Please introduce yourself and your book
My name is Debbie Thomas and I am the author of Stop Paying Out! – a how-to guide that shows readers how to save thousands during a divorce or when ending a civil partnership. The book provides step-by-step action points and shows readers how to radically reduce what they spend, slash legal fees and get legal advice for free.
I work as a Professional McKenzie Friend, helping families and individuals who are dealing with their family court case and hearings without the help of a lawyer. I have a postgraduate law degree and have worked as a freelance journalist for over 10 years, covering UK and international case law plus legal practice – for legal journals and online publications.
What inspired you to write your book?
In my work as a Professional McKenzie Friend, I am regularly approached by clients who have either spent vast sums of money on legal advice or cannot afford to pay for the services of a lawyer. In my own family case and complex hearings lasting over 5 years, I had to find ways to avoid financial ruin and I represented myself in court.
I have learnt a lot over the years and want to share that knowledge with anyone who needs to drastically reduce what they are spending at a time in their lives when every penny counts.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
I think the biggest mistake you can make in a non-fiction book is failing to meet your readers’ needs. In other words, by not addressing one or more (serious) problems your readers are facing and not offering tangible solutions to these problems. Another big mistake is not writing clearly. Clear, unconvoluted language will ensure that the ideas, concepts and overall message of a book will be easily understood by anyone who picks it up and reads it. In my book I discuss legal matters and have included some legal terms. To make sure that readers fully understand the terms I have used, I have also included a glossary.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
For non-fiction, shorter titles are more memorable and fare better. That said, some longer titles that are catchy, have been highly successful. When it comes to book covers, I would say that it is worth spending the time to find or commission the right book cover for your book. I know that this is easier said than done. I knew I wanted to steer clear of the stereotypical images you often encounter on book covers and other publications that deal with divorce. The images typically used tend to depict confrontation – such as a couple with their arms folded and turned away from each other, or stereotypical ‘legal’ images such as a judge’s gavel, a judges’ wig or the scales of justice. I think that with my next book, I will be more daring by going for a cover image that is more bespoke and visually striking, while being 100% relevant to the topic.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
I have just received my first negative review. Criticism of any kind is not the easiest pill to swallow, but, after taking a little time to consider what was said, I have decided to use that feedback to make the books I write in the future even better.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book?
The best and most surprising things I learned was that I was able to write a sustained piece of content that I was proud of and ready to send out into the world – and that I could finish it. I was also surprised by the amount of research and knowledge I acquired in relation to entire book-publishing process.
The worst thing I found was how I utterly underestimated the time needed to complete other parts of the book once the main body of the book was finished. I also discovered that the tools I was using were not the best ones for the job; namely the word processing software I have always used, my mini laptop and track pad with its tiny 11 inch screen. I am in the process of upgrading the lot!
Do you tend to lean towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I believe that both are important and so I try to balance the two. It is important for me to derive some personal satisfaction from my book – by first having an idea that I care about and developing the idea into something that is readable. Researching a topic, writing the book and double checking my facts, figures and paying careful attention to the use of language are also paramount. Equally important is serving my readers by making sure that what I am saying has real value and offers a solution to a problem they are facing.
What are your plans for future books?
I am mulling over a few ideas, and my plan is to write more books in the self-help area, and I am considering branching out into fiction writing. Watch this space!
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
I am a huge body combat fan and I play the clarinet. I have never watched Game of Thrones.