68. DUBLIN SPARK LIT THE BLUE TOUCHPAPER FOR MY SECOND NOVEL

LISTEN to any Dublin taxi driver and they’ll tell you that you can’t fling a Bodhran tipper* out of the window without hitting a writer.

Sorry, but I’ve lapsed into gaelic since spending three days in the fair city to launch my difficult second novel Spark Out. And it’s certainly true to say that the only people I saw who weren’t writers during my brief but highly enjoyable stay were those kind people who served me their finest beers, spirits and other sustenance to help me survive the ordeal.

This was the second time I had been to this wonderful event run by the book promotion service, Books Go Social. I had asked Laurence O’Bryan (pictured below) – the brains behind the company – if he might be able to fit my book launch into his jam-packed schedule. Even though he had Hollywood producers and best-selling authors to accommodate, he was delighted to oblige, and kindly filmed the event as well.

laurence

BooksGoSocial logoHaving not ventured out of the famous Gresham Hotel last year, I pledged that I would see a bit more of the famed Dublin nightlife this time around. The trouble is that once you become embedded with a group of writers, even the most introverted is itching to tell you of their latest project or their creative journey.

As a result I became part of the fixtures and fittings of the Academy Plaza on this occasion, spending the days enjoying lectures on every aspect of my craft, from first sentence to organising book launches, and nights ensconced in the bar, swapping tales with fabulously entertaining company.

wendyh     There were too many good speakers to list but I would just like to make quick mention of Scottish dynamo and crime writer Wendy H Jones (right). Having lived a full and varied life before beginning a “life of “crime” she drew on her experience as a nurse to inform us: “I can assure you that no one has EVER died of embarrassment.” Wendy was encouraging us to get out and take risks, to ask local book stores and other enterprises to stock and sell our books, or allow us to perform book signings and launches.

A testament to her success was when she visited her local bank branch near Dundee and was not only invited to do a book signing but was then approached by head office to do an entire tour of Scotland’s banks. Brilliant work!

wendybook

As for myself, despite having to compete with the clinking of cutlery and what seemed like a demolition derby going on in the nearby kitchen, I think my speech went down well.

I was pleased with the banner that I had bought on eBay and had delivered straight to the venue without actually seeing (I feared there might be an awful spelling mistake in it or something, but luckily that wasn’t the case). I was also delighted to be able to do a short reading from the new book and give out three as prizes to those people who could come up with a tale about their favourite fictional baddie.

To finish off I did a reading from the novel which you can see here…

At the end of it all I was feeling revved up, the adrenaline flowing… there was nothing for it than to retire to the bar again and mingle with the glittering company.

* A Bodhran tipper is the stick with which you beat an Irish Bodhran, or drum.

  • Spark Out is available in paperback this Saturday (July 1) and can be obtained through Amazon or ordered through most good bookstores. It will be available as an eBook through Kindle Unlimited from July 10. 

63. How I chose my star-spangled editor for my latest novel Spark Out

VERY rarely do I look at, let alone read, direct messages on Twitter. Normally they are from people imploring you to watch their “hilarious” YouTube channel, employ them as a life coach or join their network on LinkedIN*.

Anyway, I must have been going through a nasty case of Writers Block or something because one morning I found myself wading through this list of wannabes and never-was’ers.

Then to my pleasant surprise I came across Night Owl Freelance, offering editorial services at a time I was mulling over who to pick as editor for my second novel, Spark Out.

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Perhaps it was fate but I decided to investigate further. Night Owl is a small operation run by the very talented Vanessa Gonzales, and one look at her personal website persuaded me she would at least be worth an inquiry.

For a start, I don’t imagine there is any situation that would phase her – her back story including such diverse life experiences as having been a mormon and a porn shop worker. Currently she travels around the US in a motor home with her husband, seeking out adventure along the way.

The line that resonated most with me in her bio was ‘I want to fall in love with characters I sympathise with, want to sleep with, and want to punch – in a really great story, those last two are the same’.

One thing a writer needs is an editor who has empathy with their main characters, and I immediately thought the relationship would work. I have spent hundreds of pounds and hours of anxiety waiting on people to “critique” my work, only to find that for the large part they have missed the gist or failed to “get” the point.

After some correspondence between us and a sample “edit”, I felt Vanessa understood where I was coming from, even if I did have to include a short glossary of Cockney Rhyming Slang to help her out with some of the dialogue.

I decided to take the plunge and asked her to do a developmental edit, as my wife Liz – a qualified proofreader as I have mentioned before – would sort out the line editing.

Within a month Vanessa had provided me with a comprehensive 13-page analysis of my work, covering every detail of plot and character. Taking her views on board I did a few tweaks here and there, adding to some chapters and removing stuff from others and now I am on the last leg. Liz is at the moment proofreading my latest draft and I’ve sent out a few copies on word documents to chosen BETA readers, though I am looking for more before I set a launch date of sometime this summer.

If anyone is interested please comment on this blog…

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I’m looking forward to including a big thank you to Vanessa in the credits. My decision to choose her for the edit would have certainly shocked some of my bowler-hat wearing, umbrella-toting colleagues over this side of the pond, but I’m happy I took the plunge. She has been a good sounding board – even helping me adapt my previous title from Headers to Spark Out.

Can’t wait for the launch…

(* EDITOR’S NOTE: I tried LinkedIn once and couldn’t see the point. What made it even more annoying was the fact it was so bloody hard to Link Out!)

29. Meeting the public

THERE are some who say I shouldn’t be allowed out in public. On Saturday, though, I will put my best-foot forward and step out in the heart of the Rhondda as a published author.

I will be one of 30 creative souls engaging with readers, discussing our work and, hopefully, selling a few copies at the Rhondda Book Fair in Penygraig.

I’ve never been to Penygraig but am looking forward to a unique experience and hope I might pick up some tips and tricks from some old hands more versed in the business of book marketing than myself.

My wife Liz and daughter Olivia will be with me, holding my hand and keeping me out of trouble as I take this big step into the great unknown.

Marketing is obviously a key strategy in the process of attempting to become established and getting your book out into the wide world. After doing a few interviews on radio and for newspapers, from which I saw a decent result, sales have stalled a bit so I am looking at a way to bump them up.

I haven’t gone down the free book route yet because I wanted to see exactly what I could do before taking such a step. Maybe after the Rugby World Cup will be the time to try a more radical approach.

Meanwhile, I am experimenting with Facebook ads at the moment and was very pleased with the response I got to my before and after carousel ads that I put up last weekend.

As any rugby buff will tell you England played Wales at Twickenham on Saturday night in a World Cup “Group of Death” match. It had created a real buzz and I piggybacked on it with an ad asking: “Are you ready for a REAL thriller?”

I’d like to give you an example but it seems I’ve over-written it with the follow-up idea, but it was a strip of five pictures, a face painted with a St George Cross, a superhero ripping open a shirt to reveal a Wales flag, Twickenham, a Rugby World Cup graphic and finally a picture of the book cover.

The captions went “Passions will ignite, heroes will be needed, as the tension builds, in a massive sporting event… will you brave: Crossing The Whitewash?” There was then an option to click to my website and I managed something like 68 at a rate of 13p per click, which I was pretty pleased about.

You can target the people who see the ad, too. I went for sports lovers in England and Wales with a love of reading, thrillers, suspense, novels and a few other things.

When it was all over I tweaked it to look like this and targeted just Wales. After all, they did win…

AFTER

I am now working on an ad to send people straight to Amazon for the book and will see how it goes. Meanwhile, I’ve changed the name of my Facebook page. I can’t call it I’m going to Publish, when I already HAVE published. Why not like Crossing the Whitewash/Rugby World Cup thriller?