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From Conference to Confidence

Self-publishing success story Tracy Bloom recollects her journey from audience member at our Self-Publishing in the Digital Age Conference 2012 to being asked back to sit on this year's panel... 

As I left the Writers & Artists Self-Publishing conference last year, I felt slightly woozy from the vast array of information I had taken in (not to mention the cocktails consumed in the pub afterwards as we mixed with the presenters and authors). The overriding message for me, however, was one of hope and opportunity. Alison Baverstock had had the balls to stand up in a room full of wannabe authors and proclaim that this was one of the most exciting times for writers she could remember. Having been to other conferences focused on gaining entry to the traditional publishing world, where the message appeared to be one of doom and gloom regarding the future of books, Alison’s words were inspiring, uplifting and just what I needed.

Having been very successful at acquiring agents (not one, but two!) and with a clutch of foreign rights deals under my belt, I had waited four years to gain any kind of entry into the UK market. At the conference I discovered I ticked many of the boxes needed to give me the best possible chance at achieving success. I wrote romantic comedies, (2012 best selling writer Nick Spalding, a panelist at the conference, had proved this was a self-publishing friendly genre), my book had already been well edited and I had a killer title.

So it was my new year’s resolution for 2013 to start the process. I began by continuing my research, determined to publish successfully rather than quickly. Many self-help books were downloaded onto my Kindle and, as a techno-phobe, I started to learn things about Microsoft Word that surely no-one ever needed to know!

I’d learnt at the conference that the packaging of my book would be key. Author Mark Edwards enthused eloquently about his passion for getting the holy trinity of self-publishing correct. Title, cover, blurb. The title of my book, NO-ONE EVER HAS SEX ON A TUESDAY, was made to leap out and grab it’s audience, and I knew I wanted a cover that allowed the title to be the hero. I also harbour a strong dislike of the cheesy covers sported by most romcoms, so knew I would take great pleasure in developing a cover that stood out from the crowd rather than merged into it. I wrote a four-page brief and with the help of a friend, found a local design agency who had never designed a book cover before! They used it as a training brief for one of their new designers and I was delighted with his fresh approach. 

Cover in hand, I then looked at reviewing my blurb - which I thought I’d nailed when I’d been submitting to agents. On reflection, however, and with Mark Edwards' advice on blurbs ringing in my ears, I re-wrote it and made a much better job of it. The benefit of distance and thinking like a publisher rather than a writer gave it the punch it required.

At some point during my journey I’d read a book proclaiming social media was not essential for the successful self publisher. Indeed Joanna Penn had said at the conference that, despite her love of Twitter, it is only to be embarked on if you take it to heart and enjoy it. With this in mind I set about forming my marketing plan which included plenty of local marketing, targeting of book bloggers and a toe in the water of social media since, prior to February, I had no presence on Twitter or Facebook, nor did I have my own website. I also had my sights set on a national PR campaign off the back of running a survey that would indeed prove that Tuesday was the least popular day of the week to have sex! The marketing was painstaking and time-consuming as I tailored everything individually to who ever I was trying to convince to talk about my book. As boring as it was at times, it worked. Four local papers covered my story, I appeared on four radio stations, my book was reviewed by some of the best book blogging website for my genre and my survey got me in The Sun, The Star and several major websites.

In the middle of all this I was thrown a slight curveball. My agent asked me if I would like to take advantage of the relationship they had been building with Amazon through the White Glove programme. This is exclusive to agents and provides support to self published authors in the form of preparing manuscripts ready for publication and the possibility of inclusion in Kindle promotions. Having happily been whizzing along on my own and enjoying being finally pro-active in moving my career forward, it was actually a tough decision. BUT, visibility is golden for self-publishers and the possibility of being included in an Amazon promotion was not one I could reject. And so a team of one (me) became a bigger team as my agency got on board.

The weeks as I watched my book began its climb up the Amazon charts are actually now a bit of a blur. It seems an impossible dream when you’re buried somewhere deep at 6,000 plus that you are ever going to get anywhere. Then you start to rise as some of your marketing hits and your first reviews trickle in. I love getting reviews; even the inevitable bad ones. The fact that someone is bothered enough to write down that fact that your book made them laugh-out-loud still astounds me. The numbers were starting to get exciting by the time we applied for an Amazon promotion. I think I must have been well in the top 1,000 by then. Amazon agreed to include my book in a June promotion and on the first day I watched it rocket up until it scraped into the top 100. I messaged my agent on a Saturday – that’s how happy I was. By Monday it was at number 4 and I cried. I documented on my website what I did that day to celebrate if you want to get it blow by blow. However, as my husband was away, we saved the champagne for Wednesday, by which time it was number 2 (ten o’clock that night saw me swaying in the garden singing Robbie Williams songs at the top of my voice). The following Sunday morning saw me awake in the early hours, so I decided to peek at the Amazon chart, just to check. There it was at number 1! The best selling book that I wrote. I did manage to get back to sleep…but not for long. There was celebrating to be done!

And so now I’m looking forward to being the other side of the fence and being a speaker at the same conference that kick started me in to gear a year earlier. I’m hoping it will give me chance to not only pass on some of the things I have learnt along the way but also perhaps help kick start others into taking the plunge.

Tracy Bloom started writing when she moved temporarily to the USA for her husband's job, leaving behind a dream career shopping for rollercoasters for the UK's leading theme parks. She enrolled in a Creative Writing evening class in Connecticut and began work on her romantic comedy, NO-ONE EVER HAS SEX ON A TUESDAY, writing mostly during her son's afternoon nap. She acquired an agent who secured several foreign rights deals but never managed to get a deal with a major publisher in the UK. Returning back to live in England, Tracy decided the time was right to try self-publishing. After much research, including attending the 2012 Writers and Artists Self- Publishing in The Digital Age conference, her novel was released on Amazon via the White Glove programme in April 2013.  During June, it achieved #1 Best Selling e-book status for three weeks, gaining over a thousand reviews. Tracy has since released her second book, SINGLE WOMAN SEEKS REVENGE, which so far has achieved the #2 ranking. Connect with Tracy on Twitter @TracyBBloom and take a look at her website here.

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