An interview with chick lit author Nicola May

This week I’m interviewing Nicola May, successful self-published chick lit author of Star Fish, Working It Out and Better Together. Nicola embarked on her self-publishing journey by bringing out her first two novels in paperback. This is what she has to say about her experience so far.

You’ve self-published three novels: Working It Out, Better Together and Star Fish. Firstly, what led you to self-publish, and secondly, what led you to self-publish in paperback as opposed to in ebook format?

I tried for years to get published in the traditional way. I even had a reputable agent at one stage but it is very hard to get a publishing deal. It wasn’t until I got a letter from Hodder saying they hoped it wasn’t a big regret turning me down that I knew I was good enough to get my writing out to the wider world.

My dream was always to write a book that people could hold and read and I could see it on a bookshelf. Even now if I saw someone reading my book on a train I might faint with excitement. It hasn’t happened yet! I think that avid readers do still like to hold an actual book in their hands and the face-to-face contact at launches, signings etc is good for word-of-mouth marketing.

Being honest and I hate to say it out loud, it is actually far more cost effective to sell electronically only as overheads are minimal. I do see lots of authors following this route. My third novel Better Together has outsold both of my other novels on the Kindle as I haven’t printed this one. I am going to put my fourth novel in print due to popular demand from my readers but only a small run initially. I will of course put it on the Kindle too as it would be stupid not to. 

What have you done to market your books?

What haven’t I done to market my books! I have an author website (www.nicolamay.com), Facebook page (Nicola May) and Twitter account @nicolamay1. I have done local radio interviews talking about my self-publishing story and have had various articles in local papers, plus in WOMAN magazine. Star Fish was also hot read of the week in WOMAN magazine earlier this year. Plus, it has a full-page review in Horoscope magazine this month. I constantly sign at various Waterstones stores and get involved in local craft fairs and festivals.

What has self-publishing taught you about the publishing industry?

That it’s a hard industry to succeed in. Unless you have a bestseller you are not going to earn life-changing money and constant marketing is a must.

What would your top tips be to anyone contemplating self-publishing?

Be prepared to work VERY hard. Everyone aspires to be the next J.K. Rowling but it ain’t that easy. You and your books are a brand and successful, constant marketing is key to your success. Be nice to everyone you meet along the way. Keep writing and most importantly, be BOLD!

Are you working on a new novel? If so, when will we be able to buy it?

I am indeed, it is entitled The School Gates and I’m half way through. I am aiming for an autumn release. I haven’t got an exact date yet but follow me on Twitter and I will give regular updates. This is an exclusive book blurb just for you and your readers!

The School Gates by Nicola May

At 3.10 pm every weekday, parents gather at Featherstone Primary to collect their children. For a special few, the friendships forged at the school gates will see them through lives filled with drama, secrets and sorrows.

When Yummy Mummy Alana reveals the identity of her lovechild’s father, she doesn’t expect the consequences to be quite so extreme. Ex Czech au-pair Earth Mummy Dana finds happiness in her secret sideline, but really all she longs for is another child. Slummy Mummy Mo’s wife-beating husband leads her down a path she never thought possible, and Super Mummy Joan has to cope when life deals her a devastating blow. And what of Gay Daddy Gordon? Will he be able to juggle parenthood and cope with his broken heart at the same time?

Four very different mothers. One adorable dad. And the intertwining trials and tribulations that a year at the primary school gates brings.

Put yourself out there

As the half-term holiday approached, I started to notice a pain in my right hand at the base of my thumb. Scrolling and clicking the trackpad seemed to be making it worse. Could it be RSI? If so, it wouldn’t be surprising. As a self-published author, I spend a lot of time on my laptop, much of it online, ‘putting myself out there’.

Aching thumb aside, I was starting to feel burnt out with writing, editing, proofreading, tweeting, blogging, monitoring sales figures, etc. My eyes needed a screen break, my fingers and thumbs needed a trackpad break, and my brain needed to stop thinking about how best to promote my books. I needed to put myself out there all right – but outside, in the elements.

Cue camping trip. Forecast: high winds and showers likely. Hmm…

As I packed and packed and packed, I thought that this wasn’t the most relaxing trip I could’ve chosen. Packing pretty much took the entire day before departure. On arrival, unpacking, putting up the tent and sorting out the bedding took time, too. It was a good while before we could sit down, relax and join our friends with a well-earned beer and admire their far simpler tents.

However, the simple activity of packing and unpacking, putting up a tent and preparing food for the BBQ in 40mph gusts of wind, all required 100% concentration. And while my focus was on these activities, it wasn’t on writing, editing and marketing – a good thing.

The rest of the time was spent having fun in the open air. The kids turned feral, building dens in the muddy woods, while the adults huddled closer to the fire and cracked open more Cava.

A highlight was taking a walk through the woods to the ‘cave of poo’. The cave of poo was not for the fainthearted – it’s dark enough to need a torch, muddy enough to need wellies, and smelly enough to hold your nose. So naturally I sent my eldest daughter in with a far braver adult.

Meanwhile, my youngest daughter had got herself stuck in a muddy bog. ‘Mummy! I can’t move!’ she screamed hysterically while I caught up with her and immediately found myself in the same predicament. We stood there, knee-deep in mud (it was only the top 5mm of our boots that were not submerged). As I debated whether it was easier to go forward or backward, we wobbled precariously from side to side, watched by the others with baited breath. Miraculously, we eventually managed to get out with our wellies still on our feet and without falling flat on our backsides. My daughter’s tears turned to giggles and she was soon racing with the other kids towards the next disaster zone: a muddy stream with a rope swing above it.

Our camping trip was over too quickly, but one weekend of being outdoors in the fresh air connecting with the elements was enough to clear my brain, restore blood flow to my thumb and replenish my creative tank. As Ernest Hemingway once said, ‘In order to write about life, first you must live it.’