An Affair to Publish

No Walls’ Brooke Donnelly explores the intersection of technology and publishing. From the big picture, to the every day actions of author, Ann Harrison, who shares her insights as a digital publisher and consumer.

Mr. Grey will see you now…

The all too famous words that set the scene for a twisted romantic epic. Fifty Shades of Grey is familiar to the entire world. It was the best-selling novel of 2012 and is only one of the romance sub-genres that line our bookshelves today.

But, not long before Mr. Grey hit the shelves and after vampires stole our hearts, cowboys in western romance fiction had females swooning as they turned every page.

You simply have to look at what’s on the shelves to realise that Western romance novels have regained popularity as a romance sub-genre. Cowboys have sparked fascination with the audience. Sub-genres sharing the affection are paranormal, medieval, time-travel and Victorian romance. All genres on the battlefield of love are fighting for their audience and flirting with the world of digital publishing.

Digital stories provide readers convenience and efficiency. They also allow readers to enjoy steamy romance stories behind the guise of a Kindle screen, as Brooke Donnelly finds out.

Amazon Kindle Store is the Netflix of books.

Although Amazon didn’t start off with an Australian specific website for e-books, consumers were still able to purchase digital copies through U.S. and UK platforms since 2007. This is unlike both Netflix and Spotify – the two undisputed king platforms for streaming media content, which were not available to Australian markets until recently, in 2015 and 2013 – years after they had been launched overseas.

While this speaks to the digital disruption of publishing, there seems to consistently be a place for the independent book store in Australia, that will forever offer a unique experience. That is, finding what you don’t expect.

There’s something about physically searching the shelves for books, picking them up, flicking through the pages that let’s you find an unexpected title you fall in love with. Something that an online bookstore cannot replace.

An Author’s Perspective

To learn more about how the evolving publishing industry affects writers, I caught up with romance author, Ann Harrison. In our conversation she discussed the digital publishing opportunities that Amazon provides, as well as her experience as both a consumer and publisher.

Author, Ann Harrison. Photo off of her website.

Author, Ann Harrison. Photo off of her website.

The Amazon #1 best-selling western romance author believes there’s room for both digital and traditional publishing.

“I still buy books in print but only my favourite authors who I read again and again. It’s easy to buy digital, [it’s] convenient, and cheap and I can have thousands of books on my iPad mini in my handbag. [It’s] great for travelling!”

Harrison was previously signed up to a traditional publishing house, however after some time she decided to venture out on her own. Thus began her journey as a self-publishing author.  She’s motivated, passionate, and talks of taking “the knock backs and rolling with it”.

“When I first started writing I needed the validation of being accepted by a publisher so I knew I was good enough to keep going,” she says. “They took my first four books and asked for more but the self-publishing had started to kick in and I wanted to dip my toes in the pool”.

The experience of publishing digitally with Amazon gave Harrison more control over her creative process.“I found I could get my books up faster, control more areas like artwork etc. and choose my own editors. I had total control, which I loved,” says Harrison.

“My creative process is pretty haphazard,” Harrison says. “Sometimes I’ll get an idea and write down a couple of notes. Sometimes I’ll pretty much get the whole book idea.”

Harrison's home work space

Harrison’s home work space

“The one I’m working on now, I dreamed before I woke one morning. It’s been an easy write but now I’m in the process of tweaking and making sure it all slots together. It’s a split narrative – between two time frames, one 1940, the other 1980, and it has to blend seamlessly. Sometimes the editing process takes longer than the initial writing”.

According to Harrison, publishing through Amazon is “super easy”.  After writing the manuscript she sends it off to her external editor. She believes you should, “always use an editor”.

Once receiving her manuscript back, she follows the steps provided, in a book published by Amazon called, “Building Your Book, Your Kindle”. Her book, from there, is live to sell on Amazon within twelve hours.

According to Harrison Amazon is a fantastic tool to use for self-publishing – time efficient, easy and accessible.

Harrison's Amazon Author's page

Harrison’s Amazon Author’s page

“The more books you have through Amazon, the more they promote you,” she says. It’s safe to say, however, in the game of being an author, you still have to do a lot of self-promoting.

“Being published by a publishing house doesn’t mean you can sit back and let them promote you. You still have to do most of the work, whether you digitally publish or go traditional publishing. You need to be your own promo machine.”

It really is interesting to see some insight into the processes required to be an author and Harrison happily shares all her experiences. Along with the requirements for anyone aspiring to be an author.

“Every author needs to brand themselves and get out there [to] actively make connections,” she says.

Harrison, though predominantly published on Amazon’s digital platforms, has just signed with Tule Publishing earlier this year. This is resulting in her first print book coming out in September.

“I wanted a bigger audience for my books and they seemed the best for style of western romance,” Harrison says. Further proving not all traditional publications are phased out by technology. Rather it’s an extension of the preferred platform.

Authors could reach a significant portion of the market through publishing on Amazon. However, Harrison extends her audience grab to those consumers that are committed to tradition.