On becoming RNA Independent Author Member No.1

Writers together

With indie authors Glynis Smy, Jessica Bell and Talli Roland

What does ‘independent’ mean?

“Having independent means” – economically self-sufficient
“Independence Day” – departure from the another country’s dominion
“Independence in law” – e.g. ancient Roman emancipation from the parent’s legal authority
“The Independent” – A newspaper with no financial or political ties

All express the freedom to act and to have control over your destiny, and the responsibility and power to make your own decisions.

“Independent author” has grown out of the self-publishing movement. Originally, self-publishers wrote their book and posted it on Amazon. Job done. Before then, and if you had the money, you could contract with a subsidy publisher to produce a garageful of hard or paperback print books. As self-publishing matured, professional services such as editing, cover design and formatting have grown as have assisted publishing services such as SilverWood Books offering full support packages.

Inevitably, there are a lot of substandard, and frankly rubbish, books out there for sale as a result of this democratic revolution. Some originators of content (I’m not calling them writers) don’t care or don’t know any better; they’ve produced words in a file, sometimes with great emotion on their part, and sent them off into the digiverse without any check.

Nicola Morgan, Alison Morton, Liz Harris sharing a good joke at an RNA party

However, serious self-publishers know better. Alongside other writers (however published or aspiring to be published) they will have joined writing groups, listened to other authors, read magazines, self-help books, had their work critiqued, attended conferences and gone on courses. At the risk of boring you with the list, here’s some of my own history:

Up to 2009, most of my published writing output had been about France, property, business and translation. After selling my translation business in 2009, I started writing my first Roma Nova novel. I’ve always been a ‘wordsmith’. Translating professionally for much of my career has made me nit-picky about words, grammar, punctuation, document cohesion, theme and structure.

With Liz Fenwick, Carole Blake and Christina Courtney at another RNA party!

• Joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) in January 2010 under the New Writers’ Scheme – attended courses, conferences, meetings, London & SE chapter meetings, parties
• Went on Circle of Missé six day writers’ bootcamp, Arvon Foundation course on commercial fiction (Mavis Cheek and the late, great Paul Sussman as tutors)
• Attended the Festival of Writing at York – met mentor Adrian Magson, multi-selling crime and thriller writer
• Joined the Historical Novel Society, the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), International Thriller Writers (lots of hoops to jump for that one), Society of Authors (now full member because of sales)
• Visited London Book Fair several years to network with other writers, go to seminars and catch news and developments
• Attend one day marketing, social media and craft courses on an ongoing basis as well as constantly research and discuss the background to my writing field.
• Interact continuously with all these associations and writing and reading colleagues within them.

And the books?


Launching INCEPTIO at Waterstones


The first two were launched at Waterstones Tunbridge Wells in 2013 and the third in London in 2014 at the University Women’s Club when broadcaster Sue Cook interviewed me. The first two books were joint runners up in Writing Magazine’s Self-Published Book of the Year award, the third and fourth both Editor’s Choices of the Historical Novel Society. The first three have qualified as B.R.A.G. Medallion honorees and the third was an Editor’s Choice in The Bookseller’s inaugural indie preview (“this classy thriller”).

More importantly, readers have been kind enough to say they enjoy reading the books – over 115 reviews alone for the first book on Amazon UK/US combined with a 4.4 average.

HNS2015Selfpub_indie panellists

HNS Denver – the indie panel

Now I give talks on writing, self-publishing, alternative and historical fiction at writers’ conferences (including the RNA), tutorial groups and associations, write a regular writing column in my local English language magazine and write occasionally for Writing Magazine. This year I chaired the HNS panel in Denver on indie publishing and recently returned from speaking on the same programme as Kate Mosse at arguably the biggest French litfest outside Paris. Not only that, I had the enormous pleasure of being able to pass on my experience to newer writers.

With reasonable UK/US sales behind me, I contacted Annette Crossland of A for Authors literary agency to represent me for the subsidiary and foreign rights for my books. The agency agreement was in my inbox five minutes after we finished our exploratory cal!

This is not to boast. This is to illustrate that serious indies put in the time and effort to achieve quality books and develop the skills of professional authors. But how to separate the dross from the diamonds? Several new quality organisations are appearing, such as IndieBRAG which rejects 90% of its applications, the HNS review system analyses new historical fiction and runs an annual prize. But books are about readers and many indies have enjoyed phenomenal best selling success because their well-written books are loved by their readers.


RNA Conference 2014

The RNA has struggled and debated internally about the self-published/independent question. As a volunteer run organisation, they understandably fear being overcome by a flood of sub-standard rubbish which they do not have the resources to check. The Association’s New Writers’ Scheme had become blocked up with authors who have released numbers of books which have sold very well, but who had not had anywhere else to go in the association. It is to these authors’ credit that they have stayed loyal to the RNA in these circumstances. The Association obviously still has a special attraction for them!

The criteria for independent membership of the RNA have evolved after much discussion and consultation. An author must have self published at least two works of romantic fiction over 30,000 words in length. At least one of those works must have achieved sales in excess of 1000 copies in a single 12 month period and/or generated income from sales over £500 in a single 12 month period. Some think these are conditions that some mainstream authors would struggle to achieve, but that’s a whole other argument! Perhaps the membership criteria will evolve…

Given the solid establishment of successful author-directed publishing in all its forms, i.e. where the author sells books, receives income and accolades and satisfies readers, it is indeed time the professional writing organisations embraced these writers. If they do not, organisations will not attract the next generation of writers, writers who now have a range of options to bring their work to market.

As a proud member of the RNA, a place where I have found friends, colleagues, support and champions and where I am able to give back to newer writers, I’m delighted to transfer from the New Writers’ Scheme to became the first ever Independent Author Member.


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste the latest contemporary thriller… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

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