Indie Spotlight – Carol Hedges

This week I am starting a new feature – Indie Spotlight. Each week for the next couple of months I will be welcoming an independent author to my blog and asking them some questions about what it is like being an indie author. If you are an indie author who would like to be featured drop me a line here or via Twitter: @SueBavey.

Today I would like to introduce you to Carol Hedges.

Carol is the successful UK writer of 18 books for Teenagers/Young Adults and Adults. Her writing has received much critical acclaim, and her YA novel Jigsaw was long-listed for the Carnegie Medal.

Carol is also the writer of ‘The Victorian Detectives’ ~ a series of novels set in 1860s London and featuring Detective Inspector Leo Stride and his side-kick Detective Sergeant Jack Cully.
The eight books in the series are:
Diamonds & Dust
Honour & Obey
Death & Dominion
Rack & Ruin
Wonders & Wickedness
Fear & Phantoms
Intrigue & Infamy
Fame & Fortune

Carol lives in Hertfordshire with a mad tortie-siamese cat called Halley and a lot of pond fish. She also minds her two grandchildren, one of whom is the star of the Award Winning series of blogs: The Adventures of L-Plate Gran

Bits of her writing life can be viewed on her blog:
Twitter: @carolJhedges Please view reviews of her books on there.

Hi Carol, and welcome to my blog. I am excited to have you as my first featured indie author and am looking forward to hearing all about the advantages and disadvantages of publishing independently.

What made you decide to publish your books independently?

I never intended to end up as an ‘indie author’. My first 11 books, written for middle grade and YA, were all published by big mainstream publishers. But that was when self-publishing meant a very second-hand product, usually a ‘vanity’ book, with virtually no outlets to sell it on. The decision to do it myself coincided with the decision to change genres and begin writing Victorian crime fiction for adults.

My agent at the time disliked Diamonds & Dust, the first book in the series, so much that she refused to send it out to publishers. Yes. Agents are not always on your side, folks. So, after parting company with her, and going through a long and painful time of self-doubt, I ended up self-publishing. And I have never ever looked back. Offers have come in, but I have turned them all down. This is my journey now, and I am sticking to my chosen path.

I’m glad things are working out better for you now you have chosen the independent route. What do you see as being the main benefits of being an indie author?

Control and money, in 2 words. Control over the cover (I use a professional cover artist, Gina Dickerson, at RoseWolf Design) and we work together. Previously, I was sent the cover design, and more or less told that was it, whether I liked it or not. The joy of coming up with a new design, choosing the background colour, and seeing it develop is so exciting. I’m sure you’ll agree, the Victorian Detectives covers are really enticing and make you want to read the stories.

I also have control over what Amazon categories the books go into, and I can fiddle around behind the scenes and change them if I want. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I am a bit of a techie, so I enjoy it. I can chop and change pricing too, and choose whatever I want to put on Twitter or other sites to promote the books. I know there are many writers stuck with publishers who don’t promote their work (I certainly was). Now, it’s all up to me.

I also earn more, because my royalties are not split between publisher, agent and a nod to bookshop discounting. I used to get 10%. Now, it is much more. OK, no writer goes into the business to make a fortune, but it is nice to feel that I get to keep more of what I make from sales. After all, it IS my handiwork!

Earning more is always a good thing! There seem to be many benefits to becoming an indie author, rather than publishing via the more traditional route, but there must also be drawbacks? What particular challenges do indie authors face?

The main challenge we face is that of visibility. Hardly any indie authors are reviewed by the big journals. We do not feature on the ‘recommended reading’ lists that go out every summer and Christmas. To build a readership, we have to be present on various platforms like Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter and build our readership.

I know many authors struggle with this, and if you do, there are lots of helpful blogs out there that will give you advice. It also helps if you have a blog (like this one), producing regular posts that build your readers and hopefully make them want to read your books.

It is also practically impossible to get your books into mainstream bookshops, as they all tend to use 2/3 big suppliers, who are reluctant to take books in bulk from small printers, or POD. Luckily, ebooks sell well and are much simpler to produce.

Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors?

Go for it! But be prepared to work your socks off though! Writing the book is only the beginning. You MUST employ a good editor, and pay for a great cover. Be professional: research, ask, read blogs, study how indie authors use social media, learn and be flexible. Oh ~ and ignore any one star reviews! We all have them. Go onto the Amazon pages of any famous writer and you will see what I mean.

Great advice there, Carol. I’m sure reviews are a valuable tool for indie authors in terms of publicity and enabling you to judge how your work is being received. However, I’m a thick skin must be necessary sometimes.

What have you learned from being an indie author?

I have discovered how great the indie author world is! I have made so many kind, supportive friends. I have picked their brains, read their blogs, chatted online, shared their work on my Twitter. It is a far nicer world that the mainstream one, because we are not all in intense competition all the time. And NOTHING ever beats that moment when you receive that ‘your book is now available in the Amazon store’ email. And there it is!

Well the peculiar year that is 2020 seems to be finally nearing its end. What can we look forward to seeing from you in 2021?

I am currently working on the 9th book in the Victorian Detectives ~ Duty & Desire. No spoilers but I hope my lovely loyal readership are going to enjoy it.

Thank you for joining me on my blog, today Carol. I wish you every success with Duty & Desire!

5 of Carol’s Books

View all of her books here:

Diamonds & Dust

When a horrific murder takes place on a dark night in 1860’s London, it changes two women for ever. New light is cast upon past lives they thought they knew so well, and suddenly their futures become intertwined.

The death of her uncle will leave eighteen-year-old Josephine King an orphan, an heiress and the owner of a priceless diamond, The Eye of the Khan. For Lilith Marks, a chance finally arises to end her life as a highly paid prostitute and to prove herself as a serious businesswoman.

Set against the backdrop of the great gas-lit city, the two women are drawn together in their quest to discover just who killed the man they both loved.

Diamonds & Dust is a page-whizzing narrative, with an intricate and absorbing plot that entices you through the teeming streets of Victorian London. If Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle all washed up on a desert island, they might have come up with something like this.

Crime Writers Association 2014 Award Entry.

Add Diamonds & Dust to your To Be Read list here:

Buy Diamonds & Dust here:

Death & Dominion

When Detectives Stride & Cully are called in to investigate a fatal case of arsenic poisoning, they quickly realise that there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. Despite their best efforts, secrets and lies will dog the investigation and frustrate their efforts. It will take all the skill and ingenuity of two of Scotland Yard’s finest to get to the truth of the matter.
Meanwhile London is playing host to two enigmatic strangers: Darkly handsome Mark Hawksley has come to enrich himself at the expense of the gullible and greedy by selling fake shares in a bogus diamond mine company. Beautiful Belinda Kite has come to find excitement and adventure, and maybe bag herself the prize of a rich husband in the process. What will happen when their paths cross?

Murder, love, trickery and false identities abound in this third Victorian crime novel, set once again in the foggy gas-lit streets and twisting alleyways of 1860s London.

Add Death & Dominion to your To Be Read list here:

Buy Death & Dominion here:

Wonders & Wickedness

1864 marks the arrival of a brand new department store right in the shopping heart of Oxford Street. What owner John Gould does not expect, is the presence of a dead man in one of his display windows. How did he get there? And why has Gould’s store been picked out as a murder location?

Meanwhile Sir Hugh and Lady Meriel Wynward are not expecting to hear from their daughter Sybella, who died in a railway accident two years ago. So when a letter written in her hand arrives unexpectedly, on what would have been her eighteenth birthday, it throws them into turmoil. What is going on?

Bleak expectations dog the progress of Stride and Cully ,two of Scotland Yard’s finest detectives , as they embark upon their most complex case so far. The twists and turns of the investigation will lead them into a murky mire of murder and blackmail, and the strange dark underground world of Victorian spiritualism.

Add Wonders & Wickedness to your To Be Read list here:

Buy Wonders & Wickedness here:

Intrigue & Infamy

It is 1866, the end of a long hot summer in Victorian London, and the inhabitants are seething with discontent. Much of it is aimed at the foreign population living in the city. So when a well-reputed Jewish tailoring business is set aflame, and the body of the owner is discovered inside, Detective Inspector Lachlan Grieg suspects a link to various other attacks being carried out across the city, and to a vicious letter campaign being conducted in the newspapers.
Can he discover who is behind the attacks before more people perish?

Elsewhere, Giovanni Bellini arrives in England to tutor the youngest son of Sir Nicholas Haddon, ex-MP and City financier. But what are Bellini’s links to a dangerous Italian radical living in secret exile in London, and to beautiful Juliana Silverton, engaged to Harry Haddon, the heir to the family fortune?

Romance and racism, murder and mishap share centre stage in this seventh exciting book in the Victorian Detectives series.

Add Intrigue & Infamy to your To Be Read list here:

Buy Intrigue & Infamy here:

Fame & Fortune

London, 1867. When the body of a man is discovered hanging from a Thames bridge, Detectives Greig and Cully, two of Scotland Yard’s finest crime-solvers, are called in to investigate the mysterious circumstances of his death. Their inquiry will lead them into a world of extortion, robbery and human trafficking, and at its centre, the Black brothers, Munro and Herbert, London’s most evil and ruthless individuals, who will stop at nothing to keep their position at the top of London’s criminal underworld.

The eighth outing for the Victorian Detectives entices the reader once more along the shadowy gas-lit streets of a city peopled with endearing and eccentric characters, where vice and virtue rub shoulders, and rich and poor find themselves unexpectedly thrust into the limelight.

Add Fame & Fortune to your To Be Read list here:

Buy Fame & Fortune here:

Reviews of Carol’s books can be found on Amazon and Goodreads

Who’s next on Indie Spotlight?

Next Thursday (Dec 10th 2020) I will be welcoming Judith Arnopp to Indie Spotlight. Hope you will join us.

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6 thoughts on “Indie Spotlight – Carol Hedges

  1. What a great introduction to Carol’s fabulous books! I’ve read and loved them all, but I still learn something new about Carol with every interview. For anyone new to her books, I can recommend them very highly.

    Liked by 1 person

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