Thursday, 4 July 2019

Indie Author Shoutout: Featuring Joss Stirling!

*Note: stick around to the end for a special giveaway*
          Recently I was given the opportunity to get my hands on a large quantity of books of my choice, a readers dream! Where did I turn? Amazon. "Why Amazon?" you might ask, "Why not Chapters? or Barns and Noble?".  Well its pretty simple, the big book stores don't have a good chunk of my favorite novels... but Amazon does. Amazon is teaming with indie authors that I think write books with terrible covers and no advertisement, but that have so much heart and quality in their stories. I LOVE being able to support my unappreciated favorite authors. I write more about the books I picked by which author at this post:
         Today's feature is a further look in one particular author mentioned in that post as one of my favorites, (and show off my collection of their books). Today's feature is... dun dun dundaaaan....

        Now this one is a special case. She both is and isn't indie. She has tasted both sides of the industry, but qualifies as indie because of her Peril series.

      Julia Golding is currently writer in residence at the Royal Institution, the home of science. She also can be found taking an early nineteenth century perspective on modern life in her Jane Austen podcast ‘What Would Jane Do?’.
       A multi-award winning writer for adults and young adults, she also writes under the pen names of Joss Stirling and Eve Edwards.
      Former British diplomat and Oxfam policy adviser, she has now published over fifty books in genres ranging from historical adventure to fantasy. Read carefully and you’ll spot all sorts of material from her diplomatic and Oxfam careers popping up in unexpected places. She has a doctorate in English literature from Oxford.
     Studying for this prompted her to write her first novel, ‘The Diamond of Drury Lane’, set in 1790 and told by her intrepid heroine, Cat Royal. It went on to win the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2006 and the Nestle Children’s Book Prize 2006 (formerly known as the Smarties Prize). In the US, ‘Secret of the Sirens’ won the honor book medal of the Green Earth Book Award. ‘Dragonfly’ won the 2012 Beehive Book Award, Young Adult Division, given by the Children’s Literature Association of Utah and voted on by readers in schools and public libraries.
     Writing as Stirling, ‘Finding Sky’ was shortlisted for the German Children’s Literature Award 2013. Struck (originally published as Storm and Stone) won both the YA Romantic Novel and overall prize of the Romantic Novel of the Year 2015 – the first YA book to win the top prize in the long history of this prestigious award. This inspired her to write her first adult novel, ‘Don’t Trust Me’.
     Over three-quarter of a million of her books have been sold worldwide in many languages.

Here is my humble brag about my personal collection of Joss Stirling books!
*Side note, my collection of her Struck series is not in the photos because they are popular within my friend group and is currently being borrowed*

1)    You are a hybrid author, and have experience being independent and corporately published, what were your experiences with both?
        I think they can work well together with the independent side sweeping up the smaller scale projects a commercial publisher doesn't see as fitting their current roster. And, of course, if these books do take off, they'll be interested again; but publishers don't think sentimentally, they only have so many slots on their schedule and you won't make it on every time. Rather than feel bad when doors close, I decided a while back to open them myself for certain books and I really like the direct contact that gives me with fans who help me shape the story in a very concrete way. When a story comes calling, I have to write it, so it's fabulous we have a way to get it out to the readers who like what we do without having to go through the months of processes that working with a publisher entails. 
       However, (putting on my business rather than creative hat) I have to admit that you only get a small reach as an independent; I still prefer working where possible with a publisher because that links me to a bigger market and there's more chance of something having the marketing spend behind it to do well. Sadly often a book's success - like a film's - is to do with how much is spent on promotion - it gives you a megaphone over the background noise.

2)    What is your process for procuring/designing your cover art? How much control do you tend to have with your corporately published covers?  
      It's a mix. I have two from a designer I commissioned that I love (most expensive option). Some are the original art from the commercially published edition which I got permission to use on my reprint editions. I sometimes design the covers myself using Canva and stock images. I've also used Fiverr. 
       For my commercially published works, I am consulted on the cover, which means I can have some influence but not a decisive one.

3)    What are your thoughts on the covers you have used for your books? In a perfect world, with a limitless budget, what, if anything, would you change about them?
       Some have been really great. I particularly like my designs for Peril series because I found just the right images and did them myself. Some have been restricted by what I can get in the way of stock images so these I'd improve. With a limitless budget, I'd pay for a graphic artist to realise the vision I have. It would be fun to do that so maybe one day... 

4)    To those who are considering going the independent route, what would your advice be to them, with the benefit of hindsight?
       Make sure you know how to write (sounds dumb but there's a lot of poorly written stuff out there). You can do this any number of ways but all come back to practise of one kind or another. 
       Get your book read by as many people as you can and properly edited. Invest in good software so your book uploads professionally (Vellum is great - I wish it had been around when I first started down this route). Enjoy yourself. Don't expect to make a mint but if you do gain a following you can take this with you if you want to try a commercial publisher (the Justin Bieber effect).

5)    Do you have any general criticisms for the independently published book community as a whole? If so, what are they?
       I'm not sure it is a community but maybe I'm not in the right fora? I don't really have any criticisms as what I see is what I expect - the good and the bad, the hastily published and the polished product. I actually think that this flood that independent publishing allows has many good sides, like dropping barriers to new voices or unrepresented groups.

6)    Do you have any general criticisms for the corporate publication system as a whole? If so, what are they?
      At the moment there is a hollowing out of value to the writer in book deals. Publishers are making money while author incomes are plummeting. This is partly possible because there a supply side abundance and limited demand (that means too many happy to write for peanuts while customers don't want to pay more than 99p for download). Part of me recognises the inevitability of this in the free market that's developed. When I was a child, there used to be something called the net book agreement which protected the price at which a book could be sold (I think it might still exist in France). Now that's gone, it's no surprise there has been a race to the bottom. 

 7)    Which of your writings is your all-time favourite?
     No favourites. They each satisfy a different part of me as I write a huge range of things from children's adventure stories set in the 1790s to adult psychological thrillers set today. YA is a big part of my repertoire, especially romantic suspense, with and without a fantasy element. They are like a variety of holiday destinations - you wouldn't want to return to the same spot every year, would you?

8)    Where can readers find you and your books? (this leads to where I house all my pen names). You can also find links there to all my other social media outlets on
        The books are in bookshops and online. The self published ones will only be online or by ordering them.

9)    Share the love: Name 2-3 books by other independent authors that you personally love and recommend!
        I'm not 100% sure who is independent but I recently enjoyed the Spoken Mage series by Melanie Cellier (three books so far).

 *2 Prizes up for grabs, the runner up get a physical copy of Seeking Crystal with a signed poster and assorted bookplates, and the winner gets a copy of Scorched and Shaken, with a signed poster and books plates.*

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