My Experience of Self-Publishing by Heather MacQuarrie, author of A Voice from the Past

Posted: 6/8/2013

One year ago this month I was putting the finishing touches to my first novel, A Voice from the Past, which is a contemporary love story with an aura of mystery and intrigue. I had really enjoyed writing it and, after several rereads and edits, I had decided that it was finished at last. So what next? Should I try to get it published? How do I go about that? Am I really happy to let people into the inner recesses of my mind? Otherwise what is the point of making up stories that no-one will ever read?

I started searching the internet for information about publishers and checked books in my genre for publishing information. But at the back of my mind I knew that I didn't really want a traditional publisher. After thirty-eight years in the teaching profession I was not looking for a new 'career'. I didn't want to be under any pressure to deliver according to deadlines. I didn't want someone else changing my work in any way. In short, this was my hobby; I wanted to be in total control. So I started reading up on self-publishing and took out a subscription for the Self-Publishing Magazine. Little did I know then that my book would be advertised on the back cover within the year! (Issue 27)

I downloaded and read 'Publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing'. This was very informative if a bit daunting. But did I really want an ebook alone? No. Much as I appreciate this modern way of reading, especially for holidays when I no longer need to carry a heavy suitcase full of books, I wanted to see my work in print. There is still something special about the feel of a real book in your hand. When reading books on my Kindle I always find that it is just too easy to forget what I am actually reading or who wrote it. It just automatically opens up at the last page read. Also, it is not so easy to look back when you want to check a detail from a previous page. It is so much more satisfying to be able to flick through the book and see the cover design, the author's name and the title each time you pick it up.

Next I downloaded the Guardian Shorts book, 'How to Self-Publish' by Ed Peppitt. This is an excellent publication but does contain one very amusing typo. After a whole chapter emphasising the absolute importance of careful editing and proof-reading, it then goes on to say:

"It can (also) be a great motivational tool if you print a copy of your book's cover and display it next to where you right. If ever you feel that finishing your book seems like a daunting task, just be inspired by the cover image."

Good advice! But the ironically placed typo gave me a good laugh. However, I still awarded this book five stars and would highly recommend it to others.

For some weeks I checked out many other publications online but I kept going back to the same one at Troubador Publishing - The Matador Guide to Self-Publishing. It was comprehensive yet succinct and easy to understand. It seemed to tick all the right boxes. Eventually I contacted Troubador by email and promptly received a professional and friendly reply. I decided to go with Matador and I haven't looked back.

As a self-publishing author I was in total control of everything from the start - the font and size of font used, the width of the margins, the spacing on the page, the cover image and colour, the blurb for the back and so on. All this was done for me but to my specifications. Nothing was sent to print until it was agreed by me. Advice was given about editing, proof-reading and marketing strategies but it was up to me to decide whether I felt the need to pay for these extra services. It was exactly what I wanted.

So is there a downside to the whole process? In my case, not really. Yes, it is expensive but I went in with my eyes open. All charges were clearly specified in advance with no hidden extras. It is up to me now to try to recoup the costs by promoting the sale of my book. If I make a profit, that will be a very nice bonus.

Do I dream of fame and fortune? I would not be human if a little bit of me didn't aspire to seeing my book on the shelves of bookshops and supermarkets across the country, alongside all the other best-sellers of the day. But realistically I remind myself that writing is my hobby. I do it for fun. Since A Voice from the Past came out in July, (available from Matador and from Amazon) I have been receiving very positive feedback from family members, friends and friends of friends with many people saying that they 'couldn't put it down' and that they are eagerly awaiting the next one. This in itself has given me enormous satisfaction, especially since the readers' ages range from twenty-something to ninety-two!

A big thank you to Waterstones' Belfast Branch for being the first shop to order in copies of my book for direct sale to the public. 

Who knows what the future holds for me as a writer? But I have to say that I am glad I took the plunge. It has been a very exciting year.


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