SPS-381: The Wide Appeal of Sapphic Romance – with Clare Lydon
Kindle Storyteller Award nominee Claire Lydon built a readership from heartfelt romance and perfect kiss scenes. She joins the conversation this episode with a look into what it’s like being a successful sapphic romance author.
- Scarcity of LGBT+ representation in media.
- Who reads sapphic romance.
- How Claire’s marketing strategy has changed towards content marketing.
- Claire’s writing process.
- The Kindle Storyteller Award.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
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The Wide Appeal of Sapphic Romance - with Clare Lydon
Speaker 1: Want to sell more books? Make sure you are at the Self-Publishing Show Live this summer. Meet the biggest names in self-publishing at Europe's largest conference for independent authors. Enjoy two days packed with special guests, an exclusive networking event, and a digital ticket for watching the professionally filmed replay, including bonus sessions not included at the live show. Head over to self-publishing show.com/tickets and secure your spot. Now. The Self-Publishing Show Live is sponsored by Amazon k d p.
Speaker 2: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show,
Claire Lydon: I met some traditional publishing people and they all said nobody's interested in publishing a romance where two women fell in love with each other and had a happy ending. Basically, queer staff had to have tragic endings.
Speaker 2: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing? Join Indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello and welcome. It is The Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch
Mark Dawson: And me Mark Dawson.
James Blatch: Hello. having a hair issue. Yes, hello, Mark Dawson. I know we are busy people today. My wife is reached a significant milestone. We don't say the number today, so we are celebrating what I mean, being, you know, being the modern era. It's a bit like the Queen's birthday. It stretches on for some time now, so it'll start today.
Mark Dawson: I'm doing, I'm doing the same thing cause I I, I have a significant birthday this year as well and I'm having a year's worth of celebration involving going on a, going on a plane tomorrow, finding New York for a professional concert.
James Blatch: well, you're going to go backstage and be a groupie.
Mark Dawson: I think I might have a backstage pass. Yeah. I'm not an entirely, it hasn't been confirmed yet, but it has been promised, so we'll see. But yeah, that's going to be fine. I'm seeing the, seeing the mode tomorrow and then I'm going to see Jodi Coma in a, in a Oh, Facey. Yeah. Yeah, I'm seeing that on Broadway. And then I'm probably going to go and see the Yankees. Yeah, on Sunday.
James Blatch: The Mets. The Mets are on the West Coast, so you'll have to do second best and see the
Mark Dawson: Yeah, Yankees are at home and I'm going to have drinks with a friend from Apple Books Sunday evening, which makes the whole trip tax deductible, which is great.
James Blatch: you sounded very, you sound like Alan Parkridge now. Well, some
Mark Dawson: Of it anyway. Yeah. So that, that'll be from, I'm back on, back, fly back on Monday. So it is just kind of a weekend in New York, which I know is, is
James Blatch: Ah, sounds great.
Mark Dawson: It's quite indulgent, but you know, I, I do know that I, I had two tickets with Profess Mode. You turn me down because it's your worst birthday, which I, I frankly think is a ridiculous excuse.
James Blatch: Where's the loyalty?
Mark Dawson: No, there is none. Exactly.
James Blatch: Bros. Bros. Before Hoes, right?
Mark Dawson: Oh, easy.
James Blatch: Let's let's talk about a couple other things before half our star interview. Claire Liden would love it if I said bros before hoes in our, our interview. She would expect something like that from me. She sees me as Alan Partridge in her life. Claire lied coming up in a minute. Everyone,
Mark Dawson: Everyone sees you as Alan
James Blatch: Partridge. Yes. shortlisted for the Kindle Storyteller Award. A very talented author and going great guns in lesbian fiction. We had a really interesting conversation actually, about what exactly there's been fictioneers and the fact that she, she found that she couldn't sort of pick up or find Happy Romance lesbian fiction. It was always kind of loaded with, with sort of dower storylines. And so she's sort of invented this genre and it's, it's blossoming now. Another great aspect of indie publishing that's coming up in just a moment. Lots to learn for all of us, not just in that genre. Couple of things to mention. First, of course, we keep plugging our show cause we're getting excited about it. It's coming up in June weeks are rattling away before that moment. So you can come to the show in London, London South Bank on the 20th and 21st of June, self-publishing formula.com/sps live, and a fantastic digital version of the show, which is going to be rolled out.
We have a early bird ticket for that, which runs up until June at same part of the forward part of that address, self-publishing formula.com/digital. And that's going to be every session and lots more than that, as we said last week. What else we're going to talk about, we're going to talk about the fact that we've got self-publishing launchpad. Our foundation course if you want to start marketing and selling your books as an author are acclaimed course that gets your career going is going to be open for enrollment on May the 10th. So that is coming up in less than a month, may the 10th. We'll talk a bit bit more about what exactly is in that course and whether it's suitable for you the closer we get to it. Anything else, mark, we need to talk about?
Mark Dawson: Yes, we've mentioned this before. We, we have been asked on many occasions whether we would do something in Australia and we're definitely open to the idea. And I've, I've, and I've actually been approached by several Aussies at various conferences, 20 books last year, for example, in Vegas about us coming to somewhere in Australia. And I've had a few offer office from people actually work in the conference industry. He, he'd give us a hack cause we'll definitely need help to do a conference. It, it won't be as big as our London conference, but a a conference on the other side of the world is going to be tricky for us to do. So now shamefully, I didn't note down all the people who generously asked or offered to help. So if you are one of those people who've spoken to me before, or James or you have some expertise and you live in Australia or New Zealand and you'd be interested in, in giving us a hand, drop us an email at well mark self publishing formula.com and that will come through to me.
And then we can ha we can think about it. I'll probably post something in, in our Facebook group and, or we'll, we'll do something by email as well over the next week or two. But starting to think about that maybe for next year. I know that Amazon is interested in, in being involved as well. So that could be quite fine. You know, we've, we, I've got some business that I could do in, in Australia as as well. And it, you know, and also if it's wintertime in the uk, perhaps in February.
James Blatch: Yeah,
Mark Dawson: I'd quite like to get a little bit of Winter sun.
James Blatch: That's my birth, my birthday out there.
Mark Dawson: Well, that would be nice. Yes, absolutely. And even if, where's the cricket this year? That's Ashes are in heading England.
James Blatch: It's in the uk in England in the summer. But they have had in the past back to back and they go up to Australia. Yes. I'm not sure when the Australian Ashes is. Probably this winter after.
Mark Dawson: But anyway, we, we start talking about that people are going to think it's just one, one long holiday, but that's not, that's not, it's absolutely
James Blatch: Not. It's a business trip. And if my wife asks it's business, it's a really hard laborious business trip. We're not really enjoying it. Hotel's not that good. Oh, awful. Mark and I have had a row.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, we have. And we have, we fly Economy, fly, fly.
James Blatch: How does it take flavour? No one's, no one's believing that Mark.
Mark Dawson: No, I know
James Blatch: No, I, I have, I've flown economy to Australia with two small children and I'm just not doing it again in my life. Which sounds like a really pretentious privleged thing to say, but I'm sorry. As the older you get Yes. The more cramped you get in those seats. And this is not happening, I'm afraid. So, so basically we do need a conference to pay for our airfares, which we break even on those. We'll be happy. And we do break. We aim to break even on these conferences. I know people sometimes think it's a big sort of money making past our organisation. It's absolutely not. And it's a risk that we take we are hanging out there up until the last minute on these. But if we can break even, it's just a really fun thing to do. And you know, I personally love being at a room full of indie authors. I think we all do actually, because it's, it's a mm-hmm. huge growing and often invisible industry until those moments. Love it for that.
Mark Dawson: Yes, absolutely. So yeah, drop it. If you have any kind of expertise to share, then drop us the line and we'll, we'll get back to you.
James Blatch: Yeah. Looking forward to something happening on that front. Okay. We are going to move on to our interview then. So, Claire lydon and I introduced a few moments ago, as I said, our Kindle Storyteller award winner nominee this year. We met her up in Parliament for the for the final. And Claire has just quietly gone with it, gone great guns in her genre each time I meet her. the, the book side of her business is bigger and better than before. She's an absolutely lovely person as well. I love chatting to her. And lots to learn here. So here's Claire.
Speaker 2: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Claire Liden, welcome to the Self Publishing Show. Yeah. you look like you snapped to attention then.
Claire Lydon: Yeah, I did. Clearly,
James Blatch: My authoritative voice welcome to the Self-Publishing Show. Great. treat to have you here. The last time I saw you was down the House of Commons, indeed in brand new shoes, if you know your jam references. And I didn't know I should have known cause I should have done the research until I walked in that room that you had been nominated for a Kindle Storyteller Award, which is, or the Kindle Storyteller Award, which is amazing. Congratulations on that.
Claire Lydon: Thank you very much and thank you very much for having me here. Yes, it was very exciting to be down at the House Commons mixing with the, with the Well Rich and Famous. Are they probably They are, aren't they? Because they're politicians.
James Blatch: There were a few, there are a few minutes people in there, the, some authors
Claire Lydon: Yeah.
James Blatch: Not the politicians. Yeah. They're
Claire Lydon: Rich and famous. An some authors. Yeah, no, but it was, it was obviously a, a fantastic thrill to be nominated. Shaena didn't win, but, you know, lovely to be nominated and you know, you get a free Kindle in the bottle of champagne, so nothing complain about
James Blatch: Nothing. That's a good night out. Or good night in probably. Good. Okay. Look, we're going to talk about you, your writing background, the genre you write in which is lesbian fiction. I'm going to, as you know, you and I do chat at conferences, you and your friends and I am a bit of an expert in this genre, so it's going to be a very high level interview, I think.
Claire Lydon: I don't think I've got anything to tell you that you don't know, James. So, no,
James Blatch: I am walking psych. Is anything you need to know about lesbian fiction? Come to me first. Claire second and. No. Okay. Look joking Aside is it's a genre that I don't know huge amounts about, but I'm fascinated in how it works alongside straight fiction, I suppose you'd call it, and what the differences are and have a marketing works in that field. So let's get into all of that.
But let's start with a bit about you Claire. When did you start writing?
Claire Lydon: Well I've always written a shape or another. I did my jobs before. I was a an author. I worked in magazines as a magazine, journalist, editor, and then I was a a music journalist and editor online for about seven years before I then got my redundant. And that's why I decided to see if I could pursue this writing career. So, always kind of had jobs that had words, but never thought I could be a novelist. Because because I don't know, in my head it was, journalism was one thing and and novelist were another thing and I was a journalist. So, but then, you know, when I got made redundant, I got given a chunk of money. I thought maybe I could see if this could work. And that was 2013.
James Blatch: Yeah, I think I thought the same because I was a journalist as well and it's very, my TV news and radio news, which is very short form, I mean ridiculous, like 45 seconds of script. And I always felt it was, it was like somebody who, who does a short walk every day with their dog thinking, well I'll do a marathon tomorrow. It felt, and that actually, that's quite a good analogy cause right on my first book certainly did feel like that.
So how did the transition go?
Claire Lydon: Well, pretty good really. I mean, out of the blocks it, it went pretty well, but, you know, it, it took some time to get there. Basically what happened was I was I I thought well I'll, I've got this chunk of money, I'll see what I can do. And then my boss had been made redundant three months. Well she was made redundant three months before I was, so I said to her, what do I do in that month? And she said, you can do what you want, I'm not here. So I then finished my novel that I've been writing on and off five years in that three months I was paid to finish my version novels. That's pretty good, wasn't it? and then I went about trying to get it published but ran into loads of doors in, in mainstream publishing.
Cause it's 2013, only 10 years ago. But a very different landscape back then, especially for queer fiction. So every I went to a couple of writing groups locally met a few, couple of agents met some traditional publishing people and they all said no, nobody wanted, nobody was interested in publishing a romance where two women fell in love with each other and had a happy ending. Basically queer stuff had to have tragic endings, cause we did tragic lives. So then I then I went to a specialist and, and I was told that repeatedly. So I went to a specialist publisher in the us specialist queer pub publisher and submitted to them. And then they said, take three months to get back to me. And in the meantime I then went to a lesbian Arts and culture festival and met some lesbian fiction authors who were doing it themselves.
And I'd never really, I'd heard of Self publishing, but I didn't really know much about it and they just were really generous with their time and their information and, and sort of put me on that path. And then when the specialist publisher in the US said no, then I decided, you know what, I'll give this a go. So I had, you know, I had connections having worked in publishing, magazine publishing, online publishing, but I knew editors, I knew people that could design my covers. I knew people who could edit my book and proofread it. So all my mates were you know, corralled in to give me a hand. And then I published the first novel in February, 2014. So I've just had my nine year anniversary and yeah, within, I went out for dinner on that night with my cover designer and his husband because my wife was away in, away in Hong Kong. So, so I went out for dinner with them and then I had all these phone calls from my mates saying that my book was number one and the Lesbian Romance Chance in the UK in the US and I didn't even know a lesbian romance chart existed. So well,
James Blatch: But you were in it, so let alone number one.
Claire Lydon: No, no. So that was really cool. Yeah, and then I was amazed that people I didn't know were buying my books, I must say that I did get a lot of people I knew to buy my books. So Yeah. You know, I was advised by lots of people in the business to say that if you got a lot of people buying within the fir same sort of timeframe, like within an hour or two, then you could boost yourself up the chart, so I got, I'm one of eight kids, I've got a lot of mates, I've got a lot of nieces and nephews. So every, I had probably had about 50, 60, 70 people buying. So that helped to get visibility. Yeah. that was doable back then. I'm, I'm sure it still kind of worked now, but yeah, so then that went to number one and then, you know, I just kind of carried on. That's, yeah, that's kind of how it got started.
James Blatch: Yeah. Brilliant. Well, it's kind of what Indie's all about, isn't it? Providing authors an outlet for genres that mainstream for whatever reason, one reason and another don't serve, don't want to serve, or they've got a, a block in their head or they just haven't discovered that, you know, there's all these niches around. But that's an interesting point you make that that mainstream media felt that if it's gay, it's got to be edgy or some sort of other story and not just a, a straightforward romance, which is an interesting thing as looking back. I think that's probably about right. And if you watch TV episodes that, that had gay themes in it, they had to be, or they were generally a bit more, I don't know, they weren't straightforward. It wasn't like French kiss with two blokes or two G two women, which I think you are starting to see that now. There was a fanta, I don't want to give this away for anyone, a fantastic episode of the Last of Us quite early on it had this really beautiful moving romance scene and it happened to be two blokes, but probably not in 2013. That
Claire Lydon: No. And, and, and it does still seem like it still Bos my mind because it's only 10 years ago. It's not that long. Yeah. And, you know, yet, 10 years ago that wouldn't have happened in the last of us, I must say. I, I watched half of the first episode. It freaked me out so much that I didn't watch it, but I know that there is very good queer representation. So, I mean, but that's great. And probably most people didn't blink about that. Because it's a lot no more, it's a lot more common in our everyday lives on, on our TV screens, on our movie screens in our books. But 10 years ago it wasn't. Yeah. So like, you know, when even when I was, when I was growing up in the eighties, nineties you couldn't get, you couldn't find lesbian romances anywhere. Like the only people who did them were these specialist presses in America. And occasionally you'd wander into a specialist bookshop and you'd find a couple on the shelves, but they were always about basically like American cowgirls on ranches somewhere. And you know, and while I love a bit of leather and, and some horse wrangling who doesn't,
James Blatch: who Doesn't?
Claire Lydon: That's one of the reasons why I started, because I thought I'd never read a book with two women are just a romance based in London or the uk so that's why I started to do it. But yeah, like, like you say, when I was growing up, they weren't available and the only sort of lesbian fiction in the, on mainstream shelves was like Janet Winston Sarah Waters, and that's all very literary fiction or historical fiction. Yeah. You didn't just get the plain, the plain romance. You know, not, not in my books Plain James obviously, but
James Blatch: No, and I, and I hate to use the, but it's almost like there was no low brow every day on the two page turning fiction. It had to be Booker Prize nominated stuff. And yeah, that's, that's kind of where Indie thrives, isn't it? So, yeah. It must sound silly. I, I know this sounds like a silly question, but I know the answer is not what you expect because I've asked you this in real life before, but this is real life.
Who are your audience?
Claire Lydon: Yeah, the audience are quite varied. I think my, probably I'd say about 90% are women probably, I'd say probably about 10% men. But, and the women that read my books mainly queer women, but you know, lesbians, bisexual women, pansexual, transsexual non-binary, you know, and that is the, the representation that's been seen in more and more books these days as well. So, you know, 10 years ago the genre was Lesbian Romance and everybody said Lesbian romance. And now people say more saphic romance because it's more inclusive and includes every flavour of women, queer women that that there are out there. So you know, it's all the categories obviously on Amazon and Cobo and whatever, or, or still all lesbian romance. So it's still used. And, but my books do include protagonists that are identified mainly as lesbian, sometimes bisexual. But you know, you can get, you can read all sorts of different sub-genres within the lesbian romance genre as it were. So as well as, you know, romance is the key one, but then obviously there are also thrills, mysteries, sci-fi, paranormal, fantasy, you know, it's all the same stuff.
James Blatch: And what about straight readers?
Claire Lydon: Definitely, yeah I do do definitely get straight readers as well. You know, because anyone can read a lesbian romance. I always say you don't even have to be a lesbian or or a queer woman to write it, you know, because anyone's
James Blatch: Write it's a very late, very low bar of entry for Yeah,
Claire Lydon: Yeah, yeah. I guess obviously in my mind when I'm writing my Target reader is probably a queer identifying woman in her forties, fifties. But, you know, yeah. Anyone can read it and, and I do get, I get emails from readers all the time. And I do get e one of my really really key first readers is a straight woman who lives in America and she just loves reading Saphic Romance. And she's a fantastic proofreader, so I love her.
James Blatch: Yeah. well, I mean, good romance, good story is, is good romance, good story, whatever, isn't it. And the, the point about you said about not blinking at, at the episode of Last of Us, it's more than that. It's, it's being moved and shedding a tear at the end of it. Because even though, you know, I'm not gay, but it didn't matter, the romance was there and the love between two, it was an incredible episode. So that's, I suppose is why straight people
Claire Lydon: Would Yeah, I mean, a good book is a good book, right? If you've got a good story Yeah. Between two characters who are falling in love with each other, you know, the romances, romance novels are based in on emotion. So if you can get readers to have the feels as we call it in the biz, then yeah. You know, that's what you're aim for. That's what I always aim for. You know, my books have always got yeah, sweeping romance, fantastic first kisses. That's what I'm known for. You know, the, a couple of sex scenes throw in for good measure. But they, they've always got comedy, they've always, they've always got British Whip, but they've always, emotion is the key thing that I strive for. So, you know, and you know, they're saying that, I know you were saying straight people read my books, like all my family read my books. And they're all straight. We don't talk about the sex scenes, but you know, all my sisters and sister-in-laws love them. And even my brothers take 'em on holiday with them. And then, you know, one of my brothers, he doesn't read, but he's always like, oh, I love your books on a beach, perfect beach read.
James Blatch: There you go. I sit sisters and brothers. One thing, it's parents isn't nothing, if you written a sex scene, I always feel slightly uncomfortable at the idea that they've they've read something like that. And in terms of I was I going to ask you about, what was I going to ask? You went from my mind, you've suddenly distracted, but thinking about my dad reading my book which is sort of about him as well, it's even worse. What was I going to ask you? Okay, we'll move on. We'll talk about marketing. Gosh, it was a really good question as well. It's going to come back to me.
So you uploaded this first book, 2014, you did the right thing and got friends and family to kickstart the algorithm and from then on was, what did you do in terms of marketing to where you are today and what's that look like for you?
Claire Lydon: Yeah, I think when I first did it in 2014, I was very I, I was coming from the magazine background, so like, you know, I did a press release and I sent books off to the Evening standard and, you know, things like that. I was, I I was very go, go, go with it all and none of it did anything. But, you know, it made me feel like I was doing something and that's what I thought marketing was then. Cause I didn't really understand it. But now I probably, I'm more of a content marketer, marketer I have to say than I am a paid advertiser And that's because I probably prefer doing that. I, I run a podcast with my fellow author TV Markingson called Lesbians who Write that is sort of aimed at fellow authors and, but a lot of readers do tune in because we chat about our lives and what we're doing every week.
So, you know, people like our banks as they say. And I used to for, for seven years as well, I ran a a podcast called The Lesbian Book Club. And that was, that was just interviewing other authors. So that was a great way to network, but it was also a great way to get content marketing out there. So I blog and I do I have a mailing list, a pretty strong mailing list that I send something out to you every two weeks. So stuff like that, I mean, that's more my marketing jam, learning Facebook ads, I bought your costume jams and didn't you?
James Blatch: No, I know that's all. You don't have to say Facebook ads. And in terms of social media on TikTok, I guess probably has quite a good niche on it.
Claire Lydon: Yeah, I haven't done TikTok I have to say. I think social media do Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. I like Instagram the most. And I do get quite good engagement on those. But I think probably Facebook more because that's where my readers are. But I myself have a love hate relationship with Facebook, so I don't really have a personal page talk. I mean obviously I do cause I have a business account. I don't really do anything on it, but I, yeah, I try to post four or five times a week on there and I, and I engage with readers as well. but yeah, TikTok is a step that I haven't taken.
James Blatch: Yeah. It's a cliff. You have to jump off at some point. I've remembered the question I was going to ask you.
Where are you on the spicy scale with sweets clean romance here and absolute filth?
Claire Lydon: Right. Okay. I don't know, it's a really difficult question to answer because it depends on what you think, doesn't it? But I'm probably like a, I'm probably like a seven and a half outta 10.
James Blatch: Okay. You know, with 10 being completely spicy or, you know. Thanks. The reason I ask that is because it's quite an important thing for romance authors in terms of audience expectation. And I feel we are, we are just going into romance in views since I'm thinking about or reader expectation, which you do not want to get wrong. Cause that's sort of bad review territories. That's the reason I ask that. Cause a lot of romance readers, I know Ha you know, e even if you're wrote like Christian Sweet Romance, you have to deliver this kiss at a certain point. There's this kind of, this expectation, which is a bit overbearing, feels like it might not be so much like that with your, with your audience.
Claire Lydon: No, I think, I think if I, I, for me as a reader, I, I write what I want to read. So so that's why I wrote a whole book of lesbian Romance is set in London because that's what I wanted to read. And, and as well, if I read a romance and there's not sex scenes in them, I do feel a bit cheated. So I would never not put them in. And you know, as I say, it's all about emotion. So as long as it's part of the story and filled with emotion, then, then that's my aim. But you know, I'm known for my first kisses, so I was put, I was, I always think in a way they're kind of more important than the sex scene for me. But as well the sex scene's always got to be there.
James Blatch: Yeah. this first kisses, so you, these first kisses and the sex scenes always make me think of of of the adjectives and the description where you kind of, I've spoke to romance authors before, so you start to use the same words over and over again.
If you are famous to your first kisses, how many ways can you describe this first kiss?
Claire Lydon: Well, I know every, every book I think, oh God, the challenges set down. But every book readers come back to me and say it's say it's my best one yet. So
James Blatch: You've nailed it. Best kiss yet.
Claire Lydon: Maybe they've got collective amnesia, I don't know. But I mean that
James Blatch: Well you're obviously very good at that, which is excellent.
Is there just still staying on the kind the genre side of things, are there areas you find still out of reach for you because of the genre, because of the sexuality aspect of it? It was everything open. You've not found any blocks anywhere?
Claire Lydon: I, well I suppose global reach you, it you can't get into some countries because because of what you, right. So I don't think I'd be able to get into China or Russia any, anytime soon.
James Blatch: A lot of the Middle East
Claire Lydon: Probably. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, all the Middle East or there, there are quite a lot of boundaries for where you can sell. And of course, you know, who knows how long the US will be a, a market open. Fingers cross. It does stay like that because you know, it is 50% of my audience. But but yeah, so I think that that's the main thing. But no, by and large I haven't really come across that many other barriers apart from the original ones that, that I overcame by setting up my own business and doing it myself. So say I always encourage new writers now to go that way. But you know, it's still, it's still surprising how many people still haven't heard indie publishing, isn't it?
James Blatch: Yeah. You wouldn't consider a publishing contract now?
Claire Lydon: I think the only type, not with one of the big five. I think the only thing I might consider would be with an Amazon imprint just to see how that went. But no, not with one of the big five,
James Blatch: No. Okay. So your,
going back to your marketing, your content marketing sounds to me like it's a mailing list, probably based launch strategy for you. Is that how you still get your kind of Amazon algorithm to notice you and how did you build your mailing list?
Claire Lydon: Yeah, so definitely the mailing list is the key thing. I do have my own shop, so I do the, which I have by a pay hit at the moment. So I do sell on my website for a couple of weeks first, and then I, then I normally go into KU and then I don't leave my books in KU the whole time cause I am a wide author. But I do, I use both. So I do KU first for the first three to six months and then I take it out and put it wide. So yeah, mailing list is the key for me for getting a, the word out there and that is, does really move the needle.
James Blatch: That's really interesting. A lot, lot of people do do one or the other. I mean some people do do both, but that's so
how did you come about that strategy and is the, the, the six months after you've come out of KU wide, does that equal the six months you've had in ku or go better?
Claire Lydon: I think if a book does well in ku, like really well it generally tends to sell really well as a standalone book anyway. If I take it out in KU on Kindle itself, and then it'll sell well wide as well. So I like to, I like to have both. I know a lot of people would say, oh, you need to choose a camp and stick in that one Claire. But no I've always been indecisive, so no, I made this decision. Yeah, I, I don't know, for me it's quite important to be wide. I like to be able to sell my own books everywhere. So, and especially, you know, I, I've thought about going into, no, I didn't really think about it seriously. But I quite like this sort of halfway house because it gives everybody, everybody knows, all my readers know that they've got three to six months to read my books in ku. And then they, everyone knows that they come out so everyone's okay with it, I think. Yeah. And some of them do stay in a little bit longer if Amazon keeps sort of tempting you back, you know, you know how they are with their wiles.
James Blatch: Yes, yes. First one's free and all that. Okay.
And in terms of your writing, Claire, how many books have you written? Since 2014.
Claire Lydon: Okay, so written 22 novels published 22 novels since 2014. So I don't know how many that works out at a year. Some, some books, James, some books and a few Novelas as well.
James Blatch: Okay. That is some books. And in terms of your series, is it,
how many series in that and are they all London based stories or have you moved out of London?
Claire Lydon: No, so yeah, I have moved out of London. So yeah, London Calling was the first book and that is the first book in the London Romance series. And there are seven other books in that. And I'm just writing the ninth book in that London Romance series. Now and then I've got 12 standalone novels and two, I've got another series that is complete and that's called the All I Want series that's got two novels and four novels in it. So yeah, so two series and then my 12 standalones at the moment.
James Blatch: And tell me about your writing process. Are you you a meticulous plotter?
Claire Lydon: Yeah, more and more actually as I've gotten gotten further along. Maybe that's because I'm getting older, so I can't, can't remember what's gone on in the pa past chapters. I don't know. But yeah, I, I, I think I didn't didn't for the first three novels and then I started reading all those, the plotting books Take Off Your Pants. I think that was one I read. And Reman the Beat, that was the other one. And then I think I, I kind of got my plotting mojo, so I use a spreadsheet, which is very, very strange cause I'm not a spreadsheet kind of person, but I do. And then I always relo about two-thirds of the way through. But yeah, that I, I am quite a plotter these days and start to finish. Depends on, I, I'm get, I went through a bit of a slower year last year, but start to finish. I normally take about four months to write a book and launch it.
James Blatch: And who does your editing?
Claire Lydon: I've got a couple of editors, so one in America and one in Australia.
James Blatch: Okay. So,
but they do go out to edit to copy and proof edit presumably? Or do you have development editors as well?
Claire Lydon: No, I, my, both my editors that I use, they do development editing as well. So they do sort of, they touch on that when they do the edit editing for me. But they just, so they do a bit of both, but generally I don't really need a development editor anymore really.
James Blatch: Okay. Of course you don't. And just ask you a little about the actual writing. So people are always interested in this and I am as well,
how, how you write, where you write, what you write in, how many words do you do in sessions and so on?
Claire Lydon: Well, it, it changes all the time. So I used to write in cafes all the time. Now I don't, now I rarely go to cafes. So yeah, I, I, I'm a burst writer. I'm not one of these people who writes every single day I write in bursts. So at the moment I'm in a first draft of my London Romance nine and I'm aiming to write 3000 words a day every day till it's done. So That's how I write my first drafts. And then try and get that down and then I'll, then I'll refine it and do sort of maybe two or three draughts before it goes off to the editor. Yeah. So
James Blatch: Re redrafting from the beginning or taking your, your manuscript and going through it and doing a sort of self-edit draught or
Claire Lydon: Yeah, I, I, I read it through and then read re-edit there and then I send it to my Kindle and then read it as a reader would. Yeah. And I usually come away with about five to 700 notes at that stage and then I, I want to cry and then yeah, then I go back again and then send it to-
James Blatch: And how do you make your notes when you're reading on the Kindle?
Claire Lydon: Just, just little notes just on the Kindle Notes app.
James Blatch: Okay. Because yeah, I, I've struggled a little bit getting those off and using them easily, but there obviously is a way I need to look into that. But I do the same as you as I put it onto a Kindle to get, get a bit of distance from it Hmm.
Claire Lydon: Around. Yeah. And sometimes I looked back on those notes, I have no idea what I was talking about, but you know, you you best get some time
James Blatch: Yeah, it's a funny balance, isn't it? Because when you, I think the object of putting it on a Kindle is, is to, is to get a sense of what the story's doing and, and the book. And you keep interrupting that by making notes and stopping and, and changing your mind and you sort of forget. So it's it's sometimes I wish I had that ability to ignore things. I want to change and read through the whole book. Because that's the point of that first read, I think.
Claire Lydon: Yeah, it is. But you never do. And I agree, it is very, it is very stop start when you're doing it and yeah. And then you're constantly berating yourself like, oh my God, like one sentence that sticks out in my brain. And it's, it's all like, become folklore in our house was I didn't mean to demean the meaning of Christmas. I mean what a great sentence.
James Blatch: That's it. If you were writing a Dr. Seus that would've been perfect, but
Claire Lydon: Yeah. Yeah.
James Blatch: Okay, so the award, the Kindle Storyteller Award, this is a big award in the uk. It's a big deal. And we've been lucky enough to know quite few of the past winners of this thousands of people enter this competition. The, the entry bar is quite low in that you just have to basically put a keyword in. So they do get, I know they get thousands and thousands, so to even get through to kind of the shortlisting, let alone the kind of final six nominations is incredible.
So so tell us, is it the first time you've entered or do you do routinely enter it?
Claire Lydon: No, I think, I think this is the second time I've entered. It just really, I never do it with, you know, I must get the book out in that time because there's a specific timeframe, isn't there where you,
James Blatch: That's the odd thing about this. The only odd thing about the kindle storyteller, and I do mention this to Darren Hein, and again, I've never known an award where you have to launch your book within this sort four month period. Why is it not like up until this date or whatever. Anyway, that's, that's how they do it. So yeah, you have to kind of time your release around it if it's a really big, big thing for you.
Claire Lydon: Yes. And I've never done that intentionally. So I think the only two books I've ever launched in two KU at that time, I've entered So
James Blatch: And then what happened? How did they contact you? What did that feel like?
Claire Lydon: They send you a, an email saying, are you around for a chat tomorrow? So I thought, well, oh, and and it says re your Kindle storyteller submission. So I thought, well either they're going to ban my account because I've done something really bad or, or I've been sure listed I was going for the second one, but, you know
James Blatch: Yeah, it wouldn't have surprised you if they said, are you at home? Because the police are coming. That's fine. Going to arrest you. oh, so that was a good phone call.
Claire Lydon: It was, it was very nice. It was actually on my birthday as well, so that was, that was lovely. So I was going out dinner, so we, we definitely ordered the champagne. Yeah. And it was, it was a lovely experience actually because all the, all the shortlisted candidates, we all got together on a, on a WhatsApp group, so we were chatting. So I've got to know a few new people that I didn't know before and then we all sort of met up in the afternoon with the awards and had some cocktails together on our fancy hotel rooftop bar before we went down there. So that was nice.
James Blatch: Yeah, really nice. And it was a fun evening.
And in terms of impact on your sales or marketing, has it, has it had anything noticeable or can you use it?
Claire Lydon: It's, it's really difficult to say because that book did really well anyway. The book was called, it started with a kiss and it was a about a sunshine a sun drench vineyard in Sury, which a lot of my American readers didn't think would could possibly be a thing though. They really thought it was fiction. Fiction. And I
James Blatch: Yeah, but it's, it's a real thing.
Claire Lydon: No, I I said it's real thing and it was mainly the sunshine that they were objecting to. They Think it rained.
James Blatch: But that does sound suspect
Claire Lydon: Though, But yeah, it's really difficult to say, did it move the needle on sales or, or reads because I did, I think I did leave that one in longer because then much you get nominated then you have to leave it in. So I was like, yes, I was probably in for like nine months, 12 months in ku. Yeah, it's yeah, diff very difficult to say, but it can't have had a bad impact. Right. That was, that's my way of thinking about it. It got, it got some publicity and stuff, so yeah. All good.
James Blatch: And you've got to think that on the inside of Amazon, obviously they want these books to do well because they've handpicked them and so that they're going to give, cause we know that, you know, when Amazon decides to put your, include your, your book in an email going out or it makes a big difference, you've got to think some of that went on as well. I'm sure there's,
Claire Lydon: Yeah, there's that. I mean, I have suggested to Darren that hardier Amazon that maybe every shortlisted book should be given a Kindle daily deal. That would be good. So Derek listening, that'd be a good idea, wouldn't it?
James Blatch: Yeah, I think that would be the least they could do. Yeah. Because obviously they believe in the book, right. And they, it should be a daily deal at time of your choosing.
Claire Lydon: Yeah,
James Blatch: That's the that's the prize as well as the 25,000 whatever it was for customer.
Claire Lydon: Yes.
James Blatch: And Champagne and Kindle. Good. Well look, that was an exciting thing and I think nothing else, Claire. It's a validation for your writing and we, you know, most of us are spent a lot of time berating our own writing as part of the process. A lot of the process is looking at your own writing and think, God, this is shit. Seems, seems to be the role of us writers. So that's a lovely thing, isn't it, to be in a room where people have picked your book and said, look at this book. This is an, you know, an award nominated book.
Claire Lydon: Yeah, no, that was really lovely. And it was really lovely. All the staff at Amazon coming up because so many of them have read all the books and they, they all coming up to me and saying how much they'd love the books. And so, you know, that that is yeah, really great validation. I mean, I always said at the beginning of my career that awards, I didn't really put much sort of stock in awards. I wasn't interested in awards, but it's always nice to get shortlisted and nominated, isn't it?
James Blatch: Yes. To be recognised in one's own lifetime.
Claire Lydon: Yeah. Yeah. And you know, I had, I had one as well my novel before you Say I do won a golden Crown Literary Association Award, which is basically the Oscars for, for lesbian fiction. So, So I won Best romance in the best romance category the year that came out. So I have got a gong I can hold in my hand. Yes. If say, award-winning,
James Blatch: You are the winner of that one. Not just nominated That is that is brilliant. And I think there are, I mean, there are lots of awards around and, and they vary in their validity. I'll say, I'm not going to be specific, but the Kindle storyteller is an Amazon backed warden. There's no, you know, pay to enter it. It's a, it's a very strong award to, to be recognised in. So, yeah. Oh, that's, that's really good. Yeah, it was a surprise. I should, I should have known that you were nominated, but I didn't and I walked in the room and there you were. And I thought, wow. Claire.
Claire Lydon: Yeah. Yeah, no all those first kisses paid off in the end, James.
James Blatch: Yes. All those fir you've got a lot more to, to come out a lot. Lot more adjectives and words for that first kiss. What pa what what
roughly how far into the book does the first kiss happens? Always like roughly the same point?
Claire Lydon: Ooh, that's a good question. I don't know, I'm not that scientific. Maybe about third of the way through.
James Blatch: Okay. Because I think, I think it, I think it was Deborah Croton who writes Sweet Romance in America who told me it's like the second to last page, this has to happen. And thought, wow, this is, this is the most leader expectation for, you know,
Claire Lydon: Maybe I need to get more granular with this shit. Right.
James Blatch: No, no, you don't. It, there's nothing you're doing wrong on anything on this end. okay, so the future for you, Claire,
I mean, you are going to continue to write in this series or got any, any plans to do something a little bit?
Claire Lydon: Absolutely. Like just keep doing romance books. Because I still enjoy it. So I don't really see myself doing anything else or going into any other genre because, you know, I get emails all the time from readers saying they love what I do and, you know, if readers see happy endings on the page, then they think happy endings are possible in their lives. And, and that's amazing to be able to bring that, bring that hope, I guess. So yes, I, I'm, my next book is going to is called Hop Shop and that's coming out in April. I'm not sure when this podcast's going out. And that is about women's football. So that was inspired by last year's Lion S'S Triumph. I was at the final with my wife. It was incredible.
James Blatch: Wow.
Claire Lydon: And that inspired me to write this novel. So that's coming out in April and then London Romance nine will be out later this year. So yeah, just, I think that will be the end of the London Romance series then another series. Maybe more Stand lanes more the same James. Yeah,
James Blatch: Yeah. Well that's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I mean I do the same when I get to write yes. In case people missed it. We should say that England Women's team won the World Cup was the world with Euros Euroes the world, the world Euros. I, yeah, I, the America won the World Cup. I was in America at the time of this tournament. So really annoyingly we missed most of it. And the games looked fantastic. And the final, I was living it and the next day just going backwards through the tweets as people were, were living the rollercoaster ride at that final yeah. Well that's exciting. And Ted Lasso, I mean, Baty football romance is quite a big thing. It's Megan Quinn I think, or I may always get Megan mixed up with, there's another one, but there's another big main, you know, straight romance based on English. London football suddenly seems to be a thing. I don't know if it's Ted Lasso or what, but or in this case the lioness.
Claire Lydon: Yeah, I, I I think I've been avoiding writing this a Foot Romance cause I'm a huge football fan. I'm a spare season ticket holder for my sins. And I go watch that. I know. And I, and I go and watch a lot of women's football as well. And I, so I know a lot about football and I read a lot about football, but I've, I've never, I I've never really read a romance, a football romance. And I, and I put off writing it, but the lioness has inspired me, so I'm hoping, I'm hoping readers love it. But yeah, it's yeah, I'm looking forward to it coming out. So the Women's World Cup is this year, so there's going to be a lot more interest in the lionesses
James Blatch: Yeah. Fantastic. well, mark and I chose a Premier League game to go for his birthday, and we went to spurs versus Arsenal at Spurs.
Claire Lydon: Oh, I was there.
James Blatch: You were there as were we. Yes. Yeah, unfortunately Spurs weren't,
Claire Lydon: No, they weren't no
James Blatch: But arsenal looked very, very strong that day. And I think I, I sort of saw 'em that day and said, they're going to win the league because they were purring and there were kids who knew where each other were without looking up. And it was in, it was reminded me of that old George Graham side in 92, 93. Very strong. Which not a great sight in the Totten Stadium, I'm sure for Spurs anyway.
Claire Lydon: No, I was going to say that I think they played with a bit more finesse than George Graham's teams ever did. But yeah, I mean, lovely stadium though. Shit team, lovely stadium,
James Blatch: Fantastic stadium, been there three times now, mainly N F L we go for. But that's, that was the third trip. Fantastic stadium. Love the tournament for stadium. Enough about football and unfortunately enough about lesbian fiction or SIC as we now say
Claire Lydon: mmhm yes.
James Blatch: Remember that one? You'll pull me up on it next time. Claire, congratulations again. Thank you so much for sharing everything with us on our little show here. You should give your little podcast, little podcast I have patronising of me. You should give your podcast a bit of a plug as well.
Claire Lydon: Yes. So we do podcast Lesbians. You write, you can find it on any podcast app you use. And it's for all writers, not just writers of lesbian and saphic fiction. So if you want to hear us blur on and give writing advice and tips and do you tune in. And if you want to find out more about me go to my website, www.claireiem.co you uk.
James Blatch: Thank you Claire. And we'll see you in London in June. Hope
Claire Lydon: I am booked in. James, I'll see you then.
James Blatch: Super. I look forward to it. Thanks so much indeed for coming on, Claire.
Claire Lydon: Okay. Take care.
Speaker 2: This is the self-publishing show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: There you go. Claire Leiden, I mean, it's, you know, lesbian fiction sounds like it's a niche thing, but we always say this, don't, we had, we had lit r PPG the other week with Dakota Kraut. The, the fundamentals, the principles are the same all the way from storytelling, which is the same of course through to the way that the happens and Claire gets locked, right? And like a lot of successful authors spend a lot of time engaging with her audience, her readers building up sort of fan base. Which I suppose I was talking to someone the other day, I can't remember who it was, I did an interview this week, might be Martha Car that really trad authors need to pay attention to this as well. You know, that, that building up the fan base is absolutely part parcel of what they should be doing regardless of what the, the, you know, the company say they're doing in terms of marketing.
Mark Dawson: Oh yeah. God, yeah. I mean they, they, that's, that's sometimes you find these days the trad, one of the first questions they'll ask if you, you get a contract is what's your, what's your platform like, you know how many Yeah. People are following you on the socials and all of that kind of stuff. So they, they, they certainly expect that. And then it, it behaves anyone who wants to sell books to get involved with, with advertising or, or, or not advertising necessarily. If you're AAD because you is probably not going to work, but certainly building a relationship with your readers so you have a list and you could tell when there's new stuff coming out. A a any or not doing that is, is well missing a very, very big trick. So yeah, a absolutely tho those, those kinds of lessons apply across the board.
James Blatch: Yep. well done Claire, thank you very much indeed for joining us today. Just a reminder, our live conference in London, June 20th, 21st, come and say hello to me and Mark and John and young Tom and Catherine and meet the team and also hear some of the leading lights of indie publishing with both motivational and practical sessions. Look, really looking forward to that. If you go to self-publishing formula.com/sps live, you can read all about it and sign up. When the tickets are gone, they're gone. And we do have a hard limit, unfortunately with a number of seats in the building. Right. I think that is it. Mark, anything else you'd like to say?
Mark Dawson: No, I've got a sickly child in the house. He's been both ends have been gi giving trouble so sorry to that
James Blatch: Tmi.
Mark Dawson: Tmi. We're going to go and look after him and then I've got to pack my suitcase, which I, well I'll probably, I'll I'll do that at about nine o'clock tonight. Yeah. I I, it's funny when this is Paul, Lucy, when she's pack, you know, packing for holidays things takes quite a lot time, but she's, she does everyone. And then I, I kind of turn up at the very last minute, pack it in about five minutes.
James Blatch: Yeah, me and that's all,
Mark Dawson: That's all I need, Eva. Yeah, I'm going to be hand, I'm going to be carrying on only for this weekend. So I also applied for Global Elementary as well. You'll be pleased to
James Blatch: Hear. Oh, excellent. Yeah, I've
Mark Dawson: Done the, I've done the UK bit, which we, I can't do the next bit until I've got the, the number from the uk
James Blatch: So you should get, you should get that back. Really. Do you know, do you know what, if you get that back today or tomorrow, try and get your interview in New York? I would,
Mark Dawson: The chair pay, I would, I
James Blatch: Would, I mean I, I, I regot mine cause I'm renewing and I got the UK one back the next day,
Mark Dawson: So. Oh no, certainly longer. I, I've, I've read it can take 10 weeks,
James Blatch: So mine, mine was a renewal, so maybe it's different, but
Mark Dawson: Yeah, anyway, that's, that's a bit kind of inside baseball for everybody else, but it just makes it easier for people to get through immigration in the States, which given that I'll be going back another two times
James Blatch: Yeah.
Mark Dawson: This year at at least it's, it's worth it. So it's re
James Blatch: It's ridiculously good value for five years of, of skipping those massive cues you can get the, the immigration points. Okay. Right. That's it. Thank you very much. And Dean, thank you to the team in the background who make this podcast happen. All that remains for me to say is, says goodbye from him
Mark Dawson: And goodbye from me. Goodbye. Goodbye.
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