Friday, February 26, 2016

Who is Number One?

To quote the well-known television series The Prisoner, ‘who is number one?’ Here at the Romantic Novelists’Association our first applicant for independent membership was Alison Morton. We welcome her to the RNA blog to tell the story of her writing career so far.

“Independent” could be defined as the freedom to act and to have control over your destiny, and the responsibility and power to make your own decisions.

“Independent author” has grown out of the self-publishing movement. Originally, self-publishers
Alison with Carole Blake

wrote their book and posted it on Amazon. Job done. Before then, and if you had the money, you could contract with a subsidy publisher to produce a garage full of hard or paperback print books. Now, self-publishing has matured, professional services such as editing, cover design and formatting have grown as have assisted publishing services offering full support packages.

Inevitably, there are a lot of substandard, and frankly rubbish, books out there for sale as a result of this democratic revolution. Some originators of content (I’m not calling them writers) don’t care or don’t know any better; they’ve produced words in a file, sometimes with great emotion on their part, and sent them off into the digiverse without any check.

However, serious self-publishers know better. Alongside other writers (however published or aspiring to be published) they will have joined writing groups, listened to other authors, read magazines, self-help books, had their work critiqued, attended conferences and gone on courses.

I’ve always been a ‘wordsmith’. Translating professionally for much of my career has made me nit-picky about words, grammar, punctuation, document cohesion, theme and structure. After selling my translation business in 2009, I started writing my first Roma Nova novel. Next, at the urging of my new critique partner, I joined the RNA New Writers’ Scheme in January 2010; this led to courses, parties, conferences, parties, meetings, parties, London & SE Chapter meetings, parties…

After that a six day writers’ boot camp, an Arvon Foundation course on commercial fiction (Mavis Cheek and the late, great Paul Sussman as tutors), the
Festival of Writing at York where I met mentor (and first endorser) Adrian Magson, multi-selling crime and thriller writer. Tumbling after that were memberships of the Historical Novel Society, the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), International Thriller Writers, Society of Authors and visits to the London Book Fair. The crucial thing is to interact continuously with all these associations and writing and reading colleagues within them.

And the books?
The first two were launched at Waterstones Tunbridge Wells in 2013 and the third in London in 2014 at the University Women’s Club when broadcaster Sue Cook interviewed me. The first two books were joint runners up in Writing Magazine’s Self-Published Book of the Year award, the third and fourth both Editor’s Choices of the Historical Novel Society (HNS). The first three have qualified as B.R.A.G. Medallion honorees and the third was an Editor’s Choice in The Bookseller’s inaugural indie preview ("this classy thriller"). And the latest AURELIA has just been shortlisted for the 2016 Historical Novel Society Indie Award.

More importantly than any of this, readers have been kind enough to say they enjoy diving into the world of Roma Nova and following Carina and Aurelia’s adventures and tangled love lives. Now I have sealed the deal with Blake Friedman Literary Agency to represent me for foreign and ancillary rights  – an indie/traditional partnership that’s first for them and pretty damned exciting for me!

This is not to boast. This is to illustrate that serious indies put in the time and effort to develop the skills of professional authors. But how to separate the dross from the diamonds? Several new quality organisations are appearing, such as IndieBRAG which rejects 90% of its applications and the HNS review system which analyses new historical fiction and runs an annual indie fiction prize. If your book is eligible, do go in for these! But books are about readers and many indies in this association have enjoyed best selling success because their well-written books are loved by their readers

What are the criteria for independent membership?
The RNA has studied, consulted and debated internally about the self-published/independent question. An author must have self published at least two works of romantic fiction over 30,000 words in length. At least one of those works must have achieved sales in excess of 1000 copies in a single 12 month period and/or generated income from sales over £500 in a single 12 month period.
As a proud member of the RNA, a place where I have found friends, colleagues, support and champions and where I am able to give back to newer writers with talks, panels and posts, I was delighted to transfer from the New Writers’ Scheme to became the first ever Independent Author Member.

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIO and AURELIA. The fifth book, INSURRECTIO, will be launched on 12 April at the 2016 London Book Fair.


Twitter: @alison-morton

Thank you, Alison and good luck with your latest book.

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John Jackson said...

I am half-way through Inceptio at the moment - and enjoying it enormously! Great pace - reminiscent of Elmore Leonard.

Nobody can afford to ignore the possibilities of self-publishing nowadays.


Alison Morton said...

Thanks, John. Really pleased you're enjoying INCEPTIO. Karen has to struggle through quite a lot before she finds... Ah, well I'm not going to give away the ending. ;-)

Like anything, indies can produce top quality fiction, but as with anything, it's a lot of hard work!

Anita Chapman said...

Great post, Alison. Congratulations on all your success, so well deserved!

Alison Morton said...

Thank you so much, Anita!