1. Tell me briefly about your books – what are they about and what motivated you to write them?
I am best known for my London-based wartime novels, Lavender Road, Some Sunny Day and On a Wing and a Prayer which were all commissioned by Orion. My neighbor in London had lived through the Second World War and her stories of people showing courage in adversity gave me the idea for a series of novels following the lives of a number of people living on one particular street. In On a Wing and a Prayer one of the characters, Helen de Burrel, joins the SOE and is sent into Nazi occupied France. A lot of readers told me that they had found the final scenes of that book very exciting as Helen evades the Germans to blow up the ships in Toulon Harbor. I enjoyed writing those scenes too and it gave me the idea of writing a contemporary thriller or crime novel.
My latest novel, Slick Deals, is a pacy, exciting crime adventure set in Monaco, London and West Wales, where I now live. The main characters are a chic London city-girl oil trader, Ella Crossley, and a rather scruffy American environmentalist, Nick Jardine.
2. How have your sales been?
All the books are selling well. I am pleased with the progress so far.
3. You’re relatively new to self-publishing. How have you liked it so far?
I have enjoyed having control over the content and design of the books. Doing it yourself takes away all the frustrations about publishers failing to do things they had promised to do. On the other hand there is the knowledge that if mistakes slip through they are your own fault!
4. You’ve been traditionally published. What differences do you see between traditional and self-publishing?
One of the main differences is that self-publishing means a lot of extra work! It is so important to get books as readable and well presented as possible. If you are traditionally published pretty much all the work is done for you in terms of editing and proofreading, etc. At Orion I had one of the most experienced editors in the business who taught me a lot and I think that made it easier for me to be impartial and ruthless when I was editing Slick Deals.
5. Do you have a preference for traditional or self-publishing?
I am very excited about the digital revolution. I think it will have the effect of liberating writers from the repressive shackles of traditional publishing with its artificial restrictions about genre, word count and author marketability. Without the gatekeepers of agents and publishers, writers will be able to spread their wings and try writing different kinds of novels, crossover novels, short novels, long novels – whatever they want to write. It will be up to them to create really good books and to promote and market their work, but then, most of us want to/have to do that anyway! And readers will have much more choice about what they read. There will probably be too much choice but hopefully, in a free market, the really good reads will rise to the top.
6. What marketing techniques have you used to sell your books, and which ones have been most successful?
Spreading the word about any book is a big challenge. Having lots of friends and a good website is a good start. I have also made a promotional video about my books. I am using social media to direct people to both of these. It seems that people are much more likely to watch a short video than to peruse a website (which is a bit of a worry for those of us seeking avid readers!). I am convinced that word of mouth is by far the best publicity, however, so encouraging my readers to tell their friends is a priority, as is persuading them to post star ratings, reviews and comments.
7. Are there any marketing techniques you intentionally avoided or discontinued, and if so, why?
I am a little bit wary of spending too much effort on sites for writers – the sad truth is that writers often aren’t book buyers!
8. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing that you didn’t know when you started out?
That it takes much longer to launch books on Smashwords and iBooks etc than on Kindle, which makes timing any promotion quite difficult.
9. If you could do one thing differently in publishing your books, what would it be?
I would have produced a paperback version of Slick Deals to run alongside the digital version straight away. I was probably too optimistic about how many people have an e-reading facility. So many people are pleading for paper copies I will now have to do a fresh launch!
10. Independent authors face the obvious challenge of marketing their books without the resources of traditional publishers. What advice do you have for an indie author just starting out?
Write a really good book for a specific readership and don’t publish it until it’s perfect. Then focus all your marketing efforts towards your target market.
11. What projects are you currently working on?
I am launching a light romance, The Art of Loving, for Valentine’s. I am in the process of writing a new novel, Snapdragon, as a continuation to the Lavender Road wartime series, and I am also working on a follow-up for Slick Deals.
12. If you could market your brand – not just one particular book, but your overall brand of writing – in one sentence, what would it be?
13. How can readers learn more about your books?
Books by Helen Carey: Lavender Road; Some Sunny Day; On a Wing and a Prayer; Slick Deals; The Art of Loving