Back from the Beta Readers

Bognor Beach at dusk

Beta readers are essential. Beta readers will reveal aspects of your writing you may not be aware of and I have come to rely on honest feedback to fine tune my works of fiction. You may not like it. On the other hand, you may be thrilled by the response you get, but ironing out these potential flaws is what makes your work stand out above others. So be brave, ask someone impartial, someone who isn’t a friend or family, who might otherwise be afraid of offending you.

Latest Update

Time is marching on and I am delighted to report the news that my debut psychological thriller is close to completion.

The cover has been decided. I appreciated everyone’s feedback, but the 3rd design was a winner and stood out clearest as an Amazon thumbnail.

Lethal Ties by Helen Christmas

This post however, is a heartfelt thanks to those who were kind enough to give ‘Lethal Ties’ a first look. This book underwent numerous edits and re-writes and by the time it was as polished as it could be, I sent it to an editor (who I’d also like to acknowledge). But first allow me to share some of the views that came back from the beta readers.

Pacing and Style

The first of my beta readers thought ‘the pace was a little slow, with perhaps too much descriptive content which tended to slow the plot down.’

I take this onboard, while at the same time thinking about personal preferences – i.e. this is not a high-octane action thriller, but a psychological suspense thriller, which tend to be slower paced. Having read many books in this genre, I realised in my earlier draft that I revealed too much too soon, and it killed the suspense. This slow drip feed of action was done for a reason. Having said that though, the descriptive content needs looking at so I will cut this down to a reasonable level. Descriptions add colour but less is more. There is no point overdoing it and any ‘overly elaborate literary language’ can go. I was also advised on dialogue tags, e.g. trying too hard to avoid the word ‘said.’ Even my editor pointed this out, another area I can improve on. 

Dialogue Tags

Set up and pay off

Reading the response from my second beta reader got me thinking about character motivation and this was a real eye-opener, especially where the evil protagonists are concerned. 

The baddies in this story don’t feature much. They are shadows in the background, their presence so subtle, you won’t know who they are until later. This was also done for a reason and being a suspense novel, I want to keep my readers guessing. Yet I don’t want to ‘stretch people’s credibility’ too far, so this needs looking at too. Investing more time in setting up the bad guys, as well as their motives, will have all the more impact when the final twists are revealed.

A shadowy figure

The final edit

In response to this feedback, I am in the process of a final edit now, taking on board all the comments. I can reveal that ‘Lethal Ties’ is on Amazon and available to pre-order, while at the same time, I’m approaching digital publishers and agents. Having the backing of a professional company will get this out to a much wider audience, if successful; but if I have to stick to the self-publishing route, so be it.

and finally…

With publication getting close, I am so excited to reveal who my editor was. Joel Hames is a best selling author who has written many books in the corporate world of finance and law. His newest book, ‘The Lies I Tell’ is a brilliant psychological thriller about identity fraud and has just been relaunched by ‘Spellbound Books.’

The Lies I Tell by Joel Hames

Joel gave my book an extra polish in his copy edit, but his response to my book was very positive.

‘I really enjoyed this and I think you’ve hit what you were aiming for here. It’s tense and thrilling, and it was impossible to know what was going to happen, even with the benefit of the prologue.’


In my next blog, I’ll be exploring another theme and that is child abuse in its various forms, the impact on victims and how the cycle can be broken. This will include a special tribute to Graham Lovell, whose chat was the biggest inspiration behind one of the book’s main characters, Joe.

UPDATE: First Draft of #WIP Complete

This is an update to my recent a post Entering the Final Phase of a #WIP and on September 30th, I finally completed the story.

This standalone psychological thriller set Sussex took me on a long and twisted path but I’m delighted to have crossed the finishing line.

The next day, I had an impulse to revisit a significant location in the book, the village of East Lavant near Chichester.

The story is mainly set in Bognor Regis, a pleasant seaside town on the south coast, but I needed somewhere more remote for the book’s chilling finale.

An Idyllic country village

The reason I chose East Lavant was not just for its idyllic village setting, but the narrow winding road that draws you deep into the countryside. With swathes of thick forests on both sides and soaring oak trees this was a perfect location to create a surreal and spooky atmosphere.

A web of trees

One characteristic of my character, Maisie, is her fear of forests, something that features prominently in her recurring nightmares. So when she is cut off from her friends with a deadly enemy at large, these woods are exactly the type of place her enemy would choose to lie low.

A concealed forest track

I researched the police procedures before writing the closing scene but with a full scale operation in place, involving distance surveillance, I needed to double check there were tracks in the forests to allow vehicle access…

It seemed impossible to believe how an idyllic corner of West Sussex could conceal a crime of such evil.

Fresh Inspiration

I have always advocated to other writers that putting yourself in the setting of your story can be inspiring and the extra photos will prove useful. At least I didn’t have to travel very far this time, no train journeys to London and beyond which was another advantage of choosing my home county for this novel.

In many ways it feels like a great weight has been lifted but I am looking forward to the editing process.

Adventures Into New Writing Ventures

There are currently two folders open on my desktop under ‘Writing’ right now. One is for another edit of Visions. The other is a folder for a series of short stories.


Since completing an edit for the first book in my ‘Same Face Different Place’ series, BEGINNINGS (which is currently being proofread), this left me with a burning urge to take another look at VISIONS, the second book of the series.

Book 2 Visions

Set in the 1980s, ‘Visions’ is the book I always wanted to write and contains everything I feel passionate about; historic houses, idyllic villages, simple country pleasures, traditions and a strong community. Yet in the background lurks the disturbing, unresolved mystery left in ‘Beginnings’ and a new threat about to be unravelled. One of my reviewers wrote “Despite the beauty of each scene there is always an element of danger lurking” which sums the story up very well. A more recent reviewer depicted my story as “a study of how to react to threats and violence, the nature of victimhood, and the power of fighting back.”

I am really enjoying revisiting this book with just a few tweaks, to improve it.

Short Stories

The main reason for this blog however, is to log my newer writing adventures.

This was something I always planned to do before I got distracted by other interests. It started last year when in a somewhat spooky moment, I felt as if I had been ‘touched’ by the Bronte Sisters. It happened during a trip to the Parsonage museum in Yorkshire when I was stood in the very room where Charlotte Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights. I was hit with a strange feeling, the concept of ‘short stories’ rolling around my mind like a mantra; that if I was ever to make an impression, this was a path I had to follow.

Ascending the stairs to the upper floor, I found myself dismissing the concept. When am I ever going to find time to write a book of short stories? The thought was interrupted by a sharp prick like a thorn and before I knew it, a splinter from this original oak staircase was embedded in my finger. I stared at it numbly, wondering if it was sign. Are these the “rugged thorns that shoot out their prickly arms on barren moors, or ruffle the moss on the mountain tops?”

Bronte Parsonage Museum

It sounds insane but this is genuinely what I felt and I made a promise that day. I pledged to the Bronte sisters, I would write a book of short stories and pleased to announce, I have made a start. ‘The Rosebrook Chronicles’ is a book I hope to bring out next year and the first story titled ‘Stony Crows’ is a work in progress. The stories are based on a few of the lesser known characters in my ‘Same Face’ series but they dip into a little more detail of the underlying character backstories I never made it into the series.

Two More Folders

I will end this post by saying there are two more folders on my desktop. One is for a screenplay I am working on, (having just finished a very interesting course) and the other is an outline plot for my next standalone novel, a modern day thriller based around the institute of child care and adoption… More updates coming soon.

End of the year review

With Christmas coming and another year nearly over, I was wondering what I might write for what will probably be my final post in 2016.

Apart from being another year older and considerably greyer, I dedicated the last two months of the year to losing a stone with Weightwatchers. Apart from that, the 4th and final book in my “Same Face Different Place” has been advancing nicely with a first draft written and a substantial edit under my belt (almost). But best of all, this is the first year where I have actually achieved some success in my writing!

ceremony11The year kicked off to a great start when I was selected as winner of the ‘Write Across Sussex’ short story competition. This was an absolute honour considering the panel of judges included such bestselling authors as Kate Mosse and Peter Lovesey. In some ways, I felt the same as I did when I came first in my infants school Sports Day ‘Space Hopper’ Race. I can still remember the face of the lady who pressed 3 toffees into my hand, as well as the warm glow of winning. It’s a feeling that stayed with me, especially considering I don’t often win much, something that should never be taken for granted.

kent-woodedroadIn February, I ventured back to Kent for another research trip in Book 4, Retribution a lot of scenes take place in winter.) It was one of those days when I felt that luck was on my side; a beautiful sunny day, photogenic landscapes and everything perfectly timed to deliver me right where I wanted to be; from the remote landscapes of rural Kent to the glittering streets of London and Chelsea.

It was in the same year, I tried various marketing campaigns including Facebook advertising to promote an Amazon Countdown deal. It certainly resulted in some sales and pushed me up the ranks, so 2016 was a good year for raising awareness.

As the summer months progressed, I found myself getting close to finishing the 1st draft of Retribution and after taking a relaxing break in West Yorkshire, I sped to the end.

London DocklandsThe final part of the story was completed by August. But before I embarked on a major edit, I found myself back in London for the entire August Bank holiday: excellent timing to achieve those all important, final bits of research I needed to do to improve the location details; Chelsea, Shoreditch and Wapping, along with various institutions and pubs – research that has definitely paid off…

So onto the 1st and 2nd edits; this is the part of the writing process where every chapter gets a bit of a makeover and re-shaped to create a better story for the readers. It inevitably involves cutting bits out, expanding others and shifting the order of scenes in places to build tension and create atmosphere. It is the most important part of all the edits because by the time I have written a complete draft, I know which parts are the most important. It is also during this part of the editing process, I’m more ‘in tune’ with my characters and can improve on the dialogue. They might be the same characters as in the previous three books, but like real people, they have evolved.


I still belong to a network of local authors, known as CHINDI and in November, we hosted our ‘Love to Read’ author’s party in Chichester. As well as taking on the style of a book fair, we decided to raise a bit for charity and chose ‘Dyslexia Action’ as our benefactor. The evening included book stands, alongside a local wine merchant and chocolatier, as well as nibbles, a raffle and live music.

November 2017 was my best ever month on Amazon. In the aftermath of a free promotion plus announcing it on a fantastic new Facebook group (NotRights), I achieved a great number of downloads, as well as a mammoth Kindle Unlimited page count. I’ve even had a few new reviews. With the series close to completion, it is nice to see the sales trickling in and hope this is a sign of things to come. Fingers crossed!


It was also around the same time, I sent the 1st part of my new book ‘Retribution’ to Beta readers and look forward to some feedback. This could be a bit darker than the previous books. Filled with powerful human emotions, it is a tale that delves into how a community reacts to a terrible disaster – the revenge of one character – and the mystery that binds the characters together.


I am still editing the second part of the book and gearing up for the final polish in time for a Spring 2017 launch. I hope everyone has a great Christmas and I’ll be back in the New Year.

Retribution First Draft – 4th August 2016

It’s been a very long wait, I know – but I’m excited to announce, the first draft of ‘Same Face Different Place Retribution’ is complete.

Front cover Image for Retribution Phase 1
Front cover Image for Retribution Phase 1

I feel delighted to have finished it at last, especially since it has taken me a whole year. That’s right – it was August 4th 2015 when I drafted out the prologue and first chapters of this book and after 12 months of total dedication, I tied up every loose end, solved the mystery behind the series and included a few more twists, no-one will see coming.
(See one of my last updates published exactly a year ago.)

This is book that stretches beyond Britain. The continuous references to British politics and religion, TV, fashion, culture and music through the 90s are embedded in the fabric of the novel but as the story progresses, characters will find themselves scattered across the globe, from former Yugoslavia, Holland, Spain, France, Hungary and even the Caribbean.

With the first draft complete, now starts the editing process; so over the next months I will post regular articles about the chapters, from additional research (with photos) to relevant topics in the news. Unfortunately, with so many characters and so many loose ends to tie up, the book is looking to be huge. It is for this reason, I am splitting it into two books: ‘RETRIBUTION Phase 1’ and ‘RETRIBUTION End Game.’ But I don’t want to keep readers waiting for any longer than necessary. My ambition is to publish both parts simultaneously in order to deliver this 4th and final instalment.

Front cover Image for Retribution End Game
Front cover Image for Retribution End Game

The concluding book of my ‘Same Face Different Place’ series is now written and will be coming out fairly soon…

Author Q and A Sessions – 27th July 2016

I’ve been involved in a few more Q&A sessions recently thanks to two kind-hearted Book Bloggers who took the time and trouble to publish an author’s interview on their websites for me:

The latest article coincided very nicely with a Summer Reads promotion I was involved in with CHINDI Authors (a networking group of self-published authors who get together to share ideas, host events and generally help other writers who want to get their work published.) Summer Reads was something quite different.

Summer Reads

As well as promoting our books, we used Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest as forums for sharing writing tips and we also put up a few 6-word story writing challenges.

Helen Christmas writing tips1 twitter Helen Christmas writing tips2 twitter Helen Christmas writing tips3 twitter

And finally, we held some interesting author Q&A Sessions live on our Facebook page.

These a lot of fun and a good way of using social networks to share our ideas and keep others informed about our individual journeys into publishing. I won’t say much more about my own live session but I decided to include a transcript (from Facebook) to show how this transpired. I hope it will inspire others to run their own Facebook Q&A sessions and hope some of the answers I gave will be of interest to other authors.

Facebook Transcript from a live Facebook Q&A Session:

Live Facebook Q&A

Chindi Authors Hello Helen, Good luck and for those who have not yet read your books, how would you describe your series of romantic thrillers Same Face Different Place?

Helen Christmas Hi to all the Chindi Authors out there. There’s a lot to this series – such as conspiracy theory and police cover ups, the criminal underworld of the 70s and more… the principal characters in book 1 are two young people on the run, who fall in love. It is the start of mystery that unrolls over 4 decades.

Chindi Authors Do you base any of your characters on real people

Helen Christmas I love this type of question! Well Ted Heath featured in the first book as did Maggie Thatcher in the 2nd but not as characters. The characters in my story are all fictitious, though some of their traits are based on real people.

Christine Hammacott Hi Helen what made you set your stories in the past?

Helen Christmas Hi Christine. I’ve seen a lot of political and social changes throughout my life so I wanted to include a bit of that history. I also loved the music and the fashion of each decade. As soon as I’d finished book 1, I actually quite missed the 70s. But I enjoyed revisiting the 80s which is where the 2nd book kicks off.

Chindi Authors Who are your favourite authors, who do you feel has influenced you the most?

Helen Christmas I was a big fan of Jilly Cooper, Leslie Pearce and Martina Cole but I greatly admire the work of Ken Follett (official) who writes wonderful sagas based around real life historic events.

Carol Thomas Writers are often readers too, what is on your summer reading list?

Helen Christmas Hi Carol – well you’ll be pleased to know that yours is on that list but I have a few others lined up to take on holiday. 

M’TK Sewer Rat – End of Empire by Delinda McCann
A contemporary drama set in a fictional third world country which sounds intriguing.
A Taste of Ash by Christine Hammacott which is a psychological thriller and looks to be very gripping.
I have a couple of hard backs too, including Past Imperfect by Michael Parker, so plenty to choose from.

JJ Morval Hi Helen, how long does the first draft, or ‘creative’ draft, before you get to the editing stage of each book, take for you, and do you have a plan that you work to?

Helen Christmas Hi Nick! Book 1 Beginnings took me about 6 months to write from start to finish, I just stormed through. But I made some changes to the first edit which influenced the whole book, so it was a bit of a rewrite. For the later books, I reckon about a year for the first draft and then another year for all the editing stages so it’s about 50/50.

JJ Morval When I start writing, not all of my characters are there, and sometimes I like not knowing everything. Do you ‘know’ all your charcters before you start?

Helen Christmas No, not at all, many have developed along the timeline of the story and became bigger characters.

JJ Morval Thank goodness I’m not alone… 🙂

Alexander Wallis Hi Helen, what advice would you give to young people who say they don’t like reading?

Helen Christmas If the world seems empty and nobody is listening, pick up a book and read… It might help.

Alexander Wallis Beautifully put!

Chris Casburn Do you translate your books for an American audience?

Helen Christmas No. My series is a quintessentially English series, as depicted in my Facebook page Helen J. Christmas – author of Same Face Different Place

Chris Casburn I’m not a big fan Of Anazon. Are your books available anywhere else?

Helen Christmas Yes, they are available from the Chindi Authors Book shop as signed paperbacks PLUS I have made a feeble attempt to get my book on i-tunes too (via a company called Draft2Digital who do all the hard work for you) so Book 1 Beginnings is available through other channels. I need to do the others in the same format to reach a wider audience. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

Kirsti Lelliott What writing rituals do you have, special pens, places to write, etc?

Helen Christmas Sorry for the delay, Kirstie. Writing rituals… I start at 6am, pour myself a glass of water and our dog joins me in the office whilst I write for a couple of hours. Early mornings are good – no distractions x

Kirsti Lelliott No worries thank you for the replies 🙂 x

Carol Thomas – Author I know you gave a talk at the Worthing Wow festival about social media, what is your top social media tip for writers?

Helen Christmas Establish a brand that represents you and your books, be it a cover image, a colour scheme or background. My debut thriller had a striking image of London’s cityscape in the 1970s which I used in the background of my Facebook and Twitter headers as well as on my website and blog. It helps people to recognise you as an author.

Mason Thomas Hi Helen, are your books available as audiobooks if not is this something you plan to do?

Helen Christmas Hello Mason. No, I’m afraid not. I did approach a company through Amazon but there were no offers for auditions (possibly needed someone with a cockney accent). Maybe one day, I will create the audio books myself.

Angela Petch How do you go about editing? It is a tricky business for self-published authors BUT very important.

Helen Christmas Hi Angela and yes, it is. Writing that first draft is the fun part because it’s all about us and what turns us on. The next editing stage is for our audience. I usually do at least 2 edits before I pass the work onto beta readers to get their feedback. After that, I take on board their comments and do another edit. It’s an exhausting process but you want to get it just right before you publish.

Doreen Mason Your book covers are very striking, who creates them for you and how did you decide on the images?

Helen Christmas Thanks so much, Doreen. I actually designed them myself. I am a graphic designer by trade with access to lots of photo libraries and I also use photoshop. Book 3 Pleasures is actually a combination of 3 images, from 123RF and istock.

Doreen Mason Well you obviously do a great job!

Helen Christmas I’m really pleased you like them, thank you =D

Kirsti Lelliott Hi Helen 🙂 Do you interview people who have lived through the decades you write about or do you rely on other sources?

Helen Christmas Hi Kirsti 🙂 Yes, I have interviewed real people – one is a retired army officer who served in the 90s and has really helped me with book 4. Others include a police officer (and dare I say it) a former ecstasy dealer and DJ who was big in the 90s rave scene.

Carol Thomas – Author Which of your books have you most enjoyed writing and why?

Helen Christmas Thanks for asking: Books 1, 2 and 3 are 99p on Amazon at the moment, so I hope I can tempt some new readers… I absolutely loved writing the first one and got completely swept away by it, not only the setting (which was a result of extensive research) but the story line and the characters! It took me to another world.

Doreen Mason Hello, how often do you write and how long does it take you to complete one of your books?

Helen Christmas Hello Doreen. I make time to write every day, usually first thing in the morning (I always wake up about 5:30) and read it back later in the evening when I do a few edits. On average, it takes about a year to write the first draft and then comes the editing – Book 2 Visions and Book 3 Pleasures each took me about 2 years from start to finish.

Carol Thomas – Author How do you divide your time between promotion and writing?

Helen Christmas Writing is the fun part, Carol, the marketing is a relentless chore but we all have to do it if we’re self published. I give far greater priority to the writing which is maybe where I go wrong but at the end of the day, you have to blow your own trumpet because no-one is going to do it for you. I’d say about 75% writing and 25% marketing for me. That might change when I’ve finished the series.

Angela MacAskill How do you keep track of your plot, characters, sub plots and so forth as you write?

Helen Christmas Hmm… I have a synopsis as a blue print and I am currently working on a first draft but things do change. There are parts I have scrapped and new parts I have added but when you write a series, you really get to know your characters; their back story, their lives and everything that happens to them. It’s all in my head but I have my notes, synopsis and research to refer to as well as the earlier books.

Rob Lelliott Evening Helen – are you influenced by films and TV dramas, if so which?

Helen Christmas Hello, Rob. I used to love the Inspector Morse series and this was mainly the reason I went for a very convoluted plot with lots of characters. But I write from the heart – so good character stories work well for me too. I liked the TV series ‘Bad Girls’ and I also like ‘Game of Thrones’ for its amazing characters.

Angela MacAskill How many more books do you plan in the SFDP series?

Helen Christmas Hello Angela. Thanks for asking. I’m writing the final instalment and it’s huge! It progresses through the 90s and has covered 5 years but ideally, I want the big finale to happen in the year 2,000 followed by an epilogue which will be a catch up in 2012 where all the characters are reunited again.

The Creatures of Chichester Do you have any tips on editing your books?

Helen Christmas Hi Chris, lovely to hear from you and I hope you had a great time in Sicily! (lucky thing) To answer your question… from the 1st draft, the second edit is a visionary process – you have to turn your work into entertainment and write it for your audience and not for yourself; for me that means cutting out any waffle and tightening up the story to keep the pace moving. After that, it’s a case of polishing up the writing style, dialogue and descriptions. After that it’s a matter of fine tuning it and making sure it all flows.

The Creatures of Chichester If your books were made into a film. Who would you pick as your leading actors?

Helen Christmas That is a tricky question, Chris and I can picture my characters in my head but here goes… there is an actor Ben Drew (also known as singer, rapper Plan B) who would be brilliant as the evil gangster in the later part of the series (from Pleasures onwards) and Billy Boyd (played Pippin in Lord of the Rings) would be great as Peter Summerville, a gentle Irish Community worker.

Sylvia Endacott Hi, how are you going with your further book. Having written the first three, are you finding it more difficult to tie up the loose ends.

Helen J. Christmas – author of Same Face Different Place I tied up another of those loose ends today! Some of these characters deserve a truly happy ending 🙂 and there is now just one final section to finish.

Sylvia Endacott Great news.

Helen J. Christmas – author of Same Face Different Place I tied up another of those loose ends today! Some of these characters deserve a truly happy ending 🙂 and there is now just one final section to finish.

Back to Writing: an update – 6th May 2016

BookCover-BlackSince I wrote my post ‘Time for a Break‘  on April 11th, I am pleased to be back in the writing saddle, so to speak. I am now pressing ahead with the final chapters of Book 4 Retribution before the book (and indeed the whole Same face Different Place series) reaches a dramatic finale.

I have given myself a deadline until August to complete the first draft but then comes the editing; the process of reshaping everything I have written so far into a tighter, more cohesive novel. In the three decades I’ve covered, I’ve brought in a lot of characters and with each developing story line, so emerged many more. My promise to readers of the previous books is that there is more of everything the series is renowned for – larger than life gangland villains, heart-wrenching emotions, love, hate, cruelty, compassion and suspense by the bucket load. It’s not easy to say when the book will be released but I’m gunning for summer 2017.

In the meantime, here are some other things I’ve been up to:


Last month, I was delighted to be featured as a guest blogger on Sandra Danby’s website, talking about research. To see the feature, click here.

I have joined a new group ‘Mystery People’ run by Lizzie Haynes with her own blog, Mystery People website and e-newsletter filled with reviews and features for mystery crime writers.

Now I’ve started engaging with other new writers and book bloggers, I have some exciting author Q&A Interviews lined up in the coming months which I will promote as they occur.


At the end of May, I will be participating in a talk at Worthing Library event with CHINDI authors. The event is scheduled for 7-9pm on Tuesday 31st May at Worthing Library. Between us we will be covering the topics of  different Publishing Platforms, Book Cover Design, Editing & Proofreading, PR and Social Media before throwing the floor open to questions.

New Publicity Material

I have just designed a new poster, covering the first 3 books and matching postcards in time for this event. Designs are as below (you can click to enlarge the images).



So that’s it for May and I expect I’ll be doing an update on the Worthing talk, unless there is any other exciting news in the mean time.

A Debate on Self-Publishing – 25th June 2015

This week I found myself sat amidst a panel of local authors from our networking group, CHINDI for a lively Q&A session, in Chichester Library, to talk about the various paths we took in publishing.

A Big Turn out at Chichester Library Talk for CHINDI Authors Q&A Session
A Big Turn out at Chichester Library Talk for CHINDI Authors Q&A Session

I have to say I was a little amazed by the sheer volume of people pouring in through the door. One gentleman even said he’d heard something about us in the Telegraph. Yet it shows how much interest there is in self-published books. Where many years ago people turned their noses up if a book even showed a hint of being ‘self-published’ (and it used to be called ‘vanity publishing’) it is reassuring to know that “According to Jon Fine at the London Book Fair in April 2014, 30% of the top 100 books on Amazon are self-published – and that percentage is still rising.”

Hurrah to that – I enjoy a greater diversity of books which otherwise would have never seen the light of day if it hadn’t been for this flexible new platform. In the old days, the publishing industry was very controlling, thereby restricting the distribution of some great books I might never have discovered.

Now onto the discussion: Panel host Jill King and Jane Cable, (one of the other panel members) chose an author assisted program, known as Matador. They will provide a whole package: from cover design, formatting, publishing on Kindle and in Paperback – to offering marketing and PR services. They will even assist in the reviewing process via a website known as Netgalley – an excellent way of bumping up reviews as part of your book launch. Jane also used a professional editor to work with alongside a proofreader.

Authors Jeremy Good and Ray Green went their own separate ways in publishing their books, but used a selection of professional services; for example Ray used an editor but wasn’t entirely happy with the process – while both authors  had their book covers professionally designed and with excellent results. Jeremy used CreateSpace to publish his book, which is the route I took. Ray too now also uses CreateSpace. So they didn’t employ a company to handle the entire publishing process – just certain elements.

I am the one exception in so much as I did everything myself, mainly due to the fact that I regarded writing as more as a hobby than a profession and simply did not have the funds to invest in professional services at the time. So once I’d wrote my books, I did the editing and the proofreading myself – and coming from a design background with experience in photoshop, I designed my own covers too using library images.

Many of us have used Beta readers at some point (people who read a finished draft before it hits the market, to give an honest evaluation of the content). There are many routes open to authors (and believe me I would love to employ a few professionals to give my work a cutting edge) but most of all, writing is something we all enjoy and to be able to see your own book and hold it in your hands is well worth the time and the effort.

To conclude, this was a very enjoyable evening and the people who attended gave excellent feedback for our advice on self-publishing. I’d like to think a few have been inspired by us.

Jill King, Jane Cable, Jeremy Good,  Helen Christmas and Ray Green
Jill King, Jane Cable, Jeremy Good, Helen Christmas and Ray Green

Panel Host: Jill King, author of AITCH A Life in Colour (Biography)
Panel Members:
Jane Cable, author of ‘The Cheesemaker’s House‘ and ‘The Faerie Tree’ (Mystery Suspense)
Jeremy Good, author of ‘The Butcher’s Son‘ (WW2 Thriller)
Ray Green, author of ‘Buyout‘, ‘Payback’ and ‘Chinese Whispers’ (Corporate Thrillers)
Helen Christmas, author of ‘Beginnings,’ ‘Visions’ and ‘Pleasures’ (from the British Thriller Romance series ‘Same Face Different Place’)
Thanks also go out to Chris Casburn (Child author) who helped organise the event, Dan Jones, (author of Hypnotherapy Scripts) and his wife Abbie, who filmed the event and my Husband Peter, who was there to support me.

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