Friday, October 14, 2011

Indie Insider - Ellen Ghyll

How are your book covers designed?

Well, since ‘Chicken Feed’ is my debut novel, I’ve only had one book cover to think about. In common with many indie writers, spare money is in very short supply so I had no option but to go it alone. Luckily for me, number two daughter (out of a grand total of four) is a very talented artist and she came up with a cover design, which I felt was both relevant and original. She used Adobe Illustrator and Microsoft Publisher.

What do you do when you get writers block?

When it’s just not happening in the space between my fingertips and the laptop I find the worst thing to do is to try and force it. I read an old favourite – ideally a Georgette Heyer or Terry Pratchett; something I can relax into without catching myself analyzing the author’s writing style; eat cream cake and drink coffee.
Top it all off with an evening in front of a favourite dvd with hubby, have a couple of glasses of wine and hopefully, in the morning, everything is working again. Relax and forget about it is what I’m saying!

How many hours a week do you spend writing?

At the moment, my life revolves around promoting Chicken Feed; but when I am concentrating on writing, I aim to produce 1,000 words per day. This can take as little as an hour or so but the subsequent re-reading, altering, re-reading and tweaking can take up the whole of the rest of the day. When I reckon it’s as good as it can get, I pass it on to my husband, Nigel, and he spots any (and I’m always horrified at how many there are) silly mistakes or inconsistencies. So, I have to say, when I’m writing seriously, it takes up every free minute of every day – and I love it.

Which narrative form do you use and why?

I wrote Chicken Feed in third person narrative because I wanted the freedom to switch from one person’s perspective to another’s: to see the world through their eyes – not through my own. The truth is, I have very little control over my characters; they got themselves in to all kinds of trouble all by themselves – and then, rather scarily, it seemed to me, sorted everything out to suit themselves too.
I had to write in third person – my characters wouldn’t have it any other way.

How long does it take you to create a book from start to finish on average?

I started writing Chicken Feed when my daughters were very small and now the youngest is eighteen and at University so that makes it around the twenty year mark; give or take a year.
Seriously though, I expect to make much faster progress on my next novel (currently in the plotting stage!) and hope to have it completed by next summer. A book a year sounds perfectly possible now I’m no longer a full-time mum.

Where do you get your e-books formatted?

My husband used to work as a printer and I was very happy to leave that to him!

Do you use a professional editor, critique partners, or beta readers? Briefly describe your process.

Everything, including the cover design, writing, editing, synopsis, press release and (currently under construction) book trailer, has been done at home by myself and members of my immediate family. Chicken Feed has truly been an indie project from start to finish.
The plot was discussed and outlined over the family dinner table; I sat in front of my laptop and wrote the story then handed it over to my husband who edited it, passed it back to me, I tweaked it some more and handed it back to him… Finally we read and re-read the complete book countless times, altering a word or a phrase here and there, making sure everything happened in a believable timeline. We discussed the cover and what was possible with the resources we had, then Aimee produced it. Nigel made sure the paragraphs and punctuation all worked and he formatted it. We then uploaded it to Amazon Kindle and Smashwords.

Which is the most important social media platform and why? Twitter,, Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, LinkedIn, or any other one you use.

Since all of the book promotion is being done at home from my laptop, I can honestly say that all social media platforms are equally valuable.
I started with Facebook because I was already an avid user – it’s how I keep in touch with my daughters. I joined Goodreads on the advice of a young relative (also an indie writer) and have found it to be a fantastic resource; not only a means of self promotion, but also a wonderful support network of readers, fellow writers and bloggers.
Twitter scared me at first, I had no idea how to use it! In no time at all though, I found myself thoroughly enjoying it and am delighted with the number of hits my blog is getting as a direct result. The blog I found incredibly confusing to set up and had to beg my daughters for help. However, I’m getting there and learning more about it every day.
The bottom line is, join every group, follow every blog, get your name out there! I googled Ellen Ghyll this morning and was delighted to discover that I take up the first four pages! It takes time, effort, perseverance and obsession but when you are totally dependent on your own efforts, it’s something you just have to do!

What are three unique resources/web sites that you think are indispensable for authors?

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing has to be number one. It’s FREE and without it, I would still be trawling for an agent and a publisher and Chicken Feed would be sitting in a drawer.
Facebook is number two. It’s FREE and gives you the opportunity to create your own author page so you can reach people who, hopefully, will want to buy your book.
Your own Blog is my number three. It’s FREE and so much simpler to set up and manage than a website. Every group you join, every web page you participate in can all link to your Blog. It helps spread the word.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

One luxury I did indulge myself with whilst writing Chicken Feed, was the purchase of a Kindle. I found that emailing the days writing to myself and reading it back on the Kindle helped me enormously. It is so much easier to spot mistakes when it already looks like a ‘real book’.

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