Saturday, 26 March 2016

Helen Libby on inspiration, self-publishing, marketing, and other writerly challenges



Helen Libby releases her new book, Paris Actually, on Tuesday. Here she talks about her stories, her inspiration, self-publishing, and her career as a writer so far.



Helen says, "I write novelettes or long short stories if you prefer - my stories tend to average round the 15,000 word mark. I have always loved writing, enjoyed it at school, and continued writing stories as part of my degree (Literature/Imaginative Writing). Even when I graduated and started working full-time I continued to write, but somehow I could never finish a project.

"I started taking my writing more seriously just under 10 years ago, when I relocated and everything felt so strange that I found writing cathartic. I decided to write a novel about a young woman who was diagnosed with skin cancer. My sister had skin cancer, which gave me the idea for my book, although the story wasn’t based on her. I got to about 60,000 words when I stopped and put it away for a while. I was working full-time and had a stressful job; I couldn’t focus on my writing.

"A few years ago I had the opportunity to go part-time, which I grabbed! It meant a drop in salary, but it also meant I had more time to devote to my writing. I dug out my old manuscript and began editing. I was ruthless and cut a lot of it and eventually ended up with a story of approximately 17,000 words. I felt I’d found my niche writing novelettes.

"I have written four other novelettes since the first one, with a sixth well under way, and with ideas for at least three more. I have approached various publishers, but although I received some positive feedback, no-one wanted to take my novelettes on. I think they are very niche considering their length, and the fact that although they have a romantic bent, the romance is not usually the main focus of the story. There is another issue such as being heavily in debt, or adoption, or skin cancer, and so on.
 
"In November 2015 I decided to take the plunge and self-publish my work via Kindle Direct Publishing, and I have self-published two novelettes so far in e-book form. I have not yet released the first novelette I wrote, purely because it was appropriate to release the other two stories during the winter period due to the time of year they were set.

"Now I know what I’m doing with regards to formatting a manuscript before uploading it to KDP, I’m really enjoying self-publishing my work. I have some beta readers, I send my stories to a professional proof-reader, and my husband helps me design the covers. The hardest part for me is marketing - I have a lot to learn about this.

"Sales so far have been slow, which I’m not worried about at the moment because I’m in this for the long haul. I’ve had a mix of 4 and 5 star decent reviews, which is encouraging.

"Many people I know prefer to read a full length novel, not something that can be read in one sitting, like my stories. That said, I think the era we’re in means that many people are sometimes only looking for something short to read, especially if they’re reading a story on their mobile phone. My stories are compact, but they have layers, so I don’t believe they are one dimensional." 

Get Helen's new book, Paris Actually here

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