The first 12 weeks as an indie author
Katherine Dewar, debut author of feminist climate change thriller, Ruby and the Blue Sky
12 weeks ago today my debut novel went on sale. I’d mustered friends, friends of friends and a handful of curious strangers to a pub in Leeds. We’d chosen the location because the novel is largely set in Leeds and I studied and worked there for the nine years before emigrating to Aotearoa.
The chance for a European summer holiday with my sister coincided with the earliest possible release date so we fixed the day (15 July which is also my birthday – a first novel is the best present I could give myself!) and booked the back room at The Adelphi Tavern where, in Ruby and the Blue Sky, my protagonist writes a song.
The 24-hours before the launch delivered a daunting bundle of first experiences – opening my first box of books, sending my first paperback copy for review, selling my first copy to a friend who couldn’t make the launch and paid in cash, signing my first copy and doing my first media interview as an author.
The launch itself became the first time I read aloud from the book in public. My sister made me practice first so I could get through it without tears; excitement, fear and joy are better to write about than experience when trying to entertain an audience! It was also the first time someone else sold books for me and kind people gathered round with their copies for me to sign. The support of the Leeds arts community, media and my UK whanau was humbling and exciting. BBC Radio Leeds got me in for an interview. The Culture Vulture published my first review.
Since I came home to NZ, I’ve been further overwhelmed by the support people are willing to give us as indie authors. I’ve had two events where brilliant women Nicola Patrick and Niki Harre have interviewed me Q&A style and wonderful indie bookshops have come along to sell for me. On October 20th Niki Bould will quiz me at the Dunedin City Library. (I asked these interviewees because of their passion for tackling climate change, a key theme in the novel. It is a co-incidence all three have the same first name but, as Nicola derives from Greek for ‘winner of the people’, perhaps it is a lucky portent I should stick with in future!)
Bookshops have begun stocking the novel, it’s building up wait lists at libraries and at least two book groups are reading it. I was invited on the fab KickArts radio chat show and, to my stunned delight, Radio NZ said ‘yes’! I got to talk to Lynn Freeman for Standing Room Only, pre-recorded from a booth in Auckland while Lynn was in Wellington, finding the best way to quell the nerves was to close my eyes. Most days some wonderful reader emails or posts about how much they have enjoyed the book I made.
Self-publishing isn’t easy and the marketing is daunting even for me, and I run a marketing company, but it is also the best way I could share my writing with readers with the same passions. Feminist climate change thrillers are not a genre I would expect traditional publishers to bet on! Being able to publish a book anyone can buy, from anywhere in the world, at little cost above the cover design investment, and have it printed and shipped on demand, or downloaded, without having to pay to produce a stack of boxes upfront, gives us an unprecedented power and freedom. So, giddily, I am writing.