Laura Howard: Six Questions with Grace Elliot


Six Questions with Grace Elliot

Today's guest is Grace Elliot, author of Hope's Betrayal and Eulogy's Secret - engrossing historical fiction.

No matter what genre you write in, a good cover is key... and if you scroll down to see Grace's covers you'll see that she has breathtaking cover art that hooks you immediately.

1. How many drafts do you typically go through before you upload a book?

My average is around four or five although this is decreasing as I get more experienced. My first full length novel (never published!) got to the eight draft before I began to lose the will to live! That manuscript went through a draft for each of the main characters, then one for the weather, one for scenery, et.c,  by which time any freshness had long since gone. It was perhaps a wise thing, to put it aside - where, six books later, it remains.

I'm a fan of Stephen King's method which is to write the first draft quickly and without self-criticism (or, 'writing for myself' as he puts it), to go on and refine it in the second draft ('for the reader' according to King.) I'm not sufficiently accomplished to trust myself with only two drafts, but I'm getting there and anything after three is usually fine tuning or in response to beta reader suggestions.

2.What inspired you to write your first book?

My first book (mentioned above) is titled The Woman Who Paints Horses. This historical fiction was inspired by a cottage that I walk past every day on the way to work. This white-washed, wisteria clad dwelling is where a famous female Victorian artist once lived. Intrigued, I looked into her life story (I'm deliberately not mentioning her name, because, one day I may yet dust off that manuscript!) I discovered she led an astounding life that read like a saga: from parental abuse to sex discrimination, poverty and then the revelation of her amazing talent as an artist.

Actually, my latest release, Hope's Betrayal was also inspired by a woman I discovered via the cottage she lived in. This time the woman was born on the dawn of the French revolution, her father was a fisherman and her family survived by smuggling.

3. Before you self-published, did you query agents/publishers?

Yes. I sent The Woman Who Paints Horses to Georgette Heyer's publisher, who was kind enough to reply, saying he loved the story but it wasn't commercial enough in a challenging economic climate. However, this gave me the confidence to keep writing and send A Dead Man's Debt out into the world, where it was signed by Solstice Publishing. I'm forever grateful to Solstice, for their faith in my work and what they taught me about marketing. However the experience also made me think about the percentage cut publishers take and the advantages of indie publishing.

I went independent with "Eulogy's Secret" haven't looked back since; being in control of everything from editing to cover design, allows me to react to constructive criticism and suggestions in a way that is difficult via the conventional route. Despite the cost of employing a good editor and first rate cover artist, I'm still ahead financially- so I'm happy.

4. What is your editing process and have you hired a professional editor?

When I first decided to go Indie, I mistakenly assumed I could do the editing myself and with this aim bought a book on grammar. All this taught me was how much I'd forgotten and that my eye is very unreliable when it comes to spotting mistakes in my own work. That aside, even if I could trust myself, it takes too much precious time that could be spent writing, to tooth comb a manuscript for typos, grammar and punctuation errors - for me it's hire a professional, no question.

5. What would you do differently if you could start all over again?

I've learnt important lessons on every step of this journey, so there's not a lot I would change. Perhaps my only proviso would be to have discovered NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) before 2011. I took part in 2011 and 2012, and it drastically improved my productivity. During NaNoWriMo word count is king, and so that nit-picking self-critical editor in my head is switched off and my fingers let rip across the key board, which is a healthy discipline for me as I tend to agonize over individual words…slow, slow, slow.

6.What marketing tools have been the most effective for you?

I'm active on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and a number of forums, so it's difficult to know what works and what doesn't. My ethos is to build a following rather than go for the hard sell. I rarely pay for advertising and in fact, I don't know what other writers have found, but the paid ads produced disappointing results. I'm a great believer in good quality writing selling more books and so endeavor to prioritize writing my next book, so there are plenty out their for fans to pick up.

However the one thing I wish I'd done years ago, is build an emailing list for a newsletter. I've belatedly realized the importance of this and have come to it late…but better late than never.


Writers, have you started a mailing list to announce your latest releases and promotions?


  1. Great article—I loved hearing about her draft process & what works. And yes, the importance of an email list is well noted. By the way, I would love to read that book about the Victorian artist who painted horses—so I hope Grace dusts off that manuscript someday : )

  2. Great article! You're not alone Grace -- I don't pay for advertising either. ;o)

    I should do a mailing list....Laura: How would I get one started?


  3. Very pretty covers! And NO I have not started a mailing list. Stop adding to my to-do's, Laura! kidding, smiles :)


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