Posts Tagged ‘darklands’

Books and freebies

This Saturday I’ll be signing copies of Darklands and Kikimora at Wirksworth Big Book Day. I’ve also got some freebies and goodies to give away, so do come and say hello if you’re in the vicinity.

There’ll be other book stalls, and I am promised a variety of book-themed events going on around town.

Wirksworth is where I went to school many years ago, and is a picturesque little town with bags of character. There is fantastic involvement with and support of the Arts in the town, and its annual Arts Festival in September is deservedly renowned.

If you haven’t visited before, now is an ideal time to acquaint yourself with its charms.

The Book Fair will be in the Memorial Hall on St John’s Street, from 10am until 4pm, Saturday 8th April.

I look forward to seeing you there!

A proud moment today. My old school requested a signed copy of Darklands for the school library.

When I was young I wanted to be lots of things: a pirate, James Bond, a mad scientist with sticky up white hair, Tarzan, a painter, an explorer… I also kind of liked writing stories. But I remember quite distinctly at the age of 13 realising that writing was the one; the real one. That’s what I was going to do with my life.

And I have, more or less. It doesn’t yet pay the bills, so something else has to, but I have been writing stories on and off for over quarter of a century. It takes me a while, and if something isn’t quite working I set it aside for a year or two. Or ten.

But I got there in the end, publishing my first novel, Darklands, in 2011.

When my old school requested a signed copy it made me think of the time in Mr Hannam’s English class when the idea took hold in my mind that I would be a writer. I don’t recall specifically what sparked it; but I knew that I loved words; I loved stories. And whatever magic made printed words sweep you up and take you on incredible journeys – I wanted to do that.

As an indie author it’s easy to get demoralised and to feel that you’re shouting into a void, but today I’ll take a moment to feel proud. I made a decision at the age of 13; I worked towards it in my spare time, I persevered when I felt discouraged, I made sacrifices of time and earnings – and 25 years later I achieved what I’d set out to. I published my first novel.

Signed copy of Darklands going to Anthony Gell School

Signed copy of Darklands going to Anthony Gell School

Darklands giveaway prize

Darklands giveaway

The winner of my first blogoversary prize draw is Pete Denton. Congratulations, Pete! A parcel of goodies is winging its way to him as I type.

I had some grand ambitions for how I was going to produce such a gorgeous package that it would be a wonder to all who beheld it… but that didn’t quite pan out. I should have known better. I am a notoriously poor present wrapper :-/

I wanted some nice traditional brown paper and string to wrap it in… But we didn’t have any brown paper. I searched through my bag of random wrapping paper, and all I could find was love hearts, butterflies, or christmas paper. I do also have some great paper with dinosaurs on, but not enough for the book parcel, unfortunately.

Then I found a roll of pleasantly old fashioned flowery wallpaper, and thought that would work quite nicely. I wrote out the address on a piece of hand made paper sent to me by Rachael Pinks, after donating to her campaign to keep the Old Lock Up Studio in Cromford going. However, my sellotape wouldn’t stick to the wallpaper, and I didn’t have much hope for pritt-stick holding the ragged edged hand made paper in place… I had to abandon that idea. I think half an acre of gaffer tape would have slightly marred the effect I was going for.

In the end… bubblewrap and a padded envelope *sigh*

I tried, Pete. Really, I did.

Hopefully the parcel will reach you in good shape, and I hope you enjoy!

Thanks again to everyone who entered the draw, and don’t forget that you can get your copy of Darklands from Scarthin Books in Cromford, or online from Amazon and Waterstones.

Darklands no longer pushed around by proper books

Darklands no longer pushed around by ‘proper’ books

After a month of wrangling and faffing, I finally ordered my proof copy of the Darklands new edition on Sunday – and the paperback arrived today – a fair bit speedier than expected.

I am *so* pleased with it. There was a slight concern that the quote on the front cover might not quite fit, what with print ‘gutters’ and suchlike to take account of – but it does. The front cover is lovely; the back cover vastly improved, and the spine is great. Darklands can now proudly hold its own on any books shop shelf in the land – no more being pushed around by sparkly, curlicue-ridden proper books!

Not everything went according to plan. As discussed last week, at a late stage of the editing process (ie, the last minute) it turned out I had to pay feedaread £39 to amend the cover, and another £39 to amend the inside. There was nothing wrong with the interior. I had just thought I might as well change it while I’m re-doing the cover. The only changes I wanted to make were:

  • Replace inner page title with a graphic in the same font as used on the cover
  • Alter copyright blurb to say ‘second edition’
  • Change one typo pointed out by an eagle-eyed reader (apparently Kings have counsellors (people who give advice), not councillors (people on a council). Who knew?
  • Alter the Kikimora preview at the end to give a brief blurb about the story before launching into the first chapter. I also wanted it to say ‘coming in 2013’ instead of  ‘coming in summer 2012’ :-S

I had already spent a lot of time making these changes and proof reading everything again and, although they were minor, I really wanted to keep them. However, life is insisting on hitting us with a lot of financial flour-bombs at the moment. Reluctantly I shelved the interior changes and saved myself a bit of money. So that’s 20% of yesterday’s vet’s bill covered :-/

The disadvantage to this is that it remains the same edition, just with a different cover – which I am already afraid could lead to confusion. I was surprised to see just now that Amazon is already showing the new cover for the paperback. Anyone buying it there might be even more surprised when they receive a copy with the old cover…! (they already have several in stock) Unfortunately there is absolutely nothing I can do about that at this point, so I’m not going to worry about it.

Now to order a big boxfull ready for the upcoming christmas markets. Next dilemma: how many to order? It’s a trade-off between lower postage on a large order or having the money in my account a bit longer… hmm.

Upper Class Twit of the Year

Monty Python’s Upper Class Twit of the Year

I’ve been using Twitter for around a year now. Before opening my account I was a bit sniffy about it. I didn’t see the point. I didn’t see how it was different to a facebook status update (except shorter). It seemed a lot like shouting at strangers. But eventually I thought I’d give it a go anyway.

Although I soon realised that it works quite differently to facebook, and puts you in contact with a whole other bunch of people, for the most part it fulfilled the role I had expected. Namely, it gobbles up hours of my time in fairly useless browsing around, humourous links, daft pictures of cats, etc.

And don’t even get me started on the few twits I follow who drown everyone eles’s tweets in gallons of spammy bleh. Why don’t I un-follow them? Cuz every now and then they post something really useful! Also, such people generally seem to have around 20,000 followers, which makes me think, maybe they’re doing it right? Maybe it’s me who’s doing it wrong..?

Despite these frustrations, every now and again, Twitter really proves its worth.

Back in February, a convoluted trail of retweets led to my bf texting me at work (I only had a regular kind of mobile phone at the time), “Call this phone number NOW and be on the radio!” Ten minutes later I was chatting live on BBC Radio Three Counties to Ronnie Barbour about Darklands – which directly led to a spike in sales.

Last week, Ian Skye of BBC Radio Derby found me on Twitter and invited me onto his mid-morning show to talk about writing. The next day I went into the studio along with Tony Spencer, another Derby author and raconteur. We were live in the studio for almost an hour, chatting about writing, self-publishing and other topics between songs, weather and the usual radio stuff.

Having three in the conversation made it a far less daunting or nerve racking experience than my previous radio outings, and Ian was great at putting us both at our ease.

It’s too early to say yet whether I’ll see a similar sales spike from this radio outing. But these were both great promotional opportunities, which came about purely through Twitter. Hoewever, I’ve been having far less success with other areas of Twitter recently.

Since I did pretty well selling paperbacks at Celebrating Cromford, I want to visit some christmas fairs and markets over the next two months to sell Darklands. I’m not at all sure how successful it will be, so it seems a good idea to share the costs and efforts by joining forces with another seller.

I’ve been using Twitter to try and network with likely comrades for the past couple of weeks. I tagged local arts organisations and recieved plenty of retweets – but I didn’t make a single contact for stall sharing.

Having met Tony Spencer at Radio Derby, we’re now planning to join forces to sell at christmas fairs – which not only makes it less of a gamble financially, but if no one comes to our stall, at least I’ll have someone to regale me with tales of horse surgery, motorbike racing, emigrating to France, and all the other stuff he has up his sleeves (seriously, listen to the interview. The guy’s a goldmine of anecdotes!)

You can still hear the show on iPlayer, until Thursday 18 October. We’re introduced about 14 mins in. Ian talks to Tony first, and then more to me later on. I haven’t listened back to it myself yet. I suppose I should, but I find it quite excruciating listening to myself talk :-/

As already discussed, now that Darklands is selling in a proper bricks and mortar book shop, I realised I needed the spine to be a bit more assertive. After a suitable amount of deliberation, cogitation and digestion, my designer has ignored all my great ideas and redone the sky:

Darklands cover redesign by Uncut ID

Darklands cover redesign by Uncut ID

I am absolutely thrilled! The changes were all fairly minor, but the overall effect is major.

We’ve also added all the additional stuff that I should have put on in the first place:

  • Ace review quote on the front cover
  • Author mugshot and short bio
  • Blog, twitter and facebook info
  • A colourful spine with interesting font
  • A small image in the spine that might just catch people’s attention.

Compare that to the original full cover – we only supplied the front image for that one. I supplied the copy for the spine and back blurb, but it was added automatically, and with no custom design.

Darklands original full cover

Darklands original full cover (ignore the dashed lines, they’re text placement guidelines)

I’ll need to proof a new copy of the paperback, so it will be a few weeks before the second edition is available to buy. I can’t wait. I think the difference is astonishing, and it looks a lot more professional.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you like the new cover? Would you be more likely to buy it?

Today I’ve been to visit a creative writing group at Caroline Chisholm School, Northampton.

I had prepared plenty of material in advance. I wrote myself crib notes on index cards. I found a short passage to read from Darklands. But I had no idea how long it would actually take me to deliver it all. Well, that’s not entirely true. The one thing I knew for sure was that my reading took three and a half minutes. I did a lot of timed readings when I was preparing for my talk on the radio a few weeks back.

I was given an hour, just before lunch. I had fifteen cards filled with subject headings and cryptic notes. A sample index card:

Writers & Artists Yearbook
Listings. Articles. Publishers > Slush pile > Agents (short cut?)
Agents > slush pile! But get help.
Submission criteria.

I knew that the length of time I could talk would very much depend on how much I relaxed into my role and became garrulous. It might take an hour – or maybe I’ll whizz through it all in ten minutes with a terrified rictus grin frozen onto my face?

After a slightly shaky start, I relaxed sufficiently to discuss most of the stuff on my cards. Though I somehow managed to miss out the whole slush pile bit from the card quoted above.

In the end I spoke for about 35 minutes, then invited questions. The teachers had primed the kids well and they had plenty to ask. What’s your favourite book? Do you find it hard to get ideas? Did you always want to be a writer? Nice easy stuff.

The scariest bit was right at the end. With ten minutes to spare I was invited to mingle and chat with the kids. Freestyle? Off-piste?? Unscripted???

*The cold, cold fear*

Some of the kids showed me stories they had written – a surprising number had written horror stories about killer clowns, one of which had ‘mouldy looking teeth.’ A nice detail, I thought.

I’ve also donated two copies of Darklands to the school library – which is in danger of being closed down by the local authorities.

Really?? Schools don’t need libraries now? (You can find out how to help their cause by visiting their facebook page)

One of the kids asked if I’d had any bad reviews, and I said that I hadn’t, but kind of wished I had. “It doesn’t seem like you’re a real writer until you’ve been absolutely slated.” Hmm, that sounds dangerously like an invitation, doesn’t it? I wonder if I’ll come to regret it..? :-S