Confessions of a Serial Self-Publisher

Way back in 2011 I did an online writing course through the Queensland Writer’s Centre called ‘The Year of the Novel.’ The aim of this was to write a novel from start to finish during the duration of the course (Eight months. I guess ‘The Year of the Novel’ sounds catchier than ‘The Eight Months of the Novel’). We started with a hearty troupe of 28, but within the first month the number of consistent attenders decreased dramatically. Only three of us finished the course and our novels.

Flash forward to a year later. I am despondent. I have a novel, and I know it’s good, but I don’t know what to do with it. I have started the traditional publishing merry-go-round and I am not having fun.

Picture me browsing the Queensland Writer’s Centre website during my lunch break (once a nerd, always a nerd). What do I see but an article on Rachel Amphlett’s new book, White Gold. The cover is shiny and professional. Why does the storyline seem familiar to me?

It took me about five minutes to realise that Rachel was one of the three who had finished the course with me. Here she was with a published book – a self-published book. What did I have? A lot of excuses, that’s what.

I contacted Rachel and talked to her about her publishing, and the rest, as they say, is history. Within a couple of months I also was the proud owner of a published novel.

Rachel Amphlett has been my inspiration and my role-model and I am also proud to say she has become one of my best friends. This writing gig can be rapturous one day and demoralising the next. You need good writing buddies to support you when the times are tough and cheer you when they are good. For me, Rachel is one of those people.

I am lucky enough to have an interview with Rachel for you today in which she discusses her path in self-publishing her books and offers up some tips.

Hi Rachel. Thanks so much for your time today. What inspired you to self-publish your novels?

When I finished my first thriller, “White Gold”, I approached 5-6 literary agents who represented thriller authors I admired. Although a couple of them came back with a template rejection letter, the rest took the time to explain that they liked my writing but their publishing clients weren’t looking for the sort of thing I was writing about.

It seemed a shame to be getting such good feedback and letting the story go untold, so I got in touch with an Australian mystery/suspense writer, Vicki Tyley, who has self-published all of her thrillers as eBooks through Smashwords. Vicky was tremendous – she provided me with all the advice I needed to bite the bullet and publish “White Gold” myself.

Of course, I’ve learned a lot since I first published it back in July 2011, and continue to do so, but it helped having a mentor who said “it’s possible – get on with it!”

What’s the hardest, the easiest and the most rewarding things about self-publishing?

The hardest thing is making the time to do the marketing, and then not let the marketing take over the writing itself!

The easiest? Making changes if you do spot a typo (or one of your readers kindly lets you know without putting it in a review!). On that note, if any readers do spot a typo in one of my novels – let me know. I’ll stick you down for a free copy of the next one.

The most rewarding thing about self-publishing is that it’s so easy to do and there’s a real community spirit amongst other self-published authors.

You’re novels are in both eBook and print formats. Did you do all the formatting for these yourself? And if so are there any tips you have to share?

I formatted the paperback versions of “White Gold” and “Under Fire” myself but I think in future I’m going to use BookBaby – it’s one less thing for me to have to do when I could be using that time more lucratively.

You, Ms U, got me onto PressBooks and now I’m hooked on that and will be using it in future after seeing how easy it was to set up “Under Fire” and then download the .epub version onto my Kindle for a read-through.

Which publishing platforms have you found to be the most lucrative?

I use a combination of Amazon, Kobo, Gardners, and Smashwords for my eBooks. For my paperbacks I use Lightning Source.  Smashwords gives me access to iTunes and at the moment, that’s matching Amazon for eBook sales. With Lightning Source, I use their print on demand option and this gives me international exposure through Ingrams. My paperbacks are selling well in the UK, US and here in Australia.

I did try Amazon KDP only for the eBooks but lost sales, so I’m using a combination of four distributors now.

There are some self-published authors that mock Smashwords but they’re getting eBooks into places that are going to take off over the coming years. Supermarkets have an enormous market share in the UK, and both Tescos and Sainsburys are going to be selling eBooks online in coming years and my books are already available through outlets such as Foyles and WHSmith.

Through Gardners, I’m getting into the South African eBook marketplace and some other UK eBook sites I wasn’t even aware of.

I counted up the number of outlets for my books the other day and it’s currently sitting at 30. Yes, some are slow compared to iTunes and Amazon, but a sale is a sale and unlike Amazon, all the other distributors I use either don’t have a minimum royalty payment, or it’s lower so if you’re starting out, you can earn monthly royalties straight away.

How do you market your books?

I typically send out a press release to a list of about 30 publications which I’ve had some involvement with in the past – that includes local newspapers.

I contact book reviewers and bloggers who I follow and find out if they’d be interested in doing interviews – I often tie these in with a giveaway of a paperback or eBook to drum up a bit more interest.

When I released “Under Fire” I did a Goodreads giveaway which helped as I got two reviews out of three of the winners, but posting paperbacks from Australia is expensive so I’m debating whether or not to do that again.

I’ve had a good response from local bookstores that have been very enthusiastic about supporting my writing and stock my books and organise book signings from time to time for me.

This year I’ve started drawing up a marketing plan for the whole of 2014 to keep me on track and be a bit more organised – I’m learning all the time how to get better at this marketing malarky so it’s good to have it set out so I can see what I’m supposed to be doing and when!

Who are your role models in the self-publishing world and why?

I think an obvious choice is Hugh Howey, but also James Oswald. They had both started out as self-published authors, but morphed into hybrids having secured traditional publishing contracts.

It ought to be remembered that Matthew Reilly was one of the first to do this though, before eBooks were around. I was lucky enough to meet him on the publicity tour for “The Tournament” in November and thank him for inspiring me to have a shot at it. It didn’t hurt that he walked off with a copy of “Under Fire” in his backpack either…

What’s the best thing about being an author?

There’s a few things: that moment when you’ve finished a novel – the point where you know it’s ready to go out into the big wide world. At the same time, there’s the excitement of starting a new story which has probably been tapping its foot impatiently in your brain waiting to get out for a good six months before you start it.

Then there’s the chance to meet some of my own writing heroes and peers and just soak up their advice and enthusiasm.

Finally, there’s the camaraderie amongst other authors – it doesn’t matter whether they’re starting out, already selling shedloads or somewhere in the middle. For me, having that connection with a few kindred spirits is essential to keep the enthusiasm going. Likewise, I’m always happy to pass on any advice I can to people – there shouldn’t be any secrets in this game.

What are your goals for 2014?

I’d like to think I can get two quality standalone suspense/thriller novels out this year while I’m continuing the research for the third in the “Dan Taylor” series of thrillers and holding down a full-time job.

We’re currently renovating a house we bought in April 2013 so I’d like to see a chunk of work done there by the end of the year, if only to stop the neighbours having to view such an eyesore out of their windows!

Finally, I’ve got a pile of about 50 books on my “To be Read” pile which I’m determined to get through this year – that’s not including the 20 or so I’ve downloaded onto my Kindle over the past few months.

Maybe I should add a holiday as one of my goals so I can catch up on those…


imagesAbout Rachel

Rachel Amphlett previously worked in the UK publishing industry, played lead guitar in rock bands, and worked with BBC radio before relocating from England to Australia in 2005.

After returning to writing, Rachel enjoyed publication success both in Australia and the United Kingdom with her short stories.

In August 2011, Rachel published her first thriller, ‘White Gold’, as an eBook with a paperback version being released in 2012.

A further Dan Taylor thriller, ‘Under Fire’, was released in August 2013.

A standalone suspense novel is scheduled for release in 2014, while two more projects are currently being researched, including the third instalment in the Dan Taylor series.

Connect with Rachel through her blogsite – HERE.


You can find Rachel’s books here:

810-svVcKYL._SL1500_White Gold

A conspiracy that will end alternative energy research; an organisation killing to protect its interests – and a bomb that will change the face of terrorism…

When Sarah Edgewater’s ex-husband is murdered by a radical organisation hell-bent on protecting their assets, she turns to Dan Taylor – geologist, ex-soldier, and lost cause. Together, they must unravel the research notes that Sarah’s ex-husband left behind to locate an explosive device that is circumnavigating the globe towards the London 2012 Olympics – and time is running out. In an fast-paced ecological thriller that spans the globe, from London to Brisbane and back via the Arctic Circle, Dan and Sarah aren’t just chasing the truth – they’re chasing a bomb that, if detonated, will change the future of alternative energy research and the centre of England’s capital forever.

8310789Under Fire

An explosion rocks a Qatari natural gas facility…a luxury cruise liner capsizes in the Mediterranean…and someone has stolen a submarine…

Are the events connected?

Dan Taylor doesn’t believe in coincidences – all he has to do is convince his superiors they are the next in the terrorists’ line of fire.

As Britain enters its worst winter on record, Dan must elude capture to ensure the country’s energy resources are protected. At all costs.

In an action-packed adventure, from the Middle East through the Mediterranean to London, Dan and his team are on a quest which will test every choice he makes. Assisted by the exotic Antonia Almasi, Dan realises he faces an adversary far greater than he ever imagined.

And not everyone is going to survive.

UNDER FIRE will be available on Amazon for the bargain price of $0.99 from January 9th – 13th only.


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