Confessions… from an American in London

Not an American in Paris. Although she has been there.

T B Markinson is the author of three self-published books, and her latest novel, Confessions From A Coffee Shop, was published this week. I wanted to know about her self-publishing experience, so for all you authors and would-be ones out there, read on… But first, a little personal info.

As a nosy British ex-pat, I’m always interested in other ex-pat stories. Why did you move to London?

Back in 2010 my partner’s company asked if any employees would be willing to move abroad. My partner and I discussed it for about two minutes. Both of us love to travel and to experience new things. At the time, we didn’t know where we would end up. Several cities were discussed. Then London was proposed much to our delight. I had always wanted to live in London. My fascination started many years ago. I’m an avid reader and two of my favorite authors are Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. After a lot of planning we finally moved in 2011. At first the plan was to live here two years. It didn’t take long for us to fall in love with London. We’re on our third year now and we hope we can stay for much longer.

Where are you from in America?

I was born in California. During my teen years I moved to Colorado. In my thirties I moved to Massachusetts. When people ask me where I’m from, I never know what to say. My memories of California are fading. I spent more years in Colorado, but the most recent American city was Boston. I keep moving east and I wonder if I’ll end up back where I started.

One of your major goals was to publish a novel by the age of 35. Why?

I pulled that number out of a hat really. At the time I was in my mid-20s going through a difficult time. I thought I could accomplish the goal by that age. However, life and an illness sidetracked me. I actually published when I was 39. Writing was always one of my goals since I was a child. For as long as I can remember I’ve been telling stories.



Although you didn’t achieve that, by age 40 you’ve now published three books in less than two years, with the latest being Confessions. When is it due out, and can you tell me something about it?

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Confessions From A Coffee Shop has just been released. It’s a romance novel about a woman, Cori, who has high hopes in life and then everything starts to crumble around her. She has a deal with a publisher to write her first novel, but she can’t seem to finish it. Cori’s mom suspects that her husband (Cori’s father) is having an affair. During all this, Cori’s girlfriend has a shopping addiction and Cori has to get a part-time job to help pay the bills. It’s difficult for her since she thought she was on the right path: Harvard graduate, teaching at a university, and writing her first novel. The novel deals with people’s expectations when they are young and what really happens in life.

This novel is a bit lighter than the other two I’ve published. After finishing Marionette, which deals with some heavy subjects, I was in the mood to write something fun. Cori’s life is falling apart, but I tried to keep the humor front and center.


With these three self-published books behind you, you’re pretty experienced now. Have you got any mistakes to share?

Yes! I still make mistakes daily. In the beginning I had no clue about self-publishing. At first, I wanted to go the traditional route. But each time I narrowed in on some publishers I would find out something about the publisher that made me uneasy. The biggest complaint I read by many authors was that the publisher didn’t help promote much. That was the big aspect I wanted help with. Then I attended the London Book Fair in 2012 and there were several workshops about self-publishing. I was intrigued. After the fair I started researching it. The idea was exciting and terrifying all at once.

Even with all the research I did, there was one big mistake I made from the very beginning. When I published my first novel, A Woman Lost, I really didn’t promote it enough from the start. Now when I release books, I have some reviewers lined up before I publish and bloggers who are willing to help me promote. I’m sure there’s tons more I can do and I keep learning new things. I’m constantly reading new books about self-publishing and I follow many blogs about it. Luckily with Lost my lack of promotion didn’t hurt me too much. Within the first month I sold over 500 copies.

Promotion is a tricky thing since it’s hard to know when you’ve done enough. And it never ends. Even when I publish something new, I still have to promote all the books. It’s a lot of work and it can be frustrating.

The second biggest mistake I made was not contacting more book blog reviewers right from the start. I’m trying to correct that now, even though it is time consuming. There are days when I wish I had two full work days each day so I could write as much as I need to and promote as much as I need to.

Even with these challenges, I’m still happy that I self-published. I wouldn’t change it.

Do you base your characters on people you have known or on your own experiences?

The actual characters in my novels are fictitious. I borrow characteristics from people I know, but I blend them together so not one of my characters is based on one person. I have included some of my real life experiences, such as the main character in A Woman Lost, is a historian and I studied history in grad school. [university for those like me who get confused with American education]

My novel Marionette includes a gay bashing incident that is loosely based on Matthew Shepard. Shepard was a gay man who was beaten to death in Wyoming. This event really affected me. At the time I was in grad school and Shepard was flown to the city where I lived. I can still remember standing outside his hospital room for a candlelight vigil. He died the next day.

For me, I like my characters to come alive, which is why I include events that have affected me to a certain degree. That way I can have my characters react to events and I hope it feels genuine. Yet, none of my novels are autobiographical. 



As a self-publishing author, how much do you do yourself and what, if anything do you pay for?

Many people think self-published authors have to do it all. Some do. I don’t. I’m really lucky to work with a fabulous team. My editor, proofreader, cover designer and formatters (ebook and paperback) are wonderful people and are fantastic at their jobs.

Having a team to work with can be expensive, but for me, I believe it’s completely worth it. I saved my pennies for years so I wouldn’t have to put out a work that wasn’t as good as it could be. I had a draft of A Woman Lost for several years before I contacted an editor. One thing I’ve learned in life is to be patient. An author may want to put something on the market quickly and as inexpensively as possible. I don’t advise this. This doesn’t mean hire the most expensive team either. I recommend doing your research and finding people you can afford and people you can work with. Even if an editor has wonderful credentials the two of you may not get along. It’s important to be able to work closely with your editor and to trust your editor.


You might not want to answer this – how much does it cost you to publish a book?

My first book was the most expensive to put on the market. I went through the editing process and my editor recommended a lot of changes. After I finished the changes, I sent it back to be edited again. And I’m so glad I did. The novel is much better now and I learned so much from that process. With each project I learn more. That in itself is worth the expense.

For each project my editor gives me an estimate of how much it will cost. She charges by the hour. The cleaner the manuscript the cheaper it will be. My advice is to find editors who will provide a free sample edit and give you an estimate of the total cost.

One of the things you are doing yourself is the promotional aspect, ie this (virtual) book tour. What made you decide to do that?

I paid for a book tour for my first book. I went with an inexpensive tour and it worked out pretty well. And I learned a lot about how the tour operator managed things and decided I could do it just as well.

So this is the second book tour that I’ve planned. The first was pretty successful. However, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do another one since things are changing quickly in the book world and many are starting to wonder if cover reveals and book tours are still effective. The big factor is the amount of time it takes. That’s why this time I limited the amount of interviews and guest posts. I opted to go for it because I love the interaction with other bloggers.

I skipped doing a cover reveal though since I know many people are inundated with them. I still host cover reveals on my blog, but I have noticed a big drop on visits when I do one. Only time will tell if this is the last book tour that I’ll plan. Who knows, tomorrow they may be the “new” thing again.


Marketing is one aspect that people find difficult because of the amount of work involved. What else do you do to promote your work?

Acquiring reviews is the big one. Word of mouth is crucial. And it’s the most difficult part of the process. Unfortunately most readers don’t leave reviews and I totally understand. It’s time consuming and so many people are busy. I’ve also heard many readers say they wouldn’t know what to say. Again, I get it. A lot of people read to relax and to escape from reality. They don’t want to feel pressured to think of something eloquent to say. Reading should never feel like homework. This is why so many authors love book bloggers.

I’ve had recent luck with advertising on Bookbub. This site sends out emails to readers listing book sales. Each time I’ve sold hundreds of copies in a day. It’s fun to watch the numbers spike and to see the book rise in the rankings. During my sale of Marionette, the book ranked on the coming of age genre list right next to Neil Gaiman and Stephen King. That was a real hoot.

The key aspect to selling is relationships. Relationships with reviewers, bloggers, and readers. It takes time, but it does pay off. But more importantly, for me at least, I love the interaction with everyone. I’ve made many wonderful friends during my journey and for that I’m really grateful.



Do you provide any of your books for free? Pricing is a thorny issue – how did you decide on a price for your books?

I do provide free review copies in exchange for an honest review. As of yet, I haven’t done any free promotions on Amazon. I have listed my books for 99 cents, but haven’t gone the free route yet. That doesn’t mean I won’t at some point. I’ve only been doing this for a little over a year. Trust me, I haven’t figured everything out yet and there are many avenues I haven’t explored. I don’t believe in saying never. This summer I had two 99 cent sales and sold over a thousand copies. Each time it boosted the sales of my novels that weren’t discounted. Also I saw an increase in reviews.

I have my novels listed at $2.99 because many of the books in my genre are around that price. I did list one book at $3.99 for a time, but it didn’t work for me. My advice is to try several different prices and see what works best for your books and in your genre. Nothing is set in stone. And have sales. Readers love sales.

Boxed sets are something I hope to do in the near future. I need to do more research about them, but I have a feeling it will happen within the next year or two.



Easy question! Favourite authors and any particular ones who inspired you?

I think the writers from the early 20th century have inspired me the most. Hemingway, Steinbeck, Parker, and Fitzgerald are the authors I go back to over and over.



With Confessions just published, what’s the next novel about? Have you thought about writing a different type of book eg fantasy, horror, thriller, historical, travel, autobio?

The next project is a novella, which is already with my proofreader. Claudia Must Die is much different from my other novels. It’s a crime-style romp and it was fun and a challenge to jump out of my comfort zone. The story is about Claudia who is on the run from her gangster husband. She spies a woman who looks just like her and Claudia tries to set up the woman to be killed so her husband will stop hunting her. Things go terribly wrong and now Claudia has many people who are trying to kill her.

I know earlier I said, never say never, but it’s hard to fathom me writing a horror novel. I’m the type that squirms during horror movies and when I read horror novels, I still shield my eyes during the gory bits. However, you never know. Romance is my comfort zone, but I am contemplating writing a mystery and I think fantasy would be a wonderful and exciting challenge. I love historical fiction, but the researcher in me would go crazy and I fear I wouldn’t stop researching and start writing. Saying that, I have a story in mind.

Have you ever worked in a coffee shop?

I haven’t. However, I have worked in fast food when I was younger. Several of my buddies have worked in a coffee shop and I used to hang out quite a bit. I do have a confession: I hate coffee.

And… an excerpt from Confessions:

I nearly fell out of my chair. “Mother! I do not want to hear about this.” I jumped up, uncomfortable. God she was sex-crazed—always talking about it.
“Why? Kat listens to me.”
“You’ve talked to my girlfriend about that?”
“Of course, dear. Women talk about this stuff. Don’t be a prude.”
Her steady voice unnerved me.
“Women talk about this ‘stuff’ with their friends. Not with their daughter’s girlfriend. I forbid you to talk to her.” I planted my feet firmly on the ground.
“Forbid me? Who do you think you are?” Mom crossed her arms defensively, her foot tapping out a rhythm on the floor.
“Seriously, you need to think about the stuff you blurt out of your mouth. You can’t go around talking to Kat about sex, especially when it involves you and my father.” I shook my head, trying to permanently dislodge the images from my brain.
“At least Kat talks to me. All you do is hang up on me.” She pouted, running her hands up and down her arms to comfort herself.
“Look at me! I’m here right now, talking to you. I should be working on my lecture for this evening, but no, I came to see how you’re doing?”
Mom’s expression perked up. “That reminds me. The three of us are meeting at Pablo’s Café after your class.” Her face clouded over as she gazed out the front window and her voice dripped with scorn as she added, “I’m sure your father will be with his hussy this evening.”
I considered responding, but opted to stay quiet.
“Don’t worry, I know money is tight right now, so I’ll pay for dinner,” she said. “And that’s another thing I want to talk to you about. You need to stop making Kat feel guilty about not being able to find a job.”
“What? Make her feel guilty? I never mention it. Not one bit.” I really didn’t. Not once had I said or suggested that she should get a job. She should, but I knew the likelihood of that happening was pretty much nil. Kat knew how to spend money, not how to make it.
“She says she can see it in your eyes. I know Kat likes to shop, but you can’t lay all the blame on her. Blame the Republicans.” Mom punctuated her statement with a quick nod.

Thanks to T B Markinson for her time and her extremely professional response to my interview, she was a pleasure to work with. And as animals always add to a post, here are Miles, and Atticus, plus our author herself. She’s got a promotion on for Confessions until 16 Sept, so do check out her blog, Making My Mark.

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71 comments on “Confessions… from an American in London

  1. OK. This is something I have heard a lot, and I think I go along with it:

    “I planted my feet firmly on the ground”. She is standing her ground- but that is clear from what she says.

    “Her face clouded over as she gazed out the front window and her voice dripped with scorn as she added,”- her change of mood again is clear from what she says.

    What do you think of this? Is it just padding? My characters speak in my head, and I can hear the feeling they put into it. So I wonder, can others? Should I describe it, or change what they say to make it clearer?

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    • It’s a big, big point of discussion in the book world.

      I’m going to sit on the fence. My style of writing fiction tends to be pretty sparse, but that’s because I’m idle and it’s my natural written style after years of indoctrination in journalism. But, (still on the fence), I do think description can add value, and isn’t necessarily padding.

      I think in the first example, while she may be vocally standing her ground, the physical action of planting her feet may well add more to the scene. In the second one, I got distracted with ‘dripped with scorn’ and I would be saying ‘cliché alert!’ I would have her gazing out OF the front window, and cut the sentence there. I think the mood change would be evident from the subsequent speech.

      But that’s just based on what you’ve quoted. I’m also not a believer in writing or style rules, plus I think there are far too many fashions and trends that do the rounds.

      Are you going to post some fiction on your blog? That would be interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It just depends on how well it’s done. Proust pushes descriptions quite far and it works well (especially in French). And I’ll never forget how Franzen sets the tone in The Corrections:
      “Three in the afternoon was a time of danger in these gerontocratic suburbs of St. Jude. Alfred had awakened in the great blue chair in which he’d been sleeping since lunch. He’d had his nap and there would be no local news until five o’clock. Two empty hours were a sinus in which infections, bred. He struggled to his feet and stood by the Ping-Pong table, listening in vain for Enid.
      Ringing throughout the house was an alarm bell that no one but Alfred and Enid could hear directly. It was the alarm bell of anxiety. It was like one of those big cast-iron dishes with an electric clapper that send schoolchildren into the street in fire drills…”

      Liked by 1 person

      • Frank Herbert’s Dune sequence gets wearing: as two people converse, we hear their thoughts and deductions about the other, but that is adding information we would not get from the dialogue. Here, I know that the mother is not happy her ex is with his new girlfriend. If she started off in sarcastic mock-cheerfulness, then her voice broke and she started to cry, that would be worth telling, but that she “looked out of the window”- so what?

        Proust only describes what the Narrator thinks and feels, who has no idea about the other. That works, it is the most rigorous portrait of an individual imaginable.

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        • I disagree. The mother is, on the surface tough, so her voice wouldn’t break, nor would she start to cry. But looking out of the window gives her the opportunity to distance herself slightly, think whatever privately, and then gather her thoughts to bring herself back to the conversation. I think that carries more weight than a graphic and emotive description of breaking into tears.

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      • I’m still in the (early) midst of Proust. I buy long classics or long journeys and put them down on arrival. Other descriptive authors I would say, are James, Conrad, Garcia Marquez, Rushdie, Dickens, Hardy to name but a few. With them it works, as with Proust. But they are also a different style of writing. I think the question is, how much description does an author add to a novel written in 20th/21st century modern day English?

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  2. Hi from us (Marjorie & Eddie) having a great holiday in Brittany. How is your leg progressing? Your tales of your hospital visits and dealings with staff remind me of my several visits to our local ‘dry docks’

    I achieved a 4 year long ambition last weekend….’Driving’ through the Channel tunnel and onwards to Brittany. This came about during a post hospital visit by a young lady who was sent to encourage me in my recuperation period after my 3rd. heart attack. She asked me what my long term ambition was and I replied as above but was even more ambitious, I said that I wanted to drive to Murcia to visit daughter and family there.

    Thanks to my wife’s superb care, plus of course the NHS and Boots the chemist I achieved that ambition with a slightly different destination .
    I hope all is well with you, your Partner and of course your dogs

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    • Hi Eddie :)

      Glad to hear about your hol, achieving an ambition (yuk, not one of mine, give me a ferry anytime) and your recuperation.

      My boys are well, I’m still hobbling/limping, but seem to manage a little more each week. I guess you know about recovery though. Thanks for asking, enjoy the rest of your hol and hope the weather is good to you. Brittany is a pretty place.

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  3. Thanks so much for featuring me on your blog. It was an honor. And the Better Half who goes to an office everyday might disagree that I’m hard-working. She has to dress nice and I wear pajamas all day.

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  4. Hearing the writer’s life and thoughts is as intriguing as reading their stories. Enjoyed the interview. So much practical information about self publishing and the effort needed to promote a book. That should give writers about to take that next step ideas to think about. Wander her way to check out her blog.
    (and RC cat was stunned and then thrilled you finally came to your senses and featured a cat in the header picture. She sends a paw of approval…We haven’t mentioned to her that’s Pippa hasn’t approved a new resident – it’s just temporary…why cause trouble early in the day…)

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    • I did have some other personal questions, but I figured the self-publishing experiences were of more value to other authors, and actually maybe of more interest overall as she was pretty open.

      She has two blogs, the book one, and another one about places to go, films to see and books to read, which is also worth a decko.

      I thought it was a striking shot of Atticus, the eyes fitted nicely into the header. (The eyes have it…) We appreciate the paw of approval from RC. The boys haven’t seen it yet, keeping it hidden from them.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great interview, Kate. Wow… I’ve learned a lot here. In the process of reactivating bookhub… I deactivated it when I began getting too many emails with book lists… I’m beginning to see this was a mistake.

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  6. Via blogging I’ve gotten to know a few Indie authors and it’s impressive that they write, market, event & business manage the process as well. I’m very impressed by TB and her commitment to producing quality end product. More of this, and the Indie publishing scene will become a truly professional, viable alternative to mainstream publishing… both currently have benefits and pitfalls, so I’d like to see more Indie as I think it has greater potential to deliver non-filtered product to readers. As a reader, I love background info on authors. Your interview sets it out very well, and even though lengthy the interview was readable and entertaining.

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    • I’m impressed with anyone who has the dedication to publish a book. I think self-publishing can be daunting so it’s good to see people who have decided how to make it work for them.

      I think a quality product is essential, to raise indie out of that amateur status it is tagged with. I’ve just been reading a post where the writer is warning people not to spend too much money on buying in services…

      I concentrated mostly on the self-pub aspect as it was what I was interested in, and I do have authors read this who all go about it differently.

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  7. Funny how some–like me–often fixate on just one thing. This time around it’s the thought about promotion. Writers learn their craft through many years–likely 3 decades or more–of instruction and practice. The formal instruction is, I imagine, obtained through a study of the arts, perhaps an English major followed by related graduate studies. I wonder, though, just how many aspiring writers have significant formal education in the area of marketing. In the traditional publishing industry there’s a division of duties with professional writers, editorial staff, production and printing staff as well as a significant marketing arm. Members of each department tend to have a formal background in the appropriate area. These all result in expenses, of course, and the end result is reflected not only in the cost of the product but, more importantly, in its quality. For an independent writer, most of the tasks need to be done by the individual and that, I assume, has to have a negative effect on the finished product. There are solutions around most of the issues but I am of the mid that only skilled specialists can effectively promote any product so it seems to me that there’s something of a void in the independent publishing industry, namely a lack of a “go-to” promotions network, one that the established “traditional” industry not only has but likely controlsas well.

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    • I think the issue here is around that writing itself is very introspective, whereas promotion, marketing is the exact opposite.
      I’ve been lucky to learn something about both, academically and experientially, but the two don’t naturally go together for fiction writers.

      I’m taking part in a paid for book tour next month. I don’t get paid, but the author pays a company for it. It’s the same as TBM has done herself, except you pay someone else to organise it for you. Other obvious techniques are press releases, advance review copies for reviews, book signings, discounted book sales. As TBM says, it all takes time and A LOT of planning. With my PR hat on, there is nothing worse than trying to get good publicity too late. My advice for anything, let alone publishing, is that publicity must always be planned well in advance. Even pushing out bad news, eg typical government tactic, chucking a low key press release out at 4pm on a Friday afternoon, preferably over a bank holiday weekend. I know, I’ve been there and done that :D

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  8. I always have to have a little time to play with when I visit you, Kate. :) I’m glad to hear that you are finally limping less and getting around more. Had I known where your flat was I might have attempted a visit, but truthfully, in a 4/5 hour visit in a new place I just want to follow my nose and see as much as possible. I hadn’t expected my husband to accompany me to Gib, but he did, and that already changes the dynamic. His response to Gib was ‘how does anybody live here?’ I was just interested in the wackiness of the place. Some wires or pipe had been cut apparently and the traffic was gridlocked in the centre. Not an uncommon experience, I imagine. As someone who walks everywhere it wouldn’t unduly bother me. (except when going upwards :) ) Certain aspects of the place are stunning. The view across to Morocco in a heat haze! And I’m a sucker for marinas.

    Enough of that- I picked this post to comment on because TBM astounds me. She is so giving of her time and energy but all I really learn is that I would never have the drive to do what she does so brilliantly. Writing- that’s one thing, but you can’t be a shy girl and do the book promotion stuff can you? Great interview. I didn’t know that she had a new book out (and another in the offing!) Thanks, Rough. See you around…

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    • I take it you mean my posts are long? :D although, you post a lot of photos so we are quids. I thought TBM was really interesting to interview, I took out a couple of questions that someone else asked (about what she liked/disliked about the UK and what were the differences), shame as it added to the post, but I figured it was long enough, and I wanted to focus on her self-publishing achievements as I think she is inspirational.

      Gib is indeed whacky. Probably why whacky us likes it. We walk (well when I can) or bus everywhere. We use the car for going to Spain with the dogs or very occasionally for work if his tools etc won’t fit on a sack barrow. The good thing about Gib is that everything is within walking distance and the buses are free for residents. I have no idea why people drive here especially as parking is a nightmare.

      I wonder if that was the day we had a power cut for a few hours? Traffic tends to gridlock a) on Fridays b) in the rain c) when there is a frontier queue tailback.

      I hope you went to Queensway Marina. I find OV very bling and pretentious. The views to Morocco are good, one of my faves, that and looking out of the window up at the Rock.

      Thanks Jo, good to see you back home.

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  9. Aw, the lovely TBM. I met up with her a few days ago when I was in London, and I can confirm that she did not order coffee with her cake ;-) It was really interesting talking to her about the writing/publishing stuff, and a lot more besides. To my great disappointment, she did not bring Miles :( (He’s the one on the left).

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  10. Wow! What a great interview Kate! Really! So flowing and easy to read and it felt as if I was right there. If I could, I would have gone and bought her book right away for sure. :D I think it’s awesome how TB are self-publishing her books. It’s truly inspiring for those out there that would like to do the same. Thanks for a great post Kate. :D

    Like

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