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.”

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

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

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

New extract, new author, new writing tips

I think I need to hone my response when someone comments on the lack of my wedding ring as today’s conversation with Sarah at work didn’t go swimmingly.

“Oh Graham, what’s happened to your wedding ring?”

“Sarah, I took it off because I have been officially divorced for two days now, I am single and living with my parents and seeing my kids at weekends.”

Sarah finished making her cup of tea rather quickly and left me alone in the kitchen.

I guess my response was a bit overpowering; in the same way as an innocent ‘how are you’ enquiry at the tea point might not be anticipating a ‘I have got cancer and only 4 weeks to live’ response…

Divorce does tend to dominate your life for a while. I have lost a lot of confidence in myself, in my ability to communicate and in my expectation that others will be interested in what I have to say.

My social life has suffered as a result. Confident people have more friends. Fact.

My social life has also suffered because, when we divorced, most of our ‘mutual’ friends took sides with my ex and are now giving me the cold shoulder. Or is that just my imagination? My lack of confidence is making me paranoid.

I remember when I used to be in with the drinking crowd at work. Every Friday night, most Friday lunchtimes and other nights too, I would get invited to various drinks to celebrate Fred’s leaving, Emily’s engagement, John’s promotion, Gemma’s new hairdo or Eamon’s ‘coming out party’. I am now considered too old to receive such invites, or maybe too married. We will see if they start flooding in to my inbox again now that I’m divorced.

 

Graham Hope is a fictional character who makes his entrance into the world in my forthcoming book ‘Six Months to Get a Life’.

I am thoroughly enjoying writing this book. In a short period of time I have learnt a lot about the whole process, from picking up valuable writing and editing tips through to information on how to promote your book through effective marketing, social media usage and book pricing.

I have been so impressed with other authors’ preparedness to share their secrets. I am going to share some of the valuable tips I have picked up from others in the coming weeks via this blog.

This week I stumbled across a couple of ‘writing process blog tour’ entries that reassured me. Writing isn’t something I do from 9-5, sitting in my study.

Until now I have been worried that I haven’t been systematic enough in my approach to writing. I write at irregular times and often in odd places. Often on the Northern Line. Delia Sherman and William Alexander suggest that I am not alone. Reassuring!