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.

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Start as you mean to go on

Several years ago I attended a talk given by a literary agent at a local literature festival. The agent was explaining what to do and what not to do when pitching to agents.

‘For example,’ she said, ‘if I had a pound for every opening chapter that started with a sentence about the weather…’ She rolled her eyes and we all laughed. As I made my way home after the talk, I thought about what she’d said. How unimaginative to start your novel with a description of the weather! At that time, I had just completed my novel Package Deal and sent it off to a number of agents. I couldn’t remember my opening line so I looked it up the minute I got home. And this is what I had written: Sun, sun, sun. Dazzling, beaming, glorious sun.

Oops.

Well, that’s me screwed then, I thought. As it turned out, I wasn’t screwed. But that’s another story.

More recently, I entered my current WIP, Blown-Away Man, into a competition. Before I printed it out and posted it off, I re-read the competition rules and tips one last time. One thing stood out: ‘Make sure your opening page is a strong one.’ I read my opening page again, then decided to look at the opening pages of some of my favourite novels. I thought I’d share what I found as it’s been a helpful exercise. As a result, I found myself adding in a line to my opening page that made all the difference.

The following lines are not necessarily the first line of the novel, but occur within the first two pages. They are lines that piqued my curiosity and lured me in.

I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6th 1973. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold

My name, in those days, was Susan Trinder. People called me Sue. I know the year I was born in, but for many years I did not know the date… Fingersmith, Sarah Waters

No one in this “community” shows any signs of forgetting, after a year and eight months–to the day. So I have to steel myself when provisions run low. We Need To Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver

He simply loved women. Young, old, those just starting to blossom and those beginning to fade. And sheepishly, almost embarrassed at his own vanity, he knew that women loved him. Women loved him. The Slap, Christos Tsiolkas

The dog was dead. There was a garden fork sticking out of the dog. The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time, Mark Haddon

Mary Fisher lives in a High Tower on the edge of the sea: she writes a great deal about the nature of love. She tells lies. The Life And Loves Of A She Devil, Fay Weldon.

Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu. Together they had appeared at the courthouse in Wujia Town many times, but she had always changed her mind at the last momentWaiting, Ha Jin

And here’s the line I added into my humble beginning:

It’s an odd feeling, making polite conversation with the person you lost your virginity to nearly a quarter of a century ago. Luckily the subject didn’t come up, although I’m sure it’s as clear in her memory as it is in mine.