There used to be one way only to become a successful author: first get an agent, then land a publishing deal. That was it. Now, there are numerous routes – which can make it both easier and harder to know what to do. In a short series, authors share their fascinating personal journey to publication with me. Today it’s author JULIA THUM…

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Julia Thum co-writes adult fiction under the pen name Ginger (Riverside Lane is now available as a paperback and ebook) and reviews children’s fiction on her website. Her first children’s novel, The Witches’ Punchbowl is currently in submission.

“When I’m not writing, I’m happiest out in the fresh air; on my kayak paddling up the Thames, jogging along the towpath or walking my dog Rumpole. I occasionally do a bit of cooking and enjoy that, as well as helping the kids with their six tortoises and four rabbits that crawl and hop around our garden. I can also be found doing the odd headstand under a tree when the wind is in the east

Other stuff – I am a member of The Society of Authors and The Society of Women Writers and Journalists. I am proud to be a Samaritan listening volunteer and visit secondary schools as part of their school team. I am passionate about the new #BookBuddy initiative and am collecting books from far and wide to give to the local schools with whom I am linked. And I absolutely love my secret missions as The Bray Book Fairy, sharing stories and literacy in unlikely and unexpected places.”

THE MOST CHALLENGING OF ALL PROJECTS WAS YET TO COME; THAT OF SETTING UP AND RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN

Julia says: ‘Thank you so much for having me on your blog today Barbara. It is a delight to be here to talk to you about our crowdfunding experience and to have dug out that triumphant screenshot saved as “FUNDED!”

I had never heard of crowdfunding until I embarked on the path to publication for Riverside Lane. Now, having raised £9,000 through Kickstarter, I cannot believe this egalitarian, democratic form of publishing passed me by for so long. I co-authored Riverside Lane under the pen name Ginger Black and it was published by Momentum Books who required us to raise £9,000 on Kickstarter to get the book off the ground.

Having dreamed up and co-written a novel, honed our social media skills and developed the Ginger Black brand, my friends and family already thought I was ambitious but few understood the most challenging of all projects was yet to come; that of setting up and running a successful crowdfunding campaign. Indeed, hardly any knew what crowdfunding was, and therewith stood our first problem.

BAMBOOZLED BY JARGON

Stripped down to the bare essentials, crowdfunding the novel involved asking friends, family, colleagues and contacts to pre-order our book. Most understood this and wanted to help, but once online were bamboozled by jargon. They were not ‘buying’ but ‘pledging’, the novel we had spoken about for so long – wasn’t a ‘book’ but a ‘project’ for which, instead of a purchase price, they were offered an escalating menu of ‘pledging options’ ranging from £10 for a paperback to £1,500 for ten hardbacks, launch tickets and rights to our first born children. Then, like a sponsorship form (but less altruistic) , there was the potential embarrassment of putting their name to the lowest level, ‘pledge’ a measly tenner beside a neighbour’s very public £200. Or the awkward option of anonymity, risking the assumption they hadn’t joined the fun at all. From our end, we rode the emotional rollercoaster of friends and colleagues from decades ago reaching out with kind words and pledges-a-plenty and some nearest and dearest avoiding it like an embarrassing plague. For me, this was the hardest part and I was grateful to have Gaynor by my side. Together we smiled through the promise of pledges from friends and family who did not understand that, ‘beneath the bonnet’ of the campaign, we were privy to every penny pledged…..or not pledged as the case may be.

IT WAS A MARATHON

There are two of us so double the contacts, but with £9,000 to raise address books were never going to be enough. We spread the word through our website and social media and, as Riverside Lane is set in Bray where we live, involved local press and businesses as well as leafletting residents. And all the while, like a digital thermometer, the funding gradually crept up.

Crowdfunding platforms vary, but Kickstarter pledges are only called in if the target is reached. We nearly fell short, but a last minute interview on BBC Berkshire generated the last few pledges we needed and Riverside Lane was on the map. There was a hardback, a party for pledgers, and a paperback a few months later.

It was a marathon, but worth the effort. I feel proud of our achievement, learnt a lot along the way and we have a beautiful book for our troubles. Now I’ve set myself another mountain to climb by changing genre. My second novel is a children’s magical realism story called The Witches’ Punchbowl. I have never regretted our crowd funding adventure but I can’t deny I am fervently hoping that when I find a home for The Witches’ Punchbowl it will NOT be dependent upon the wisdom of the crowds!’

***  Your determination to get your book published is incredible, Julia. Congratulations on achieving your dream! Barbara xx ***

Print Cover

A handsome American with a secret, Luca Tempesta, gets off a plane at Heathrow and heads for a quiet village by the Thames, taking time out, it would appear, for a holiday in the tranquil English backwater.

The local pub, a fine restaurant, church and boat house are where the locals gather, and here Luca discovers an odd assortment of characters: the seemingly wealthy and polished set, others trying hard to make their way into higher society, and curious villagers with surprising stories to be revealed.

As Luca tries to find anonymity, he soon realises that The Village is not such an easy place to hide.

A former spy, a gameshow host, a model, a journalist, the vicar and a biker all play a part in making up the village scene, with secrets lurking at every twist and turn of the river.

When Luca’s secret, along with those of other villagers, is finally revealed and he prepares to leave the village, he takes with him much more than he bargained for.

Set against the cinematic backdrop of a gastronomic village by the Thames, Riverside Lane is a thrilling, vivid page-turner that seeks to understand human behaviour hard-wired for desire, power, love and possession in a traditional society threatened by extraordinary challenges.

Beneath a taut, fast-moving plot, the upstanding residents of Riverside Lane watch and whisper behind a mask of English hauteur whilst their own bipolar lives start to unravel.

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