Helen Hollick

Helen HollickHistorical fiction author Helen Hollick shares the joys of being an indie writer.

I have been writing professionally for twenty years now, with my historical fiction novels in print with a mainstream publisher in the US and self-published here in the UK. Several years ago historical fiction took a tumble in the popularity stakes – particularly the huge door-stop-type tomes. Cut a long story short, my UK publisher dropped my backlist and my (now ex) agent was not interested in my new ideas.

That left me at the end of my career, I thought, but I decided to go indie and self-publish my books. Best decision I ever made! I went to an assisted company, brought out my backlist and my new idea, a pirate-based adventure yarn, and found the freedom of ‘doing-it-yourself’.

The drawback: the company turned out not to be all it claimed and eventually went bust. By this time, however, I had been picked up by Sourcebooks Ltd in the US and had the fortune to find an excellent, highly professional assisted publishing company, SilverWood Books in the UK to transfer to. With the addition of a fabulous editor and fantastic graphics designer, Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics, I now take pride in my books.

But not all indie writers realise the importance of producing their books to the highest possible standard. I am also the UK Indie Review Editor for the Historical Novel Society and it amazes me that I receive books to review that are printed in Comic Sans, or throughout in italics. Some are double-spaced or have the text left justified – what a shame when the story itself looked good.

When I explain to these authors why their book will not be reviewed some are grateful for the given advice, but a few are at best grumpy, at worst downright rude.

‘It’s the story that counts!’ they wail, ‘not the layout!’. Yes the story has to be good, the historical detail has to be accurate; (no Romans smoking a quick fag behind Hadrian’s Wall. No King Richard tramping across Bosworth Field in his wellies.)

Of course the writing must be good: anyone can write a book, not everyone can write a readable book. But the presentation also has to be correct. Pages littered with typos, in a font too small to read is not going to get you readers or credibility as a serious writer. Don’t these objecting authors want their books to equal the mainstream standard of quality? Do they really want their hard work to resemble a street urchin not the well-groomed Prince?

Harold The KIngI was recently one of several authors listed by the UK Guardian on their Readers’ Recommended Self Published Authors list with my novel Harold the King. I was thrilled at the newspaper’s support for Indie writers, not only for myself (although thrilled is putting it mildly!) but for all Indie writers who want their books to stand proud alongside mainstream published novels. It is wonderful to know we are getting the recognition we deserve. Indie does not mean rubbish writing: it means hard work and great pride.

As long as it is done properly.

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UK Guardian Readers’ Recommended Self Published Authors