And my editor said…

I love my editor. I have never met her and she may already be married but make no bones about it, I love her.

I sent my first book, ‘six months to get a life’ off to her a few weeks ago. I have been a nervous wreck ever since.

By the time the book came back, my nails were shorter, my hair greyer and my blood pressure higher.

But the wait was worth it. She likes it! She thinks it’s funny and that it could be a commercial success.

Of course she didn’t just say that everything about it was perfect. In fact she has provided lots of really constructive suggestions that I will now be enthusiastically working on over the summer.

In particular, she has challenged me to develop the characters more. Particularly for those of you that are writing your first book at the moment, I thought I would share some of her comments.

At specific points in the text she has posed questions like:

“Does he think Julia fancies him?”

“Is it OK by Graham? Does he mind being told he isn’t great in bed?”

“Shouldn’t Graham acknowledge that he’s being a bit of a dickhead?”

“Could you use this as an opportunity to show us what’s going on in Sean’s head?”

“More of a reaction/comment here from Graham, please.”

“Pretty twattish response from Graham – we should see her anger.”

“Wouldn’t Graham think about sex more? Wouldn’t he want to know about Dave & Helen? Has he slept with Amy? Does he want to? Does he think he will?”

“So what’s he like? Describe him. Can we see Graham being bitchy/jealous/competitive.”

“Does Graham fancy ‘short skirt Sarah’? He’s single again – he’d be considering the idea, wouldn’t he? Space here for him to think about whether he’s attracted to her/feels attractive himself/is he ready for anything new/what’s his self-image/how confident does he feel? Etc. Try to do it via physical details, eg might he check to see if he’s got a beer belly/does it show/should he go to the gym later.”

My editor also said a couple of things that I would love your views on.

“Really? I don’t believe a parent of teenagers wouldn’t have heard of au pairs.” What do you think? Have most parents of teenagers heard of au pairs?

“Coffee? Teenagers don’t drink coffee.” Is she right here? Are my kids odd?!

And whilst she liked a lot of the funny lines in the book, she didn’t think this one worked. Do you?
“I actually took my ring off on Christmas day and chucked it under a sofa in my family home in disgust at being bought a ‘beard care set’ for Christmas. I haven’t even got a beard.”

Book cover – which do you prefer?

Choosing a book cover is so important. As a reader I will shy away from tacky-looking covers or covers that suggest to my subconscious that the book is a bit too girly or paranormal or whatever for my tastes. A glance is all it takes to put me off a book.

The trouble is, a cover that might put me off might at the same time attract others to at least read the book’s blurb.

I have just received the attached two cover designs for my first book, ‘Six Months to Get a Life’. I would love to know what you think of them.

six months to get a life02 street sign

six months to get a life03-02 fat bloke cover

I wait with baited breath!
Ben

Graham Hope’s dirty world cup weekend

This week I have decided to post a topical extract from ‘Six months to get a life’. I would love to know what you think. PS. the book is still with my editor!

Well, we are now back from our dirty weekend.

I was quite nervous about the weekend. Other than a few evenings drinking and a few afternoons dog walking, Amy and I hadn’t spent much time together before this weekend. We had only kissed each other a couple of times in parting. I haven’t even been to her house. She hasn’t been to my flat either but I don’t mind that because it’s a dive. Maybe it’s a bit soon to be going on a dirty weekend? Would we get on? Would we have enough to say to each other? Ok, maybe those things weren’t at the forefront of my mind. Would the sex be any good? Could I keep going for more than a minute? Would I manage more than once a day?

All these questions were going through my mind as we travelled up to the Lake District in Amy’s Porsche. We had the roof down for some of the way but my contact lense blew out on the A3 so we had to settle for roof up and Amy driving. Not exactly the best start to the weekend. And things got worse as the M something or other was an effing nightmare. We were aiming to find a nice country pub somewhere a fair way north of Birmingham to have lunch. In the end we had to settle for a service station Cornish pasty.

When we eventually arrived at the bed and breakfast, our first impressions were good. The view was spectacular. But that is about the best that can be said for the B&B. The worst that can be said for it is that the room only had twin beds. And they creaked, even when you just sat on them. “Do you want me to moan?” Amy asked. Yes, yes, yes. It took me a while to work out that Amy meant complain to the manager about the twin beds.

In any event, by this point I wasn’t feeling exactly horny. In fact I was feeling decidedly dodgy. Was it nerves? I don’t think so. Nerves imply butterflies in your stomach. What I had in my stomach felt more like flesh-eating reptiles. I blame the pasty. Maybe they should tax them more?

My first night with Amy should have been a thing of beauty. Instead I spent most of it trying to be discreet whilst throwing up or worse in the toilet. Amy was almost certainly glad of the twin beds in the end.

I was still feeling fragile in the morning and we were a bit late going down to breakfast. We were somewhat surprised to be given a standing ovation by a group of blokes sitting in the corner of the small dining room when we walked in. A tad self-consciously we waved to them and got on with choosing our fruit juices – actually water for me on account of my dodgy stomach.

The establishment’s proprietor, a buxom old goat with a mischievous grin on her face, wandered over and asked us for our breakfast order. Once we had put in our requests she surprised us. “Do you know what,” she announced, “I haven’t seen the chandelier wobble like that since the vicar and his wife came to stay in 1985.” “What are you talking about?” I asked. “Say no more, say no more,” she said with a nod and a wink. A few minutes later a clinically obese couple waddled in for breakfast looking rather red-faced but contented. I pushed my solitary piece of toast aside and gave up on breakfast as a bad job.

Amy made a decent job of hiding her irritation at being called on to be a nursemaid rather than a lover for the first day of our trip. Instead of tackling Helvellyn and Striding Edge we ended up sitting in tea rooms and mopping my brow. As the day progressed I did recover enough to walk to Troutbeck. Our kids and dogs would have loved the walk but I confess that I was happy without them. I was glad to have some time alone with Amy, even if it wasn’t going quite as I had planned.

We had a very pleasant early pub dinner – I ordered a jacket spud, the blandest thing I could find on the menu. As the bill arrived Amy went off for a loo break. Convenient timing. Anyway, whilst I got my credit card out I took the opportunity to give myself another pep-talk. “Come on Graham, pull yourself together. Get a grip and start showing your kahunas, metaphorically speaking at least. Think Ben Affleck not Benny Hill; Billy Crystal not Billy no mates; George Clooney not George and Zippy. At the moment you are Hugh Grant without the charm or the looks – i.e. nothing. Come on, man up.” Churchillian stuff, even if I do say so myself.

“Darling, I am feeling much better now,” I announced as Amy returned from the ladies, “how’s about I whisk you back to the B&B and we see if we can make the chandelier shake more than that fat couple did?” “Sorry Graham,” Amy replied looking somewhat disappointed, “my period has just started. It must be all that walking.”

I can’t remember that happening to Harry when he met Sally. Still, we at least ‘enjoyed each other’s company’ on Saturday night.

Yesterday was world cup final day. We spent it strolling around quaint little villages with the million other tourists. We must now be famous in Asia, having appeared the background of hundreds of Japanese tourists’ photos.

We spent the evening watching the final with a bunch of drunk German students. Great banter.

All in all it was a great weekend but if I told my mates about it they would probably take the piss. Only I could end up going on a dirty weekend and not get my leg over.

20 writing and marketing lessons any new author needs to learn

A particular event in my life gave me the push I needed to write my first book. I got my head down and started writing. The ink was literally flowing from the pen.

As my work progressed I was immensely proud of it. This book can’t fail to sell. My principal character, Graham Hope, will take his rightful place alongside Adrian Mole and Bridget Jones in the literary creations hall of fame. All I have to do is finish the book and the rest will just flow from the book’s undoubted brilliance.

How naive I was. 3 months on and I still hold the same optimism for my book but success will not come unless I work at it. Now is the time to start investing in my book.

So far I have learned 20 things that, if I published the book in my naïve state, would have doomed my masterpiece to the ignominy of internet obscurity, of languishing at number one million and something on Amazon’s ‘best’ sellers list.

New authors take note!

Write a good book
This tip should go without saying but having read a few stinkers from self-published authors, it has got to be the first step in your strategy of becoming an established author. How do you ensure that you write a good book?

1) Know your audience. Are you writing for children, for teens, for men, for women, for fetish-obsessed nymphos or for yourself and your family? You pretty much need to know this up front as it will affect everything you write, the path that the book takes, the way it is presented and how it is marketed. I am writing for adults who like a laugh and to read about relationships, their trials and tribulations.

2) Read writing style tips but don’t get bogged down with them. You need to have your own writing style but it needs to sing quality rather than screaming shoddiness.

3) Don’t rush to publish. If you are like me you will be impatient and want instant stardom. But sit on your work for a while. Take a break from it and then go back to it. New ideas will hit when you think you are through with your work. Time will improve it. I was originally hoping to publish in the autumn but this was overly optimistic.

4) Get it professionally edited. I am waiting for ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ to come back from my editor so you never know, I might change this advice in the next week but everyone tells me how much value a professional edit adds to even a quality piece of work.

5) Get some independent reviews before you turn your baby over to the masses. I haven’t done this yet but I will.

6) Write a good book blurb. Sarah Juckes, writing in the Alliance of Independent Authors (Alli) blog provides some helpful advice.

Get your book in front of the people who might buy it
There are a million books out there. Your book will only sell itself if people get to hear about it.

7) Think social media – and at least 6 months before the book is published. I now know that thousands of authors exist across the world. They are all tweeting endlessly about their books. I know as I follow half of them and am now frantically trying to filter out their drivel. I wonder how many tweets result in book sales. The idea is to get the book into a prospective buyer’s subconscious so that when they see it on one of the e-book selling websites, they will take more notice than they otherwise would have done. JJ Toner, again on the Alli blog, has shared some helpful social media tips. I am @benadamsauthor on twitter by the way if you want to follow me.

8) Create an ‘author platform’. As an avid reader I have never once looked at an author’s website. I am told that other readers do so I am getting a website. I may just be a mug. Include prominent links on your website to where people can buy your book.

9) Think SEO. A month ago I had never heard of SEO. I now just about know what it stands for but still have lots to learn. It seems to me as though the more you appear on the web in a relevant place and the more people look for you, the easier it will be for them to find you. But I have more reading to do on this one!

10) Everything I read about being a new author talks about the importance of authors networking with each other. Review each other’s books; exchange writing and marketing tips; meet each other at events. I don’t doubt that this is helpful but it takes a lot of time. I could spend all day reading about what fellow authors are doing on Goodreads if I didn’t discipline myself. I am going to join the Alliance of Independent Authors as they look like they have some great resources.

11) Think paid advertising, particularly on book websites. I am still learning about this. Other authors’ tips are proving particularly insightful.

12) Read copy editing tips on how to write paid advertising. I haven’t done this yet but I will.

13) Try out different advertising campaigns. Some will work better on your target audience than others. Not everyone will respond to the same triggers as you.

14) Think tactically about genres. In my naïve state a few months ago I wouldn’t have had a clue that picking the wrong genre on an e-book site could doom your book to the dusty recesses of the amazon e-showroom. Pick the wrong genre and no one will see your book.

15) Get a distinctive cover – one that stands out in a thumbnail on a book selling website. I don’t have the arty farty know-how to make my own cover so I have paid for this service.

16) I have bought a package that includes promotion by a book publicist. I jumped straight in and am hoping it will reap rewards. Does being featured on obscure radio shows and in bookish publications sell books? We shall see, unless of course the publicist doesn’t even manage to get me on to the obscure radio show.

Make it easy for people to buy your book
You can draw a horse to water but how do you get it to drink?

17) I have been advised to get the book on all the relevant book-selling websites and use print on demand. At first I had thought I would just use Amazon’s e-book creator and do it myself but I haven’t ended up going down that route because I prefer to write rather than to fiddle with templates.

18) Do adverts specific to the various different e-readers. If I have a Nook I am not going to want to click on an ad that takes me to Amazon.

19) I must have miscounted. Sorry, I did mention that I am an author and not a mathematician didn’t I?

Next week I will give you a bit more of a flavour of Graham Hope, as well as hopefully telling you what my editor had to say.

I say this with some trepidation but f you are an author and would like to tell me what else I have got to learn, feel free to leave a comment below.

Ben