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GUEST BLOG: Elisabeth Storrs, author of The Golden Dice

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A journey to find the ‘beaten path’: Writing The Golden Dice

A guest post by Elisabeth Storrs:

A big thank you to Kate for inviting me to post about my journey to publication of The Golden Dice, the second volume in the Tales of Ancient Rome series. It’s wonderful to have her support to spread the word about my newly released book.

Almost three years ago, a long held dream of mine came true. The Wedding Shroud, an historical novel I had laboured over for ten years, was published in Australia and New Zealand by Pier 9 Murdoch Books. 

My journey was not unlike many authors who squeeze time for writing in between the pressures of daily work and family commitments. And like so many others, I experienced countless rejections when I submitted my manuscript to publishers. It was the four ‘P’s of writing that kept me going: passion, persistence, patience and practice. In the end, too, there was a touch of luck. I had an agent who championed my book and persuaded a commissioning editor to publish an historical novel set in an unusual period and place – the early Roman Republic and the little known civilisation of the Etruscans. 

So I was published. And the future was rosy as I’d secured a contract to write The Golden Dice. Suddenly I needed to research and write a novel in eighteen months not ten years! However the practice of already completing a book (and having it professionally edited) meant I had a better grasp of how to structure the sequel more efficiently, keep the plot tight, and develop characters. I met the deadline and was anticipating releasing the book in September 2012.

However, over those eighteen months the world of publishing changed dramatically. The Borders retail chain collapsed and the digital revolution erupted. The rules of the game altered. The introduction of inexpensive ereaders and cheap ebooks now threatened the business model of mainstream publishers. 

This upheaval impacted on my situation, too. Pier 9 disappeared as did the contract for The Golden Dice. And other publishers weren’t prepared to risk marketing a book set in an obscure period. Luckily, the chance to publish the second book in my series was not lost. Independent publishing had matured into a viable option. And as I had always retained ‘rest of the world’ rights to The Wedding Shroud, I decided to publish this novel first and reach a readership beyond the shores of Australia.

The mechanics of independent publishing are not as easy as people think. An author has to ensure their ‘product’ is professionally edited and produced in a variety of digital formats to ensure the ebook is free of technical errors when uploaded to different retail platforms. Metadata has to be effective, and administrative details need to be dealt with in relation to tax and royalty payments. Luckily there is an abundance of useful blogs, forums and books such as Digireado, Let’s Get Visible, KBoards and Let’s Get Digital that assist can an independent publisher in their endeavours.

“Going indie” provided me with the opportunity to use marketing strategies on Amazon that were denied me when traditionally published. By preparing to offer my book for a bargain price or for free over short periods of time, The Wedding Shroud gained visibility on the popularity lists. Sales and reviews followed. Bizarrely, Amazon is a near monopoly but it is also the most democratic of booksellers. It doesn’t distinguish between books released by the major publishing houses from those published by indies. No longer is it necessary to have big bucks to buy a position at the front of a store as has been the advantage of traditional publishers all these years. Suddenly a book like The Wedding Shroud is able to reach the attention of historical fiction fans internationally. 

At the recent Historical Novel Society Conference in Florida, a panel consisting of authors and bloggers Julie K Rose, Heather Domin, Audra Friend and Andrea Connell, discussed trends in publishing in a session entitled “Off the Beaten Path Books”. Their analysis was heartening because it revealed historical fiction authors can reach a readership even if they choose unusual settings and characters or opt to write about eras other than the 19th and 20th centuries where the vast majority of ‘popular’ mainstream books are set (See Sarah Johnson’s Which centuries are the most popular in today’s historicals?) The Off the Beaten list compiled by the panel also doesn’t distinguish between highly successful traditional authors and indies.

In my little cocoon “down under’, I was oblivious that The Wedding Shroud was on the panel’s list of books; or that The Golden Dice was being discussed at an American conference as one of the “anticipated” releases of 2013 until Julie Rose mentioned it to me on Facebook. To my absolute astonishment, word had spread to the other side of the world about my story of a young Roman girl married to an Etruscan foe; two lovers who were blamed for starting a war. The 4 P’s of writing had worked again.

Of course, to those in the northern hemisphere, Australia itself could be seen as “off the beaten path” as much as is the ancient civilization of Etruria. And so I say a big thank you to the members of an enthusiastic and generous global historical fiction community who are prepared to travel into unfamiliar past times while also welcoming an unknown Aussie author into their midst.

The Golden Dice:

The Tales of Ancient Rome series chronicles the events of a ten year siege between Rome and the Etruscan city of Veii. The Wedding Shroud ends when war is declared. The Golden Dice, continues the story seven years later at the height of the conflict. In addition to following the Roman treaty bride, Caecilia, two other strong female characters are introduced: Semni, a young Etruscan girl, and Pinna, a Roman tomb whore. I hope readers will enjoy visiting Etruria again, or venture into this world for the first time to learn how three women of the ancient world endure a war. You will find more information on the background to the book at my blog, Triclinium, or you can connect with me at twitter and facebook.

The Wedding Shroud and The Golden Dice are available on Amazon or via other retailers listed on my website.

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