If you are an unpublished author dreaming of being discovered by thousands of readers, with a bit of hard work you can accomplish this dream. Take Rachel Abbott’s word for it: in 2011 she decided to go solo and self-publish her first novel through the Kindle Direct Publishing programme (KDP). Five years and six novels later, Rachel has sold two million copies and is eager to share her experience with other aspiring writers.

Being here today and meeting all these people, knowing what may lay ahead of them, the tough times and the great ones, is just incredible.
Rachel Abbott

A supportive community

Alongside fellow best-selling KDP authors Mel Sherratt and Mark Dawson, Rachel Abbott took part in a panel discussion at the London Book Fair’s Author Headquarters.This gave them the chance to meet people who share the love of writing and encourage them on the adventurous path of independent publishing. For the three of them it’s also a walk down memory lane: “I remember coming to places like this four years ago, not knowing anything, and being given some amazing advice. That was tremendously helpful,” Mark Dawson recalls. Mel Sherratt nods: “If years ago anybody had asked me where I wanted to be at this stage of my life, well… I would have loved to be exactly where I am now. It feels incredible.”

For indie authors, being part of a community is especially important to keep focused, share doubts and ideas and to learn about the tricks of the trade. Rachel, Mel and Mark told attendees about their author journeys and shared some very practical tips – from starting a blog as a way to establish a rigorous writing routine to creating a mailing list to fuel word-of-mouth when a new novel is released. “Writing a marketing plan was the real game changer for me,” Rachel says: “It helped me become much more focused, and I went from selling six to 3,500 copies a day.”

“Seeing what is possible”

After the panel, the audience could continue conversations with the speakers at the nearby Amazon stand. Amazonians like Darren Hardy, UK manager for KDP, were there to take on any of the more technical questions relating to Amazon’s self-publishing programme: “We have writers going through very different stages of the author journey. Here they can listen to the direct experience of successful authors, and our staff can provide technical advice on available tools and systems.” Helen, who has self-published three crime thrillers and is looking into growing her readership, commented: “It’s fantastic to receive tips from writers who have made it. I got the name of a professional cover designer, how good is that?”

Sukhi has also published a book in the finance sector: “Now I am passionate about carving a journey as an author-entrepreneur,” she says. “Meeting successful authors like Rachel in real life is very motivating. You hear about their struggles and how they overcame them, and it gives you hope.” James, who writes action books “packed with explosions and black coffee”, agrees: “I can see what is possible if I keep pursuing my dream. I hope one day I can be on that podium, too.” The atmosphere is full of energy: the stand feels like a crossroads where aspirations, possibilities and real achievements come together, and anything may happen.

“Five years ago my sole ambition was to finish my book,” Rachel remembers. “Being here today and meeting all these people, knowing what may lay ahead of them, the tough times and the great ones, is just incredible.” Who knows: a few years down the line, some of the passionate young authors taking notes at the conference may be the ones inspiring the audience and sharing stories of fulfilled dreams.