a process that proved surprisingly necessary. So much had changed in the few years since they had been published. The way we use language had altered. Society too had become more liberal, tolerant. I had become more demanding of my characters.

I taught myself how to self-publish using a book called Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard, which took my inner technophobe and guided her through every step. I hired a graphic designer to produce a professional cover. Then I quietly uploaded my first book on Amazon.

As an author, I had never really had much control over the publishing process. Now I controlled everything - the content, the look, the promotion. I also had access to data I never had before. On any given day, I could check where in the world my books were selling and in what numbers. When I did a promotion, I could see the results almost immediately. I offered my first Aimee Alexander novel, Pause to Rewind, for free for a limited period to raise awareness of its existence. It was downloaded 40,000 times in one day. This was excitement on a whole new level. Reviews began to pour in and the book moved up in the rankings becoming more visible on the site.

I published three of my novels in this way. Then, last August, Amazon - who had begun to publish books themselves - took notice of my sales and reviews. They approached me via their publishing imprint, Lake Union Publishing with an offer for my third Aimee Alexander novel, The Accidental Life of Greg Millar. I had noticed Lake Union Publishing books. Their covers were beautiful. The novels themselves were of a very high quality and also very popular. To have the weight of Amazon behind me was something I wasn't going to turn down.

My first surprise was that they employ 'contracts' people, on hand to guide their authors through the legalities. As far as I know, this is unheard of in the publishing industry. The editor I worked with was both savvy and inspirational. The Accidental Life of Greg Millar is finally the book I always dreamed it could become. I adore the cover. For the first time, one of my novels is available as an audiobook as well as the traditional paperback and ebook formats. All came on stream on April 26. Since then Greg Millar has remained in the top ten in Women's Popular Fiction on amazon.co.uk's kindle chart.

My story is one of many. The publishing industry is rapidly evolving, offering new and exciting opportunities for authors. Rejection need no longer dominate our lives. There is something uplifting and energising about taking control, making the decisions and creating forward momentum. There is an incredible amount of support available online via the self-publishing community. Perhaps it's time to take that manuscript back out of that drawer and go forth.

Denise Deegan is the author of seven novels. The Accidental Life of Greg Millar is available on amazon.co.uk, retailing at £8.99 sterling for the paperback, £1.99 for the ebook and £12.48 for the audio CD. Denise's YA series, The Butterfly Novels, is available in bookshops nationwide.

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