Will Dean - Dark Pines

In an occasional series, I will be featuring some of my fellow debut authors on my blog. The writing community has been very supportive of me and CLOSE TO ME, so it's great to be able to spread the word about some amazing books and their brilliant authors.

There's so much written on the endlessly fascinating theme of 'journey to publication' so I thought it might be fun to break that down into three captioned photos. To kick things off in very fine style, Will Dean, author of Dark Pines, shares his three photos. I think he's going to be a tough act of follow! Many thanks to Will for these great pictures.

Dark Pines is released in January 2018 by Oneworld Publications

THE FIRST DRAFT I thought the first draft of Dark Pines would take around six months. In fact, it took four weeks. That's because the voice of my protagonist, Tuva Moodyson, came through so clearly from page one. I'd written a novel before (awful, now locked securely in a drawer) and Dark Pines felt different. This was natural. It was fun. For four weeks I was fully immersed in the story and the small town world. I wrote the first draft in my son's naps (two naps a day equated to two chapters - thank god he slept well back then). It was an intense, trance-like experience and after I typed 'The End' I was exhausted.

THE FIRST DRAFT

I thought the first draft of Dark Pines would take around six months. In fact, it took four weeks. That's because the voice of my protagonist, Tuva Moodyson, came through so clearly from page one. I'd written a novel before (awful, now locked securely in a drawer) and Dark Pines felt different. This was natural. It was fun. For four weeks I was fully immersed in the story and the small town world. I wrote the first draft in my son's naps (two naps a day equated to two chapters - thank god he slept well back then). It was an intense, trance-like experience and after I typed 'The End' I was exhausted.

THE FIRE Because I wrote the first draft so quickly it was an ugly, misshapen monster. So once the buzz of that intense creative period was over the hard work began. I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote. My first draft had the mood and the characters and the place and the general story arc, but very little plot. It was through rewriting that I discovered my characters' secrets and lies. I didn't have enough space to keep paper copies of every draft so I burned them in my forest clearing (it's a boggy swamp so there's no risk of forest fire!) and cooked sausages over the burning words.  

THE FIRE

Because I wrote the first draft so quickly it was an ugly, misshapen monster. So once the buzz of that intense creative period was over the hard work began. I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote. My first draft had the mood and the characters and the place and the general story arc, but very little plot. It was through rewriting that I discovered my characters' secrets and lies. I didn't have enough space to keep paper copies of every draft so I burned them in my forest clearing (it's a boggy swamp so there's no risk of forest fire!) and cooked sausages over the burning words.

 

THE PROOFS This photo captures a very special day. My first proof copy. I walked through the woods to reach my mailbox (a 2km round trip) and found a Jiffy bag stuffed inside. It was from Oneworld. It said 'Air Mail'. I ran back home to my clearing like a little kid. To take a breath and open the package and hold my book for the first time was a moving experience. It was beautiful. And when I look at it now I see all the hours of work, the fugue state first draft, all the rewriting and reading out loud, the missed dinners, all the red ink, the unsolicited submissions, the rejections, the heartache, the agents who liked it, the offers, the daunting meetings, the signing, being on submission, the deal, the further edits, the cover design process, the comments from generous first readers. My agent, Kate Burke, and my editor, Jenny Parrott, helped me so much. I wouldn't have had a Jiffy bag to open if it wasn't for them. I wrote the story, but it took a team to make the book.    

THE PROOFS

This photo captures a very special day. My first proof copy. I walked through the woods to reach my mailbox (a 2km round trip) and found a Jiffy bag stuffed inside. It was from Oneworld. It said 'Air Mail'. I ran back home to my clearing like a little kid. To take a breath and open the package and hold my book for the first time was a moving experience. It was beautiful. And when I look at it now I see all the hours of work, the fugue state first draft, all the rewriting and reading out loud, the missed dinners, all the red ink, the unsolicited submissions, the rejections, the heartache, the agents who liked it, the offers, the daunting meetings, the signing, being on submission, the deal, the further edits, the cover design process, the comments from generous first readers. My agent, Kate Burke, and my editor, Jenny Parrott, helped me so much. I wouldn't have had a Jiffy bag to open if it wasn't for them. I wrote the story, but it took a team to make the book.

 

 

Many thanks to Will for these great pictures.

Dark Pines is released in January 2018 by Oneworld Publications

The Slush Pile

There's been a lot of discussion on Twitter this week about routes to publication, and whether it's an open and fair system. I guess it's always good to pause and consider, to make sure that writers of quality can be found, even in less accessible places. It should be talent that wins out, but often it's combined with a great deal of hard work and determination, and of course, rejection. Tenacity is key, because very few authors have found an easy path to publication. CLOSE TO ME wasn't my first book, or even my second. It took me years to get agent, because the books I submitted weren't good enough - simple as that.

My own story is, I hope, of some comfort, especially if you don't know anyone in publishing, or even much about the machinations of turning your idea into a published book. I was found via the Slush Pile, the rather unfortunate term for the teetering pile of submissions every literary agent must wade through, most often in their own time. My agent, Sarah Williams, was not the first agent I had approached, but she was my first choice. I didn't hesitate when she offered me representation, and it has proved to be a very good decision. An agent is key, they protect you, nurture you, ask the questions you may not have thought of, or want to ask! They keep the faith when it's sometimes hard to. They help you see what's working, and what isn't. They tell you things your friends and family won't. 

Once you have an agent, you may well work with them editorially to get your manuscript into the best possible shape before it is submitted to publishers. That's what happened to me, so initially Sarah was my only point of contact. I knew no one and nothing much about the world I was desperate to join, but she knew it all, guiding me and managing my expectations. When she sent out CLOSE TO ME it sold very quickly, a planned auction then replaced by a pre-empt from Wildfire at Headline. All those years of trying and then it happened so fast - surreal!

Once I had a publishing deal, I begin to realise just how many people it takes to bring a book to the point of publication, and beyond. 

For CLOSE TO ME, I first worked with my editor at Headline, another round of edits completed almost straight away, to get the book ready for type-setting so proofs could go out to early readers and reviewers. It's vital to build as much buzz as possible in the months before publication, so I was also invited by my publisher to a blogger night, and then a crime writers' party. At both events my book was one of the titles introduced for the following year, proofs given out and signed - another first.

Behind the scenes, the cover was being finalised, and Headline's publicity, marketing and sales teams were gearing up for publication, first an eBook, then paperback. There was also an audio version produced in the UK, and the sub-rights were sold at auction to Penguin Random House for a US audio version . 

For the US version of the book, out in hardback in December, I had another editor, who emailed me as we worked through the cultural and language changes needed. A different cover design was sent to me for approval, from Quercus US, who have already pulled off an amazing cover reveal with an Instagram-er who has a huge following. 

In Italy, the book has a translator, and another beautiful cover, and I assume the same will be true in the other terrorises where CLOSE TO ME has sold.

Via my agent, I also have contact with my foreign rights agent, and a TV and Film agent as there's a script in development.

It's hard when you are facing rejection, just you and those you choose to tell invested in your work, but with each rejection I edged closer to my dream. I was learning my craft and earning my place. It's impossible to imagine the huge network of individuals, teams, and whole organisations who will back you when your book is contracted for publication. The tendrils extend far and wide, the effort on your behalf humbling. It then seems even more impossible that it has happened - but it did, via that slush pile!

Not every book can succeed, not every book will be loved, or bought, or reviewed. I've been so lucky with the response to CLOSE TO ME, I know that, but it's still a white-knuckle ride at times, filled with huge highs and lows. Not that I want to get off, it's been my dream for a while, longer than I care to say, but there are still days, weeks even, when it's just me and that fragile faith in the fact I can write another book, appear at a literature festival, conquer the imposter syndrome that still washes over me if I allow it to.

And now I've met other authors, who are friends, and our stories are not so dissimilar. Regardless of who you know, or which course you may be able to afford to attend, the slush pile exists for a good reason, because it contains those manuscripts which will be read, and loved, and nurtured to publication. 

If you are a female writer with a manuscript ready for submission to agents, please take a look at my WoMentoring profile - it's free, why not apply?

Amanda x

 

 

 

 

Book Launch

Some pictures to share with you the launch for the paperback publication of Close To Me on 27th July. Many thanks to Waterstones in Cheltenham who hosted so beautifully. 

Lovely Jo, keeping me calm with her spot-on questions

Lovely Jo, keeping me calm with her spot-on questions

The thrill of seeing a display of my books in Waterstones

The thrill of seeing a display of my books in Waterstones

Happy with flowers and book in hand after the signing

Happy with flowers and book in hand after the signing

Publication Day and Beyond…

Many times over the years I’ve imagined what it might be like to be a published author. It’s the first thing anyone asks when you tell them you’re writing a book. ‘Oh, are you published?’ ‘Not yet,’ I’d say, ‘I’m still trying.’  And that’s how it was, until I found myself in a meeting with my publisher, listening to marketing ideas, agreeing editing schedules, and trying to take in sales information, a flurry of new faces and voices introduced to me, all totally enthused about my work. This was it, the door had opened and I’d stepped inside, into another world. There would be an eBook, out on the 31st March 2017, (the first book for Wildfire, a new imprint of Headline), then a paperback publication to follow in July 2017.

For my eBook publication day, I’d planned a lunch with three writer friends and a fancy-schmancy dinner with family, but then a vile virus took hold, at least my third cold in as many months, and I never get colds. So, in my pyjamas, with a box of tissues, I began the day I’d long anticipated.

I’m a Twitter addict at the best of times, so the first thing to do was check my phone. I was delighted to find it was filled with a festival of good wishes. Still in PJs, I can lose hours on Twitter, I answered the door to a beautiful bouquet from the team at Wildfire, blue thistles and red roses to match the cover colours of Close To Me.

Throughout the day the reviews built nicely and by the evening I was feeling well enough to manage a glass or two of bubbly and a scaled-back meal out, which was probably all the nicer for being a bit less fancy-schmancy.

In the weeks since publication there have been many exciting moments.

Close To Me has twice been in the Amazon UK Top 100, and in Australia/New Zealand it made the Top Ten in the iTunes book chart, outselling every other debut author.

There was also a print run for Australia/New Zealand, a beautiful trade paperback; a dozen author copies arriving by courier in a big box! (He probably didn’t need to know what they were, but the delivery guy still feigned excitement on my behalf, bless him!)

The blog tour lasted a week, a new post to wake up to every day, which generated a lot of buzz around publication.

And the audio version was released, narrated by Rachel Atkins who is wonderful as Jo.

It’s impossible to predict how your words will connect with a readership, but after publication, when your thoughts are sent out into the world, something magic begins to happen, spidery lines creeping out from the pages, connecting up, feeding back how this or that part of the book resonated, as though you’ve made new friends, ones who really get what you were trying to say. One reader told me they’d vowed to make the most of the time with their kids, Jo’s empty nest a timely reminder, and someone else tweeted ‘I no longer want to wait for someday, if mine is half as good, I will be pleased’, which as a creative writing tutor is about as good a response as I could hope for. Then there was the review that compared Close To Me to Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty, one of my favourite books.

I would still write even if I was never published, but I’m not going to lie, it’s been even better than I’d imagined. So, if you’re wondering if it’s worth all the sacrifice and rejection then the answer is, ‘Yes! A million times, yes!’

Amanda Reynolds - May 2017

Connecting with Book Bloggers

In the run up to publication of my first book, Close To Me, I plan to share a few of my experiences as a debut author; from the events that led up to my book deal, up to publication and beyond. First up, I’m looking at the world of the book blogger, those industrious readers who work tirelessly to create a buzz, often many weeks or months before a publication hits the shelves.

One of the first events I was invited to as a newly signed author was Headline’s Blogger Night, held at their head office in London. Carmelite House is a beautiful venue with a gorgeous rooftop terrace overlooking the Thames, although with a few flakes of snow in the air that chilly February night, it was far too nippy to venture outside. It’s a measure of the contribution bloggers make to book sales that such events are so popular, a great chance for authors, established and new, to meet with the people who in the coming months will discuss, share, review and blog about their books. I met some amazing authors and bloggers, and even signed my first books! The whole evening was a joy, and whizzed by far too fast.

Here I am with John from Last Word Book Review at the Headline Blogger Night.

(Picture courtesy of Georgina Moore Communications Director, Headline)

As proofs have been sent out of Close To Me, and early review copies via Netgalley, it’s been great to see the photos, tweets, comments, and reviews coming back via social media.

Anne Cater, a blogger for six years now, talks about this process on her blog http://randomthingsthroughmyletterbox.blogspot.co.uk

‘New bloggers often ask for blogging tips and I always say 'Twitter is the best'!  Publishers and authors promote their books on Twitter all the time. They tweet tantalising pictures of new releases, and book trailers, and cover reveals. Often, publishers will shout out for bloggers and reviewers via Twitter. They have proofs, they want reviews, 'RT if you'd like a copy', they say, and we do, and we get a copy, and we review it, and we tweet the review ... it's the circle of Twitter. Lots of bloggers and reviewers will tweet a photo of the books that arrive in the post. Commonly known as #bookpost.  #Bookpost is not a brag, it's a way of saying thanks to the publisher and the author, but it's also another way of getting the book noticed. Other readers will see the photo, it creates interest, and pre-orders, and conversations. It's great marketing. It's all about the book.’

So what else did the bloggers have to say when I asked them for tips and suggestions for a newbie author? The number one piece of (universal) advice is to always be polite! It should be a given, shouldn’t it?  Lainey from alwaysreading.net says it’s not always the case,

‘It can be frustrating when you are trying to get your work out there, but being aggressive and/or rude will only get you the wrong kind of attention.  Bloggers talk, harassment (sadly it does happen) will get a blanket ban and reputable bloggers won't give you the time of day.’

John from thelastwordbookreview.wordpress.com concurs,

‘I think the main thing is respect for bloggers. We give our time freely. We ask for nothing. Reading a book then writing a review is not easy and we do not always get it right. But at times the pressure is huge. Most (bloggers) have day jobs and cannot respond straight away, remember how many books we have arriving and that we are not obliged to review every single book.’

You only have to look at the tottering TBR piles of books the bloggers Tweet about to see how long the review queue can be. That’s not to say some books aren’t bumped up the pile, but good manners and respect are the key when requesting a review.

Sharon from shazsbookblog.blogspot.co.uk says it’s important authors do their homework,

‘Most bloggers do have an about me or review policy on the blog which is likely to show whether they are currently accepting review requests, what genres they read & whether they do guest content or author features. Check out their sites to make sure that their blog is the best fit for your book... nothing worse than contacting someone who only reads crime with a steamy romance novel. If emailing or contacting a blogger via their blog, address them by their name etc. I've had emails just addressed to dear blogger or no one at all, but definitely preferable to being addressed by someone else's name entirely!’

Lainey also has some advice regarding negative reviews, which may temper those feelings of rejection when faced with an unenthusiastic response to your book,

‘Some authors get really upset over low star reviews but these have their place and generate sales.  I recommend all the time, even books I didn't love because I have such a wide variety of friends and we won't ever all love the same thing. How you (author) respond to reviews (good and bad) says a lot about you and I personally love when authors take it in their stride. Some authors share them and acknowledge not everyone will enjoy their books.  I like knowing there are authors out there who take the good with the bad, even masterpieces will be hated and trolled by some.  Doesn't mean the book is bad it just isn't for that reader.’

Let’s face it, no one likes a bad review, but even a critical review can help with sales, it’s an interesting thought. So why do bloggers blog? Anne sums it up beautifully,

‘I love the fact that I've met some amazing people: bloggers, reviewers, authors and publishers. I've been to some fabulous events, in places that I'd never ever have been to otherwise. My reviews have been quoted on real books; books that are sold in bookshops and supermarkets - my words, that I wrote, there is nothing quite like that feeling. I’m part of a community who all love the same thing; the written word. I love that.’

Many thanks to all the bloggers who helped me with comments and feedback for this article.

Amanda Reynolds - March 2017