The panic is on: top things to do before you publish your first novel

‘Six Months to Get a Life’ is being released on 21st January.  How exciting. The countdown has started!

Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that my countdown has started. My challenge over the next 50-odd days is to get others in on the act too. To quote the modern vernacular, I need to create a buzz, to get the chattering classes chattering, the blogosphere blogging, the commentators commenting and the twits tweeting.

For your amusement, but mainly for my own project planning processes (once a project manager, always a project manager), I have jotted down a bunch of things I need to do over the next six weeks to get my book noticed.

This may sound strange, and isn’t something I am ever heard to say in my day job, but if you think there is something I should add to my to do list, then feel free to add it via a comment…

  • See my publicist. Get them on the case with all the big fishes.
  • Get on the case myself with the slightly smaller but arguably even more important fishes. This weekend I will dust off my painstakingly compiled database and pitch the book to those lovely blog people who might review it. I have developed a nice 2-page pitch that includes my cover, a photo of me (apparently it is the thing to do), my book blurb, author bio and a few other facts about the book.
  • Practice my signature for when I am sitting in Waterstones in Oxford Street signing a gazillion copies of the book. I am not even sure there is a Waterstones in Oxford Street but why let practicalities get in the way of a good dream?
  • Consume everything I can about free and paid for book advertising. Make some decisions, start placing ads and then apologise to my kids because there is no money left for Christmas presents. I can always blame Santa.
  • Keep working on my social media profile. I had my first disagreement with someone on twitter this week. They questioned how I had managed to get so many followers in the six months or so that I have been on twitter. They insinuated that I had bought my followers. I haven’t. When I replied saying that ‘maybe people follow me because I say interesting things’, she stopped following me. Oh well, move on.
  • Work out what a ‘blog tour’ is, and get some. And some author interviews. I hear Paxman isn’t too busy these days.
  • Look at giveaways. My inbox is constantly bombarded with Goodreads promotions so why shouldn’t I clog up other people’s inboxes from time to time?
  • Get the champagne in.
  • Hurry up and think about practical things to do on launch day. Do I have a big event at a bookshop or even a local bar/restaurant, or do I go for an entertaining, quirky Facebook/twitter launch party? The Royal Albert Hall or my hall? I like the pub/restaurant idea, but particularly with the book being called ‘Six Months to Get a Life’, I would feel pretty embarrassed if I spent loads of money on a launch party, only for it to turn out to have the same attendees as my family Christmas lunch. At least I am cooking for ten this year I suppose.
  • Practice dealing with disappointment when I am not asked to do a book signing event at Waterstones in Oxford Street. No, stop it. Be positive Ben.
  • Get to know book selling sites that I have never visited before. I am an Amazon man when it comes to buying books, but after careful consideration of the facts, and then tossing a coin because the facts were inconclusive, I have opted not to go for the exclusive Amazon-only KDP Select option. Instead, ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ will be available from all good ebook websites, and maybe some bad ones too.
  • Buy everyone I know a book token for Christmas.
  • Get some more champagne in because the first lot will no doubt be drunk over Christmas.

What have I missed? Seriously, I would love to hear your ideas.

My website isn’t twerking: new author, new extract

Generally, I love self-publishing my book. There is definitely something to be said for being in control of your own destiny.

But over the last fortnight, I will admit that there have been times when I frankly yearned for some great white knight corporation to come and take over the whole bloody process.

Firstly, I have had website issues. www.benadamsauthor.com looks pretty good now, with my bio, some good imagery, my book blurb, links to this blog and a contact form. But for ages the website was misbehaving. At one point it somehow ate this blog site. Hence the gap between my last post and this post.

And then there’s Facebook. I couldn’t join groups or really interact with people when I was logged on as my author page, so I now have a facebook profile too. And then there’s Goodreads. I now have a Goodreads author page, from which you can already add my book to your ‘to read’ list, even though it isn’t out until the new year.

I should now be posting witty and original content on my ‘author platform’ but all I feel like doing is pulling all the plugs out, turning off the wifi and crawling under my duvet for a rest.

In fact, that’s exactly what I am going to do. Instead of ranting, I am going to give you another taster excerpt from ‘Six Months to Get a Life’. I haven’t published an extract for a while so allow me to be lazy (a sort of ‘here’s something I prepared earlier’ post) just this once! I hope you like it.

For those of you who have joined this blog late, you should know that the basic premise of this book is that Graham Hope is trying to rebuild his life after his divorce…

‘So, do you really want to know what happened last night? Can I just tell you I made a fool of myself and leave it at that?  No, I thought not.

OK, we went for a few beers in the Raynes Park Tavern. I was fine with this bit of the evening. I held my own in the banter stakes and even managed to have a few quick conversations with women (‘four pints of lager please.’ ‘OK, coming right up’). Things went downhill rapidly though when we moved on to Wimbledon for part two of our evening’s entertainment.

I hadn’t been to a night club in years so I hadn’t even given a thought to dress codes. I had a row with the bouncer who told me I couldn’t come in wearing trainers.

‘They aren’t any old trainers, they’re f****** expensive trainers,’ I protested. Actually I would have been quite happy if the bouncer had sent me home but Dave slipped him a tenner and he let me in.

The club was as bad as I had feared it would be. The music was thump, thump, thump; the average age of the clientele was about fifteen (even with us there) and the strobe lighting did my head in. I know this is making me sound old but it is just the truth. Night clubs and I just do not mix.

I did my best to stay at the bar with Andy but even Andy ended up dancing. The traitor seriously let me down. Eventually Dave physically manhandled me on to the dance floor.  Dave, Ray and Andy had managed to infiltrate a group of mature women out for a good night. I use the word infiltrate deliberately. To me the dance floor felt a bit like a war zone, with people parading their weapons, ready to engage the enemy at the slightest opportunity and eventually move in for the kill. I just worried I would be caught in the crossfire.

I did my best to wobble from foot to foot in time to the beat and once I had mastered that bit I even threw in the odd hip jerk or two.

Drinks came and went. Women came and went. Until eventually I looked around and realised to my horror that my mates were nowhere to be seen. They had deserted me. They should be shot. The woman dancing closest to me was looking at me with intense but slightly unfocussed eyes. To my untrained eye, her dancing was no better than mine. This bolstered my confidence further, to the extent that my dance moves became a bit more exaggerated. Suddenly I thought I was Michael Jackson.

I was concentrating so much on my ‘moves’ and on the woman opposite me, who by this point looked like she was about to topple over, that I didn’t notice the ring of people encircling us. I was just about to move in for some hand to hand combat with the lovely drunk woman when Dave tapped me on the shoulder.

‘Mate, what the hell are you doing?’ he asked.

‘P*** off mate, I am in here,’ I replied, somewhat irritated at being thrown of my stride.

‘You’re twerking.  Men don’t twerk, especially fat blokes.’

It was at that point that I noticed the ring of on-lookers laughing hysterically and pointing at me. It was also at that point that my dance partner threw up all over my shoes. I got my coat and exited the battlefield with my white flag raised.

Where did last night get me? It reminded me how easy being married is. It got me poorer, it got me embarrassed and it got me a hangover. And it got me in trouble with my parents because for some reason I left my sick-encrusted shoes on the kitchen table.

Fireworks from a new author

I let someone else read ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ at the weekend. Stand back and light the blue touch paper…

Oh, the trauma. What would she think? Would she laugh me out of town or marvel at my whit and stimulating repartee? Would she write me off as a boring fart and chuck the book on the bonfire or beg me to write the sequel by tomorrow night?

Luckily for me, the book didn’t bomb. She genuinely seemed to love the fire in the characters’ bellies, their flare and the finale. She did even ask if she could read the next book, the first chapter of which is included at the end of ‘Six Months…’ Boom!

Once I had got over the relief that she enjoyed it (she read it in one sitting), we got into lots of debates about whether the characters in ‘Six Months…’ would have acted in the way that they did. And whether I should have subjected them to the fireworks that they went through.

It felt a bit like my school English literature lessons when we analysed Hardy’s or Shakespeare’s hidden meanings, only this time I was the author. I still didn’t have much more of a clue though.

The essay questions that she wanted to discuss included how would you characterise Adams’ writing style? What was Adams trying to show when he put in the scene about the marriage guidance counsellor? Would Amy have really told Graham that she was having her period whilst sitting in a pub having a roman candle-lit dinner? Would Graham’s ex really have had such a short fuse?

Even though I wrote the book, I am not sure that my answers to the above (‘God knows’, ‘that he had a sense of humour’, ‘maybe; maybe not’ and ‘yes’) satisfied my new fan. They certainly wouldn’t have satisfied Mrs, er, Katherine Wheel, my old English teacher.

My reviewer – let’s call her Claire because that’s what her mum and dad called her – is only the third person to have read the book so far (well, fourth if you count me). Hopefully I will get final type-set and EPUB versions back in the next week or two and be able to start sharing them with potential reviewers – you know, the ones who don’t know me personally and are likely to be more objective… Gulp!

Other developments on my author journey in the past week include me seeing a first cut of my fancy new author website.

I have had email chats with the man designing my site. I haven’t met him but he is probably only fourteen and already a millionaire. He asked me what apps I would like on my site. I didn’t have a clue. My boys said I should have ‘clash of clans’ put on it. I think they missed the point.

After further discussion, my web designer informed me that I wanted an app that counts down to my publication date, one that gets people to like my facebook page and one that takes people to my twitterings (@benadamsauthor). A website with all bells and whistles – well, I’m glad that’s sorted. There are some great images too. Once it is finished, it should be fully integrated with this blog.

I also published my book blurb on my facebook site. I stuck it there because I was told that I needed to generate unique content to get people to go to facebook. I am just following protocol. Normally I’m not very good at following protocol but as someone who is still new to all this stuff, I will go with the flow for now.

So, I will have facebook, twitter, fancy website, Goodreads and my porn site (oopse, I meant not to mention that one). But will they sell any books?

And what about the actual book? Let’s not forget that the book is, after all, the point of all this online nonsense.

Well, I now know that you can’t sign off the cover until you know how thick the spine has to be. As my man in the know puts it, ‘War and Peace had a big spine. Your book is practically spineless.’ I’ll give him a rocket for that.

Apparently we are still on track for a January release date. Graham Hope wants to introduce himself to the world. Then let the fireworks start…

I think that’s quite enough firework references to justify the topical title, don’t you?

I would like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to those of you that have taken the time and trouble to comment on my blog. I have committed the cardinal sin and failed dismally to reply to everyone individually. I hope you will forgive me. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything.

I have also been having lots of off-line discussions with fellow fledgling authors about the whole process of getting published. I really value these conversations. One thing that those authors are teaching me is that they aren’t like me at all – they are far more organised and prepared.