Dear Jane, the third and final book of the Highbury Trilogy, launched on 2nd May. Over 2500 people secured their copies in the first two days and twenty or so positive reviews appeared in its support. Two blog tours, one in the UK and one in the US, began spreading the word about Dear Jane to readers who might otherwise not know of its existence. None of this happened by accident.
It took me about twelve months to write Dear Jane. In theory I am supposed to write every day for four or five hours but in practice this usually turns out to be two or three days per week. Once the book is written it is best to leave it to languish for a while while I do something else but in fact this is fairly difficult to do, as I am generally pretty excited about it and, by then, have people eager to read it. My solution to this is to read it out loud to Tim, my long-suffering husband. He is such an encouragement to me. He is great at spotting errors, repetitions, plot holes and convoluted sentences. He queries characters’ motivations and notices when someone’s blue eyes have turned brown. In the light of his responses I then go back and edit the book. Reading it aloud helps me hear the flow of the prose and check that the dialogue is realistic. Much honing and improvement is done at this stage.
Next, the book goes to a handful of carefully selected beta readers and editors. These are readers who have the self discipline not to rush through the story just to see what happens but who will read carefully, forensically, making notes and spotting my typos, spelling and grammar errors. They read critically but they report back compassionately. Many of them are writers themselves and they know how precious a newly minted manuscript is, how invested in it I am. They are honest and constructive.. Following their reading and comments the book undergoes further work to make it the best it can be. I was lucky enough to have Sallianne at Quinnediting and Helen @helenpryke among others, to help me.
Let me say here that in my opinion this stage of the book’s creation is the one which is most often omitted by indie writers. They may write a good book but it will be full of editorial errors and won’t be as good as it could be if it isn’t subjected to proper editing by an independent, preferably qualified, person. I have said before that writing a book is a bit like having a baby. You’re proud of it and you want to show it to the world. But you mustn’t, you really mustn’t, until several people have checked it’s perfect.
Sometime about now I need to start thinking about a cover. I’d found the artwork I wanted at Scruffmonkeyart.co.uk, an original piece by Mike Shayler and Rebecca at Watson Design did the graphic design for me. My website guru Becca at Beccadunlop.net is brilliant at keeping subscribers up to date with progress and making a big splash on launch day.
With the novel finished and edited and the cover designed, it was time to begin the six week count down to launch. I chose a launch day (2nd May) and then began to invite existing members of my support group and to recruit new ones to assist me with this important phase. They receive a free ARC (advance review copy) of the book and in return they agree to post honest reviews which will boost the book’s profile at the outset. I also booked paid-for promotions and arranged a blog tour to coincide with the launch. With a strong team on board I sent out the ARCs and bit my nails while I waited to see what they thought.
However, my work was not done. I took off my marketing hat and put on my technical hat in order to upload the manuscript and the cover to the sales platforms. These all have different requirements depending on whether the book will be a print or e version. They seem to specialise in mashing up my beautifully formatted text, eliminating my nice fonts and ignoring my pagination so that things have to be tweaked and reloaded and then checked a hundred times. Oh well, it filled up the time while the launch group read the ARC! Of course, occasionally they found an error the beta readers had missed, which involved doing the whole thing all over again!
Hallelujah! The responses were positive and I approached launch day with quiet confidence. Now the book is live and sales are steady. I need to keep pushing it, with promotions and social media posts (like this one). Why? Because I believe in the book and I believe in myself as a writer. Because writing, to me, is as necessary as breathing, tea in the morning and G & T on Friday evenings. And because I am also a reader. I know the pleasure that can be derived from a good book.