I met Fran Pickering a few years ago, when I had just published my first book, and she was debating whether to publish hers. Then she plunged in. Today Fran’s novel, the Cherry Blossom Murder has made it to the quarterfinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2014. That’s 5% of the total 10,000 books entered. As a fellow author I was thrilled and as an Indie I felt vindicated by her success. So I asked Fran a little more about how it all unfolded. Here’s what she said:
What made you decide to go Indie?
I have been writing for a long time almost eight to nine years. So, when I finally had a book, which was good to be published, I wanted to put it out there and see what happens.
For me the decision was made, when I realized I had written something I could publish without embarrassing myself. I got people to read it and rewrote it, so it didn’t go out there completely cold. I wrote nine drafts before it reached a place where I knew it could be published. This took me a couple of years, because I was writing more as a hobby.
What’s changed now that you have your first book out?
Now that I have got a book out there, I am writing much more quickly: am more focused. Following the 1000 words a day principle has been key. When I am writing the first draft I just write it, you just need to go for it. I don’t rewrite on the first draft it’s on the second and third draft that I edit it.
What’s the one thing you have learnt from going Indie?
I learnt, you need to stop trying to make the first book into something absolutely perfect. You need to put it out there and take the lessons from the first. Then start a new one and do it the way you should have done it in the first one. It’s liberating and useful to move on.
Once you see it as the first and not the only one it’s easier. Thinking of yourself as a professional writer, makes you invest less of yourself in it, so it gives you distance. Every time you publish it’s a huge effort and big achievement. Once I got the first one out, the readers asked me when the next one was coming out. I knew waiting a year for a second book in the series was too long, so wanted to catch the momentum. I also have learnt to write much more naturally.
What’s different about your writing process now?
I have a strong investment of my time in my books now. I felt this is what I am going to be doing; it was like starting a small business. I am very interested in the marketing, social media side. I made a conscious decision to move into social media very strongly and self publish.
This has given me confidence that I know what I am doing. Like anything before you do it, it’s quite intimidating, but once you do it and you are back, you can do it much more quickly next time. Gives you confidence.
Initially of course you obsess about the figures and how it’s going and getting your first bad review is not great. But I felt, at least there was someone out there, who read the book and expressed an opinion about it, and if they didn’t like it, well you know, not every one is going to like it. It’s been great how everyone I know has taken interest. It widens your horizon.
I started out writing non-fiction, about my experiences in Japan. But realized this wasn’t interesting enough for readers. I always liked mysteries and whodunits and so I wanted to write mysteries set against the backdrop of Japan. It wasn’t a big sudden decision but grew from my interests in Japan as well as being able to write and enjoying mysteries.
Any other advice for other Indies?
ALLI has also been very helpful. You get a lot of advice but you don’t always have to take it all. Yet, fact that it is all out there and there is a group of people you can turn to is very encouraging.
I am going right back to the next one and the one after.
Fran Pickering is a Londoner, born at the foot of Alexandra Palace in North London. She grew up in South London, spent her student years near the Portobello Road and now lives near Alexandra Palace once again.
She speaks and reads Japanese, which led her to work in Tokyo and travel around Japan, making many friends along the way. Her Japanese experience provided the inspiration for the Josie Clark in Japan mystery series. The Cherry Blossom Murder, published in February 2014, is her first book.