While nwbooklovers.org is a website with a regional focus, it has an international reach. Recently, debut author Kathryn Fox from the UK contacted us via our facebook page. I found her self-published memoir, Stolen Memories, through IndieBound and Kobo. We started a discussion about self-publishing internationally, and I thought Kathryn’s experiences as an author from across the pond might help other self-published authors or aspiring authors and curious readers, wherever they might be. -Tegan
TT: How did you learn about nwbooklovers.org?
KF: Through the Facebook site. I was looking for opportunities to try and get my book out there and trawled for sites that were specific for books and in particular self-publishers/indie authors.
TT: You’re a first-time author from the UK; how did you go about seeking distribution internationally in the US?
KF: I am a first-time author and maybe a onetime author as my book is my real life story. Although I admit to having thoroughly enjoyed the process and if I have another story in me, whether fact or fiction, I will definitely write again. Not being a celebrity I knew that no publisher would be interested in my book, so I researched how to self-publish. There is a great deal of information on the internet about the different ways you can self-publish. The probably most well-known was Kindle Direct Publishing. I set my book up on there initially as an eBook. I then discovered Smashwords, which opened even more doors: Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Apple, etc. My intention originally was just to release the book as an e-book, but I started to get requests for a hard copy. Again with the help of the internet I found Createspace (Amazon) where you can create printed copies to order.
[Editor’s note: In the PNW, we have the indie paper book publishing option of the Espresso Book Machine, available at stores such as University Bookstore in Seattle; Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, WA; and Powell’s Books in Portland. For international listings of Espresso Book Machines, here’s an interactive map. Additionally, national distributor Ingram offers on-demand printing through their IngramSpark program; these books are available to independent booksellers.]
KF: I didn’t at the time but through trying to market my book independently and checking out Facebook, websites, etc. I am slowly beginning to become aware. The people I have spoken to from the US have been so tremendously helpful and have been giving me fantastic advice. Sadly I have yet to find anything similar in the UK.
TT: Can you give us a brief description of your book?
KF: A true, heart-breaking story of the effect post-traumatic stress disorder had on a British Soldier and how it tore a happy family apart and the subsequent secondary trauma PTSD has on loved ones.
TT: What are some of your favourite bookstores? (Anywhere in the world!)
KF: … In terms of physically going into a bookstore, I would have to rate WHSmith here in the UK. Having two young children it’s quite a vibrant set up and attractive to children. Although unfortunately they’re not a store that would generally stock self-publishers/independent authors.
TT: How are you using social media to help promote your book? Have you learned any tips through the process?
KF: As a newbie to independent bookselling I have only recently started to look to social media to promote my book. Having now exhausted family and friends, I felt I needed to look beyond word of mouth as my way of promotion. I have only recently started using Facebook as a way to promote my book. As well as targeting sites relevant to independent booksellers/self-publishers, since my book has quite a broad spectrum of subject areas it touches on, such as PTSD, military, psychiatry, domestic, emotional & physical abuse, it has opened up quite a few lines of opportunity for me to explore and use for promotion. Initially I simply requested a link to my book be shared and have made sure that I contribute as much as I can by posting comments and referring to my book as often as I can. This has then opened up opportunities for my book/story to be a feature on some sites (including this one) and some magazines, eg Self Publishers Magazine.
I am learning tips on how to present my links in an eye catching way and how to ensure that my narrative will catch the eye of the reader from the get go. Making my book cover my profile picture was another tip. I have yet to venture onto Twitter but no doubt will do soon.
I have registered my book on as many book club websites as possible, although not having the backing of publishing company I don’t have a slush fund to pay for marketing when there is a cost so I have stuck to the ones that will put the information on for free, which are few and far between, e.g. BookWorks, Onlinebookclub, etc. Some of these will also do a free book review.
I have also contacted organisations who may be willing to include my story on their websites with a reference to my book. Sadly the more well-known ones here in the UK, that could make a serious difference, have refused, but smaller ones have been more than willing eg PTSD Resolution, Royal College of Psychiatrists, etc.
TT: Do you have any specific questions for American indie booksellers?
KF: General advice on how to promote a book when you are on a limited budget or no budget at all would be helpful. In addition when you have written a book to tell a story, raise awareness and make a difference rather than to earn a living/profit is the advice any different or are their additional avenues I could go down?
TT: Any specific questions for American authors?
KF: Has anyone tried to get their book into magazines, radio, newspapers etc? If so, how and which ones? Again I have tried this in the UK; with my story being a true story and PTSD being relevant with the current conflicts around the world over the years I thought the British media would be very interested. Unfortunately it only seems they are if the story is a heart-warming one and a successful one and does not appear to show any criticism of how our military treat their serving personnel and their families.
TT: Do you have regional trade organizations or author groups in the UK that have resources American booksellers might find useful?
KF: I truly wish I could offer advice here. Unfortunately in all my research I have yet to find anything in the UK that is of a great deal of help to myself, never mind you guys in the US. Hence my reaching out outside of the UK. I don’t think freedom of speech means the same thing in the UK. I believe over here it’s freedom of speech (within reason), or to put it bluntly so long as it doesn’t upset anyone. So I think people don’t tend to do things like this independently for fear of legal consequences.
TT: Anything else you’d like to share?
KF: Two things really I would love to share. Not anything that would help independent booksellers, but just my thoughts.
Firstly, I wrote my book because I had a story to tell and an important story at that. I think it’s such a tragedy that only tell-all books and celebrity autobiographies seem to be the only thing that interests publishers, PR guys etc. It’s no surprise book readers have no option but to buy these books as they rarely get to see true real life stories like mine and others unless we have the determination, foresight, time, knowledge, experience, help, etc to push to get our books out there. No doubt taking years to do so as well.
Secondly, for my personal situation I found writing my book the most therapeutic thing I could have done to get myself and children through what was a very sad and traumatic time in our lives. Writing the bad bits were easy, the good times not so much as writing about the happiness you had lost was really heart-breaking. But it was something I had to do, and now I can look back on the times with a smile on my face rather than tears in my eyes. So for me writing was the best medicine and counselling I could have had, and I would recommend it to anyone.
- Include an IndieBound link to your book when you’re communicating with independent bookstores, on your website, and in your social media links. When you link to IndieBound, you help support independent bookstores. If you ever dream of doing a reading at an indie bookstore, help keep them in the community by linking to them!
- Be consistent in your nomenclature. If you are using social media or email to reach out to booksellers or readers, use the same name you have on your book. Search engines can be tricky; you want people to be able to find your book by searching for the name they know you by.
- Relationship-building works. Kathryn’s kind and thoughtful initial messages and her willingness to follow up to try to help other authors made her outreach effective. She welcomes your comments and feedback on this post!
For more advice for self-published authors, read this article from Seattle author Mark Holtzen from our archives.