How to Launch a Book

Launching a ship requires a goodly crowd and a large bottle of champagne. Exactly the same principles apply to book launches, though without all the sea-water.  

Daunt Books, Hampstead Heath

I’ll skip the question of whether you “need” a physical launch. I didn’t have a launch for any of my non-fiction books, unless you count one publisher’s lavish effort with a bowl of peanuts and about three people.  

Here’s what I learned from the launch of my novel Hampstead Fever earlier this week.

1 My best tip: share the launch with another author. But no sailing under flags of convenience.  You must like the other author and their book.

I shared Wednesday evening at Daunt Books, Hampstead Heath, with my fellow author Christine Webber. It was her second novel and my second novel, and we’d both had around 12 non-fiction books published already. While Who’d Have Thought It? isn’t much like Hampstead Fever, it’s in the same genre and both make good summer reads.  

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2 Invite people because you like them, not just because they’re “useful”. The second type has a disconcerting habit of finding something more interesting to do on the night. Besides, you’re celebrating your achievements, so you should enjoy the proceedings.

3 Don’t be ill.  I got this terribly wrong last week. On the plus side, some people thought it was a clever marketing ploy.  “So,” said one waggish author friend. “I suppose you’ve got Hampstead Fever?”

4 Have plenty of food and drink. Especially drink.  If you can, have someone to serve people wearing white gloves. Class.

Fron L to R: me, Orna Roass, Jane Davis

From left to right: me, Orna Ross and Jane Davis

5 Take a pen. Of course you’ve already practised your authorial signature and worked out what to write by way of dedications, but something to write with does come in useful.

6 Get someone to take photos. Even better, ask several people, just in case. Make sure they capture the really important shots, eg with your family.

Christine with some friends

Christine Webber with some of her friends

7 Say a few words about yourself and your book.  You might mention the drawers full of unpublished masterpieces, or explain why you write instead of doing something easier, like transplant surgery. Thank key people, but remember it’s not an Oscar acceptance speech. Five to seven minutes will do, especially if more than one person speaks. Christine and I didn’t do readings, but many authors do. At a recent multiple launch, authors from the Triskele collective had others read excerpts aloud, to great effect.

7 Consider getting someone to introduce you and/or field questions from the audience. Someone might want to know how you write (“Is it true that you do your best writing in a rainy orchard with nothing on?”) or whether that scene is based on real life. On second thoughts, skip the questions.

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8 Consider merchandise (bookmarks, pencils and other trifles) or a draw for a book-related prize.  You could also have a slide-show or a book trailer running. The sky’s the limit, really, but it can become tacky, look desperate, or interfere with sheer enjoyment of the event.  

Concentrate on essentials like chilled fizz and plenty of copies of your book, and you’ll have a great send-off for your new title.

Pippa and Bethany of Daunt Books

Pippa and Bethany of Daunt Books

How to Plan a Box-Set

Today’s post is from a fabulous British author called Jane Davis.

By fabulous, I don’t mean she writes fables. In case you don’t know, her six novels to date are all wonderfully real character-led stories. This Saturday, October 3, she’s at Barton’s Bookshop in Leatherhead from 10.00am to 4.00pm for the launch of the new ‘bookshop editions’ of her novels.

And let me tell you that when you get to Barton’s at 2 Bridge Street, Leatherhead, you know you’ve arrived.

Here’s Jane with her advice on how to plan a box-set.

Jane Davis

In 2014 I experimented with producing two box-sets, first releasing my own three novel box-set, and then collaborating with six other authors on a multi-author limited edition box-set.

I called my own box-set Second Chapter as it contains what I consider to be the second chapter in my journey as an author. My first novel, Half-truths and White Lies, was published by Transworld after it won the Daily Mail First Novel Award in 2009. Second Chapter contains three full-length novels, I Stopped TimeThese Fragile Things, and A Funeral for an Owl. The idea was simple. I wanted to attract new readers by offering three books for the price of two.

Second Chapter

Single author box-sets are the perfect solution for authors who write a series, and they’re great for readers too.

As JJ Marsh explains about her European crime novels in the Beatrice Stubbs Box Set: ‘Readers often say that after reading one, they immediately want the next in the series, so a box-set is a handy way to get three at once.’

My collaboration with six other members of the Alliance of Independent Authors was more unusual. While collaborative efforts have become more common among genre fiction authors, we weren’t aware of other multi-author collections of contemporary novels. Of course, several of the issues highlighted here also apply to single-author box-sets.

Why do it?

Simple. We wanted to explore the power of the group. A box-set aggregates reader bases and the theory was that our combined reader bases would result in cumulated sales. But we also wanted to demonstrate the tremendous quality of fiction that is being self-published.

These Fragile Things

Who to collaborate with?

The group needs to share the same values and aims. These should be set out in an agreement (more later) which, when the going gets tough, can serve as a useful reminder of why you started out on this journey.

Make sure you’re happy to champion the other authors’ books as you would your own. We were fans of one another’s fiction before we teamed up.

No two books should be too alike, but they should appeal to the same target market. Our decision was to focus on our characters and the boundary-breaking nature of our fiction.

Make sure that the other authors are eligible to participate. Better to discover sooner rather than later that they’re signed up to KDP Select.

Find out if all of the books have been professionally copy-edited and proofread. You will save time by asking this very simple question.

Do the books have a high number of 5 star reviews? You may find it very difficult to garner reviews for a box-set, especially if it is only available for a limited period, so it’s a good idea to have a stock of headline quotes to draw from.

I Stopped Time

Outline Agreement

Now comes the nitty gritty. Even though you may want to operate on trust, certain issues should be nailed down at the outset.

Set out your main aims. How else will you measure your success? 

Decide how you’ll work on a logistical level.  Will one person act as overall leader or manager, or will each author take responsibility for a different area? What issues will you put to the vote, and how will you make decisions if you are up against time limits?

There should be written agreement that each author will retain his/her own rights, but grants consent for the party taking responsibility for uploading the e-book to publish it. This really is a key responsibility. That same person will receive all of the proceeds from sales and must act as treasurer for the team. We are so grateful that Jessica Bell took on this mammoth task.

Release date – print magazines put their books and features pages to bed three months before publication. Newspapers have a faster turnaround, as do radio and TV, and two months’ notice may well suit them. While you may not have aimed for publicity via these channels when writing as an individual, don’t underestimate the power of the group. We featured in a number of major publications, The Guardian, The Sun and New Edition to name but a few.

Pre-orders – now available on most platforms. Our experience was that people want e-books instantly.

A Funeral for an Owl

How long will the box-set be available? Consider the appeal of a limited edition product v the benefits of having the product available in the longer term. If some of you have published only one or two books, they may be less keen for the box-set to remain on sale. We decided on a period of 90 days only.

How will the product be priced? Box-sets are usually value-priced, meaning that the box-set costs the reader far less than purchasing all the books individually. Generally, the more limited availability is going to be, the keener the pricing needs to be. We settled on a price that represented a discount of 75% off the price of the books if bought separately, which represented tremendous value.

What is each member is expected to contribute, both in terms of money and time? I was simply blown away by the skill-sets within our team. Having a cover designer, interior formatter and website designer in-house meant that we didn’t have to pay other professionals for these services. And there was surprisingly little overlap in skills, so we were all able to play to our strengths.

How each member will be paid and when (Pay Pal is useful).

A general statement of commitment to summarise what is expected of everyone.

Women Writing Women Box Set Cover_finalGIF (1)

Branding

Title – As well as capturing the theme that links the books together, it’s a good idea to mention the word “box-set” in the title, together with the number of contributing authors.  

Cover design – 2D v 3D? As instructed in the Smashwords Style Guide, Smashwords can’t accept ‘3D’ images (a digital rendition of a three dimensional box-set). And they are not alone. If you wish to publish on any platform other than Amazon, and you only want to have one cover image, it must be 2D. NB: All authors should be listed on the e-book cover image.

Your brand will extend to author photographs, memes, Facebook banner, website domain name and design, all the way to any Twitter hashtags you adopt. Ours also included video trailers and promotional giveaways. 

Formatting and Interior layout

You’ll combine the multiple books into a single e-book file. A Table of Contents becomes crucial for box-sets.

We listed each book and author name, and included a short bio, blurb and headline quotes after each title page. You might also add “Other books by Author Name” or “Connect with Author Name,” with electronic links.

Proof-reading – It is vital to ensure that errors have not been introduced during the formatting process. As a minimum, each author should proof their own book and one other novel.  Set a clear realistic deadline.

Communication within the team

We found it very helpful to set up a closed Facebook Group, as well as a shared Google spreadsheet which was effectively a diary of all of our marketing. This ensured that we didn’t duplicate efforts and that we weren’t all asking favours of the same contacts!

Joni Rodgers

Publicity Campaign

We were fortunate to have our product endorsed by respected industry professionals, including Alison Baverstock and Dan Holloway, who gave us amazing quotes which we were able to use on our cover and in press releases.

We utilised social media to full effect, adopting #womenwritingwomen as our hashtag, setting up a Public Facebook Group and targeting reader groups.

Press Releases – we designed three separate press releases with slightly different emphasis in order to suit the bias of the publications we intended to approach.

We wanted a fresh idea for giveaways that would cost very little but treat the winning readers to something of genuine value. Joni Rodger’s daughter (Jerusha Rodgers of Rabid Badger Editing) created a fabulous digital swag bag that included a critically acclaimed novel by Joni, a free music album download by Jessica Bell and a host of delightfully fun and artsy surprises. We also gave away a couple of Kindle Paperwhites. Giving away upscale prizes in a promotion builds awareness, and brought us email addresses and other benefits.

Joni is also experienced in audio editing, so she created our book trailer – again using one of Jessica’s songs. She also made a 60 second review for each book in the set.

Blog tours – we adopted a dual approach, pulling in favours and paying for a blog tour.

Jane Davis

What we will take away from the experience

Joni Rodgers: ‘I’ve learned a lot about marketing and production, and that’s something I’ll gratefully take with me when our 90 days is done.’

Roz Morris: ‘Certainly I learned that promotion in a group gives you more courage. I find it agonising to write assertive press releases on my own behalf, but it was dead easy for our ensemble. I’ll channel that when I start bumbling through a release for my next book.’

ooOoo

A big thank you to Jane. Here’s more about her:

Jane Davis’s first novel, Half-truths and White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award and was described by Joanne Harris as ‘A story of secrets, lies, grief and, ultimately, redemption, charmingly handled by this very promising new writer.’ She has since published five further novels.  Compulsion Reads describe her as ‘a phenomenal writer whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless.’

Visit her website: www.jane-davis.co.uk and subscribe to her blog
‘Like’ her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JaneDavisAuthorPage
Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/janerossdale
Follow her on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/janeeleanordavi/boards/

And don’t miss seeing her at Barton’s Bookshop on October 3.

 

Is There Such a Thing as Awesome Free Stuff?

Can you really get awesome stuff for free?

Course not, silly! As a smarty-pants friend always reminds me, the preposition ‘for’ is redundant here, and ‘for free’ is incorrect.  But I just threw it in for, like, free.

I’ll keep this short because you may need time to hunt for free stuff (see how ‘for free’ is correct here, Ms Smarty Pants?).  Here’s what I bagged this week.

1 The best thing was this bike, courtesy of a lovely friend of mine.

Universal Ladies' Bicycle

I hadn’t cycled since my teens, but, with a bit of encouragement, off I wobbled.  As well as the bike, I got three bonus bruises and a grazed elbow. Yep, this could be the gift that goes on giving.

2 Advice from a hairdresser.

Thanks to a cut-and-blow-dry on Wednesday, I’ve absorbed a ton of knowledge. Did you know acupuncture could cure hair loss? I got so much free info that I may have to start a new blog. Maybe haircourse.wordpress.com or headteacherblogspot.co.uk.  

3 Two free pillows from a bedding shop.

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, there was a snag. You had to be in Geneva to get them.

Geneva, Switzerland

4  The Indie Author Fair at Foyles.

It’s a free event at the iconic Foyles bookshop in central London, with loads of indie books, authors, and refreshments. Who wouldn’t want to be there? It’s on Friday April 17 from 16:30 to 19:30, so it’s still up for grabs. It’s unticketed, and did I mention it’s free?

Indie Author Fair 2015 at Foyles

Whether you go or not, you can also enter a free draw for a huge number of prizes, including an awesome digital swag bag from the OUTSIDE THE BOX team. It includes a novel, music, a printable “Reading is Bliss” poster, inspiring wallpapers for your desktop, phone or Facebook, and all manner of playful surprises. You can enter the draw right here.

Women-Writing-Women-Box-Set-Cover_finalJPEG (1)See? There are awesome things to enjoy for free.

 

Is Researching a Book Better than Sex?

Some authors say that research is the best bit about writing. I’ve never believed that. What’s so great about spending long hours in the stacks at the library, or ages trawling the internet to find out what people had for dinner in 17th century Crete?

reference library

But now that I write fiction, research has taken on a whole new hue. I wouldn’t say it’s better than sex, even if in some cases it IS sex. Here’s a rundown of some recent endeavours.

1 Intel gathering for a steamy bathroom scene.

steamy bathroom scene

Is it possible for the earth to move while scrubbing lime-scale off the taps?  Everything had to be just so: a non-slip bathmat, a filthy dirty bathtub (this takes months), and of course the right bathroom cleaner.

Cillit Bang

2 The front seat of the Mini scene. If a couple feel inclined to bonk in their Mini near a lighthouse in Norfolk, can they do so without tearing an Armani suit or a ligament? We may never know for sure. Thanks, man who rapped on the window to say, “Ere, lost me mobile. Can I borrow yours?”

Mini Cooper S

3 The Gents at the hospital. There’s a scene in my work-in-progress where a character has to rinse his tackle in the loo at Watford General Hospital. I couldn’t do this one on my own, but the great thing about being married is all those vows. My other half is an honest guy, so he takes such things seriously.

However, it proved not to be so simple. The water was either freezing cold or boiling hot, and the hand dryers were at the wrong height. Besides, who’d actually dip his bits into a Dyson Airblade?

Dyson Airblade hand dryer

4 Undercover underwear work. Hopefully this quiet day would keep me on the right side of the law. St Michael may be the patron saint of underwear. They’ve even made briefs with the word Gentleman woven into the elastic, just like the Diesel ones say Diesel. But John Lewis has the range of men’s kecks I needed for my research. So there I was, checking out the feel and, more important, the scent of the fabrics used in boxers, briefs, budgie-smugglers, front-loaders, posing pouches and thongs.

Pierre Cardin knitted briefs

As I crumpled the waistbands and studied the gussets, I managed to side-step six shop assistants, or, as John Lewis calls them, partners. Unfortunately I didn’t spot one of my patients who was shopping for Y-fronts. He caught me with my nose up a pair of Calvin Klein trunks (low-rise, if you want to know). It’s funny, but he hasn’t made an appointment to see me since.

5 Bridge over troubled water. It used to be so easy to climb in and out of King’s College, Cambridge after the back gate was locked.

King's College Cambridge bridge (1819)

But what about now, after they’ve added extra ironwork as a deterrent?  As I found out, there’s a very real risk of losing your footing and falling into a deep and murky ditch, especially if you’re 40 years older than the last time you did this.

I tried to think calming thoughts.

Keep Calm.You're in Cambridge

This is hard when a couple of tourists are standing over you, offering to ring an ambulance. A passing medical student thought an air ambulance would be more appropriate. Perhaps he hoped Prince William might pitch up.  What got me out of the ditch in the end was a snooty college porter, incensed that I was doing my research on his patch.

6 An overnight stay in a bookshop.

bookshop

Luckily I didn’t have to do this myself, or enlist any of my family, as an American tourist did exactly that in late 2014.

Right. That’s it. From now on, I’m doing all my research on Twitter. Though I will miss my husband.

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I’ll be at the Indie Author Fair at Foyles, Charing Cross Road on April 17, and so will lots of other authors. Why not come in, see their books, and maybe ask them about their research? The event is free.

Indie Author Fair