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An Unexpected Journey from Indie to Amazon Author - Part 1

In September 2015 I self-published my first book. A middle grade fiction title set in the world of Minecraft. Not a subject I ever thought I would write about, but I had two main goals with this book - to get my 9 year old book hater to fall in love with reading (how could he not if he was the main character and the book was based on his favourite video game?) and to learn how to self-publish. I achieved one of those goals, I learned how to self-publish! While I still have a reluctant reader in my house, I am at least glad to know from the many emails I've received that The Crafters' Club achieved my goal for many others, if not for my own son. I should clarify that he did read and loved this series but other than the Wimpy Kid books, it didn't foster a love of reading. This series became ten books very quickly and was a massive hit. They were distributed throughout bookstores in Australia and two of the titles were picked up by Scholastic in New York for their North American book club market. With nearing 80,000 books sold, it has been a great success and most importantly funded the cost of editing and book covers of future books. A lot of authors talk about writing to market these days and I unintentionally did this back in 2015 when Minecraft was at is peak and I had a son, along with around 100 million other people, obsessed with it.

After releasing my first book, over the next four years I published a total of thirteen middle grade titles, three women's fiction titles, eight novellas, and two anthologies. Initially the learning curve was steep but I loved every minute of the writing, editing and marketing. But while my middle-grade books were selling well, I was struggling with the sales of my women's fiction titles.

They were competing with many big named authors as Women's Fiction is a rather vague, yet popular category, and it was hard to be seen. So I learnt how to market my books through courses and plenty of trial and error. Late in 2017 I started to get some traction and suddenly my book, Everyday Lies, was selling. It sat most days over the next twelve months in the top 5-10,000 of the Amazon US store - when you consider there are over 4 million books competing, it was doing well. Well enough to grab Amazon's attention. On the 23rd November 2018 I woke up to find an email in my inbox with the subject line "A Fan of your books!" That immediately gave my day a boost as I assumed someone was emailing me with positive feedback which is always lovely to receive as an author. It was only when I started reading I realised this was not from a regular reader, this email was from an acquiring editor at Lake Union Publishing, one of Amazon's imprints based in London. The email went on to say that the editor had read my three women's fiction titles and had been "left reeling from your books and the everyday themes and issues that you raise", and she believed that Amazon Publishing could find a wider readership within the Amazon fold for my books. She asked me to reply to her email if I'd like to set up a phone meeting to discuss this further. I think I stared at the email for about ten minutes, my gut churning and not really believing it was real. Of course I then googled the editor to check whether she did in fact exist and whether she worked for Amazon. I went from feelings of OMG, to this has to be a scam, to OMG it isn't! She's real and so are Lake Union Publishing!

I emailed back to say I would love to chat to her and then waited to see what would happen next. I half expected an email to come back saying, 'oh sorry, wrong author!' But it was real and she rang me the next week. A summary of the phone call was she wanted to know if I was interested in Amazon re-releasing my three titles under their Lake Union imprint and also two new books. Mm, let me think about that...YES! The only minor catch was she wanted to get approval internally before Christmas to be able to officially offer me a contract which meant I needed to provide her with the synopsis' for two new books. Could I get these to her the following Monday to take to an acquisitions meeting that week? Of course, no problems, I can come up with two new book ideas and write full synopsis' in 5 days - easy 😳!

Luckily I did have one new idea bouncing around in my head so that was an obvious one to flesh out into a synopsis and two days before they were due to Amazon I was drying my hair and had a "What if" scenario pop up. It had nothing to do with hairdryers, but became the concept and twist for RIVAL SISTERS (to be released in August).

I emailed off the synopsis' and waited. Two days later another email arrived setting up a phone meeting. My synopsis' had been presented at the acquisitions meeting and they loved the concepts BUT the main person signing off had already gone on Christmas leave so it would have to wait until everyone returned in January. The editor was confident that a deal would be offered but unfortunately couldn't guarantee anything until she had signatures at her end. This was on the 13th December and I then had what felt like a very long wait until I was contacted again on 14th January. Would they make an offer? Would this be another seemingly exciting publishing opportunity that turned to nothing (I'm sure many authors reading this have been there before!) Yes, they made an offer. On the phone that day and then in writing. I'd been offered a five book deal with an advance and the books would be going into audio as well as print and eBook. Until the contract was signed two weeks later, I didn't allow myself to celebrate properly - I still didn't believe it was going to happen. But on 29th January it was signed, sealed and delivered! So what did this mean for my three existing books? I already knew from our conversations that only one was going to require extensive editing, the other two were going to be re-published with just a copy edit to tighten up any areas of writing that needed a polish and of course to fix any errors. Embarrassingly there turned out to be a few! Everyday Lies and A Life Worth Living were to have the copy edits only where as Fortunate Friends was going to have an overhaul. A character needed to be removed (there were 3 point of view characters) and the other two story lines developed further. This process was to start in June so between end of Jan and June all I had to do was write one of the new books RIVAL SISTERS. Which is exactly what I did. In June the structural edit for Fortunate Friends began and the deadline for RIVAL SISTERS was moved by Lake Union to August - even though I had already finished it and was ready to submit. What then happened over the next two months made me very glad this was already finished! The structural edit for FORTUNATE FRIENDS spanned a six week period. This was fine, except the first round of changes, which I had two weeks to do, required the removal of one character. Removing Bec removed 35K words of her story line and an additional 12K of the combined story lines when all three characters were together - they no longer worked without her. Two weeks to re-write close to 50K words was tight. But, with my eyes hanging out of my head, I submitted it on time. At the same time as this structural edit continued the copy edits for both Everyday Lies and A Life Worth Living were sent through. I wondered if it was normal to get so much at once but assumed that not many authors get a five book deal where four of the five books are being worked on at the same time. I didn't question it, I just got on with it. The six week structural edit for FORTUNATE FRIENDS came to and end and I honestly have to say I learnt so much. The editor was brilliant and I know the reshaped story is MUCH better than the original. It also had a title change and is now called A WINNING BETRAYAL. It will be released in March 2021.

Almost immediately following the end of this structural edit, RIVAL SISTERS went into production - meaning its structural edit started. I thought I would just be working on this book this time around, but no, proof copies of the other books came through as did the copy edit for A WINNING BETRAYAL. It was busy and time was beginning to creep by. At the back of my mind through all of this editing was that I had to write a new book. HER LAST HOPE was due 20th February 2020 (yes next week!) to Lake Union and I'd planned to finish the first draft by end of November before the kids broke up for the school holidays. This would give me Dec/Jan to edit/re-write/beta readers etc in among the usual school holiday/Christmas commitments . This assumed I would start the book during September. The reality was I started writing the book mid-November, two weeks before the kids broke up. I think I had about thirty thousand words written which meant I still had eighty thousand to write. With the kids on holidays for all of December and January the timing was terrible. But, lots of early mornings, late nights and a few massive weekends and it was finished mid-January. I did more editing and re-writing than I normally do as I went along (rather than once the first draft was finished) and on Australia Day it was ready to send to my wonderful team of beta readers for their feedback. The relief was enormous that I was going to make the 20th Feb deadline. In fact, having had very quick turn around from the beta readers, and already having made their suggested changes, I am a week ahead of schedule and ready to send the manuscript off to Lake Union after one final read through. I'm really happy with the book and was delighted that my beta readers had such positive feedback. While it was written reasonably quickly, I find immersing myself in my writing, ideally uninterrupted for hours at a time, the book tends to write itself and be of a much higher quality than if I tackle small amounts each day. Everyone does it differently but that is a process that definitely works for me. While all of this writing and editing has been going on there have of course been other elements to deal with. The covers, the blurbs, the audio books. The covers proved to be an interesting process. My original cover for Everyday Lies was fabulous. The designer did an amazing job and it was a key selling tool for the book. If you haven't seen it before, here it is.

I assumed Lake Union would do something totally different so was very surprised when I saw the initial concepts for the covers for Everyday Lies and for A Life Worth Living. I really wasn't a fan. I voiced my concerns and they were very receptive to my feedback and did make some of the changes I requested, but the overall concept to tie the Louise Guy brand together had been decided on and it wasn't going to change. My cries of "not five beige books" fell on deaf ears 😂.

I've come to like the Everyday Lies cover as the final is more dynamic than the original concept Lake Union presented, and it does stand out well in the Amazon stores - which is exactly what they were aiming for. The feedback from many others has been extremely positive so I am left thinking I am just to close to it as I did love my original cover so I may not have liked anything that was presented. I'll get used to my beige covers and do think they are quite striking when you see them grouped together on Amazon. They have created a brand which stand out as eBooks in the Amazon stores which was their intention (scroll to the bottom to see the four covers together).

2019 was exciting and busy with signing the contract and then doing the majority of the work to get the five books ready for release. Originally they were all to be released this year but a change has been made so there will be 3 books this year and 2 next. While I'm eager to get them out, I do like that the timing has been spaced out allowing Amazon plenty of time to market and build the audience for the Louise Guy brand/books.

Tonight, on the eve of the re-release of Everyday Lies I'm nervous and excited. What is it actually going to mean to be an Amazon author? What will the download numbers over the next days, weeks and months be? Will reviews be favourable or gut wrenching? It is a strange position to be in almost three years after the original release date for EVERYDAY LIES.

Next month I'll look forward to sharing with you what launch day looked like, how well the book is doing and what's next for me. I'll be busy with the structural edit for HER LAST HOPE, the fifth book of my five book deal, and thinking about the next book to write after it's finished. I'm absolutely loving reading psychological thrillers at the moment, which is reflected in HER LAST HOPE. It's not a psychological thriller but probably spans women's fiction and women's psychological - more intrigue, more twists and hopefully will keep you turning the pages.

If you have any questions or comments I'd love to hear from you. And if you read all of this post you deserve a gold star! I love the idea of keeping an on-going account of my Amazon experience so this is for me as well as anyone who might be interested! 💕

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