publicity

The Bone Dragon Blog Tour

The Bone Dragon Blog Tour

The Bone Dragon goes on tour! A whole range of posts, interviews and even the first 15 pages, hosted by amazing bookbloggers, magazines and book organisations. Thank you so much for giving me these wonderful opportunities to connect with people to talk about books and witing!

 On May 13th, Jo Stapley interviewed me on Once Upon a Bookcase

On May 14, I discussed whether characters should be consistent with BookBabblers. BookBabblers also reviewed the book here

On May 15, Laura at Sisterspooky hosted me talking about how photography helps me to write. She also reviewed the book here

On May 16, INIS interviewed me about The Bone Dragon, how many script-consultant work influences my writing, and about what I’m working on now. Betty Maguire also reviewed the book here

On May 17, Jenny from Wondrous Reads made the first 15 pages available to read for free: a nice alternative to Amazon’s ‘Look inside feature’, especially for talking to independent bookshops about the novel! Read it here

On Monday 20, Meg from The Book Addicted Girl hosted me discussing whether themes such as abuse and violence are ‘too mature’ for the YA audience. Look out for Meg’s review too, coming soon. 

On Tuesday 21, Julie and Lanna from Bloggers [Heart] Books hosted a writing-advice post on when to get feedback: ‘I don’t want your opinion yet!’ 

On Wednesday 22, Vivienne from Serendipity Reviews let me join in the fun of discussing books I loved as a teenager as part of her ‘YA from my Youth’ series. Do check out the other fab posts in the series too! 

On Thursday 23, BookTrust hosted me discussing how I think difficult themes like abuse and violence are best handled when dealing with a YA audience. There’s also a review here

Thank you so much to all the wonderful book people who hosted the stops along the tour. Thanks also for all the lovely reviews! It’s been so much fun working with you all. Hope to do it again soon!

The Bone Dragon Blog Tour

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The Bone Dragon book cover

Publication Day! Thank you to all the wonderful reviewers…

Today, I am officially a published author. I was expecting it might have sunk in by now, but a year on I’m still astonished from day to day to realise (a) I have an amazing agent, (b) I have a wonderful publisher, and (c) I’m being published. Am published as of today. It’s really quite nice that it won’t sink in because the realisation that it’s not just the latest in a string of daydreams is a lovely surprise each and every day.

And there have been all sorts of lovely surprises, not least that I’ll be speaking at the Hay Festival later this month along with Sally Gardner and Nick Lake. You can find more details about our ‘Happily Ever After?’ event here if you think you might be interested in coming along.

And then there’s the thing I’ve been longing for and dreading… finding out what people think of the book. Thank you so much to everyone who’s bought the book, read it, ordered it, included it in posts and cover reveals, and generally started getting the buzz going.

Luna’s Little Library was my first ever reader to comment. I literally jumped around for a little while being over the moon that my first reader liked the book. She’s also written an absolutely lovely review. Literally the sort of review I’ve dreamed about.

The first review to come out though was actually Annabelle Hammond’s detailed and thoughtful look at the book. It’s been amazing to hear that people are reading my book, but it’s the most wonderful compliment when people take the time not only to review but to review at length.

Katie from Storytellers, Inc.’s wonderful, insightful review picks up on so many of the things that I hoped readers would find in the book. Was so touched by the discussion of how I’ve handled the darker themes in the book: Katie review captures exactly what I was trying to do.

Laura from Sisterspooky’s review made my day by tackling many of the mistaken assumptions readers might make about the book if they only glanced at the blurb. It’s such a great thing for a writer to see reviews that address market forces so that readers can get a true sense of what a book is about.

Finally, INIS magazine have my first trade press review! So exciting to have one out before the official publication date. Now to cross fingers that there are more to come.

I know that everyone gets bad reviews. It’s part of the territory. But it’s so lovely to start with nice ones. Let the bad ones wait as long as possible!

It’s a strange and wonderful thing to read reviews of your work and especially to see the time and care people have put into thinking and writing about your book. I’ve been astonished with how many things these reviews have picked up on that really mattered to me as a writer. I wasn’t sure how much of what I see as the heart of the story would translate to readers. It’s a powerful thing to be told that it has translated: that readers are seeing what I see in the story… or at least partially. Seeing readers’ alternative interpretations of their work drives some writers mad, but mostly I’m curious. The book may be my creation but any reading of it belongs to that reader. I love that about the writing-reading process: there’s a point at which it’s collaboratively creatively, albeit it at a distance.

Thank you so much to the wonderful reviewers who have made my publication week so amazing. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the care with which you’ve treated my work.

raindrops on plant fronds

Publicity Questionnaires for Authors

I have just had the most amazingly exciting book-related news… but I can’t share it quite yet. Soon, though… 🙂

In the meantime, I thought I’d do a quick post about publicity questionnaires as I whinged about how difficult they were last time but didn’t give any details.

Basically, a publicity questionnaire is what it says on the box – a questionnaire your publisher sends you to gather all the basic info they need for publicity purposes. Most of the questions revolve around whether you have any ideas, especially for local publicity, and whether you have any relevant experience. But what they really want to know is what you’re willing to do.

If you’re active on social media sites, they’ll want to know all your addresses. If you’re willing to tweet and Facebook and so forth, but don’t have accounts, then get them set up before you send in your questionnaire. But only do this if you’re willing to follow through. It’s best to be honest up front if you despise the very idea of being on Facebook.

The questionnaire will almost certainly require you to write a super-short summary of the book, a short bio and perhaps a paragraph about why you wrote the book.

Your publisher may also ask you to outline some of the key themes of the book and/or what aspects you think are likely to engage readers. It’s this last thing that I found really tricky. It’s hard to answer this question in relation to a thriller without giving too much away! In the end, Claire (my wonderful, wonderful agent) suggested that some single words would probably be the best approach for The Bone Dragon, so we sat down and brainstormed. In the end, I chose the words/phrases ‘wishfulfilment’, ‘resilience’, ‘pain’, ‘finding love’ and ‘friendship’. There were some other words on the list that are even more important, but I didn’t want to reveal too much… Laura, my fantastic publisist at Faber, will tell me if I’ve ended up not revealing enough.

The other thing to think about is how much you’re willing to share about your personal life. It is enormously important to be very clear about this in your own mind before you start engaging with the media. Make the decision in advance, and then be polite but extremely firm about it. Be aware that most reporters will try to push – that’s their job after all. But don’t feel you’re being disobliging or ungracious if you politely but firmly steer the conversation away from anything you have decided should remain private. That’s OK. And it’ll be totally par for the course from the reporter’s point of view. Just be nice about it and offer the reporter something else that is story-worthy instead. You do owe them that for their time, but you don’t owe them an insight into every aspect of your life.

On the other hand, be aware that if you engage with the media you need to be willing to share some insight into your personal life. At the very least you’ll need to talk about your hobbies and interests, so think about some good stories in those areas. It’s also good to have a few stories about family and friends in reserve. Just be wary of identifying exactly who the other people in the story are (either by name or other key details), unless the story is completely positive. Try to avoid stories that other people would find embarrassing, but feel free to humilate yourself… up to a point, of course!

So, those are my thoughts… but if anyone has any tips they’d be most welcome!

cat

Onto the proofs

Just for the record, you might like to know it’s now late August.

By now, there have actually been two ultra-fast stages of copy-editing (see Everyone should have a project editor). The first set of copy-edits came in on August 9th. I returned my comments in batches August 15th-17th. Further comments arrived from Eleanor on the 20th, returned same day.

At this stage, it works for me to have (self-set) tight deadlines. For me, there’s a real danger of agonising over tiny things to the point where I just can’t see the pros and cons effectively. Which is not to say that I don’t take a lot of care over the tiniest of tiny details… but there’s a point at which I’ve taken care through 10 drafts and now am sailing into obsession territory. And a tight deadline means there’s a point at which I’ve got to just make a decision. And that can be a Very Good Thing.

So, August 21st off the manuscript goes to be page-set and turned into a manuscript that actually looks like a book (why do I keep typing ‘good’ for ‘book’?).

… 13th of August the electronic copy of the proofs comes into my in-box. Hardcopy picked up on the Monday when I go into Faber to have a strategy session on how to promote the book.

As always, I am fed chocolate and everyone is lovely to me. If you’re looking for a publisher, I can gush over Faber for you. 🙂

This time we’re in a lovely airy room at the top of Bloomsbury House and there are glass cases with different editions of TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. I still call my cat a possum, though I’m not entirely sure that this was what Eliot intended with the title.

Anyway, the meeting is also a chance to meet Leah, the new Children’s Publisher at Faber, who is lovely (a running theme at Faber)… and also very kind about the fact that I’m in a frenzy of excitement. I suppose it’s good not to be getting in the least bit complacent, but it would be nice if some of the nervous energy of I’M GETTING PUBLISHED! would wear off soon.

It’s a productive meeting, with Rebecca, Leah and Laura, Faber’s publicity wiz, who organised my first ever book-related press clipping, all helping me to get my head around the next stages which will include…

(1) proofing the proofs

(2) printing a proof version to go out for early reviews (terror alert!)

(3) publicity things…

We also talk about the back cover blurb, online branding… and Twitter. We talk a lot about Twitter.

Twitter is a problem for me. First, because I’m a novelist I think in 300 pages about most things. Second, while I hope I’m not boring, I find it hard to believe that anyone but me cares whether I’m having tea. I don’t think my closest friends care… Well, unless they’re actually in the room with me (in which case the tea is important because (a) I am fueled by tea, (b) when I’m about to spontaneously combust with excitement (a fairly common occurrance actually), tea stops me from doing so because I know I’m clumsy so I stay still to drink the tea on the basis that then I will only spill some of it, and (c) when you might as well label me Beware the Beastie, tea restores me to being semi-human, which is as good as it gets).

Anyway, I find it hard to say anything short enough to fit into a tweet that I think will be interesting to other people. I suppose this will get easier as publication approaches and there are more snippets of ‘news’. But a friend (thank you Fiona!) has had a brilliant idea, that I think was mentioned in the Faber meeting too, so I think I may have a way forwards…

Does anyone else have the same problem with Twitter? How do you get around it?

Photoshoot: a short guide on how to look evil

So, somewhere in among the edits, Rebecca emails me to ask for a photo.

I am one of those people who are just not photogenic. Or at least I hope that’s what the problem is: if I really look like I do in most photos I have MUCH bigger problems than not being photogenic.

Anyway, suffice it to say I don’t like being photographed much. Oh, I don’t mind a photo with a group of friends or at a family party or a big event – I don’t make a big deal out of it – but generally I don’t let people take photos of just me, by myself. So when Rebecca asked for something, even a photo taken by a friend on a reasonable camera, I didn’t have many options.

My favourite photos of myself are (a) the one with a cherry blossom branch in front of my face and my eyes peeking over the top (thank you, Lizzie!), (b) the one of me barely visible behind my exceptionally long (and beautiful) cat, (c) the one taken from a long, long way away of me in a meadow in the hills above Prague, and (d) a very low res one taken at a ball hosted by a big Cambridge tech company where I’m wearing a lovely strapless ballgown, only the photo is from the shoulders up so it looks like I might be wearing… less. And… well, that’s about it for photos of me that I like. I have one taken with a group of friends (so not perfect anyway) at the Clare Hall (Cambridge college) Summer Ball, and in this one you can see dress straps… but my eyes are mostly shut.

Mostly I look recently dead in photos. So it didn’t help that, when Rebecca asked for a publicity photo, I was recently out of the hospital (after having had the latest rib out) and completely morphinated… Just the look I wanted to go for.

Anyway, after much trawling around for local photographers, I finally found the fabulous Louisa Walsh at ArtbyLAW. Louisa was absolutely brilliant (and extremely kind) and, thanks to tea and music from Tom,  and a fantastic job on the make-up from Jade, I made it through the shoot… and even had a few pictures where the morphination didn’t show too much.

For the most part, I focused on looking like I was thinking evil thoughts. This, I suspected, would stop me from looking vacant… and it would also fit the book. And just me in general.

For instance, when asked what objects I’d brought to give a sense of my personality in the photos, I produced my gorgeous carved slate notebook with the celtic knot on one cover and the dragon on the other…

‘Would you like a flower, too?’ Louisa asked.

‘No, thanks,’ I replied, smiling sunnily. ‘I brought a knife instead.’

So in several of the longshots there I am with my notebook… and my knife (it’s a very pretty knife, as you can see: one of my favourites).

I did think about bringing a rib in a pot, but I suspected that might be too morbid… especially given the evil glint in the eyes that decided my favourite headshot.

headshot

So how did I work on looking evil? Well, mostly I just thought about the book. There, there be sneakiness… and a Dragon (sort of)… And a little bit of evil for good measure.