I wonder how many authors ask themselves at some stage why on earth they are writing?
Angela Petch is our Author of the Week from 11th – 18th February and describes her journey into writing.
Hunched over the pc, shoulders stiff, neck aching, eyes squinty, brain tired? I’m not making a living from my writing. I used to teach, and to earn what went in my bank from one hour of evening class tuition, I would have to sell in excess of twenty copies of my books. I’m delighted if, apart from the first excited flurry immediately after publication, I sell that amount in one month. So, why am I doing it?
I’m a hybrid author, self-published and I’m also with a digital publisher, but it’s not been a smooth process.
In 2012 I published, via Authors on Line, my first Tuscan novel, with the title “Never Forget”. I paid £350 for paperbacks to be printed on demand. If I’d known about self-publishing on Amazon at the time, I could have saved myself a lot of hassle. AOL went bust and I lost control of my book and royalties. It is still for sale on Amazon for £327.71. Bargain! I can’t get it removed as Amazon tell me it is a second-hand copy.
Fast forward to 2016 and I changed the title, made changes and gave it a new title, “Tuscan Roots”, to self-publish via CreateSpace (prior to KDP) and Kindle. I was in control again. I joined CHINDI after hearing their panel talk at Worthing WOW Festival and realised I had so much to learn. With the friendly guidance of members, I began to dip my toes in the world of social media— indispensable for putting your book out there. Nobody will simply happen upon an author. But, boy, did I have a lot to learn about EVERYTHING. I continue to learn and make mistakes along the way, but I’d urge new members to refer to the many helpful files that CHINDI members have compiled and collected; join author groups on Facebook and ENGAGE. The sharing, supportive part of authorship is wonderful, and I hope to reciprocate as I progress.
In 2017, frustrated with my poor sales, despite plenty of great reviews, I submitted to a digital publisher called Endeavour Press and they took on both my Tuscan novels. I had written a sequel, “Now and Then in Tuscany”, by then. In the three months I was with Endeavour, they sold over 1,000 copies and “Tuscan Roots” reached number 2 in the Kindle charts in one of the categories, but I was unhappy at the lack of communication from their team. For example, I never knew in advance when they were putting my books on offer, so I was unable to support the deals with timely publicity. When they decided to go into voluntary liquidation, I decided to part from them and return to self-publishing.
With improved covers, I started again down the self-publishing route. I knew more by now, but sales dwindled. When I was approached by another digital publisher called Bookouture, about whom I’d heard good things, I was tempted, but undecided. A frightening health scare caused by stress, warned me not to leap in. But Bookouture was very patient and moved the deadline posts and last summer, 2018, I signed a two-book deal with them for “Tuscan Roots” and a new Tuscan novel.
I’m enjoying the challenge of working with a personal, professional editor. In the past I’ve paid an editor for a one-off assessment of my books and used Beta Readers. But the Bookouture process is far more rigorous and – if we’re honest – it’s hard to be totally objective as a Beta-reader if you are critiquing the work of somebody you know. To date I’ve been through two rounds of structural edits on “Tuscan Roots”, which will have a new title (under wraps), and after it has been through copy and line edits, plus a final proof read, will be published again on 26th June 2019. It’s a little like being at school again, and I trust my editor/teacher. There are deadlines for returning my changes, but I’m relishing the challenge. And, of course, I’m hoping sales will improve, otherwise why would I have signed? Bookouture’s policy is to let the author concentrate on writing. They carry out the bulk of publicity and that is fine by me. Of course, they take a percentage of royalties and that figure is a confidential part of my Contract, but I feel a huge marketing burden removed from my hunched shoulders.
So, I’m in an in-between place at present. Editing an old novel, writing a new story from scratch (to be published Spring 2020) and doing my self-publishing tasks on my most recent novella “Mavis and Dot”, which I’m selling to raise funds for Cancer Research UK.
Why am I doing all this, when to date, I have little financial reward to speak of? Quite honestly, I think it’s a form of addiction; I can’t not write. This craving needs to be controlled, so I don’t neglect family (or myself), but, in my opinion, it’s more interesting than crocheting tea cosies and less harmful than alcohol or drug addiction.
Angela Petch lives in the Tuscan Apennines in summer and Sussex in winter.
Her love affair with Italy was born at the age of seven when she moved with her family to Rome. Her father worked for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and he made sure his children learned Italian and soaked up the culture. She studied Italian at the University of Kent at Canterbury and afterwards worked in Sicily where she met her husband. His Italian mother and British father met in Urbino in 1944 and married after a wartime romance.
Her first book, “Tuscan Roots” was written in 2012, for her Italian mother-in-law, Giuseppina, and also to make readers aware of the courage shown by families of her Italian neighbours during WW2. Signed by Bookouture in 2018, this book will be republished in June 2019. Another Tuscan novel has been commissioned for 2020.
“Now and Then in Tuscany”, a sequel, was published in April 2017 and features the same family. The background is the transhumance, a practice that started in Etruscan times and continued until the 1950s. Her research for her Tuscan novels is greatly helped by her knowledge of Italian and conversations with locals.
Although Italy is a passion, her stories are not always set in this country. “Mavis and Dot”, published at the end of 2018 and sold in aid of Cancer Research, tells the story of two fun-loving ladies who retire to the Sussex seaside. They forge an unlikely friendship and fall into a variety of adventures. Ingenu/e Magazine describes it as: “Absolutely Fabulous meets Last of the Summer Wine… a gently hilarious feel-good book that will enchant and delight…”.
A prize-winning author, member of CHINDI independent authors and RNA, she also loves to travel and recently returned to Tanzania, where she lived at the start of her marriage. A keen tennis player and walker, she also enjoys spending time with her five grandchildren and inventing stories for their entertainment.
Her short stories are published by PRIMA and the People’s Friend.
Links for books:
Mavis and Dot https://mybook.to/MDot
Tuscan Roots (only for a little while longer) https://tinyurl.com/ya9mfrpb
Now and Then in Tuscany https://tinyurl.com/y7alduqc
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/l/B00GSN511Q