Guest Post: L M West

You may recall at the end of last year, I was privileged to welcome into Kit’s Library first-time writer Laina West, telling us about her then forth-coming novel and her experiences delving into the novel writing world.

Today, I am delighted to welcome her back with news of how her book has progressed to recent publication.

This Fearful Thing

Flashback to December 2020 and I was back to the drawing board with my novel This Fearful Thing. At 67, with three O-levels to my name and no further education I have always been a bit intimidated by those with Creative Writing degrees (or any degree, frankly) and really wasn’t sure I could do it. But I had a good story and I just wanted to make it the best it could be. After a professional editorial report suggested I remove the first fourteen chapters, I had just started a new document and was trying to piece together the storyline by using flashbacks.

Ann Camell had come to my attention a few years ago. She lived in Southwold, Suffolk and, at the height of the East Anglian witchcraft persecutions, in 1645, was tried three times for witchcraft. This in itself was unusual ­– women could sometimes survive one accusation but two meant a death sentence.

Two writer friends I met online and who had become my Trusted Readers, decided to pitch to agents and both got agents within a week of each other. I was so thrilled for them – I could feel their elation when they told me and I wanted that feeling for myself, so went back to preparing my agents letter and synopsis. But then they started to mentioned re-writes – and deadlines – and Zoom calls – and I knew at that moment traditional publishing was not for me. It was my book and I wanted to have a final say in what it looked like, the cover design in particular, and I wasn’t sure I’d have that choice if it was traditionally published. I also admit to feeling that I might be judged for my age and lack of experience when presenting to agents. I had looked into self-publishing early on but had run away in horror, but I looked again.

I needed to get the novel spell- and grammar-checked so got the free Grammarly app. It’s terrific! It’s not always right because, being an app, it doesn’t always get the feeling you are trying to convey, but it certainly sorted out my life-long inability to know when to use ‘its’ or ‘it’s’. The other thing I learned is that to put together a quality publication that would stand up against those produced by publishing houses it needs to be impeccably formatted and with a stunning cover. Self-pub has often had a bit of a bad reputation because sometimes books are published without thorough checking or thought, and I can see how, in the excitement of having finished your book, that could happen. So I splashed out on the Vellum formatting app. It’s not cheap but so worth the money.

I had an idea of what I wanted as a cover image, a C17th woodcut-look that shouted witchcraft. I commissioned a local printmaker and illustrator Sandy Horsley (www.sandyhorsley.com) whose work I admired and she agreed to work with my ideas. It was a real thrill. She ‘got’ what I was after very quickly and we went from rough sketches to a draft through to the finished design. I also had a website built. I was investigating Amazon KDP as a way to print it, as my budget had already nearly gone on the cover and website. KDP is free, they print on demand and take a reasonable commission from each copy and pay you the difference, distribute the book and send out the e-book with no up-front costs. It was excellent, very user-friendly (even to a tech-phobic like me) and, as I began to enter the details needed I started to think that maybe it could actually happen. After a couple of issues with the cover colour, I was holding my very first author’s proof copy – a real thrill! I double checked this (and still found a couple of errors!) but was finally satisfied I’d made my novel the best that I possibly could and pressed the ‘Publish’ button. Scary stuff.

And then, as nothing happens, because no one knows it’s there, lurking amongst the undergrowth of the millions of other books published, you have to start pushing it. So I went onto Twitter and put a post or three on Facebook. I contacted local bookshops, and emailed my non-social media friends and told everyone I met that the book I had been banging on about for the last two years is finally out. Because that’s how it works – word of mouth and recommendation. And if you are a bit sneaky like me, you put a low-key, self-deprecating mention on a Facebook Book Club page and it takes off. In two days I had 1750 likes/loves and 560 comments on that one page. It resulted in selling nearly a hundred units in my first three days of publication, my very first Amazon review (glowing) and the glorious feeling of achievement that I suspect I would have felt if I’d just got an agent. Now all I have to do is push on with book two…

This Fearful Thing by LM West is out now on Amazon as a Kindle and paperback version at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B094NTJH8S.

Her website can be found at https://lmwestwriter.co.uk/, where you can sign up for a free prequel short story and read more about the book and research.

Thank you so much, Laina. I know the book is doing well for you and I can honestly say it’s one of the best reads I’ve had in a long while: fascinating, intriguing, and well written and researched. It’s one I highly recommend.

Don’t forget, readers, if you would like to come and join me in Kit’s Library discussing any topic book or reading related, please do contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

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