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Tumbleweed, crickets and other launch day terrors


Back in the heady days of early 2017, when March 24th was months away, I had no nerves at all about my launch day. I was breezily looking forward to a nice relaxed evening, chatting to friends and family, in a place that I love.

Now that launch day is the day after tomorrow, all breeziness is gone and I am a bundle of fears and self-doubt. The following thoughts are on an ever-repeating reel in my head:

  • What if only a handful of people turn up? (Cue images of tumbleweed rolling through and the sound of crickets in the background.)
  • What if a reasonable number of people turn up but hardly anyone buys the book? (Cue image of stacks of unsold books on the floor of my bedroom forever more.)
  • What if lots of people buy the book but hate it and demand their money back? (Image: me crying while handing back bank notes to an angry mob.)
  • What if online trolls get wind of the book and flame me on Twitter to the degree that I have to quit social media and become a hermit?

I’ll stop there before the fantasies get even more ludicrous. I’m sure Twitter trolls have better things to be doing with their time than picking on a virtually unknown self-published author. Right?!

To switch back to positive mode, a window display for ‘Mental’ and a poster advertising the launch are currently in situ in the window of The Book Centre, Waterford, where the launch takes place on Friday evening.

To my surprise, I had to set up the display myself. My surprise was not that a self-published author would do their own window display (who else would do it?), but that The Book Centre were willing to let me loose on their window. I have zero experience of doing displays of any kind. Here is the result of my attempt:

mental book centre window display

‘Mental’ in the window of The Book Centre independent book store, Waterford, Ireland.

Lesson learned: window dressing is a lot more difficult than it looks. Kind friends have assured me that it looks ‘minimalist’ and fitting to the theme of the book (rather than ‘bare’ and ‘bland’ as I (still) suspect).

My next post will be a report on the launch itself. Fingers crossed for no tumbleweed or crickets.

The author head shot dilemma: professional or DIY?


This is something I was undecided on for a long time: do I need a professional author head shot?

All the self-publishing experts I know say yes, you do. They say it’s an investment in your work. They say it reflects a professional ethos. They say that a cropped image of you squinting in the sun on holiday with a disembodied arm around your shoulders may not send the right message about your work.

Then there’s our old friend, self-doubt. I’m ‘only’ self-publishing, after all. I’m trying to keep my costs down. The cropped holiday snap will do fine, won’t it? Who do I think I am?

I found that my decision was made even harder by the fact that I already had a very nice author photo, taken by a friend who does photography in his spare time and is excellent at it. The snags were: 1) The picture is several years old. Hands up, I (sadly) don’t look much like that any more. 2) My friend had very kindly taken the picture free of charge. I value the friendship and didn’t want to ask him for more free work, nor I did I want to cause him awkwardness or embarrassment by trying to insist on paying him.

After agonising over the decision a little longer (I can be indecisive!), I decided to grab the bull by the horns. I would go professional.

I found a local, female photographer. This was important to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my big, established brands when it suits me, but when it comes to bespoke work, especially anything artistic, I try to support my local economy and women who are setting up in business on their own.

Enter Bara Alich, whose work I had seen and loved in a local charity calendar. Bara works from a pop-up studio in a room in her home. She tears down the studio after each shoot because the room is used by the family the rest of the time. She brings in a local make-up artist to prep subjects before shoots. She’s incredibly nice (I had a cold at the time, and she made me fresh honey, lemon and ginger tea!), professional and ambitious. That’s the kind of set-up I like.

Here we are getting ready for the shoot:

orla-and-bara-sept-2016

Bara took huge pains to find out from me what I was aiming for with the photo. She made me think about what I really wanted the photo to ‘say’. My book is about mental health issues so, together, we worked out that we wanted the result to show friendliness, kindness and understanding, yet strength and reliability as well.

Bara helped me pick outfits that would fit in with those key words, and her make-up artist did a very professional job (and managed to cover up the rotten cold!). Here’s the result:

Portrait by Bara Alich Photography

It is always cringe-inducing to look at pictures of yourself, but I am happy with this one. It fulfils my expectations and hopefully, it does something to persuade people that my book is worth a look.

You do have to grin and bear it when you’re handing over money for a self-financed project – and that little voice saying “You could have just done it yourself” never quite goes away. I’m happy with my decision and with the result.

PS. My next post will be the book cover reveal! Stay tuned!

My new book ‘Mental’ comes out this year


Allow me to be selfish for a moment. 2017 is going to be a huge year for me because this is the year that I publish my first book.

It’s a book of short stories and it’s called ‘Mental’. The stories all deal with the issue of mental health as it affects the five main characters, who are of different ages and backgrounds. My aim with the book – apart from creating a piece of work that hopefully has some artistic merit! – is to shed light into the often darkened corners of our mental worlds.

I’m self-publishing the book, a process that so far has been mostly enjoyable. As a child, I was fascinated with the physicality of books. I tried a few times to make my own, in an attempt to fulfil my dream of seeing my name on a front cover.

Armed with the Olivetti typewriter that Santa had brought, my drawing pens, paper and folders liberated from my Dad’s workplace, and lots of sellotape, I sadly found that the results were never quite up to my expectations. Back then, this was the best I could do (this ‘book’ was the result of a school history project): 


Had I been born only a few decades later, my younger self could simply have used one of today’s self-publishing platforms to publish my early attempts at a novel.

For Mental, I’m using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) for the ebook and CreateSpace, Amazon’s print-on-demand service, for the print version.

One of the most exciting tasks so far has been working with an awesome graphic designer to create the cover of the book. I’ll be revealing the cover on this blog very soon!

Author interview: Maria Moulton, author of "Mammy Diaries"


Maria Moulton is the author of the just-published Mammy Diaries, a fascinating, in-depth look at pregnancy and motherhood in modern Ireland based on almost three years’ worth of interviews with Irish mothers. Published at the end of March, Mammy Diaries has already received a level of publicity in both old and new media that is remarkable for a self-published work.

I recently caught up with Maria at the Waterford launch of Mammy Diaries and asked her for her insights into self-publishing and self-promotion.

Mammy Diaries

OS: Maria, first of all, congratulations on your remarkable book, Mammy Diaries. It’s the first book that I’m aware of that really lifts the lid on what motherhood in 21st-century Ireland is like. How are you finding life as a published author so far?

MM: Thanks Orla! Well, to be perfectly honest, I’ve just swapped the busy-ness of being a stay at home mother trying to squish in time to research, write and compile a book, for the busy-ness of being a stay at home mother trying to squish in time to promote, sell and publicize a book! It’s been great fun though. I still can’t believe that it’s “out there.”

OS: Mammy Diaries is a self-published work. Did you decide to self-publish from the word go or did you consider approaching traditional print publishers first?

MM: From the start, I really liked the idea of self-publishing. Aside from the obvious benefits of working at my own pace (essential with small kids!) and having complete control over content, I also knew that the book I was putting together had a very specific audience and as such would be a lot easier to publicise then if say, I’d written a work of general fiction.
My husband was a bit nervous about the idea at the start, so for his sake I did send out a few letters of enquiry to a few traditional publishers. I never even got past the proposal stage with them, so in the end, it was self-publishing all the way! I decided to go with a company in Dublin called Original Writing and they’ve been absolutely amazing. A real pleasure to work with and very efficient, every step of the way.

OS: The publicity around the book has already been fantastic – radio slots, newspaper pieces, online PR, and your ongoing nationwide book tour. The book is also on the shelf in Easons’s, which is rare for a self-published work. How have you gone about generating publicity for the book?

MM: As you said yourself, self published works don’t tend to get into the larger, mainstream book shops, so my main goal when Mammy Diaries was published was to generate as much publicity in as short a space of time as humanly possible. The ide was to make it that much more attractive to the bigger retailers. This meant contacting journalists who I thought would be interested in the project, getting exposure in both local and national media and once I’d gathered enough clippings and podcasts, my publishers in Dublin contacted the bigger shops and “Voila!”.
The Internet has definitely been my biggest and most effective tool. Without it, the book probably wouldn’t have been written and I’d never have even considered self-publishing without it. You can do anything online. IrishPressReleases.ie allows you to contact the nation’s media in seconds and social networking sites like Twitter, Blogspot and Facebook have just opened up so many doors. It’s amazing really how far we’ve come in the last 10 or 15 years.

OS: Which channels are you finding the most effective so far for promoting your book?

MM: Well, the press coverage at the start was a huge boost . That definitely brought the book to the public’s attention. Having it in Eason’s is great because it means that it’s easily and constantly available to people. The book tour allows me to help keep the book current and to continue to introduce it to people who may not have heard about it yet. Obviously though, as I said above, it’s the internet that’s making it all happen.

OS: Mammy Diaries is currently out in print format. E-reader platforms like Kindle can bring self-published books to a much wider audience. Have you any plans to also publish Mammy Diaries for e-readers?

MM: My husband is working on it at the moment! Touch wood, it should be available in Kindle format in the next week or so.

OS: Self-publishing used to be the Cinderella of the book world. Some sources now say it’s the next big thing. What is your view of self-publishing versus the more traditional route of submitting your work to established publishers and hoping for the best?

MM: Honestly? I love it. I think that if you have the drive to get out there and put in the work to promote your book, it’s definitely worth considering. No one is going to work as hard for your book as you are. I know I’m probably sounding like a bit of a broken record, but the internet really has opened up so many doors and possibilities.
That being said, it’s called self-publishing for a reason. You are your own editor, critic, agent and publicist, and that can get a little tiring. You’re not going to feel one hundred per cent all the time and there are going to be days when you wish to God that there was a team of people behind you organizing everything for you and telling you exactly what to do next. You are going to have moments of self doubt where you wonder “Is it really any good at all? What have I done?!”
At the end of the day though, you get to put out exactly what you want to put out and not someone else’s version of what you started off writing. Hopefully, with a little luck and a lot of work, you’ll find a group of readers who connect with what you’ve written and who will look forward to hearing more from you.

OS: For many writers, their work is a labour of love. But money is key to being able to continue as a writer. Can you talk to us a little about the financial side of a venture like Mammy Diaries – did you have to invest much of your own money into getting it published and to publicise it? Do you expect to make a profit on the book?

MM: The cost of publishing varies from company to company and package to package. With the different self-publishing companies that are out there (and there are more popping up every day) you can look at paying anywhere from 1000 euro for your basic, no-frills option to several thousand euro which will buy you editorial services, consultation on cover design, and so on.
Not being made of money myself, we went for something on the more basic end of the scale publishing-wise. Aside from the cost of petrol, all of our publicity has been free, so for us there really wasn’t that much of an investment to be made.
Aside from that, we’ve just worked really hard to do as much of the grunt work as we could do ourselves. My husband learned how to do web design so he could do my website and we also designed the cover ourselves. I have a regular (if currently neglected!) blog of the same name, a Facebook group for Mammy Diaries as well as a Twitter account that I’m getting better at using. Whenever we go anywhere to do signings, I let the local media know in case it’s something they’d be interested in covering. None of this costs money, just a bit of time and effort.
I’m also lucky enough to be surrounded by a large group of friends and family who are unbelievably supportive of Mammy Diaries and do their best to promote the heck out of it, for which I’m eternally grateful!

OS: You’re currently on a nationwide book tour. How are you finding the tour? Would you recommend a book tour to other writers as part of the PR campaign for a self-published work?

MM: Definitely. It’s a great oppurtunity to meet the people who will be reading your book as well as to make contacts with book shops and libraries. Also, every launch gives you the potential for local media coverage, which is great for keeping your book in the public eye.

OS: I’ve been told that self-promotion can take as much time as writing itself, if not more. How do you go about making the time for promotion work for Mammy Diaries? Do you have any tips for other writers in this regard?

MM: Do your best to do the kind of promotion that works for you. As a mother of two small children, traditional evening champagne launch events didn’t work for me (or for that matter, for the majority of my audience!). Instead, we hold our signings in play centers where my girls can run around and play with other children and the mothers who are coming along can do the same and not have to worry about babysitters and such. The same goes with radio and print interviews – most of mine were done on the phone so I could do them from anywhere. I spoke with The Irish Times from the car while we drove around the countryside putting the girls to sleep and I did an interview with a Waterford radio station live from my kitchen in my pyjamas!
My husband was made redundant last year, which ended up being a blessing in disguise as it was his being home that gave me the freedom to really buckle down and get the last of the book finished. He’s also my chauffeur/graphic designer/web master and general go-to guy.
Aside from that, I fully admit that there was a LOT of procrastrination in the way of Facebooking, tweeting and emailing going on while I was writing Mammy Diaries. Nowadays, I use that same time to do the same things, but with a purpose. Instead of a way to procrastinate, I’m using them for promotion instead.

OS: Many thanks Maria!

***

Find Maria at http://www.mammydiaries.ie, http://mammydiaries.blogspot.com, on Facebook at Mammy Diaries Ireland and on Twitter at @mammydiaries.

(c) Curmumgeon 2011

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