Crowdsourcing a title for my third novel

staffroom

The last three months – the time since I gave up my well-paid job to become an author – has been a hectic time for me. There’s been The Ashes, day-trips to the seaside with the kids and the dog, catching the rays in the garden, internet dating, champagne receptions and filming for a BBC documentary. Oh, and the occasional bit of writing too.

Those of you that have read my debut novel, Six Months to Get a Life, will know that I am big on characters and how they strive to negotiate their way through life’s many challenges, snatching the occasional bit of romance while negotiating the devastation, heartache and carnage that more commonly surrounds them. (Six Months… was recommended as a ‘great holiday read’ on BBC Radio 5’s Thursday night book club a couple of weeks ago – #honoured!)

My second book, Six Lies, continues the theme, following the lead character as his wife runs off with a librarian and his mother confesses from the grave that she wasn’t his mother after all. I finished Six Lies over the summer and it has now entered the sausage machine that is the publishing process. Hopefully it will be ready to consume in late November, to coincide with the airing of the BBC documentary.

I have even had an idea for a third book. In fact, my brain hasn’t switched off since I thought of the concept a week or so ago. I can’t wait until September when I return from my holiday and can really get cracking on the story.

My third book will definitely bring more of the same romantic comedy, farce and fun dialogue that I love so much. It is going to be set in a mythical primary school in Wimbledon. I know already that the senior staff will be under threat of losing their jobs if the school doesn’t improve during the course of the school year. Obviously, the key protagonists will also have their fair share of personal challenges, with alcoholism, unruly offspring, love triangles and the occasional politician making an appearance. An overbearing Head with her own issues and a new Governor will combine to keep everyone on their toes. Can you tell how much I’m looking forward to writing this book?

My list of fun anecdotes to include within the story is growing longer by the hour. A number of twitter friends have tweeted their ideas too (@benadamsauthor), for which I am very grateful.

But one thing I am struggling with is a working title. Some authors will tell you that the title comes to you after you start writing a novel. This may be true, but I always find that if you can get the title right to start with, it helps you shape the subject of the story. Hence me striving to come up with a good title upfront.

I am trying to conceive of something that captures the daily grind of working in a school while also drawing the rom-com reader in, something that hints at hilarity in school improvement while also appealing to the chick lit lovers out there. The four options on my notepad at the moment include:

Who Left Their Bra in the Staffroom?

The Staffroom

It all happens in the Staffroom

[insert school name] a la Waterloo Road

None of these ideas exactly hits the spot that I am aiming for. They don’t excite me as much as the thought of writing the book itself does.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

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.

Social media for dummies

cover one

‘Six Months to Get a Life’ was with the type-setters for most of the last week. I have just got a version back. It is looking more like a proper book every day. I can now announce, to much fanfare, that the book will be 300 pages long. If you don’t learn anything else today, at least you now know the length of my pride and joy.

While I was waiting for the type-set version to be returned to me, I spent some time gazing at the book’s cover. I must have looked at it for hours. Eventually I saw the spelling mistake. Isn’t it funny how your eyes/brain automatically corrects things like this?

I also spent some time this week getting my head around what I can do to give my book the best possible chance of being noticed.

I am not sure I am any further forward now than I was this time last week though. Boy have I got a lot to learn.

If no one has written ‘social media for dummies’ yet then it is about time someone did!

I started off with facebook. Straightaway I decided that it would be a good idea to keep my drunken ramblings and photos on my personal account separate from the professional image I want to portray on my author account. No one who is considering buying my book wants to know what I got up to in ‘The Nook’ in Weymouth the other Saturday night… No one wants to see my mum putting photos of my dog up there either.

I read a few articles and set about making myself an ‘author page’ on facebook. The page looks good. I have posted some of the stuff that I have talked about in this blog to that page and I will add updates regularly as my author journey continues. Everyone can write on that page if they feel so inclined. https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Ben-Adams/582854708503738

But I am discovering that having an author ‘page’ is different from having an author profile. I can’t ‘like’ or even ‘follow’ others from my author page. Unless I am missing something, if I don’t use my personal account, I can only interact with others on my page. I can’t post anything to their pages. That feels a bit selfish to me.

It also makes me wonder how people will find my page. I can’t send friend requests out from a ‘page’ so how can I build up a community?

I have been tweeting about my facebook page this week (@benadamsauthor). But that’s really boring. There is nothing I hate more than dull tweeters. Except, maybe, for Downton Abbey.

In theory at least, I have linked this blog to my facebook account too, but knowing me, my technical knowledge may have resulted in me linking it to a porn site instead.

I could pay for adverts that attract people to my facebook page but that just sounds like a total waste of money.

I guess I just post interesting content and hope people stumble across my site. They may search for it when ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ actually comes out in the new year.

This doesn’t seem a particularly satisfactory answer though. Can anyone tell me what I am missing?

When I haven’t been getting frustrated with facebook, I have been compiling a list of potential reviewers for my book. There are lots of people who appear keen to review contemporary fiction. I have got a good list together and have composed an email that I will personalise and fire off as soon as I have discussed the optimum publication date with my publicist. So fingers crossed I will get a few reviews in within that all-important first month. I will keep my toes crossed too in the hope that the reviews are half-decent!

Thanks to those of you that volunteered to review the book via this blog.

Ben

One step closer to publication: the writer’s journey continues

IMG_0128.JPGMy debut novel, ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ is one step closer to being released.

I wasn’t particularly attentive in my English grammar lessons some twenty-five years ago so I was quite worried about the latest hurdle – an in-depth scrutiny of my work by a professional pedant, sorry I mean proof-reader.

As it happens, the proof-read wasn’t too painful and it has certainly enhanced the quality of my book. All the commas are now in the right place, the tenses present and correct, the apostrophes where they should be (although my proof-reader tried to insert one into a reference to Frankie and Bennys which irked me somewhat) and the paragraphs are all of the required length.

So why isn’t ‘Six Months…’ out there now, available to download?

Well, it isn’t out there yet because I want to create some interest in it first. I don’t want a damp squib of a launch, where my mother and my closest mates are the only ones to register that the book exists.

I want people I have never met before to have heard of the book and to want to read it.

How do I achieve this? Well, if I am honest, I haven’t got a clue.

I could run naked around the streets of London waving the cover around. After careful consideration I have dismissed this idea for a whole host of reasons, most prominent amongst which is the fact that people would be put off rather than turned on.

I could bombard people with tweets about my book for the next few months, but that has been done before. It just bores people stupid.

I could… er, pay a professional who knows what he/she is doing to promote my book. Which, in fact, is what I have done.

I have employed a publicist. The publicist comes as part of the package I bought to help me produce the book. To date, this package has included some excellent editorial support and cover design. The company concerned is currently type-setting the book too.

I have read about the merits or otherwise of paying someone to help you publish your book. Some people frown upon the sort of services that I have bought. They say things like ‘either do it all yourself or get yourself an agent and publishing deal’. Well, I haven’t got the time or the expertise to do it all myself and I couldn’t be bothered to write off a gazillion letters to agents. So I have gone with the hybrid approach of retaining control of my book’s publication but paying to bring in expertise as and when I need it.

I have wanted to write a book for ages. I took the decision to invest in my dream to give it the best possible chance of being successful.

I am expecting the publicist to produce a press-release, picking out a newsworthy angle related to the book and then touting the book to international and national publishing media. Who knows what level of interest the book will receive via that route.

In addition, having read numerous accounts from other self-published authors, I have decided to supplement my publicist’s work by contacting book review bloggers. I have got my material ready to send once I receive the type-set version back.

I am apprehensive about what the reviewers will say. Will they even agree to review my book? They must get hundreds of requests to review books. If they do review it, will they like it? So far, my twelve year old son and my editor are the only people to have read my book. My son read it on his kindle which is linked to my account and only confessed to having read it after he had finished it. He liked it but that is probably because it had the ‘f’ word in it a couple of times.

I am proud of my book. I believe that it is written to a good standard, but what I can’t be sure of until the reviews start coming in is whether the story will capture the reader’s imagination. The risk is that the book will be launched in January 2015, not to a fanfare of endorsements but to a deluge of mediocre reviews.

I guess I have just got to put it out there and see what happens.

If you would be interested in receiving an advance reader copy of the book in exchange for writing a review (with no obligation for the review to be anything other than honest), I would love to hear from you. Either DM me via @benadamsauthor on twitter or leave your email address as a comment (I won’t publish the comment but will see it).

Feel free to comment on any other aspect of this blog post too.

Ben

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