The Tree Of Rebels; Book Launch Plan

To update, The Tree Of Rebels is finished, has a front cover and is ready for release. But I have decided to try the small press route first, just in case. So far I have sent it out to seven independent publishers and been rejected already by two. I am going to try to add another three to the list and then leave it at that. My reasons for trying the traditional route for this book are all in this recent blog post; Self-Publishing; Good times, bad times and ugly truths.

Obviously, I want this book released as soon as possible, which is why I am only trying ten suitable publishers and I have given myself until July. This particular book has been two years in the making and I feel it is very relevant to the times we are currently living in, so I am itching to get it out there. But if I self-publish again I’m going to do a proper book launch, which is something I have never done before! I need to start working on this now so that come July I can kick everything into action and give this novel the best start possible. So here is my plan which I am going to print out and stick it on my wall like a check list!

Book Launch Plan (month in advance)

  1. Send out ARC’s to potential reviewers and book bloggers.
  2. Read and write blog posts about similar books in the genre to mine. Let the authors know, and share the books on social media
  3. Use Instafreebie to set up a free sample of ARC’s of the book a month in advance
  4. Set the book up for pre-order a month in advance
  5. Post quotes/teasers to social media by using Canva graphics
  6. Send out ARC’s to email subscribers a month in advance
  7. Arrange a paid book promotion to coincide with launch week
  8. Launch the book at discount price 99p
  9. Send the Street Team ARC’s a month in advance and invigorate them to share my posts about the book
  10. Sort out either and Amazon ad or a Facebook ad
  11. Make sure Amazon book description contains relevant keywords
  12. Upload Createspace paperback version so it’s ready for release at same time

Book Launch Week

  1. Set up a Facebook Event for book launch day
  2. Set up a giveaway for the event day
  3. Share event and book link to promotional groups
  4. Share event and book link to Street Team
  5. Send out another newsletter
  6. Schedule a blog post about the book this week
  7. Arrange a suitable guest post if possible
  8. Post quotes and teasers leading up to the event
  9. Reveal the cover a week before
  10. Start posting chapters back onto Wattpad which is where the book was originally written.

Now, I am sure I have forgotten something, so if you’ve ever launched a book yourself, please let me know what else you did! As always, please feel free to share and comment! I am thinking about having a physical launch as well, possibly in the library.

This list has excited me and I can’t wait to get this book out there! Not long now folks!

 

Did Choosing An Audience Ruin My Book?

I don’t know for sure, but it feels like it.

Let me explain. I am, of course, talking about The Tree Of Rebels, a book that once seemed so simple in its concept and execution. I tend to write quite hard hitting, gritty stuff, and I decided (rightly or wrongly) that I wanted to write a book my children could read. Specifically, I was aiming it at my daughters, who were at the time 11 and 12 and devouring books like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner.

It wasn’t like I invented an idea to try to fit this genre and audience. I already had the idea for a dystopian future (one I am genuinely scared of). But I have to admit, this was the first time I ever sat down and tried to write a book knowing who the audience would potentially be.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with knowing your audience. Knowing your audience is key! How else will you know how to describe your book to potential readers? How will you know what categories to choose on Amazon etc? How will you know what cover and font to go for? All these things matter!

In fact, not knowing exactly who my audience were caused me no end of problems in the early days. You see, I didn’t know what kind of writer I was, because I had never really had to think about it before. The first two books I released, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side and The Mess Of Me featured young adults as the main characters, but this was purely incidental. In fact, if anything, I didn’t consider myself a YA writer at all and even kind of rejected the idea. I didn’t want to pigeon hole myself, I guess. I wanted adults to like my books too. It wasn’t deliberate that my characters were all young; that’s just the way it worked out. Or so I thought.

Truth is, I didn’t really understand the YA market at that time. I hadn’t looked into, or researched it as a phenomena. Since then, I’m glad to say I have learnt a lot and come to terms with the fact, that although not exclusively a YA author, YA is what I do best, YA is in my heart and soul, and YA is undoubtedly what I tend to seek out for reading material. I just didn’t really connect the dots in the beginning.

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is this. It can be good to know your audience before, during and after you write a book. It would have made things a lot easier for me when releasing The Mess Of Me if I had got on board with this and fully embraced and accepted the YA market I was aiming at.

BUT I do feel that knowing who to aim The Tree Of Rebels at has had a negative impact on writing the book. It felt like there was someone looking over my shoulder the whole time, saying no, don’t do it like that, that’s not how you write this sort of book! Looking back, knowing which audience I was aiming at definitely changed the way I approached it, making it one of the most challenging books I’ve ever written. I mean, none of the others ever felt that difficult, you know? They just kind of, happened. It’s not the only thing I can blame it on, and anyone who reads this blog regularly will know how many issues I have had with the book including the ones talked about in  Getting To Know Your Characters  and Final Draft? Patience is the key…

I’ve done so many drafts now that I have lost count. I have sent it out to beta readers three times and received very, very detailed edits and critique. I originally wrote the damned thing on Wattpad, so I had feedback on the very first version as it happened, and then posted later versions on there too. Lots of people have been involved and all of them have been incredibly helpful. Before I started this latest draft my intention was to fill it in more, add some detail and meat about how these people exist, but then towards the end I realised there was still something major missing.

Me.

'The first person you should think of pleasing, in writing a book, is yourself. If you can amuse yourself for the length of time it takes to write a book, the publisher and the reader can, and will come later'-Patricia

 

It hit me one day while talking to my daughter.

I wrote this book to please them, and to please a certain type of reader who likes a certain type of book. I have never ever done that before. All of my other books were written to please me. They were written to scratch an itch. They were written to get the noisy people out of my head and onto the page. They were written out of passion and necessity. There was no other reason to write them other than that I simply had to. I’ve never known at the time of writing, who would like this book. Even with my current work-in-progress Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature, I have absolutely no idea who this book would be aimed at or how I should even describe it! That for me, is familiar territory!

Of course, with my other books, on further drafts and edits I did begin to write and rewrite with my reader in mind. You have to! But they were not there in the beginning. It was just me.

So, how has this revelation helped me with The Tree Of rebels, you might ask? Is it totally ruined?

No, of course not. I still believe in the story and the characters. I have even started a sequel! But for now, I  have decided to leave this book alone. Put it to one side and focus on something else. I have decided to forget who it was aimed at, and essentially write it again. I have decided to write it the way I write all my books. I have decided to let it be whatever it needs to be and to stop trying to sculpt it into something I think it should be. In other words, forget about the perceived audience…For now.

I have a feeling it is now going to become an altogether darker book. But this is good. And would you believe it, while walking the dogs the other day, I had further revelations. Extra characters and another storyline, an important one, to feed into the others. It might make it a longer book. There might be more cutting. I’ve written the ideas down and that’s it for now. I am still not going back there yet!

But when I do I will be rewriting it entirely and writing it for me.

What do you think? How do you write a book? With the audience already decided or with just yourself to please?  Is anyone in your head when you write that first draft or do you really have no idea what sort of reader would enjoy it? Please feel free to comment! 

 

 

Final Draft Struggles

Last week I blogged about the difficulties I had experienced writing my YA novel The Tree Of Rebels. I was just about to dive into what I hoped would be the final edit of the book, and I was looking back on the struggles I’d had so far. There was more than one issue, but in last week’s post I was examining the difficulties of getting to know your characters. I was trying to figure out what had been bothering me about this particular novel, which had not bothered me so much in my others. At least I now felt like I knew my main character Lissie Turner better, properly, finally. So I could begin…

I’m a few days in now, and I have to report that the struggles remain. Not necessarily with the character, but with something just not being right. I have tried to think back to the final drafts of my other books. Did I feel the same about them? Is this all completely normal? It begs the question, how do you even know if it is the final draft? I guess I feel I have already done so many drafts and sent the book out to beta readers, amended it, let it sit and stew, and now know, or at least think I know, how to finally make it work. So it feels like the final draft…or is it more like the last chance?

Because over the last few days I have been plagued by the feeling that something is just not right. I thought it was the characters, and not knowing them as well as I wanted to, but now I think it is more than that. The most frustrating thing is not being able to quite put my finger on whatever it is! And how do I know if this is the book telling me something is wrong, something does not work here, or if it is simply, normal writers self doubt? Because lets face it, writers are swimming in self doubt the majority of the time! You kind of get used to it. You learn to shut it up, push it aside and keep going.

My question is; how do you know whether you are meant to keep going? How do you know whether the doubts you are feeling are justified? I mean, that it really is a massive turd of a book that no one in the world will ever want to read?

I think my issue with this book is how different it has always felt to the other books, and there are several reasons for this. So it might do me some good to clarify them right here.

1) Firstly it’s set in a dystopian future, and I have never set a book in the future before. I have used the past and the present, but never a future made up by yours truly. I guess this means I am winging it a lot more than I would be ordinarily. I have had to make up an entire world, a civilisation, a back story as to what has led to this, and so on. In theory, this was not a problem, because for the first time ever, I got the idea for the plot before I heard the characters talk to me. Which leads me neatly to my second issue.

2) I got the idea for the plot first. And that never happens to me. Ever. Like I have said before, it’s the people that fill my head. They come with stories, so it is easy for me. I just do what they say. I just offload for them. But this time, I got an idea. What if in the future Nature is banned? What if everything you need to survive is kept under massive domes and delivered to you when you need it? What if, after endless wars, a tiny amount of humans inhabit the earth, and because there is no more war, and no more fear, they are very, very grateful for the lives they have…What if a young girl who was born into this world one day finds an apple tree outside of the domes? Anyway, without giving too much away, the idea stuck and grew and grew and eventually I had to start writing it. But I didn’t really want to. I will explain why in point 3.

3)I wanted to write a book that would impress my daughters. This has never happened to me before either, because I have always written for me, myself and I. That was how it all began. I wrote the stories I wanted to read. I created the characters I wished were real. This was different, and very new, and scary. I have two daughters. One is an avid reader, who devours YA and dystopia at an impossible rate. The other is a reluctant reader unless it is Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I wanted to lure them in, force them to turn the pages and show them what I could do. I now think this was a big, big mistake! They like the book, what they have read of it anyway, but I don’t think they love it. And I think knowing I was writing for an audience has haunted me all the way through. I’ve felt like someone has been watching over my shoulder. This is the first time I have decided upon the audience before writing the book…and I am not sure it works for me.

4) There was another reason I didn’t want to write the book. Well, a few. It was outside of my comfort zone, I knew I would have to research a lot of stuff, which I am happy to admit is not my strong point or my favourite part of writing, and I already had another book chomping at the bit, wanting to jump the queue. That book was Elliot Pie, which, if you follow this blog, you will know I finished the first draft of just a few weeks ago. I had only just started The Tree Of Rebels when Elliot tried to jump the queue. Now, as tempting as it is, I don’t let them do this. They all have to wait their turn, although they do get note books and they do get little bits written down and they do get thought about constantly! So, Elliot. Once I had him, I wanted to write his story. And I think that made things harder with this book.

5)Well, point 5 kind of sums up all the above. This book was a challenge. This book happened in a very different way to all of my others. This book scared me. This book confused me. I felt impatient with it, reluctant to do it, and constantly had this niggling little voice telling me that it was not right. It’s a fantasy, right? Almost a sci-fi, and that’s not my genre, that’s not my niche. My thing is realism, down to earth, gritty, edgy, a bit dark, that kind of thing.

Now that I know all of this and can admit it here to you, the question remains, what do I do about it? Keep going with the final draft and see what happens? Hope the self-doubts will pass, and some genuine love and appreciation will return for this novel? It has happened before. As with all my books, when I am writing them I tend to think they are rubbish, and it is only when I am re-reading bits that I smile and think hey, this isn’t too bad! This is better than I thought it was! And that has definitely happened enough with this book…even in the last few days!

Luckily for me I was talking to my 13 year old avid reader about it this morning and she made several wonderful points. She reminded me that the beginning of the book cannot be as dark and edgy as I intend to make it this time around, as in the beginning Lissie does not know anything is wrong with her world. Sure, things are suggested to the reader, but on the surface, for the reader and for Lissie, this really is a perfect, easy to live in society. Things do start to get darker very quickly, as things start to unravel and there is a fast pace, as this is by far my shortest book. I had forgotten this, and she was right. She also reminded me that my other books are concerned with ‘real-life’ problems ie eating disorders, bullies, evil step-fathers and missing mothers. The Tree Of Rebels does have some family drama, of course it does. In fact you could also describe it as coming of age as Lissie makes her journey, but it does not contain the same gritty subjects I usually handle. Again, she was right. It’s just different.

I’ve made a few decisions and I will blog again when I have them clearer in my head. Hopefully by the time I post again I will be feeling better about this book. I will have listened to the doubts, dealt with them and recognised that there is nothing wrong with The Tree Of rebels…it’s just different. At least for me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting To Know Your Characters

For me, writing is all about the characters. It is the characters who come to me first, with their lives and their problems. I let them set up camp in my head for a bit, try to ignore them while I am busy with other things, and then, inevitably I can’t drown them out and they get the attention they demand. They get to tell their story. By the time I start jotting down notes about them and their story, I already feel like I know them quite well. In fact I usually feel quite smug about it. I do like character led fiction, you see, and it would not be unfair to assert that The Catcher In The Rye is probably my favourite book of all time.

I’ve read it tons of times, and never get bored, yet my husband couldn’t even manage it once. Boring, he said. Nothing really happens, except he moans and worries a lot. He does concede that there is a plot of sorts, one where the character goes on a bit of a jaunt, escapes his reality for a while and goes a little bit crazy in the process, but it was not enough of a plot to hold his interest.

For me, it was a case of falling in love. Feeling like I knew Holden, because Holden was so like me, and if he was real and we met in real life, we would really get along, and he would stop thinking everyone was phony. Anyway…off on a tangent there slightly, but I was trying to explain how important character is to me in fiction. I love it. Can’t get enough of it. Action, drama, suspense and thrills are all great, don’t get me wrong, but they all fall flat without great characters. Give me a few good characters doing not much, over a page turner with unlikable and unbelieveable ones, any day.

Developing characters, making them speak and act and think, is one of the best things about writing. It’s probably my favourite part of the whole thing. Yes I appreciate descriptive prose and beautiful narratives, and yes I have respect for a page-turning plot, and action that peaks and troughs at all the right times, but the characters are everything to me. Stories come from people, without people, there would be no stories.

With me, it is the people, and the stories that come first, and everything else evolves from there. But even so, I have had to admit to myself lately that I don’t know them as well as I think I do when I get started.

I often stumble along in the first draft, making notes, hitting walls, having great writing days followed by abysmal ones, and sometimes it is really hard to pinpoint what it is I’m struggling with. This happened a lot when I was writing the very first draft of what will be my next release, The Tree Of Rebels. You see, for the first time, I had the plot idea first. Weird. Luckily for me I already had a character in my head, and a name, and she had been lingering for a while, maybe wondering where she could slot in. So I used her and got started. I had most of it planned out, but obviously there were surprises along the way as well. My main aim was impressing my daughters and writing something dystopian in nature that would hold their attention and keep them gripped.

Maybe I focused too much on this. Maybe the waiting character I slotted in was not loud enough in my head. Whatever it was, I struggled. Then I realised something. I looked back on all of my novels, even the ones where the voice of the character had come to me before any kind of plot took place, and I realised that this was normal. Of course I didn’t know Lissie Turner that well yet. That was what I was struggling with. I’d gone into it assuming I knew her, assuming I understood her, and oh how wrong I was.

The first draft, no matter how intricately you have planned and described your precious characters, no matter how many lengthy bio’s you have scripted, no matter how many images of them you have found and pinned on Pinterest; the first draft is all about getting to know them. It’s like meeting a stranger for the first time and going on a little, somewhat awkward journey with them. Do they take sugar in tea? You don’t know, so you ask. Which way to they tend to lean politically? You’d like to know, but you’re scared to ask. Do they swear? Do they have a loud, or annoying laugh? How are they going to react when you start throwing hurdles and dilemmas at them?  You think you know, but you don’t.

Realising this really helped me to relax with that awkward first draft. I decided to just get it written, because I had the plot all in place, and that was the main thing to get done. All the themes and ideas and images and so on would work themselves out, would pop up and blend in, and tie up as they often tend to do naturally. And the same would happen with Lissie, and the other characters. By the end of the first draft, I knew them better. We had formed a friendship and would definitely be travelling together again soon. But things were still a tad tense, a tad clumsy.

I jumped into the second draft and saw it for what it was. It was going deeper, getting under the skin, revealing the flaws and the fears and the motives. I had to accept that Lissie was really a stranger to me, and then allow the following drafts to entice her to become known. I had to have faith that this process would happen, and that I would feel I knew her better with every draft I completed. Looking back, this is also what happened with my other books, although admittedly it was definitely easier because the characters started shouting at me before I thought up stories for them… but more and more of them became revealed to me with each draft, edit and rewrite. Now I could easily tell you exactly how any of those characters would react in any situation. I could tell you what they would do, say, think, what their facial expressions would be and so on. To me, they are real people. That is what needs to happen before characters can make the reader believe in them too.

I am just about to dive into the final draft of The Tree Of Rebels, and I cannot tell you how excited I am. It has been a challenge, this book, for many reasons, not least the issue I just explained. I have decided to make some major changes, so the final draft may actually become more of a rewrite, than a last edit.

I am wary of the process and scared I will fail. But one thing I do feel better about. One thing I do feel confident about now. I know Lissie Turner. Finally, truly, I know her inside and out, and that is going to help make this thing work more than anything else!