NWS Member Talks About Publishing Her Book

As members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, New Writers’ Scheme, we love to hear how other members are getting on with their writing and quest for publication, be this through the traditional route of agent and publisher or under the Indie banner of self-publishing.

Today, we have NWS member Lauren Milner-Howells with us, or fluffypen as she is known on Twitter, to talk about how she came to publish her novel Permanently Temping.

Hi Lauren, thanks so much for coming on the blog, it’s great to have another member of the NWS here with us. Can you start by telling us how being a member has impacted on your writing?

I think being a member of the RNA NWS has been really beneficial for me as it has made me feel a part of something. Writing can be quite a lonely business at times and if you’re feeling like you’re useless and need some encouragement it’s always nice to be part of a group you can turn to for advice.
We couldn’t agree more, that’s one of the things we all love about being involved with the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
So, your novel, Permanently Temping, where did you get the idea from?
After graduating from university I spent alot of time temping in various companies in London and found it very funny how each place had its own strange quirks. Obviously the stories I tell are fictional but I think everyone can relate to the craziness that goes on in offices! Every day I would come home with different tales and one day my husband said – “You know, this would make a really funny book!”. And so here we are!
What a clever husband!  Did it take you long to write? It must have been hard to fit in with your day job.
I was working at the same time as writing so it took me about two and a half years overall. Although I think at least one year of that was spent rewriting and editing once I’d ‘finished’. It was so important to me that the quality of the book (both grammar and spelling) would be of a high standard and there wouldn’t be any (hopefully!) silly mistakes.
I’m sure you’ve done a great job.   Now, you’ve self-published your book, what made you decide to go down this route, rather than seek an agent and/or traditional publisher?
When I first started writing my book a couple of years ago, self publishing was nowhere near as big as it is now so I didn’t even really consider it as an option. I bought the writers and artist’s yearbook and sat writing lists of agents I’d send the book to. After sending the first few chapters to a few agents, I got some positive responses written as notes on the bottom of the template letter they send out – basically they loved my writing and found the scenes very funny but they said they thought there wasn’t much of a market for chick-lit anymore. That’s when I decided that I was wasting my time going down the traditional route and decided to go it alone!
Well, it seems it was the right decision, you’ve already received a 5 star review on Amazon.  We love the cover – did you design this yourself?
No, unfortunately I am not that talented in graphic design! I was very lucky as my sister is very experienced and talented at this so she did it for me (in return for dinner and a lot of cocktails!).
What has been the most useful thing you’ve learnt in getting your novel to the stage it is now?
I think the most useful thing I’ve learnt is self discipline – how to make myself sit down and write. What works best for me is to have a word count that I have to achieve each day, not a specific time I have to write for. Then if I finish in two hours I can have the rest of the day doing something else! If I had to sit there for a specific time I know I wouldn’t start writing until the last ten minutes – I definitely work better under pressure. Another thing I’ve learnt (especially with regards to self publishing) is that you need to know how to use Microsoft Word properly, for example paragraph formatting and page breaks. It will save you a lot of time in the long run if you take the time to learn before you start writing. I would recommend taking a look at the Smashwords guidelines as this runs you through what a good word doc should look like and how to format correctly.

That’s really great advice and you’ve kindly supplied a checklist for anyone thinking of self-publishing – thank you.

 Self publishing checklist:

1) Set Microsoft Word paragraph formatting correctly (see below for more info in interview). This can be done at the end if you have already started but it’s definitely easier to get this sorted before you start.
2) Write the book
3) Edit the book
4) Edit the book again
5) and again
6) and again (you get the idea)
7) Make sure your book is ready to go and there are no more alterations (I would recommend printing it and reading through it at least once as you will spot more errors this way! Another tip is to change the page margins and make your book look totally different on screen- you will be surprised what a difference this makes when spotting errors)
8) Think about your cover design, colours etc. (hopefully you already have a title – if not, think of one now)
9) Write your blurb (see amazon books of similar genre for word count etc.)
10) If you have no/little experience in cover design I would definitely recommend getting a professional to do it
11) You are now ready to go! You can upload a Word doc to Amazon via KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) but there are sometimes strange quirks in this so you may want to pay someone to do this part. There is free software which converts word docs to epubs etc. called Calibre and you can view your epub on free software called Adobe – Digital Editions. You don’t need an ISBN to sell on Amazon – Amazon will give you their own version, an ASIN.
12) Upload your book to Smashwords to cover all other e-readers – make sure to follow the Smashwords guidelines (avaliable to download for free) or you may not be put on the premium listing that means your book can go out to retailers such as Kobo. Also, your book needs an ISBN to be sold via Kobo and ibooks – Smashwords will give you a free one if you let them list themselves as publisher. Smashwords say this does not effect any of your rights. NB I don’t believe you can sell via Kindle through Smashwords yet – but why would you want to when you can do through KDP (see point 11) and not pay a comission to Smashwords? However, don’t use the ISBN Smashwords gave you for free on Amazon (again, see point 11). There are lots of complicated tax rules involved in selling through Smashwords, which would be a whole post in itself! So try to read through and make sense of them or you could end up paying more tax than you need to.
13) Phew. After all that you’ll probably be exhausted – I certainly was! Now you need to market, market, market. My top tip is to try and get book review bloggers of your genre to review your book – to make yourself stand out and look professional make sure to send them a document with your cover, blurb, previous reviews etc.
14) Keep marketing – forever. Don’t just think it’s for the first few weeks/months. You need to keep at this for a long while to make your book successful.
15) Have a large glass of wine and/or a box of chocolates.
16) Start all over again at step 1….!

You can follow Laurent on Twitter and at her blog Fluffypen

Permanently Temping is available on Amazon Kindle

10 thoughts on “NWS Member Talks About Publishing Her Book

  1. Fantastic post! So much useful advice. I plan to self-publish, Gunshot Glitter, and you’ve given me so much food for thought Lauren : ) I know what you mean about the amount of stuff you spot in the workplace that beggars belief. I have a decade of contracts under my belt in Marcomms so know what it’s like! Well done for putting in all that hard work and turning your idea into reality. Your husband deserves kudos for encouraging you, I’m going to head over to the Kindle store to have a mooch now..xx

  2. Some really useful information there, thank you Lauren.

    Good luck with the book, it sounds great and looks very professional – what a great sister and clever husband you have or should that be the other way around?


    • Yasmin – I’m really glad you found the post useful! Let me know if you have any questions, happy to help! And good luck with Gunshot Glitter, be sure to let me know when it’s published!
      Sue – Glad you found it useful! Yes, maybe it should be the other way round 🙂
      Nicky – yes, that certainly is great extra advice. I have a Kindle app on my computer for this very purpose, as I find it easier to do everything in one place. Keep in touch, I hope you enjoy Permanently Temping 🙂
      Jan – thank you for your kind words, make sure you keep in touch 🙂

  3. Great post, and I relate to every last step of it. It’s really nice to meet you and wonderful that you share so much advice. I’d only like to add one thing, if I may, that I only found out months after I’d originally self-published my novel via Kindle.

    Don’t overlook the Kindle as a proofing tool. When you think you’re ready, convert your Word document into a Kindle file (I use MobiPocket Creator to make the .prc files) and then upload it to your Kindle. This will enable you to proof, but also to check the formatting is correct: that paragraphs are where they meant to be, indents are fine, italics come through correctly, etc. Occasionally Word inserts extra invisible formatting that scuppers the Kindle conversion, and it’s helfpul catching that and fixing it before you go live. Just a thought!

    X Good luck, and I’ll be adding Permanently Temping to my wishlist. 🙂

  4. Lauren, what a fabulous treasure trove of advice! Thank you. Love the sound of your novel. Very best of luck with it, and here’s to many more fab reviews. Lovely to meet you here 🙂

    Jan x

  5. Great post and thank you Lauren for all the tips and for sharing your journey with us so openly. Good luck with Permanently Temping – I’ll nip over to Kindle Storefront soon and pick up a copy.

    Nikki 🙂

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