Sarah L

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I've written a middle-grade mystery book, the first in a trilogy. I'm planning to self-publish it in May 2022 and it will be my debut published novel. In the past, I have written historical fiction as well and I definitely think I will again in the future.

I'm a freelance editor (school textbooks, not exciting fiction!) living in Buckinghamshire, UK. You can follow my writing news on @sarahlbooks on Instagram and Twitter.


I definitely think it's worth having a website early on. A friend pointed out to me that it takes time for Google to 'find' (can't remember proper digital term) your website, so the earlier you start the more chance readers have of finding it when the time comes. At the start it probably only needs to be simple. I also think it helps to do it when you're not knee-deep in actual self-publishing tasks. Much easier to update a website you already have than to start from scratch when you're working on book edits and cover designs.

Oh great, hopefully that will help you get reviews. It's definitely taken a few weeks for me. I think I had one review after one week, but since then they have dribbled through slowly. It's been up for nearly a month now. It seems to me that the review rate is about 10%, i.e. if you get 10 people requesting the book, then you are likely to get one review. It could vary a lot between genres though. I've only done it once, so not a lot to go on yet!

What a great review! Congratulations. 

Have you thought about joining a NetGalley co-op? I joined this one for one month ($50) and that has got reviews going on my book. I definitely recommend it as a way of reaching potential readers.

Hi Naomi! Fellow middle-grade author here Would be great to connect and share words of wisdom with each other! 


Congrats Helen! Great result and very inspiring 🙂 

Glad it helped, Peter. A glossary sounds like a great idea too!

Hi Pete,

The story sounds younger than 7 to 10 year-old readership to me. As Julie said, I can imagine this as a picture book or perhaps an early reader. Have a look at this site to see where your story fits:

Do you read any children's fiction in the age range you're aiming for? Definitely worth looking at other books for these readers to see what works commercially, what the genre expectations are, etc.

Although we all want our books to appeal to anyone, any age, it's not a good idea to say this to an agent. They want to see that you understand the sector of the market you're writing for. They'll be impressed if you can show that you understand where your story fits.

Sounds like a lovely premise! Good luck.


changed a profile picture 

I used to help publishers make audio, although it was quite a few years ago now. I don't know who the companies are that advertise, but I know you could go direct to a studio. They will have a list of voice actors and you can choose a voice based on their samples. This is very expensive, good value for money for what it is, in my opinion, but pricey to pay for yourself. You will pay for studio time, voice actor time and file editing time. As Glyn said, I know voice actors have set up makeshift home studios during lockdown. I don't know what the quality of the sound is like or how much editing they do - it probably depends on the individual. I don't know how it works with Amazon, but it must be possible to create your own audio and upload, because traditionally published books are available that way, so there must be some mechanism for that.

This is one of my dream things to do eventually, but not nearly there yet!

Hi Janet, it sounds great. I agree the 'second language' bit is a little clunky. How about '...raised on, Katherine immerses herself in her cultural heritage - the language, the beauty of Prague...' I'm not sure that you need to make it explicit that she is bilingual. You could try 'the language of her childhood', but that might be misleading if she still speaks it at home with her family. I think the general idea that she enjoys discovering more about her own roots stands, whether the reader knows she is bilingual or not.

I think 'But she also finds herself involved in a love triangle' could be stronger. Maybe something about how the love triangle disrupts the happiness that she is finding in exploring her heritage. It would be nice to get across the sense of what is threatened by the love triangle and the involvement in the resistance. Something like 'But the precarious peace she is building for herself is threatened when she becomes involved in a love triangle and dangerous covert resistance...' 

Overall it sounds like a really compelling book. Can't wait to see when it's published.

Welcome, Neil! I'm sure your track record in publishing will help you with either self-publishing or traditional publishing for your novel. Knowledge of how it all works is a good starting point!

Hi Robert, thanks for sharing your experience with us. I'm planning to self-publish my first book in May, so it's great to get all your wisdom and advice! Thoughts on your cover drafts:

1. For the second cover, could you use a tank, a motorcycle or other land vehicle? That would fit in with your other books. It sounds like you need another one as well to go on a fourth book.

2. Are you planning to change the title for 'Cage the Chinese Dragon'? The others are all called 'The [Something] Conspiracy', which I think works well. Can you use the same structure for the first book? If not, maybe don't use that for the other two, because then the first doesn't really fit in. You could also have variations, e.g. 'The [Something] Affair', 'The [Something] Cover Up' and so on.

The new covers look more modern and I definitely can see the genre from them. I would guess they are James Patterson style thrillers. If that's what you were going for, I think you nailed it. I like the colours and to me they strike the right tone.

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