Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Indie Authors Spill on Self-Publishing: Anne Mitchell

I am so happy to welcome the wonderful UK author of Happy Hour, Anne Mitchell. Thank you so much, Anne, for joining us and sharing your very relatable and inspirational story of self-publishing.

HAPPY HOUR – the story of a chick-lit novel

Hello from the UK!

Firstly, many thanks to Sam for the opportunity to share my self-publishing journey
with the readers of this blog. I’ve been living, breathing, eating and sleeping self-
publishing for six months now, (and boring the pants off all my long-suffering friends
and family in the process) so while I’m writing about my own experiences here I also
hope that anyone who’s wondering whether to take this momentous step themselves
might pick up a few tips and/or a little bit of inspiration along the way.

I got the idea for my novel HAPPY HOUR about four years ago, on a visit to New
York with my daughter. We went to all the usual tourist places; the Empire State
Building, Central Park, the Guggenheim – all locations that feature in the novel –
and I absolutely loved the energy and everything-is-possible vibe we encountered
everywhere we went. One day we visited the NBC studios in the Rockefeller Centre,
and on the plane journey home I came up with the idea of the “fish out of water”
story of a very ordinary Englishwoman who finds herself way out of her depth in
the very glamorous and un-ordinary world of US TV. The next day I sat down and
wrote the first chapter, then the next, and when I had three chapters completed (and
to be honest, not much idea of where the story was going next) I sent them off to six
London agents.

Well, I had no excuse for what followed. I’d read all the books that tell you how you
to write query letters and when to submit to agents, and I should have known better.
What happened was that two agents rang me up the next day wanting to see the rest
of the manuscript. Like, NOW. I explained that it wasn’t quite ready just yet; there
were one or two little tweaks I still had to make – and then I sat down to write the
rest of the completely unplanned novel (about 85,000 words). For four weeks, when
I wasn’t doing my day job, I was writing. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. Some days
I got up at four or five and wrote for eight or nine hours at a stretch. One day I was
sitting at my computer at 4.30 in the afternoon, still in my pyjamas. I hadn’t eaten
anything the whole day. When I finally shut down the computer, I was so stiff I could
barely stand up.

Anyhow, nearly dead with exhaustion, I finally completed the manuscript and sent
it off. A few days later one of the agents rang me and said that, though the novel
needed a LOT of editing (no surprise there!), she loved it and wanted to take it on.
That was one of the absolute best days of my life, but sadly, it wasn’t to end with
the six-figure publishing deal I’d fondly imagined. After nine months of edits and
rewrites, she finally sent it off to twelve publishers – and one after the other they all
turned it down. Nicely, but... And then, just as I was feeling a bit low about it all,
but trying to keep positive because hey, I still had an agent, and maybe the publishers
would like my next book better - my agent disappeared.

After a few weeks of no replies to my increasingly urgent emails, I finally contacted
my agent’s boss (head of a very reputable London literary agency), who said that my
agent had left ‘suddenly’ and that he was sorry, but they weren’t going to take HAPPY
HOUR any further. Or anything else I might write, thank you very much. He wished
me luck, and good-bye.

So HAPPY HOUR went back into its virtual drawer, and I didn’t go near it for three
years, during which I completed a Masters in Creative Writing and wrote a YA novel,
which didn’t get published either. One day an acquaintance casually asked, had I
considered self-publishing? Some people were making quite good money at it, he’d
heard. The names John Locke and Amanda Hocking were mentioned. At first, I was
non-committal. Secretly, I had thought about self-publishing, but I was a bit wary.
For one thing, I thought of myself as a writer (albeit an unpublished one), not a self-
publicist. How would I cope with all the marketing? And two or three people on my
Masters course had been extremely sniffy about self-publishing, implying it was no
better than vanity publishing (and that, they strongly suggested, was not much better
than street-walking). No, none of the Big Six publishing houses were exactly queuing
to sign them up either, but they just knew they’d never stoop so low as to (curl lip) self-

Eventually, after thinking about it for several months, I decided I had nothing to lose
(except, possibly, my sanity). I went away and read every book I could find on self-
publishing, and every blog. I learnt that if you’re going to stand out, you’ve got to
have a properly (preferably professionally) edited novel ready to go – thanks to my
vanished agent, I had that – and you’ve also got to have a good, professional cover,
by which your book WILL be judged. I didn’t have that to begin with, but thanks
to a contact of my daughter’s I finally found a brilliant cover designer willing to do
mine for a knockdown price. I learnt that if you want to be taken seriously by readers
and reviewers, you need to have a totally professional attitude at all times (no vitriolic
responses to poor reviews, however tempting). Finally, I learnt that you have to get
active in social media, which for me has been the hardest of all. I’m not very good
at blowing my own trumpet, but I have made a big effort to connect with people on
Twitter, and have found it extremely rewarding (and rather addictive) in itself. In
fact, that’s how I first made contact with Sam!

There are still things I need to do: I really need my own blog or website (I am setting
one up as we speak); I need to sort out a few formatting glitches (nothing major, but
I do want HAPPY HOUR to look perfect); I need to get more active on Facebook,
and somehow, I need to find time to finish and edit my next book, DAYDREAM
BELIEVER, which is (hopefully) coming out some time in November.

The rewards have been so worth all the hard work. Since publication at the end of
January, I’ve sold thousands of copies of HAPPY HOUR, and even more have been
downloaded free (nearly 31,000 at the last count). I’ve had some great reviews on, Amazon UK and Goodreads (and a few people who obviously loathed
it, but that’s what traditionally-published writers live with, too). I’ve had fan emails
– one lady made some really thoughtful suggestions for a possible sequel - and nice
people tweeting me about it, and kind people offering to feature me on their lovely
blogs (thanks, Sam!), and some people offering to write favourable reviews for money
(thanks guys, but no thanks) - absolutely none of which would have happened if I’d let
HAPPY HOUR remain lurking in its document folder on my computer.

If you too are thinking of taking the plunge into self-publishing, I can highly
recommend Catherine Ryan Howard’s refreshingly astringent and very detailed
Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing, which tells you absolutely
everything you need to know about the whole scary, exciting, time-consuming,
HUGELY rewarding business. Good luck!

HAPPY HOUR by Anne Mitchell

What if your husband had an affair with a beautiful actress?
What if you were blackmailed into impersonating someone else on primetime TV?
What if your beloved twelve year old son suddenly disappeared?
What if you fell hopelessly in love with someone you definitely shouldn’t have fallen in
love with?

Could you ever be happy again?

Jane Anderson has always been happy for her husband Paul, a handsome garden
designer, to take the spotlight while she looks after their son Jeremy. But when Paul
wins a gold medal at Chelsea, he catches the eye of glamour-puss Elizabeth – and it’s
not just his horticultural skills she’s interested in. Jane’s oldest friend Susie invites her
to New York for a little therapeutic shopping and sightseeing, but in Manhattan Jane
finds she bears an amazing likeness to Rosie Reynolds, ultra-glamorous host of the
popular news and talk show Happy Hour, and that's when her troubles really begin.
After Rosie’s botched face-lift Jane is offered the job of emergency stand-in on Happy
Hour. But here she meets Lou, a dangerously charming man who also happens to be
Rosie’s husband... For Jane, it’s the hour of truth.

‘I really liked the premise of this book (I've been a bit fussy with chick-lit lately) and I
wasn't disappointed. Definitely recommend!’

HAPPY HOUR is available on Amazon
HAPPY HOUR on Amazon UK (there are more reviews here):
Self-Printed: the Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing by Catherine Ryan Howard:


  1. Glad you found Self-Printed helpful. LOVE your cover design! --Catherine

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Anne! HAPPY HOUR sounds like a great read and I'm very happy you decided to self-publish it.
    And I loved Catherine Ryan Howard's book! It should definitely be required reading for anyone considering self-publishing.