Thank you to memoirist Grace Olsen for this wonderful guest post. I came across Grace on Twitter and was hugely impressed with her positive attitude towards self-publishing and the success she has had. I asked her if she would share her journey from lockdown writing project to publishing (and great book sales) and she kindly has. I hope you find it useful and inspiring. Grace and I will be doing a Facebook Live event in the autumn, so make sure you’re subscribed to my newsletter to be alerted to that and to send us your questions in advance – or ask them in the comments. The video will be on my website afterwards.
Let me introduce myself. I am Grace Olson, a mum,a massage therapist and a horse owner. I live in suburbia and come from an unprivileged background.
During lockdown, I couldn’t do my work so instead I began writing just for fun. I posted one episode about a horse on a horsey Facebook group, and it was so well received that I thought, why not set up my own page?
So I did!
Every Friday, I posted one episode and lots of people really enjoyed it so I thought, why not write it as a book?
So I did!
The story is about how horses healed my post-natal depression. It’s very frank, honest and comical which I think is why people are enjoying it.
Fast forward a year and the book was ready for presenting to agents. I Googled “literary agencies” and there was so much info I just emailed loads of them. Oh my goodness, what a horrible experience that was! I had gone from all the positivity on Facebook to total negativity. Rejection after rejection seriously broke my heart to bits and after TWENTY rejections I thought, why am I doing this to myself? I should give up.
But in my heart, I had absolute faith that these agents were wrong and that my book was worth reading.
Why did I think this? I had worked with a literary consultancy, so I knew my book was exceptionally well written and had a story that was valuable. The literary consultancy encouraged me to include more depth about me, my postnatal depression and my relationship with my daughter and husband. Their advice was spot on because all of that honesty is what people are resonating with. They taught me how to understand the narrative arc of a story and how to draw things out and write in a way that makes people feel they are experiencing the action rather than just being told about it.
I also had a superb foundation on Facebook. I had created a business page full of conversation and support from people I have never met thanks to my weekly free episodes and the daily posts about my life which people seemed to enjoy reading about. I had 3k followers.
I had a website with all my episodes beautifully presented and a subscriber list with hundreds of email addresses. They all wanted my book and they all said the same thing: “Sod the agents! Self-publish!” So I did!
It was SO DAUNTING! I had no idea where to start but someone suggested The Self Publishing Partnership and they were so lovely I felt safe to publish with them. They held my hand through the whole process of turning the manuscript into a real-life book.
Then came the scary part – the self-promotion! For most people this is the hardest part but if you’ve laid your foundations, it’s not as hard as it seems to be. And you don’t need to pay anyone to do it. Don’twaste your money – they don’t care about your book as much as you do.
I already had the audience on Facebook. From observations, Facebook is by far the best platform for book promo, thanks to the fact you can write longer posts with photos and use the very detailed ad centre to grow your audience.
I set up my own Facebook page which was very straightforward and then I just messed around with the ‘boost post’ option. It’s very easy because it’s so basic but it has led to all my first sales. I now work with an experienced marketing woman who has trained with Facebook to do their more detailed advertising which is totally beyond me! The Facebook ad centre is horrifying and so hard to understand! Luckily, I have also attracted the attention of a Facebook member of staff who now follows my page. He is brilliant and gives me loads of info on how to use my page more effectively and he is collaborating with my marketing woman to improve advert potential.
Twitter and Instagram are good for smaller posts and to attract attention from journalists. Some journalists found me on Twitter and Facebook which was really exciting and that gave me the confidence to learn how to write to journalists to get interviews.
I published my book with a self-publishing company. They do everything a traditional publishing company do. The only difference is that you pay for it all, but its so much better because you get to choose your own cover, your own cover blurb and your own book description. These things are out of your control if you are trad published and these are the most vital things! I went with Brown Dog Books, which is the imprint for The Self Publishing Partnership. You don’t have to include them on your book, but I love the logo so I chose to have it.
I wanted to create a really good quality book that could be sold in book shops and be in libraries which is why I chose them and not just Amazon. My book is like every other properly published book – available to order from every book shop in the UK. And it’s in a few independent book shops too.
Before publishing, I posted a lot about my book, and I attracted journalists from newspapers and magazines. This helped to create excitement about my forthcoming publication day. But you have to have a good story. Your book is not the story. Why did you write your book? That is the story journalists want to know about!
Then I learned how to write a good press-release to get more media coverage. I simply Googled “how to write a press release” and followed the formula. It worked! I got three newspapers and five magazines interested and I have more coming up!
My book launch was very well publicised on Facebook, so this resulted in hundreds of people flocking to my event. I sold out on Amazon the same day. I sold hundreds of books via the publisher’s website on the same day too. A second print run was hastily arranged. It is a month since my book launch and I am on my third print run having sold well over700 books. I also gained the coveted number 1 bestseller ranking on Amazon.
Forget the agents – soooo glad they all rejected me, phew – and the traditional publishing deal which will give you peanuts. Self-publish and reap the benefits you deserve. Just be brave, build your foundations first on social media, link it to your website and work hard at self-promotion. You CAN do it!
Read more about Grace and her memoir The Yard here.
Follow her on Twitter @GOlsonWriter