Jean Reinhardt on the beauty of self-publishing
The Cork beautician self-published her first historical novella in 2013 and went full-time last year. She offers aspiring authors advice
Jean Reinhardt’s Amazon author page
Cork’s Jean Reinhardt has always had an interest in writing. From poems to short stories, the married mother of five and grandmother of four dabbled with creative writing for years before finally deciding to publish her work for readers around the world using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing programme.
Reinhardt explained how she turned a hobby into a profession and offered aspiring writers tips on how to embrace the world of independent publishing.
“I’ve always enjoyed writing. It’s been a great escape for me over the years. For a long time I knew I had a great story to tell, but I needed something to spur me on. In the 1980s, a local writer’s group started where we lived and I decided to join. Being part of the group gave me the confidence to write more, but writing was one thing, trying to get published was a different story,” she explains.
“Several years later, I read a piece on the then-new world of independent-publishing. It really interested me because I’d always thought the process of writing a book would involve agents, publishers and waiting forever for someone to read your work. Independent publishing seemed to offer a brilliant alternative to that.
“In 2013 I published a historical fiction novella, set in the 1800s. I was delighted when readers from across the country started to contact me to tell me that they really liked it and asked if I’d consider a sequel. That’s when it took off for me – it just went on from there. In fact, the original book I published in 2013 still ranks highly on the Amazon Kindle store.”
Following the success of her first books, Reinhardt decided to keep the story going by writing more novels. After many years of writing as a hobby, her dream of becoming an author was fulfilled, but the process didn’t come without its challenges.
“While independent publishing is straightforward, I wasn’t really sure on how to market my books. That’s the part I struggled with the most in the beginning. I’d written the book and many people think that’s the hard part, but I found the marketing side of the process quite difficult. It was great to be able to say my books were there for people to read, but advertising and promoting them so readers would find them was certainly a challenge.”
So how did she get people interested in her books? “I started off by doing local radio. The books are set in Dundalk where I am originally from, and my sister approached the radio stations to tell them that a local woman had written a story that was based in Dundalk. They agreed to have me on their shows to talk about the book and the regional paper also interviewed me. Following that, people started to download the books and it really caught fire from there.”
Reinhardt admits that she also had a challenge with formatting:“I’m not a hugely technical person and that caused me some issues when formatting my work. However, I discovered that there’s lots of help available for people who haven’t gone through the process before and I was able to get advice and guidance in one of the many online forums available for authors.”
After getting to grips with the marketing and technical aspects of independent publishing, she now has a collection of books that have been downloaded by customers around the world. Her historical fiction novels are particularly popular in the US. The anniversary of the 1916 Rising helped drive interest in her work.
The growing popularity of her books meant the self-employed beautician was able to scale back her professional work from five days a week to four. This year, as her earnings as an author exceeded her salary from her day job she decided to close her business and become a full-time author.
Now that she’s a bestselling author, what tips would Reinhardt give aspiring authors? “For me, the most important thing is to take a lot of time to make sure that your work is edited to the best standard. If you can’t afford an editor, then that’s ok, but do make sure the book is as good as it possibly can be. I must have had 10 or 11 drafts on the first book – I spent a lot of time editing.
“Now I’m more experienced, I have gone back through my books and corrected a few little errors that I’ve noticed. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you’re independently-published, the only person who needs to approve it is you. Make it the best it can be.
“I’d also say don’t be afraid to do it. Have the confidence to publish. Believe in your work. Tell people you’re writing a book, because every time they see you they’ll ask ‘how’s the book coming on?’ and that really motivates you. If you don’t tell anyone, then you haven’t really committed to anything so don’t keep it a secret, especially if you’re not in a writer’s group.
“The final piece of advice is to do your research. Because my book is based on historical facts and events, I need to do a lot of research to make sure it’s accurate. All of my books have references at the back and I’d definitely recommend that approach.”
Before getting back to her latest novel, Reinhardt explains what she loves most about independent publishing. “The control. You’re in control of your work at all times. You can decide how you want to publish your work – digitally or in print – the choice is yours. I like the fact that there are a lot of options when it comes to getting your work out there, whether you choose to publish exclusively on Kindle, in print, or a mix of both.”