Smile, you’re an author

It’s been a while since I updated this blog. One of the strongest lessons I am learning in my author journey is that, pre-publication, nothing happens in a hurry.

‘Six Months to Get a Life’ is coming along, though. The last time I sent the hard copy proof back, it only had one thing wrong – rollercoaster stretched across two lines, with the hyphen appearing after roll.

William, my youngest son, asked me why I bothered sending my book back just to have that tiny point corrected.

‘Because I take pride in my work, son,’ I told him, ‘I want my debut novel to be the best debut novel I have ever written.’

‘Well, it can hardly be the second best debut novel you have ever written, can it?’ he replied.

Smart-arse.

Anyway, other than repeatedly reading laid-out copies of my book, I have, during the last week or so, received the final front cover image, minus the errant spelling mistake.

I have also been prompted to think about what photographs I would use for publicity – in my press release for the book, on my website and social media.

I spent a while at the weekend scanning through my digital photo library. I love taking photos. I have loads of good pictures of my kids but I found that I didn’t have many of me. There was the one of me sitting in a beach bar in Turkey with a bottle of Efes. Or the one of me in Majorca with a bottle of Sol. Or the one of me in the Lake District with a bottle of… You get the picture.

None of those photos will apparently do for my website, or so says the young man with the cardigan who is instructing me on these matters. So I found a local photographer, Nikki Holland, who agreed to do me a few professional-looking head shots at a reasonable price. As someone who hasn’t released a book yet, the reasonable price bit was important to me. http://www.nikkihollandphotography.co.uk/

I prepared well for my meeting with Nikki. I got myself professionally groomed (in the old sense of the word) at an establishment in Wimbledon that was a cut above (cringe) my normal barbers. My sideburns, such as I have them, have never been straighter than they were that day.

Despite my exemplary prep, though, my meeting with Nikki didn’t start particularly brilliantly.

Firstly, I pulled the door handle off as I was entering her studio.

And then, when I happened to tell her that I was a fledgling author, Nikki volunteered that her husband had published a few books. I asked his name and, despite something stirring in the deepest corners of my consciousness when she mentioned it, I couldn’t quite place him. My blank look made that fact obvious to Nikki. Awkward. I was still looking blank as she went on to tell me her son’s name. He too is more well-known than I am ever likely to be.

Nikki was far too professional to let my ignorance of her family’s celebrity put her off from the task in hand though. She managed to put me at ease. I am not very good at smiling to order. I am not very good at smiling full stop. But Nikki’s painstaking pursuit of the perfect photo has, in my mum’s mind at least, elevated her to the rank of miracle-worker.

‘How has she managed to make you look good,’ mum asked. How rude.

My mates have also praised Nikki’s work. Comments have included ‘what’s that crap they say about the camera never lying,’ ‘I thought I was good with Photoshop,’ ‘you almost look sensible’ and ‘I suppose anything is better than that topless photo of you on the beach’.

Putting the banter to one side, the basic question on my mind is ‘will that photo help me to sell books?’

What’s next on my author journey? Over the coming few weeks I hope to get first sight of my new website, and eventually see the publicist. The company I have commissioned to handle my publicity want to get the building blocks in place before my meeting with the publicist, but hopefully it will happen soon. I will keep you posted.

Oh, and did I mention that I moved house last week too.

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

Google: my new BFF

six months to get a life02 street sign‘Six months to get a life’ is coming along nicely. I am still working my way through the manuscript, fine-tuning it ready for submission to the proof-readers by the end of the month. The aim now is to publish early in 2015. I can’t wait.

It occurred to me today that I should add in an ‘author’s note’ or ‘acknowledgements’ page of some sort.

If I was being brutally honest, my author’s note would say something like:

“This book has been made possible in no small part thanks to the efforts of Mr and Mrs Google. Their dedication to the project has been nothing short of immense. They have never let me down whenever I have called upon them. They are true professionals. Oh, and can I thank my children and my editor too.”

Of course I use a million other meticulous research methods to ensure that the facts in my book are unfailingly accurate. Without a doubt though, I have used google the most.

I thought it would be fun to list a few of my searches.

Women’s dress types (I am a bloke after all!!)

Different approaches to marriage guidance

The medical term for the heel bone

Boxer shorts v briefs

Ridiculous job titles

Festivals in Weymouth, UK, in June

Small live music venues, London, 1968

Correcting errors on a birth certificate

The difference between compliment and complement (I should have listened more in English lessons)

Workplace jargon

Sexually transmitted diseases (I was glad I had no first-hand knowledge of this topic)

Typical book word length (I was anxious to avoid a ‘War and Peace’ scenario)

It would be great to hear some of the more bizarre google searches you have undertaken.

And, google, as I have sung your praises here, in return can you please put my book as the first search result people see whenever they search for anything to do with divorce, relationships, family life, comedy, sex and contemporary fiction for the entire month of January please.

Ben

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.”

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.

Help! My editor is reading my book!

‘Six Months to Get a Life’ is virtually written. I am really proud of myself. The book currently has a 100% 5* rating. Ok, I am the only one to have read it so far but let’s not dwell on small irrelevancies.

Someone else is reading it now though. I have just sent my tome off to an editor.

I am now feeling as insecure as my principal character, Graham Hope. Will the editor like it or will they pan it as the worst piece of ‘literature’ they have ever had the misfortune to read?

I am of course hoping they report back that they love the book. That it is the best debut novel they have come across. It is certainly the best debut novel I have ever written.

But as a still wet behind the ears author, I am also hoping that my editor adds value to the plot and to my writing style. I don’t just want a pat on the back. I could get that from my mother.

On second thoughts, no I couldn’t. My mother would probably tell me there is too much swearing in it.

I was hoping to publish my book in the autumn but I want it to come out with a bang rather than a whimper so I am going to work with some lovely people to get it properly produced, marketed and promoted. This means publishing in early 2015.

The more I read about other authors’ experiences, the more I realise how much of a novice I am. I love writing but I need to get to love all the crap that goes with it if you want your book to be a success.

I am putting time into developing my ‘author platform’, whatever that means.

I am tweeting regularly but as far as I can tell, everyone on twitter talks but few listen.

I am reading about SEO and other three letter acronyms. FFS.

And ‘pay per click’ advertising is on my list of things to think about for this week.

I just hope that all this extra stuff doesn’t suck the creative energy out of me. Get me. As Ray, Graham Hope’s best mate in ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ would say, “Get a grip you tart. Don’t go all arty-farty on me.”

I would love to hear others’ thoughts on the whole process.

Ben