BY MANDY BAGGOT
I always had a passion for writing. When I was at senior school I wrote an on-going EastEnders’ style saga featuring my school friends, various members of the Italia 1990 England football squad and New Kids on the Block. They would eagerly grab the daily four or five A4 pages to read what was happening to them next. When it eventually came to an end it was over 4,000 A4 pages long! It was a bit like an early Footballers’ Wives I guess! I was robbed!
After I left school I didn’t write that much and the bits and pieces I did write I never thought too seriously about. It was a hobby and that was all. I had my dream romance (yes they do happen!), I got married and then I had my first daughter.
After having my daughter I started to write again.
I wrote my first novel Excess All Areas, a holiday romance about a large, feisty girl called Freya and a Hollywood heartthrob. I don’t really know why, but I sent it off to Headline publishing. Their response was really positive, but ultimately they turned me down. At the time I put it down to experience (after crying for a couple of days!) and put the novel away. However, another baby later, despite advice to the contrary, another novel written (Breaking the Ice) and I stumbled upon a website called Youwriteon.com. They are funded by The Arts Council of England and were creating a scheme to get a certain number of new authors published before Christmas 2008. You had to pay £49.99 to allow your book to go on Amazon, Waterstones etc. but they would do the rest. I saw this as my chance to get my book out there. And on December 8 2008 Excess All Areas was published and showing on websites for people to buy. It was a landmark moment but I wasn’t fully satisfied. I had got the writing bug back but I knew Excess All Areas wasn’t as polished as it could be and I wanted more.
I made a decision then to keep sending manuscripts out to agents and traditional publishing houses knowing that if they all rejected me I could fall back on self-publishing. I am still agentless, but now the industry is changing that doesn’t seem such a daunting position to be in.
In 2010, when my eldest daughter was going to need mum at home for the long summer holidays, I made the decision to give up my job as a Probate paralegal at a firm of solicitors and be a full-time writer. I didn’t go into this lightly. I knew I wasn’t going to suddenly be able to create a Booker prize winner and lie back and reap the rewards, but I knew I had to concentrate on my writing if I ever wanted to make a career out of it.
In February 2011 Knowing Me Knowing You was published, again by Youwriteon.com, but it was really in preparation for launching Strings Attached in November this year, that I stepped things up a gear. I knew I had to do something to attract people to my book. I was serious about this, I wanted to make a living from it, I needed to be professional.
I found an amazing cover designer and together we came up with a fantastic cover that people love. But the cover alone wasn’t going to be enough. I needed more and it needed to be different. So, I set up a Twitter profile for the male lead. He can be found at @quinnblakemusic. It was amazing how many people responded to his tweets and enjoyed interacting with him. I also set up a blog and website tour for launch day and the two weeks after, on sites in the UK and Canada and I really pushed my novel to book review sites and bloggers. I also created a trailer for Strings Attached to increase interest and get anticipation going.
And then there are the singing videos! Yes I love to sing and perform. This year I joined a local vocal group called Raise the Roof. We are a group of all different age ranges, male and female, who sing an eclectic mix of songs from Lady Gaga to The Everly Brothers, from Take That to The Beach Boys, from Alexandra Burke to Frank Sinatra. Well, I had to make use of singing to promote my books didn’t I? So I loaded up a video of me singing Poker Face and left links to my novels. To date it has had 477 views! Not exactly viral but a lot more than I would ever have dreamed of. I don’t know whether this has directly affected sales, but it has definitely attracted interest! Around the time the video was put on Twitter The Hoff began following me! Now that is A-List!
So I sing for promotion and I dress up. This year I dressed as a chicken at The Festival of Romance in Watford, to represent my character The Love Dove who stars in my Mr and Mrs meets The Generation Game novel, Knowing Me Knowing You. I was probably the most photographed individual of the weekend and the great writer Carole Matthews was also in attendance. It’s all about the outfit Carole!
There have been other bonuses to promoting my book. I have made loads of new friends and supporters on social networking sites, through book websites and blogs and I have also joined two websites helping self-published and new authors raise their profile and connect with readers. These are Loveahappyending.com and Famous Five Plus. We work as a group to proactively support each other and our writing.
At the moment I am self-published, using a new website called FeedARead.com. I would really recommend them for anyone who wants to self-publish their novels. It costs £88 to have your book published and made available on Amazon and Waterstones etc. Presently they only deal with paperback versions so I upload my books onto Kindle myself.
So what’s next? Well, I am signing copies of Strings Attached at Waterstones Salisbury on 8 December from 5.30pm-8.30pm and I have numerous other store signings booked in for 2012. Waterstones have been extremely supportive to me as a self-published author and this year I have approached stores further afield. I just dropped them an email with a press release and had a fantastic response!
And as far as the actual writing goes, I am doing final edits for my summer 2012 release Taking Charge and have put the trailer on YouTube.
Mandy Baggot is the author of four novels, Excess All Areas, Breaking the Ice, Knowing Me Knowing You and her latest novel Strings Attached is out now in paperback and on Kindle. She lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire in the UK with her husband, two daughters and two cats. When she isn’t writing she likes to read, sing and travel – sometimes all at the same time!
Find out more here: Mandy Baggot’s website