E-Publishing With Rebecca Reid

The Bangor-based model turned author enlisted the help of painter Neil Shawcross for first e-book release

EL James, David Dalglish and Colleen Hoover. Three very different authors – writing erotic romance, fantasy and young adult fiction respectively – with one thing in common: they are all successful self-published authors.

Both James and Hoover are on the New York Times bestselling list, while Dalglish has sold 175,000 copies of his Half-Orc fantasy series. They are the figureheads for aspiring authors seeking an alternative to the traditional route to publishing success.

29-year-old Bangor-based former model Rebecca Reid has recently joined their ranks, releasing her psychological thriller The Coop on Kindle. The novel is the first in Reid's Thicket's Wood a trilogy.

Having worked as a columnist for the Bangor Spectator as a teenager, Reid began writing the novel after graduating from Queen’s University. ‘I went the traditional route first,’ Reid recalls of her efforts to get published. ‘I got an agent, and he said there would be no trouble getting published...’

That turned out to be overly-optimistic. Publishers – not all, but most – responded with positive comments and glowing rejection letters. ‘I finished the book at the wrong time,’ Reid sighs. ‘E-books were taking off and the “industry was unstable”. Publishers wouldn’t take a risk on an unknown name.'

The advice that Reid was given by publishers was to prove herself as an e-book author, then come back for another bite at the cherry. She set out to do just that – acting as her own publisher and PR department.

The technical side of things was time-consuming, but simple enough. The PR side, meanwhile, took a little more effort. For a start Reid was forced to re-sign up to Twitter, despite having sworn off it before. She also had to consider other ways to make herself stand out from the crowd.

‘When you’re self publishing an e-book you have to fight tooth and nail for everything,’ Reid admits. Without a publisher to act as gate-keeper, readers must use different criteria to decide if the novel is worth the money. ‘You have to have something to distinguish your work.’

The first thing Reid did was approach crime writer Colin Bateman, who lives near her in Bangor, to provide a review of the book, which he 'very kindly' did. Then Reid turned her attention to the book's cover design. She was lucky in that Belfast visual artist Neil Shawcross was a family friend. Before she approached him, however, she had some research to do.

Of course nobody should judge a book by its cover, but inevitably we do. Reid was determined to get it right, and sought examples from various markets. ‘American book covers tend to show a face and a geographic area,’ Reid explains. ‘European covers tend to be more obscure, abstract. Some covers appeal to both [audiences] – bold covers with lots of contrast.’

Shawcross’ idiosyncratic style worked for Reid's chosen aesthetic. Although Shawcross’ paintings have been used for book covers before, it was the first time he had set out to specifically to create a new piece for an author. He gave Reid three versions to chose from. ‘And wow,’ she says. ‘They were amazing.’

Now that the kindle version of The Coop is completed and online for purchase, what's next for Reid? The full Thicket’s Wood trilogy has already been written. Reid, who has two young children, can break each book down into the days and hours it took to write them. 'It takes six months to write a book and I write 13 hours a week, divided between three days.'

All the books will be available in e-book format when the remaining two novels are released in the months ahead. ‘They are all stand-alone, but if you read them together you get more out of them,’ says Reid – ever the publicist.

None of this means Reid has given up on traditional publishing. Publishing houses do tend to snap up successful self-published authors. That’s what happened to EL James, after all. ‘It gives you hope,’ Reid says with a smile. ‘That literary fairytale can still happen.’

The Coop will available to download on Amazon from September 18. You can also follow Reid on Twitter and Facebook.