Thursday, 22 September 2011

Marketing: Mayhem, Madness or Murder?

So the book is published. I have an ISBN number for ebook, one for paperback copies and one for hardback copies.
I have one month, maybe six weeks at most, to begin marketing Driftwood & Amethyst. Because I've published with Xlibris, there are certain ways they will support marketing. They have created a website for my book which will go live on the day of release.We have a press release and a review, both of which will be published on particular websites and in trade journals and magazines. So I know that some marketing exists already.
So why am I getting jittery about it all?
I feel like I need to make this happen! So, I'm planning my own little campaign of radio and newspaper interviews.
By working out my potential readers (in my case 7-11 year olds initially) I can work out potential buyers (parents and teachers initially).
This in turn enables me to list all magazines, newspapers and radio programmes this section of society may read/listen to. And then ask the question - would they perhaps like an interview with a new author?! I've read that it always helps to prepare a fact sheet for busy papers and journals who may be happy to write an article about your new book when you provide the information! Next job for me then . . .
November and December will bring those all important book signings, readings and Book Events - meeting the public and encouraging them to buy the book, read the book, like the book - "Please like the book!"
I've been laying down foundations for this and some book shops and libraries have already 'signed up' in principal. I just need to make sure I have promoted these events in good time using the aforementioned interviews and then Twitter, Facebook, posters, flyers and newsletters. Oh yes - and then I must order enough books should I need them at these events!
Right, I have quite a lot to be getting on with. In between marketing Driftwood & Amethyst, I must complete those articles to earn some money and the develop the outline for my new children's novel (under wraps of course).
I always thought being a published writer would be quite enough, regardless of how many articles, poems or stories I had published. But publishing Driftwood & Amethyst has been the icing on the cake for me.
Now earning a living - that would be the cherry on top!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Copyediting, re-editing, check, re-check and check again :@

Driftwood & Amethyst has its final tidy-up today and by tomorrow it will be on its way to the designers for official printing to begin. Terrifying, bewildering and tremendously exciting.

The process has involved so many stages since submitting the manuscript, it has been a real eye-opener.
Not only are font size, page totals and justification issues to be deliberated and cogitated, but actually seeing the manuscript safely through the editing process can be just as tricky.

As a copy editor reads through the manuscript, s/he makes punctuation, grammar and word suggestions which can:

(a) improve the flow of writing
(b) stilt the flow of writing
(c) completely change the organisation of writing and disrupt the flow altogether.

Hoping a copy edit was foolproof, I had not envisaged changing anything altered by the copy editor I was assigned. However, the last month has been spent unpicking grammatical changes, punctuation changes and the inserting and deleting of words. Of course, some changes worked, but if I'm honest these ran to less than five.
The quality of service I've received from the other two members of staff at the publishers, however, has been really good - both of them have worked tirelessly to help this fledgling author into publication. The copyeditor let the whole side down.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Publishing Quandry - What to do?

When can we say that all elements of the novel are completed and ready to publish? My list for my first novel has gone something like this:

  • Manuscript is accepted
  • Copyediting is completed
  • The manuscript has been checked and rechecked
  • Cover copy is complete (blurb, author's note, dedication)
  • ISBN numbers are in place
  • Deal with Amazon to publish as an ebook is done
  • Front cover is complete
However, in the case of Driftwood &Amethyst, the front cover is in the process of being altered (again) to appeal to as wide an audience as it can within the 7-11yrs remit. With an audience of under 12s as the potential market, Driftwood & Amethyst initially had a light, holiday type front cover which did not evoke the darker elements of the story.
The image was then replaced with a full figure wooden puppet sat on a bobbin, head bowed, in sepia and reds. He is a bit creepy, which is deliberate, and central to the story, but he does not represent the main characters of the story. Is this image inappropriate? Or coy and mysterious? I wish I knew.

Initially, I was completely sure that the image was correct and was happy with the suggested choices my publisher had made. Yet, as publication draws closer and closer, I am doubting everything about this book's front cover.
Reassured by a range of author posts online, this seems to be an all too common case of the pre-publishing jitters.

Writing magazine's article 'Softening the fear factor' by Anita Rowe proved enlightening too as it reassured me that my writing is pitched well to:

 'arouse those shivers down the spine without scaring young readers out of their wits'

and encouraged me to worry less about the cover as the story will be the part of the book they either love or hate!

But after much consideration, the cover image is now being lightened, in order to reach the younger (yet brave) end of the market and take away the horror element I don't want to evoke on the front cover. The book has got to picked up off the shelf after all.
Unsure of our grasp on the fear factor coped with by readers of this age group, I'm considering trialling the image with a group of children between 7 and 9 to check how realistic we are being. Would this really make the whole damn business any clearer? I doubt it!

After all, Doctor Who has an audience of 5+ and recent episodes have been visually terrifying - the book covers are ultra-creepy too. As are many of the examples of speculative fiction for pre-teens I've looked at, except for the fact that the protaganists are sometimes on the front cover in a 'comic book' style.  I, unfortunately didn't have this option as money for an illustrator was a luxury I could not afford.

Must focus on the bigger picture - the book is being published after all. Maybe I'm panicking? I think I am. Must stop this madness and get on with some story writing. I've been wittling (as my dear Grandma Green would say) all morning.

And in the great words of ... somebody out there:

Worry, worry, worry - it's like you're on a rocking chair,
You worry, worry, worry, but you get nowhere.

I'll ring the guy in charge of the front cover for a little supportive chat and then get on with something else. I want the book to be perfect, but essentially, I want it published - let's hope this time the front cover is more as I had envisaged.

Procrastination over.
Onwards and upwards!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Live Your Life: Existence is Never Enough.

Last week, I attended a Pain Management Refresher Day up at Northern General Hospital in Sheffield. I last attended a nine week course of the same name three years ago and sat sobbing through the first two sessions, as I was in the very early stages of losing my career, my freedom, independence, sense of self - you name it, I'd lost it. Back then, the very fact I could no longer teach (I still thought I'd be able to do something but that blow was yet to come) was enough to floor me. I was a teacher. My work defined me (Superman's words but my sentiment exactly)

So, I attended the course, feeling beyond reach of any further support where pain management is concerned. I was sure I had my routine sussed, my limitations dealt with. How wrong I was.

Meeting the group, I was re-united with my fabulous OT (Occupational Therapist) Jill and a therapist called Miranda who's big on the alternative therapies.

It was good to review knowledge of pain and the awareness that pain is not a mechanical problem to be fixed, but rather a system which works through a process managed by responses and chemicals.
For those of us with a chronic pain problem, as we have repeated pain messages from a point of pain, up the spinal column to the brain and back again, the process becomes more sensitised and you become locked in a vicious cycle, rarely, if ever, free from pain.
As pain is exhausting, chronic pain and chronic fatigue go hand in hand and ensuring those around us are aware of that is ever important . I really struggle with this one, as do many in the group that day.

We shared our own experiences. The first was from a girl with chronic pain and a very real fear of falling after a falling accident that is keeping her housebound. Her recovery is hindered by a growing agrophobia, eating issues and increasing anxiety.
Then a stoic woman in her 60s, who had lived with chronic pain since an accident at eighteen years old, told us that retirement has given her a release from the frustration and embarrassment she has felt all her life at not being able to work and this release had enabled her to relax and stop the panic attacks and a constant fear of reprisal from neighbours. We all nodded as we recognised ourselves there.
A woman in her early thirties sat two seats away from me. Her experiences mirrored mine exactly and I found myself staring in the mirror at myself five years before. She had recently had to stop working as chronic fatigue finally overwhelmed her. Over twenty years of fighting illness had taken their toll and she looked tearful, exhausted and beaten.
As I listened to her, I identified completely with her story. She is in the very early stages of this new life and I felt such sadness for her.

As Miranda and Jill talked to us about developing Mindfulness, I slipped back a few years, remembering my past and who I had once been - a young woman with a busy social life, all spare moments spent with my husband and dear friends at the theatre, music events, London bars, the cinema, walking and travelling every weekend. I had a hectic career as a teacher, the best job in the world for me, making a difference step by step for the children in my care and the staff I supported in an East London school.

Being taken through the following steps, we were asked to acknowledge how we respond to the past, present and future plans. Here goes.

My Past.
We must try to let go of what was.

Here and Now
Each day, try to make optimistic choices based on your past and current experiences

My Future
We must make realistic plans and look forward.

I didn't make plans for the future. I noticed how resigned I had become to my fate. I even call it that. My Fate. Like it's all over and the fat lady didn't even serenade me.

Where has my lust for life gone? My positivity? Must work harder on this! I think for all people with chronic pain, the past and the present are enough to be dealing with on a day to day basis.

 But without a glimmer of hope for the future, all left is darkness. We need light, hope, excitement and dreams.
Without them we have nothing.

I know where I need to be aiming right now and I promise to do so. For all people suffering with chronic pain problems the following points must be part of our focus each day:

Exercise - Do Something: swimming, walking, bending or stretching. You know your limits.
Work* - Do Something: for those who work, create aims and develop your strengths. If 'working' from home is an option, find your strengths and work to them, whether you can write, bake, educate yourself or personally extend yourself in some way.
*broadly speaking: not necessarily paid - many are incapacitated and can't earn a living.
Family - Do Something: aim to make contact each day if you are alone, or spend quality time with those at home with you each day, talking, watching TV together, playing cards, just go for it.
Future Plans - Do Something: Make plans. It may be to invite a friend round in a week or two, or plan a trip out to the park. It may be for a friend to collect you and go to a cafe for coffee. It does not have to be huge.

I remember a huge step for me last year was going for coffee at a cafe up the road. Preparing myself, looking presentable, being in public, walking in to the cafe from the car and managing conversation for over an hour! I was anxious before and exhausted afterwards. But I did it. The pay off was a slower day the next day, but it was well worth it. Knowing I could manage that meant I would be able to do it again.
Not every week, but often. Opening that door was a significant move.

Positivity is key. Yes, it's exhausting, but everything is - do something each day that will move you forward. Physically, Mentally and Spiritually.

And there lies my lesson. Live your life. Existence is never enough.