by Victoria Bennion
Lorraine Cannell, author of Hollow, a psychological thriller for teens, talks to us about writing and her experience of Self Publishing with Amazon. Hollow, was longlisted in the 2017 Bath Novel Award.
Lorraine loves writing stories that involve a hint of magical realism, that sense of ‘something lurking beneath the ordinary. She’s currently working on her next YA novel, a story about how the memory imprint of events from the past can linger on into the future.
I started writing early on, though I can’t remember an exact age; only that I had a vivid imagination, and lived inside my head. I do remember though one very kind rejection from Ladybird books, at the age of 11, for my short story Boiling Bertha. A family death in my immediate family then threw me into a tailspin, and I didn’t write for years; not until my mid-twenties. But at the point, I just didn’t have the confidence to believe in myself, and I felt like an amateur. It really wasn’t until my early thirties that I picked it up again, and I’ve been writing ever since. I’ve written four complete novels in that time. Hollow was my fourth novel, and is the only one to have seen the light of day.
My writing process has changed over the years. I didn’t always plan things out, and used to write ‘off the cuff’, but now I definitely need an outline before I start writing – a roadmap of where I’m going. The other thing that has changed is that I’ve become much more critical of my writing, which sometimes puts a barrier in the way of me moving forwards. It’s all too easy to get stuck on one passage, to try and get it perfect, when really the best thing would be to move on with the story and iron these things out later. As for my routine, it can depend on what else I’ve got going on. I’m self-employed, so depending on how demanding a particular contract is can sometimes dictate my writing schedule.
Hollow’s main character is Liv, a fifteen year old amnesiac who joins her aunt’s psychic circle for a bit of fun, but who instead opens a doorway to the spirit world from which she can never return. In essence, it’s about families, and what trauma does to them, and the terrible secrets they hold. But it’s also about self-discovery.
I started writing Hollow in 2014, and it went to Chicken House’s acquisition meeting but didn’t make it. I then asked Imogen Cooper from the Golden Egg Academy to help me work out what was wrong with the manuscript, and she agreed to mentor me. I graduated from the Academy in 2016, but couldn’t find an agent who was willing to take Hollow on, so I decided to self-publish it in December 2016 through Amazon’s KDP offering, and through CreateSpace for the paperback.
Whilst I had the endorsement of the Golden Egg Academy, I couldn’t find an agent, and the YA market had cooled considerably. I really wanted Hollow out there, being read, and seeing the light of day. I felt it was good enough, much better than my other attempts, and it was the first novel I could be fully proud of.
I must admit it wasn’t terribly easy, but with the help of my brilliant cover designer, Sharon Brownlie, she helped me navigate through what I needed to do. She even helped me format the book for Amazon KDP and CreateSpace. I can’t recommend her enough - you can find her at https://aspirebookcovers.com
I use Amazon KDP which gives 70% of royalties for an e-book priced £1.99 or more, but that’s after digital delivery so I make about £1.13 per e-book. I didn’t use them for the paperback though as I was trying to keep the paperback RRP down, so CreateSpace seemed like the best option.
No, I didn’t. That’s the beauty of KDP, and of CreateSpace’s Print on Demand service (which includes a free ISBN).
KDP offers limited promotion opportunities, and of course, the Author page. Once every three months, you can take up the Kindle Countdown Deal or Free Promotion offer. But you have to pay for Amazon Ad Campaigns, and can set a budget for it. I tried an Ad Campaign for about a week, but didn’t see any return from it even though I knew people were clicking through to the product page. I also tried Facebook Advertising, but again didn’t see any return. I obviously haven’t cracked the whole marketing thing yet, so still need to work out some other strategies. The thing is unless you try, you don’t what works or not.
I think if you want to get your story out there, without any initial outlay, it’s a great opportunity to do so. The Amazon KDP reporting suite is also really helpful, but maybe a little dispiriting too. It gives a live update of how many sales you’ve made in each territory, and how many pages have been read through the Kindle Unlimited Lending Library (where basically you offer up your book for a free read, but get paid on a ‘per page read’ basis).
If I have a query, I’ve always found a way to talk to someone at Amazon to sort it out, although it may take a few days to get a response, and I might not always get a satisfactory resolution – for example, you’d think the author page on the UK site would be replicated across the different territories but it’s not.
No, it’s available in a lot of territories – the US, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Japan, to name but a few.
I’ve got three different works in progress – two are young adult, and one is middle grade. My difficulty is deciding which one to concentrate on. One of the YAs is a pure edit, so I’m trying to tackle that one first, but my mind keeps drawing back to the others.
If I decide to self-publish the next one, yes, I’d definitely use Amazon again. I think now I’ve done it once, I understand the template, and it’s such a well- known platform, I don’t think anything else can compete at the moment.
Many thanks for joining us Lorraine! Good luck with your next book.
You can download Hollow from Amazon
Learn more about Lorraine at www.lorrainecannell.com
Follow Lorraine on Twitter at @LorraineCannell
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