I would like to introduce you to Rachel Abbott, the best selling author of Only The Innocent. Only The Innocent is a complex psychological thriller available in all eformats. Rachel generously shares in-depth advice for indie authors on her website and in this interview. Without further ado, I give you, Rachel Abbott, in her own words.
Yes it is. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but never tackled a novel before now. I’ve written a few scripts, but mainly for training programmes (although with a high entertainment value), but I always had the idea of writing a novel, and the plot for Only the Innocent was in my mind for several years before I found the time to write it.
I have been thrilled by the excellent reviews from some of the top Amazon reviewers. That feels great. Obviously, my book isn’t for everybody. It deals with some difficult subjects and not everybody likes that - and the ending is intentionally controversial. Most people love it - some don’t. That’s fair enough.
In terms of writing, I was always a very keen reader from an early age, and enjoyed writing stories. Until I decided to give up work and move to Italy, I used to write every day - everything from creative proposals for new business to board reports (less exciting!). But I enjoy writing anything. I love writing on my blog - and that is all practical advice for other authors, so a completely different style.
I didn’t use an author critique group, but I used a family critique group! I have some members of my family who are good writers and avid readers - and they weren’t afraid to point out issues. After I had completed the first version of my book, I sent it to another author for comment. She came back with a list of changes that would make improvements, and it involved substantial rewrites. That was good, and very useful - but probably not enough. For the next one, I want to get a much wider input.
With regard to the cover, I am extremely lucky. I used to own and manage an interactive media company, and we employed a lot of graphics artists. One of the guys that we brought in straight from university has gone on to become the group creative director, and he always offers to do anything for me in terms of graphics. He is a real star.
I did the editing myself, but I went through a number of stages.. I had several people to proof read it (although I think I reintroduced a couple of typos - which I am extremely annoyed about!), but the editing was all done by me once I had gathered together all the feedback. I definitely want to use an experienced and professional editor on my next book, though. I want to improve my writing style, and just get better at what I do.
This is sort of three and a half, really - but I just want to mention my marketing plan before I start on the tips! I discovered very quickly that there are thousands of different things you can do to market your book - so many sites it is impossible to know where to start and where to stop. So I produced a plan in order that I could identify what mattered to me, and put together a process for working that had some structure. This isn’t a marketing tip, as such, but it’s an essential stage.
Reviews are key to the success of a book, and every author should start requesting them as soon as they have a book ready to read - even if it’s not published. A lot of reviewers have a significant backlog, and it could be months before the reviews start to arrive - so get on the case as quickly as possible. On one of my most recent blog posts, I have given some in-depth advice on asking for reviews - together with an amazing list of reviewers, generously supplied to me by another author called Greg Scowen. If you don’t know how to go about requesting reviews, I would recommend taking a look.
One of the best marketing tools for me has been Twitter. I wasn’t a fan before publishing Only the Innocent, and only had nine followers. But I researched tools that would help me to build my followers - and I wanted the right sort of followers, ie people who are interested in books. I found that with TweetAdder (and I’m sure there are other tools) I could find out all the followers of any of my favourite authors and set TweetAdder to automatically follow them, in the hope that they would follow me back. Those that don’t are unfollowed within a few days.
Then I used Twitter as a sales tool - promoting my book, but hopefully in a way that wasn’t just “buy my book” - although there was obviously some of that. In the early days of low sales - ten a day, for example - I think that sales via Twitter represented about 70% of the total. Now, I am trying to establish my Twitter account as more of a brand - offering advice and help to other authors, and keeping readers engaged.
The third thing I would include in my list is engaging people on forums. Not just talking about Only the Innocent, but chatting generally - about anything from the weather to favourite authors. I found that I really enjoyed this and that I got to know some terrific people that way. What was great was that these people bought my book, but then went off to other forums and talked about it there. This gave my book the biggest push of the lot to get to the top, and I met some lovely people into the bargain.
My blog is designed to help other authors. When I started the whole publishing process, I realised that it’s not as easy as it might seem so initially I wanted to talk about my journey. Then when Only the Innocent became popular, I found that I was getting a lot of requests for information on how I had achieved success. It was suggested that I write a book and sell it - but I don’t want to do that. That implies a level of expertise that I don’t think I can claim. I did a few things, and they seem to have worked. But I can’t state that it’s a magic formula! So I write my blog to help other authors. It can be found at http://rachelabbottwriter.wordpress.com
I have tried to make my website more reader focused, but to be honest I wish I had more hours in the day, because I would love to update it daily and add a blog section for readers. There are some book reviews and interviews on my blog - but it’s not really enough.
However, my blog does get a lot of readers - all other indie authors. I tweet about my posts, I have quite a few subscribers, and I belong to Triberr which is a site which is designed to help promote blog posts. It seems to work well.
My Twitter id is @Rachel__Abbott (that’s two underscores - a mistake, but it was the only version of my name available!). Favourite hashtags - that’s an interesting question! I probably don’t use hash tags as wisely as others do. But I do search all the time on #thrillers to see what’s out there, and I also like the #amreading and #amwriting hash tags - it’s great to know when other authors are writing, and equally interesting to see what people are reading.
Only the Innocent sat on a virtual shelf for quite some time. I probably wrote the first version about four years ago, and then after feedback wrote versions two and three. Then I did nothing. At the time it was difficult to launch a book for the Kindle unless you were a US citizen, so I pretty much forgot about it. Then I discovered about six months ago that it was possible to upload through Kindle UK - and decided to have a go. I thought it would just be a case of sending a Word file, and then sitting back and waiting for the money to come in. That just shows how ignorant I was!
So I started work on the formatting, and the marketing as I’ve mentioned above.
Nothing happened for quite a long time. My early buyers were all family and friends, and a lot of them don’t have Kindles, so my book wasn’t linked to other books. It wasn’t seen in all those fantastic Amazon promotions sections such as “Customers who bought xxx also bough Only the Innocent”. I was frustrated, and had no idea what to do. But I just plugged away at it. I worked very hard.
Then it started climbing the charts, and it was astonishing how quickly it went from around 18,000 at the end of December to position 500 at the end of January. I kept saying “I’d be really delighted if it got into the top 1000” then it was top 500, then top 100 - and so on. From the beginning of February, though, it went up steadily but quickly - to hit the number 1 spot on 18th February. It’s now still number 1 in Crime and Thrillers, but The Hunger Games has now established itself at the top, plus there is usually a Kindle Daily Deal which reaches the top for a day. But I’ve had four weeks there, so I can’t complain at all.
I network with authors and readers - not with publishers or editors, to be honest. Perhaps I should have done! I did use Authonomy for a while, which is run by Harper Collins. But when I evaluated my marketing plan, it was one of the things that I unfortunately had to give up in favour of other activities. There are only so many hours in the day.
For other authors, I ‘talk’ to them on Twitter all the time. A great bunch of people, and they’ve been amazingly supportive. For readers, I would say that I have used the Goodreads and Amazon forums more than anywhere else. I started with Goodreads, although I find it difficult to keep track of discussions on there. And then only recently I have become more engaged with the Amazon “Meet our Authors” forum. Again - I don’t do enough. I keep saying that I need to be cloned - one of me can then enjoy all the chat with like-minded people, the other can get on with writing the next book!
When I finished the first version of Only the Innocent, I did seek traditional publishing. I went down the route of hunting out an agent. I did get some interest, but it never came to anything, and I didn’t pursue it as much as I should have done. I wrote for my own enjoyment originally, and I didn’t like the response that “this isn’t what publishers are looking for”. I did get offered one publishing deal, but I thought that it showed very little commitment on the part of the publisher, and I could just see my book sitting on the back shelf of a few shops. So I chose self-publishing by default, really - although now I don’t regret it at all.
I don’t think that I am the person to give advice on writing, other than to say write because you love it. Don’t have expectations of making money. I have been lucky - and a lot of it is luck. There is too much talk of the people who have made a lot of money, and not enough about the people who have slaved away, produced a fantastic book, and for whatever reason it doesn’t get bought. So I would say don’t write with any expectations of riches.
With regard to publishing or self-publishing, this is an incredibly difficult question. If I’m honest, I would still like to be published. But I still want to be me. I don’t want to be told that my book isn’t right for the market - although I absolutely understand why this is so important to publishers. They have shareholders to keep happy - I only have my personal goals to achieve. On the other hand, I am fairly certain that I have made far more money through self publishing than I would have done through traditional publishing.
For each author it is different. What does success look like to you? Will you feel successful when you’ve made a lot of money (and how much?), when you are considered famous, or when a publisher tells you that yours is a book that they would love to publish?
I now have an agent, and she is great. I am going to enjoy working with her and she seems to understand me. So I hope to get a publishing deal, but if not I will be more than happy to continue self-publishing.
At the moment, all I do is write - mainly my blog, other blog posts, emails (I get a lot of those!) and when I have a chance, my next novel. But I need to get back to being a human being. I don’t even do the shopping at the moment. My husband has been a complete star, and just organises everything.
When I am my normal self, and not this slightly eccentric witch-like person that I’ve become (I didn’t make it to the hairdresser for nearly 3 months!!) - I love to cook. I have actually written cookery books too - but I have not had time to do anything with those. They were going to be the next project, but due to the success of Only the Innocent, they have moved down the priority list.
My next novel is provisionally entitled “The Catalyst”. It is the story of a group of ordinary people with ordinary human flaws. Into their midst comes a young woman - a self-styled “life coach” who gradually exposes each character’s everyday mistakes and errors of judgement. But she also discovers a secret so disturbing that somebody has to die.
I like my plots to be based around real people who face real dilemmas, and this is no exception. I’ve written the outline, have all my cast of characters with their flaws and secrets established, so now I need to get moving with the first draft, and I’m really looking forward to it.
Congratulations Rachel and I wish you much success with your future projects. I want to say a special thank you to D.M. Andrews, author of The Serpent in The Glass, for introducing me to Rachel Abbott. Please return on Wednesday to read about D.M. Andrews best selling success with The Serpent in The Glass.
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Click Image to Purchase Rachel Abbott's Bestseller, Only The Innocent
To Do: Apply Rachel's advice to your novel!
Jennifer Lynn Alvarez
Author of The Pet Washer
An inspiring novel for children aged 8-11
Read Jennifer's interview at All Things Jill-Elizabeth