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Last weekend saw the first ever Lightbox literary festival at the Lightbox gallery in Woking. The Lightbox is celebrating its 10th anniversary and while it doesn’t seem like 10 years ago that the award-winning building appeared on the canal side, it’s hard to imagine the town without it.

I was asked to lead the questions to Nicola May, writer of romantic comedies and self-published to published success story. I was very happy to do so. Nicola started out with a novel, Working it Out, and a pile of rejection letters from publishers. Rather than giving up, Nicola self-published her novel, and wrote and published several more. Her success had led her to a publishing deal and her latest novel, Love me Tinder, is available from WH Smiths travel and was one of the Sun’s paperbacks of the week.

As the author of one self-published romance novel, Mighty Like a Rose, I was keen to hear the secrets of her success, as were the aspiring authors who made up most of the audience in the Ambassadors room.

As well as the tenacity shown throughout her career, Nicola spoke of the importance of knowing your market. This means knowing how many words your book should be, finding a title that catches the eye of your market and even collaring unsuspecting supermarket shoppers and asking what they think of your cover! Marketing and social media are a huge part of an author’s life and we chatted about using Twitter and Facebook to engage with fans.

For the aspiring authors in the audience (and for me) the conversation was full of positive, practical steps that authors could apply to their own work, whether it be romance or anything else. Nicola has made mistakes and had setbacks on the way, and had a few strokes of luck. But ultimately she puts her achievements down to “persistence over resistance”. Nicola is currently working on her ninth book, eagerly awaited by her fans.

For the writers in the room, the talk may inspire them to take the plunge and finish that novel, and it will also help them avoid some easy but frustrating mistakes.

Nicola May writes romantic comedies, find out more at http://www.nicolamay.com/

Catherine Rogan writes under the pen name of Kitty Campanile. Buy her books from Amazon.