Tackling the writer’s To Do list

Finally, I have faced the list on my desk. Actually this is a rolling list, I tick off some things, then as the page fills up, I start a clean sheet and roll the undone items forward. Some things have been there for months because… they are all to do with marketing and I find them somewhat embarrassing.

Today’s task was to wipe out the list so, among other things, I have joined goodreads.com, and I have accepted an invitation (which may by now have lapsed) to be interviewed as a Sunday Guest on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life. I have ducked on asking my old college if they want to do a piece on my last novel in their newsletter (previously another person has done this on my behalf and I lack the chutzpah to ask them myself). I will do this for my forthcoming, more academic, non-fiction book. The list is now empty.

Why, oh why is this so difficult?

I have spent a happy three weeks doing DIY, lining our 9″ solid brick walls with 4mm fleece, doing really tricksy measuring and cutting.DSCN6936 DSCN6939 I have the fortune to be able to choose what I do. I could be happy all the time, gardening, doing DIY, reading, going Lindy Hopping, or to the opera and I have endless other occupations, so why write, publish and have to market books? Do I think I have something so important to say that others have not already said? (no) Would I become bored after all without the writing? (possibly) Would I think less of myself if I didn’t attempt this challenge? (probably). Do I secretly enjoy it?… Actually, no secret, I definitely enjoy parts of it. I love the challenge and the project aspect of the work (that’s another whole post). I just hate marketing…  (Enough of the confessional).

While I was thus occupied, winter made its usual erratic visit to the UK. DSCN6985 DSCN6986 We may get another few inches tomorrow, or it may all have disappeared. Who can say.

Pains and joys – more lessons for the writer and self-publisher

When Border Line came back from the printers, I couldn’t bear to open it for fear of coming across a gigantic error or a name missing from the acknowledgements. So I opened one box, took one copy out and gave it my husband, then shut the box. A week later I bumped into my dear supporter, neighbour and kind reader of early drafts, Maureen Katrak, and knew as I talked to her that I has missed her name from the acknowledgements.

Three days ago I discovered I had forgotten someone equally deserving of my thanks, David King. From the other side of the Atlantic, battling with MS and unable to read without voice software, David has read and given me feedback on at least three drafts of Border Line over the years.

I don’t know by what malign convolution my brain has managed to let slip these names as I wrote up my acknowledgements, I only know that these two people should have been there at the top of the list and I owe them both heartfelt thanks for all they have done.

So, dear writing friends, don’t be an idiot like me, keep a scrupulous record of those amazing people who give you their time, their thoughts, their honest opinions and their kindness.

On Saturday, still reeling from the mortification this last discovery, I attended The Linton Kitchen Christmas Fair on a sunny but freezing day.
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I set up the tiniest stall possible with 15 copies of Border Line and two or three of my previous novel Unseen Unsung, mostly to prop up the newspaper article about me. In spite of thermals, my fingers froze and my toes seized up on the cobbles. I expected, if I was lucky, to sell half a dozen books. After a hurried re-supply from my husband, I sold 23 copies of Border Line IMG_0834and 6 of Unseen Unsung. For a small-scale self-published author these are significant numbers. So selling in a local venue where your face is familiar (notwithstanding the threat of frostbite) is a better bet than a getting your books onto a shelf in a book shop.

I had two copies left when I took this photo.

 

Mea culpa – red-faced publisher

Umm, I have a confession. All this stress over Amazon making my life as a publisher (Threadgold Press) into a nightmare and endangering sales of my new book (Border Line) may be my fault. I asked them, yet again, why they did not send an email to me about an order, and I put in the email address I expected them to use. They replied that if I wanted to use this email address I had better change my settings, because the one they had was… They had a non-existent email address, a mixture of two of my three addresses. This particular stramash is an error I have made in the past, so I’m sure it is my fault. Apologies Amazon Advantage (ouch!).

My penance is to tell you all and perhaps help one other person to avoid the same pitfall, and to check their settings when expected emails go astray. In spite of GIGANTIC embarrassment, I am happier than before, because an intractable problem has an explanation and a cure, so the problem should disappear.

All I need now is a placatory photo so that you will remember the photo and not my idiocy.PICT0001

Author (almost) Faints at Book-Signing Event!!

If Amazon put me through a two-week version of the author and publisher’s worst nightmare, today the gods handed out one of those moments that an author can only dream of. No, I didn’t sell 100 books, or get signed up by an agent or publisher. It was sweeter than that.

I was sitting in the corner of the friendly and comfortable café of the Gog Magog Hills Farm Shop Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 22.02.14DSCN6799(Like so – sorry, this only comes blurred.) I had distributed little booklets with info about Border Line  all over the room and left a browsing copy on one of the tables plus various other signals. However the café was full much of the day and I remained hidden. Several friends came and we all chatted and I sold a satisfactory trickle of books and I had my photo taken with an interesting Chinese visitor, Josie, who bought a copy too.                             In the afternoon a couple of women came and sat on the table next to me, glanced at my leaflet and got on with their tea and chat. Finally, as they left, one of them leaned over and spoke to me, and I explained that I was signing my new book. Then she spotted copies of my earlier novel, Unseen Unsung, and said, ‘Do you mean you are the author of that book?’ I agreed I was. I was gobsmacked by her reaction and modesty prevents me from repeating… well actually I was so overwhelmed by all she said I can’t remember it enough to repeat. After saying many wonderful things, she explained to her friend that she had made her reading group get it and it had been difficult to get enough copies and they had had to share books, she didn’t have her own copy… I sat there is a state of blissful amazement.

Anyway, I think if you ask any writer what would make them happiest in the world, it would be to hear from a stranger, who had read their book, a spontaneous and generous appreciation of it. So Tracy and Alison, if you should happen upon this post, thank you for making all that sweat, uncertainty, aspiration and crazy numbers of hours shifting words from A to B (and often back again), all worthwhile in the end. I really mean that.

Publication day and the blood pressure challenge

Border Line 2Border Line will be released tomorrow… except that two days ago Amazon took the print book off the UK site. A friend who had pre-ordered the book had the order cancelled and received an email saying… ‘Our supplier has informed us that it’s been discontinued and is no longer available.’

I, the publisher, supplier and author, have sent no such information.

This came on top of increasingly frantic efforts to get a cover image for the print book onto the Amazon UK site. In the course of these efforts I discovered that Nielsen have been feeding out the image to Amazon since August, but Amazon are having problems with images and are still working on a fix.

At this moment, Border Line (print version), can be found by clicking on the kindle edition icon, then choosing ‘paperback’ from the list. This then shows it as unavailable, but you can put it on a wish list. If I had been trying to dream up a way to raise the blood pressure of a small publisher/author to danger levels, I don’t think I could have done better job than Amazon have achieved.Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 18.54.12

In the grand scheme of things these are trivial problems. So on the plus side, I have twice met the hedgehog outside the back door, either with his face in the trough, or waiting patiently by an empty one. We have had a visitation by a small flock of goldcrests, picking spiders off our window ledges. They were too swift to photograph, but they did reduce the blood pressure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATomorrow I shall have a peaceful day, signing copies of Border Line (or twiddling my thumbs) at the wonderful Gog Magog Hills farm shop.

 

(Self)publisher in a spin

Or Threadgold Press up the creek with not much more than a couple of lollipop sticks.

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When you decide to self-publish it’s a good idea to remember that what you are taking on is at least six people’s jobs. You have to park the fact that you are the author and settle down at your desk. First you become a typesetter, an editor, a designer and a proofreader. Then your Office Manager gets down to the practical stuff of commissioning the printing, and getting it sorted and delivered (and hiring heavies to persuade everyone you know to proofread… again), then the Catering Manager organises the launch party and the Publicity Manager takes care of the press releases and the local newspapers and talks. The Marketing Manager emails every person you have ever met and persuades them to buy an advance copy. At which point the office supply personnel get busy with the packaging, the stamps, while the Accountant keeps records of sales and the paperwork to go with the orders. The IT Advisor sorts out (or fails to sort out) the glitches with the Amazon system for uploading e-books and images.

What have I left out?

The office staff let the author out this morning for a ten minute run around the garden. She got a little over-excited by her ‘Maple nursery’ (seedlings of Matzsukaze and Sengokaku) in autumn glory. And some brave autumn crocus mixed with primroses (!)   DSCN6789DSCN6792But she is back at her desk now, happily parcelling up an order for three more books (and worrying about whether the print run will last until publication day).

It’s even more DIY than last time round. The City newspaper, has asked the author to provide her own article ‘From the Author’s Mouth’ and supply book-cover image and author photo. The local farm shop is kindly allowing her to sign books in their cafe on the release date. Ah well, she can now drink the ginger wine – a thank you yesterday from the group at the sheltered housing in the village who, in spite of multiple challenges, listened sweetly to her babbling on about the joys of writing.

eBook cover adventure

The last week or so has been too packed to blog. Happy family visit, soft proofs to check, print cover to approve and The Great eBook Cover Design Competition. I was the lucky winner of a free Book cover from the Writer’s Workshop. This came too late for the print version, but seemed like a good idea for the eBook. I was given £189 credit for a bronze cover design from 99Designs.

First, I had to fill in a Design Brief including images to give potential designers a direction. Being naive, my brief was misleading and my reduced heading read: ‘An upbeat story about suicide, love and Slovenia’. Then, the brief is opened up to designers worldwide online for 4 days. You select the best designers during that time and then go on to refine entries until you choose to award a winner (total 7 days for bronze).

To start with I didn’t have many entries (though there were things I could have done to increase this). The ones that did appear were often distressingly inappropriate. Prettily-coiffed girls with computers in meadows and mountains – sort of modern Heidi on Holiday style. I rated (stars) and commented on each entry, and updated my brief to explain that in my story a computer is only used at night in Devon and that the girl had unruly hair (difficult for designers with limited English). Some Wild Girl in Wild Landscape designs followed –teenage adventure style. I tried asking for something a bit more grown-up and got raunchy, steamy romance covers, then Airport Monumental, I asked for sad and got Noir (I wish I could show you). By this stage I was struggling between laughter and tears. One designer was particularly persistent and I worried that he was putting in so much work with only negative feedback from me. I assumed that he was on a different wavelength.

There are also ‘watchers’, that is designers who follow the competition, looking at the entries and the feedback. You can go and check their designs and invite them to join in. However, out of the blue, my persistent designer produced a perfect (stock) image for my story. With enormous patience, and feedback from me, he adapted it, tweak by tweak, until it was just what I had hoped for. Here is the winning entry from didiwahyudi.trend all the way from Indonesia. It links quietly to my print cover, while giving me the all-important figure I need for the eBook thumbnail. Hope you like it.

BL- COVER fix

My proofs and the print cover went back to the printers last night and my new eBook cover arrived on my desktop 20 minutes ago.

Now I shall go and cultivate my garden.

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