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Blog, self-publishing

Adventures in Self-Publishing—The Movie!

Well, all right, it was a Zoom call rather than a movie, but over the past couple of weeks I’ve definitely had some adventures—in Self-Publishing, and PowerPoint production.

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Adventures in Self-Publishing

I wrote here about how I love learning new things. When Marilyn Pemberton, Chair of the Monmouthshire chapter of the Society of Authors visited the Marcher Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, she asked if I and Joanna Maitland would like to talk to the Society of Authors about our experiences as self-publishers. Joanna is a past master at the art, I’m a raw recruit as you can see here.

Joanna and I put our heads together and came up with a short PowerPoint presentation. This introduced each of us to the viewers and then set out my experiences as a newbie, and Joanna’s advice for a successful transition from backlist title to new release.

Point and Shoot

I’ve only made one Powerpoint presentation before. That was when I was at university as a mature student (see here for more about that). I’d forgotten everything I’d learned, so it was a slow process trying to recall it all. Despite that (or perhaps because of it) I really enjoyed putting my part of the presentation together. Now I’m looking round for an excuse to do another one! One bit I was particularly proud of was the shot of the new business cards I designed and produced ahead of my launch. It shocked me to discover that the QR code on the back of my cards actually worked when it appeared on screen during our presentation. If you’ve got a QR reader on your phone, I’d be interested to see if it works for you on here!

Business cards, Christina Hollis, Adventures in Self-Publishing, QR Code


Joanna has written many blogs about self-publishing on the Libertà website. She went into detail about how to work with a book cover designer, how to set up the front matter of your book and what to include in the back matter, such as your coming self-published attractions. Joanna has written many blogs about her work as a publisher and designer on the Libertà website. There’s a search facility on that site, so you can check out whichever aspect of self-publishing you’d like to read about.

My Own Adventures in Self Publishing

I introduced myself with details of my non-fiction and fiction writing. Then I went on to explain how I had joined the Alliance of Independent Authors (Alli) several years ago. Every time the subscription went out of my bank account, I’d think, “‘I must do something about self-publishing!” but time went on and I never did. This January 1st, I decided things would change. I made a New Year’s Resolution to either self-publish something this year, or forget the whole idea.

Order Early

I explained how everything about self-publishing, from buying ISBNs (International Standard Book Number), to getting your book included in the British Library’s Cataloguing In Publication programme has to be planned well in advance. I had written the original version of Royal Passion in a Word document with all kinds of styles. As I was going to format the document for self-publishing using Vellum, I had to strip out all that formatting to produce a clean copy.

Next Steps

I explained about getting a bright new cover here. Then I had to devise a copyright notice to go in the front of the book. At the back, there’s an extract of the next book in my Royal Romances series, Royal Risk, and a link so that readers can subscribe to my newsletter. That was when I found out about Reader Magnets. They are a little ‘thank you’ sent out to people who subscribe to my newsletter. That meant writing a seven-thousand word prequel to the whole Royal Romances series. There are five short stories, showing all the characters in the series as they were before the main books in the series open. I treated writing and self-publishing Royal Rivals as a dry-run for publishing Royal Passion.

Blue book cover for Royal Rivals by Christina Hollis: One Crown, Two Royal Houses, Three Love Stories

Coming Soon!

I’ll be sending out my August newsletter soon. As well as more behind-the-scenes details about the Zoom chat, there will be a seasonal recipe, and details of how to enter a draw where the prize is the chance to read an advance copy of Royal Passion. Sign up for my newsletter here!

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Blog, self-publishing, Writing

More Self-Publishing News

I explained here that I’ve started self-publishing my backlist. Royal Passion is the first in my Royal Romances series, and I’m releasing it in October. I’m busy doing the final edits, and today, I’ve got more self-publishing news!

Save the Datefor More Self-Publishing Hints

On Tuesday, 8th August, fellow author and cover artist Joanna Maitland and I will be appearing on a Zoom chat arranged by the Herefordshire Chapter of the Society of Authors. We’ll be talking about our experiences of self publishing. If you’d like to find out more and book a place, click here.

One of the things I’ll be talking about is how the design of Royal Passion the ebook tells readers what to expect. All they can see online is the cover and the first few pages, which must convey a lot of information in a short space.

Self publishing cover news Greek beach and seashore, with a yacht. Image of a romantic couple.

Royal Passion is escapist romance. I wanted the cover to make readers think of holidays in the sun, with cloudless skies and romance with a hint of sizzle…

More Self-Publishing Know-How

There are lots of books jostling for attention online. Cover art needs to make a big impact at thumbnail size. Joanna made sure that the cover art for Royal Passion gave the impression it was contemporary, escapist romance with a hint of heat. The font and colours will be readable even at a small size.

Like for Like

Inside the front cover, Royal Passion is designed to look exactly like other book in the romance genre. It opens with an introduction to new readers. Then there’s a note about my backlist (you can find out more about me here, and see some of my books here). The all-important copyright notice is next, followed by an extract from Royal Passion to whet readers’ appetites, and a message thanking everyone who has helped me to bring the book to life.

And Then?

Readers turn the page to meet Sara and Leo, two strangers in a Grecian paradise who are determined not to fall in love…

Your Chance To Read on…

My August newsletter will give five lucky subscribers the chance to read an advance copy of Royal Passion. Sign up for my newsletter here, and I’ll include you in the draw.

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Blog, self-publishing

The Challenge of Learning New Skills

My adventures in self-publishing now see me taking on the challenge of learning new skills.

First of all, I had to check which of my books I am able to publish. That sounds odd—surely as I wrote them, I ought to be able to do what I like with my books? I can, but only when the rights to any previously published work has legally reverted to me. 

white ceramic teacup with saucer near two books above grey floral textile the challenge of learning new skills blog post
Photo by Thought Catalog on

My Princes of Kharova series is currently out of print. I love writing, but it takes a lot of dedication and hard work to write one book, let alone a trilogy. It seemed a shame to have His Majesty’s Secret Passion, Her Royal Risk and Heart of a Hostage gathering virtual dust on my computer. Publishing them myself will do two things.  It will give a whole new audience a chance to fall in love with my exotic heroes Leo, Athan, and Mihail. I’ll also be taking on the challenge of learning a whole new set of skills.

The first of these new skills is patience. Combing through each manuscript takes ages and a lot of concentration. There’s always a better way of wording something. I’ve also been updating some details within my stories. Technology is changing all the time. The cyber cafés I wrote about in 2015 are now internet cafés—and they are full of gamers! Phones are miles better today than they were back then, too. 

I find it easier to work through one chapter of my books at a time and then take a break. In an ideal world, I would set aside a week or two and do nothing else but work on perfecting each manuscript, but life isn’t like that! There’s the family to feed, the house to run, and Alex to walk at least twice a day. Not to mention all the fruit that needs picking and processing at this time of year. And of course, the weeds are running riot! I’m also a Reader for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writer’s Scheme. This involves reading submissions and writing a report to help and encourage authors in their work.  That takes all my attention and often involves an element of research online to check details too.

I took notes of the settings and characteristics of each hero and heroine of my books so I could provide an art sheet for my cover designer, Joanna Maitland of Libertà Books. Joanna has extensive experience of self-publishing and understands the importance of book covers in today’s market.

Any cover must have an immediate impact in the thumbnail size used online. Covers are visible shorthand for the reader. It must tell them the book’s genre in one glance.

This is why all books within a genre have broadly similar covers. Romcoms use silhouettes or have cartoon-like covers, while World War Two family sagas have a photograph of a woman or women in period-correct clothes superimposed on a 1940s backdrop with planes overhead, and so on.

I gave Joanna copies of my books along with art sheets so she could create a unified visual experience for the series. Each art sheet included the setting of one particular book and every possible detail of its hero and heroine, from their height, age, and colouring to the clothes they wear.

Covers for escapist contemporary romances like Royal Passion feature a hero and heroine against a background related to the story.  A luxury hotel on a fictional Greek Island serves as the setting for Royal Passion. Classically tall, dark and handsome Leo became king of Kharova after the death of his brother. He doesn’t want the job and had to give up his medical studies to take on the role. His stay at The Paradise Hotel is a short period of freedom before his life becomes tied up in protocol and matters of state. Tense, anxious Sara is recovering from a broken heart and a health scare. Leo and Sara want very different things. He dreads his destiny, while she can’t escape her past. Can their passion free them to share a future?

That was the brief. Here’s the finished cover:

Cover, Christina Hollis's Book 'Royal Passion'. Greek seashore, glamorous couple. The Challenge of Learning New Skills

Learning the new skills needed to become a self-publisher is a challenge, but it’s been well worth it so far. You can find out more about me here, and see some of my books here.

I’d love to know what you think about the cover of Royal Passion—why not post a comment?

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Writing Your Book, Part Three: Author! Author! Audience! Audience!

Let The Fun And Games Begin…
Deciding who will be your audience is a vital first step.  It affects everything, from the tone of your writing to whether you’ll aim for publication, or write simply for the pleasure of producing a finished piece of work.  

If you write only to please yourself, your audience may be small, but you’ll satisfy one hundred percent of it.

Always write what you want to read.  Then you’ll write from the heart. That’s the quickest way to appeal to other readers, too, if you decide to expand your market. It’s a great help when the going gets tough, too. As long as you’re enthusiastic about your work, you can get through the tough times. 

If you really can’t face cobbling together any more of the Game Of Thrones fanfic you’re only writing in the hope of selling a million, your writing life will become a living hell (dragons optional).

Befriend A Bookseller Today…
Identify wider markets using the same process you used to decide what to write. If you love your work, it’s more likely to be appreciated by people like you. Keep your ear to the ground at your place of work, and any clubs, societies and social media groups you belong.  You’ll discover the subjects, people and places they enjoy, and the authors they like to read. 

Pick up on what’s popular in your circles. Read the books that are recommended by word-of mouth, which is always the most powerful selling tool. You’ll discover how to pitch your language and style to appeal to your prospective readers. Make use of your local independent bookshop. Keep them in business. One day you might need them to sell your book.  

Join online sites like Goodreads, to discuss with others what makes a book enjoyable, rather than just readable. Check out the best seller lists to get a feel for genre and length. Become your local library’s best customer.  Read as widely as you can, and try writing in different genres to find out where you’ll find the best fit.

Do your research into all possible markets beforehand. Write your own book, but with half an eye on what has worked for other people.  When you get to the stage of trying to sell your book, you’ll be tapping into a ready market.

The end result…
This is where you head out into the wide, often dangerous waters of aiming to catch an agent, or a publisher. Once upon a time publishing houses had huge advertising budgets, and handed out advances like chocolate at Christmas. All the author had to do was turn up at catered events, sign a few books, and smile. 

Those days are gone. Now you have to be prepared to work every bit as hard at promoting and selling your own work as if you were self-publishing. That’s an option I’ll discuss in a future blog, but there are big advantages in being published by a firm with enough staff to take some of the responsibility off your shoulders. Writing is more fun than selling, but you’ll have to do a fair bit of that even if you’re published by one of the big international publishing houses.  These days, they’re risk-averse and won’t take an author on unless they can guarantee a return on their investment. 

If you follow my tips for researching your market beforehand, you’ll be ready to sell hard, and sell well.  

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Getting Published – The First Steps…

By Antonio Litterio

Getting published used to be a case of catching the eye of a respectable publisher, or delving into the murky depths of vanity publishing. The first often meant jumping through a lot of hoops, then signing away some or all of your rights. The latter involved paying a lot of money to see your hard work turned into books – you hoped. The explosion of online possibilities means  you don’t need to develop the skin of a rhinoceros before you get to see your name in print. The curse of rejection is no longer a threat. Anyone with a computer can create, upload an offer an ebook for international sale. 

The downside of all this easy access is that the market has been flooded.  Everyone who can switch on a computer has gone into print. Some might turn out to have the staying-power of Shakespeare, while others should never have been let loose on a keyboard. The more books on the market, the harder it is to make your own book stand out. 

Coming soon – sign up here for details
The most important thing is to write a book of which you can be proud. Pour your heart and soul into your work, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve written the best book you can.    Before you decide whether to publish it yourself, or send it out to a publisher or agent, get a second opinion. Your mum might say she loves it, but it’s better to get an unbiased view from a friend you can trust to tell you the truth–however hard it might be to hear. Professional editing will turn your text into a flawless read, but it can’t do anything for your story-telling skills. 

Invest in some great cover art to make your book stand out. Get names from The Society of Authors, the RWA (US) or RNA (UK), or by asking online in places such as writers’ groups on LinkedIn. Approach several artists, and ask to see examples of their work. Before you decide which one to choose, get some quotes and make sure both you and the artist know what to expect from the transaction. You’ll need to know what rights to the artwork you’ll have, and they need to know your demands will be reasonable and that you’ll be a good payer. Like writing, art is a time-consuming skill and nobody wants to waste precious hours and resources.

There are more tips on my website, and you can sign up for my newsletter here to receive news of my next release, Jewel Under Siege