Indie Author Of The Month: Val Portelli

Hi everyone – it’s been a while since I highlighted an indie author on The Glorious Outsiders. I blame that on Netflix and not reading enough lately! I’ve also been attempting two reading challenges so often my reading choices have to try and fit with those. Anyway. I recently had the pleasure of beta reading a murder mystery novel by Val Portelli. Val has contributed two pieces to my blog since I started my lockdown themed features, so I jumped at the chance of being an early reader for her new novel Alderslay. I really enjoyed the book and will definitely read more of Val’s work in the future. I invited Val on to the blog to tell us all about the new novel and she has written this piece detailing the things that can go wrong while preparing a self-published book for launch day. If you would like to know more about Val and her work, her links are all at the end! Enjoy.

‘Alderslay’ and book gremlins.

I had my first book, a romantic novel called ‘Changes’ published several years ago. Shortly afterwards I wrote the first draft for a mystery novel called ‘Murder of Changes’ to tie in with the theme.

Fast forward and ‘M of C’ as it was affectionally known, sat on the back burner while I self-published other books, contributed to anthologies, wrote short stories, learnt about marketing, web sites, blogs, editing, formatting and how to defeat gremlins.

At one stage I was in contact with an editor who read the book and gave me valuable feedback which I incorporated into a revised draft. Entering a competition, I was delighted to win the opportunity to have a cover designed, so M of C was dragged off the back burner, submitted to beta readers, and became new and improved as I incorporated their suggestions.

A year passed and I was assured the cover design was in hand and would be available shortly. Numerous emails later, the MD of the design company eventually admitted the communication between himself and his employee, my designated contact, had proved lacking, and it was the first he had heard of it. My carefully composed details and suggestions had never been seen by the design team.

Was it jinxed? Should I forget it and move onto something else, perhaps a follow up for a series on one of one other books? Stubborn? Moi? Let’s just say a challenge is a challenge. I mentioned it to a friend and fellow author who had been instrumental in my other cover designs, and despite having other priorities she sent her dragons charging to the rescue. With all the to-ing and fro-ing, I’m not sure why she hasn’t blocked me, but the end result was a cover I loved. Thank you P.

I love writing but my marketing skills have to be seen to be believed- e.g. non-existent. Nevertheless, I endeavoured this time to try to do it properly, put the book on pre-order, diarised to set up the paperback to coincide with the eBook release, and bit my nails. Amazon nudged me with reminders of a countdown for when my final Kindle version should be uploaded, but I was happy the latest version was good to go.

A few hours before the cut-off time I received feed-back from a blogger who loved it, but pointed out in Chapter X I mentioned ‘A’ but in Chapter Y it’s ‘B.’ Aaagh. Reading for the umpteenth million time she was right. Dilemma. Should I try to change the minor discrepancy which most readers probably wouldn’t notice, or update a revised version which could result in throwing all the page set-up out of line. Being a perfectionist, I had to put it right, which was the signal for the world and his wife to interrupt with things that had been hanging around for months but needed a response NOW!

There was also the problem of the chicken and egg syndrome. Many readers these days use Kindles, but others only read paperbacks and wanted to know if/when this option would be available. Knowing Amazon suggest paperbacks can often take 72 hours to be approved, and hearing from other authors the virus had affected normal timescales, I set up a formula to include probability ratios, US versus UK time zones, and whether there was an R in the month.

With an eBook release date of the 3rd March, I waited until the early hours of the 1st March, UK time to press go for the paperback, before trying to catch up with some sleep. The following, or rather the same day, I opened my emails to discover the paperback was already live, having taken only 4 hours to approve and had beaten the eBook publication by two days. So much for trying to be a clever-clogs.

Beta readers had been advised of the approximate release date, in the hope they would leave a review. That’s when I realised they would they would be looking for the publication of ‘M of C.’

Just when I thought all was going to plan, a reader advised me there was a slight problem with the layout on one small area of the paperback which had already been released. Should I ignore it or try to correct it before more sales were made. No time like the present and again I burned the midnight oil. The amendment itself took two minutes, but then the long wait watching the wheel go round while Amazon went through the whole routine from scratch before I could access the revised preview.

Thankfully, it was again available within a few hours and I breathed a sigh of relief. A zoom meeting with a friend who lives abroad started with her asking what had happened to the paperback. She had tried to order in exactly that short timescale while it was awaiting the revision. Who said being an author only involved putting words on a page?

Despite all the problems, my first fantastic 5* review had me bouncing, and was quickly followed by others.

Is it worth all the stress and hassle if the actual income works out around a thousandth of the hourly minimum wage? Of course not, but the satisfaction of knowing someone actually read and enjoyed your book drives you on to write the next one. Sincere thanks to buyers, readers, bloggers, reviewers and supporters who have helped to keep me sane. A short break before the characters start calling, then here we go again!

Val’s Links

Amazon author page https://author.to/ValPortelli

YouTube ‘Val’s Tales’ http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsmbM57q4SzHbOcx3CPbr1Q/

Facebook ‘Val’s Tales’ http://www.facebook.com/ValsTales

Twitter

@vals_tales https://twitter.com/ValPortelli

Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/wwwgoodreadscomVal_Portelli

Blog http://www.Voinks.wordpress.com

Web site http://www.quirkyunicornbooks.wordpress.com

A Song For Bill Robinson is released today!!

It’s been a funny old week. A funny few weeks, maybe even months. Thanks perhaps to the stage of life I have now reached, my emotions are up and down like a yo-yo, with my moods springing from one extreme to the other on a daily basis. Not what I’m talking about today obviously, but, wow, I exhaust myself. Truly.

So, where one minute I am excited beyond belief that I have released yet another book, the next I am down about it for a multitude of reasons. I am writing this on publication day and my mood has dipped low. A few hours ago I was as high as a kite. A few days ago this would have had a very different tone to it.

But I digress…this is really just a very quick post to let you lovely people know that my new YA novel A Song For Bill Robinson is now live. The paperback will follow shortly. Hopefully, so will some reviews!

I would have liked to have done a lot more in the run up to this release, but my moods have really interfered with the whole process. Also, my laptop decided to die, come alive again, die again, and come alive again. I think it’s a bit like me at the moment! Raring to go one moment, completely frazzled the next. A new one is on the cards, but in the meantime I may be slightly hampered with internet type stuff! Tonight it is working just fine! Yesterday, not a peep.

Anyway, the link is below if you fancy getting your teeth into a really gritty YA novel about an unsolved murder, a neighbourhood feud and a teenager singing sensation! The first in a trilogy. See you soon xxx

Thoughts and Fears as Release Day Approaches…

Release day for my next book A Song For Bill Robinson is creeping ever closer. I am not ready, not at all, but as I mentioned in my last post, I have a blog tour organised this time, so I do feel like there is less pressure on me to promote! I need to check my launch plan though and see what else I can achieve between now and then. All in all, I am just trying not to get stressed about it. My work life has increased a fair bit lately, with my company getting busier and in more demand, and this is wonderful. But it has meant less time for writing and promoting my own books. I think I have totally fallen out of the promo habit!! Eek, need to get back into that quick sharp.

Oh, and if you haven’t seen it yet, here is the front cover!!

So, this blog is really all about the thoughts and feelings that dominate when approaching the launch of a new novel. A Song For Bill Robinson will be my tenth release, which is a lovely round number and something I am incredibly proud of. But like all creative types, I have my moments of self-doubt and panic. Here are some of the thoughts and feelings rushing around in my head as launch day approaches!

  • The book is not ready! I think this is one of the biggest thoughts and most dominant fears. Despite spending three years writing and revising and editing this book, which is about what I spend on all of my novels, I still wonder if it could be better? If I left it a year and read it again, would I change things? Cut more words? I don’t think this thought ever really goes away and I often have the urge to go back over my other novels and double check them all. Again.
  • I’ve left promo too late! Another panicky thought and fear. My promo for releasing a novel has been a bit different with each one, and looking back, it really all depends on what’s going on in my life. It comes down to time and energy I guess. I wrote a very detailed launch plan for this one, but I think it was a bit ambitious considering how busy life is at the moment! I have to remember that promoting a book never ends. If you’re lacking around launch day, the game is not over. You can keep promoting it forever.
  • There might still be typos! Another fear that never goes. At the moment I have a very kind and wonderful reader going over it again for me before I hit publish, and so far I’m pleased to report they have not found any typos or spelling mistakes, just a few misplaced commas and some opportunities for cutting the word count down. I hate the thought of readers finding typos, even though I understand how hard it is to weed them all out.
  • No one will buy it! Ahh, the most common fear and not without good reason. As an indie author doing it all alone without much money to help with promo, I do struggle for sales, though I have never had a month without a sale. The most common fear a writer has with a book launch is that the readers will hate the book. I really don’t know how people will feel about this one and I won’t know until that first review comes in. It’s a scary feeling!
  • Now there’s room in my head for more books… Well, to be honest, as soon as a rough first draft of a book is done, that story gets shuffled to the side of my brain and the next one in line barges in. But it feels even better when the book is finally released, because it’s over, you’ve done it, you can let it go and move onto the next one. That’s a really good feeling and a great relief.
  • It’s a load of rubbish… What if all the reviews are critical? Okay you know you are going to get some people that love it and some that just like it and some that don’t get it, or whatever. That’s expected. But what if all the reviews are bad? What if I’ve really mucked it up this time? What if it makes no sense, is slow or boring or unrealistic? Beta readers have told me otherwise, but what if they’re biased or wrong??

And if I’m really honest, I’m so tired right now, my most dominant thought is; I can’t be arsed, why can’t someone else do all this for me? I’m sure that will change though. If my other book launches are anything to go by, I normally end up really enjoying it. It is an accomplishment and with this particular book, I’m really pleased it finally escaped that dusty old suitcase and the unfinished book I wrote as a 16 year-old is something bigger, brighter and better than I had attempted back then. Well done, teenage me for putting the wheels in motion and not throwing it away! And well done forty-plus me, for finally getting it done. I’m happy with that.

Book Launch Plan!

Launching a book is scary! So scary in fact that I’ve been putting this one off for months, maybe even years. As is the usual with me, I tend to write a first draft in about 3 months and then go into subsequent drafts and rewrites and edits that last for years…I then procrastinate about how ready the book really is, worry endlessly about whether it’s had enough beta readers and generally do everything I can to put off actually releasing it.

Why? I think because in writing a book, you put your heart and soul into it. You immerse yourself in it, become obsessed by it, fall in love with it and in releasing it, you hope to have some kind of recognition of that, in sales and reviews, and as most indie authors will know, this is by no means easy. If you have money to spare, it helps. Money will buy you an editor, a decent front cover and an advertising campaign. High sales and plentiful reviews are still not guaranteed but you’ve got a better chance. For writers who don’t have a single spare penny? It’s a much harder and more frustrating process which at times barely seems worth it.

Anyway, I digress. There are many reasons I delay book releases and fear of failure is the biggest one. I don’t have massively high hopes but I do hope and dream of decent sales and positive reviews. And if I put off the release? Well, I delay the fear and can sleep better for longer.

But! The time has come. I am currently nearing the end of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Part 6, and when that’s done, I will have five unpublished books waiting for release dates. Five!! That’s insane. I think that says a lot about my relationship with writing! Endless ideas, addictive/compulsive tendencies and then utter fear and denial. It also explains why I’ve written my whole life but only starting publishing in my mid-30’s.

So, with that in mind, one of those five books will be released in December! I decided on December as it’s a good time to release a book, when people are thinking about Christmas presents and it’s dark and miserable outside and people want a book to curl up with. That gives me almost three months to plan the launch. I’m already daunted, although I have done this before. I am tired just thinking about it.

Having already ruled out a physical launch (as an indie author I am too afraid no one will come and very good at self-sabotaging myself) I do need to make a plan and stick to it.

So, this post is my book launch plan for YA novel A Song For Bill Robinson, potential release date Friday 6th December. I will probably add to and revise this plan as time goes on and as always, please feel free to comment! If I have missed anything, let me know! Any good ideas? I’d love to hear them!

  • Decide on release date
  • speak to cover designer again to prompt first sketch of ideas
  • go through book again for final typos etc
  • decide on a good tag line for promo etc
  • make a list of ARC reviewers and ask in Street Team and Facebook page
  • contact possible ARC reviewers
  • send book to agreed ARC reviewers
  • organise a blog tour
  • revisit Pinterest board and add to/revise/work on
  • start making release day and release countdown graphics on Canva
  • organise advertising, free or paid, decide!
  • contact similar genre authors to organise giveaways and/or blog spots/interviews
  • start making quote graphics on Canva and start sharing to Instagram etc
  • contact YA booktubers!
  • contact YA book reviewers!
  • put print copy together to release on same day as ebook
  • organise Amazon or Goodreads giveaway?
  • create a Facebook launch day event and a separate Instagram one?
  • invite other authors to event to share posts/books etc
  • create graphics for online launch events
  • create launch day competitions for Facebook and Instagram
  • Put together a series of blog posts to release up to launch day about the book
  • set ebook at 99p for one week only
  • invite people to Facebook event and hope they come!
  • submit the book to competitions/awards!
  • drink lots of wine and remember that at least I tried!!!