Sunday, 26 August 2012

Blurb - ering Idiot

Guess what I hate doing. I hate writing blurbs. Blurbs – it sounds like the bursting mud bubble in the middle of a stinking swamp.

Traitors Day has been finished for a few days now. When I say finished I don’t mean I put the final full stop in, I mean it has been edited within an inch of its life (or if you’re a critic – badly edited), I have formatted it, typed the copyright, finished the cover (as you can see). The book, as it should be is a finished product – yippee – except for the bloody blurb.

Traitors Day: Part Two of the Dark Waters
This is the hardest part of writing. I see it all the time on various writer forums. Lots of “help me my blurb sucks” and the like. I’ve clicked on a lot of these and do you know what – their blurbs did suck. I’m not being mean, in fact I am the deputy chair for Blurbs Suck Inc, but it emphasises my point that these few paragraphs will be the hardest a writer has to produce and everyone seems to struggle with it.

I have to sum up 70,000 words in a few paragraphs. Length, like most girls are aware, is very important. If it’s too short you won’t entice your readers, but heaven help you if it’s too long and they fall asleep before the end. I’m thinking, and as I believe I have proved already, I am in no way a guru on Blurbs, 3 snappy paragraphs should be about right and have served me well in the past.

Then you’ve got to work out what to divulge, obviously mentioning the ending might not be the greatest idea, unless you’re Quentin Tarantino, so how far do you go? This is what’s really hard, especially with fantasy books. So far I have just tried to pick up two threads, ignore every side plot I can and just focus on two of my main characters and their antics.

Finally, there’s the hook. What is going to draw people in? Unfortunately I’ve been watching a lot of the old Batman series on TV and keep wanting to add:

“Finn and Wey have found themselves in another tight spot, will they be able to get back to the inn for rum and shanties? Find out in our next episode...”

Trying to steer away from clich├ęd nonsense is very hard and possibly not even beneficial. There has to be an amount of “Will they do this?” “Can they do that?” because obviously these questions can then be solved by reading the book. But you can’t make it too cheesy. Sounds easy doesn’t it.

Putting the above together I eventually finished the blurb for part one: Harvest, which has been published a month:

Finn is a simple priest living a life of solitude in the Temple until the night his dying father sends for him. Finn learns that, not only does he have a half-sister, but that she is a captive in the Vaults – a prison reserved for the most heinous criminals. Vowing to save her he enlists the services of the scoundrel pirate, Egan Wey. Together they set off to commit treason.

But their adventure only starts with a rescue. Across the ocean a plague is coming, dead men are walking and blood is like gold. Someone is behind this, but can they find out who in time…

This epic fantasy adventure is pulsing with adrenaline and dark humour, with swashbuckling pirates, raging zombies and copious bottles of rum…

What’s annoying me now is I have a bloody template – one I’m happy with and I still can’t seem to get my head around what I’m going to write. For three days I’ve been doing this, three days! That’s going to be less than 1 paragraph a day! Deep breaths, calm down.

The most frustrating part of this process is once you sign off on your book, pat yourself on the back and declare it ready for the double figure masses, a little hourglass appears over your head. The countdown for publishing begins and it’s a bit like Christmas, all anticipation and excitement. Only now the Scrooge Blurb is threatening to put off Santa until summer at this rate.

Of course I could just put it out – rubbing hands together in a mischievous manner – a mediocre blurb would excuse any potential poor sales and it’s not like I haven’t done it before. NO – not this time, this time I will be 100% happy before anything goes anywhere and if that means Christmas comes in summer then I will ask Santa for a pair of sunglasses and new sandals.

It’s so hard battling with impatience, but if a product isn’t right it shouldn’t be out there. There are no excuses in this game, just missed opportunities. Like with all my other blurbs I will reach a point where it feels right and that, my friends, is the time to publish. I feel it with my books, with my blurb, formatting, editing, everything and, if I’ve learned anything, it is to wait for that one satisfactory moment when the little voice inside your head says “yeah, you’re there mate.”

The voice has supported everything so far, I’m just waiting for a pass on this final stage. This is what I’ve got so far:

Plague has savaged the islands, killing thousands. Finn has escaped the Red Prince, but the genocide continues and the dead are still rising. He knows their only chance is to find a cure, but when he arrives at the City of Sands, the origin of the plague, he finds nothing is what it seems.

The Prince’s army is swelling. War is on the horizon. Across the water Wey and Adiah try to unite the survivors. But trusting their old enemies could prove to be more dangerous than facing the Prince alone.

This epic fantasy adventure series has even faster adrenaline, darker humour, with more swashbuckling pirates, raging zombies and bountiful bottles of rum…

Let me know what you think. I’m going to have six more cups of coffee and try again.

Oh, god I’ve still got at least two more books in this series to go!!!!

(Just to hammer home any point that Blurbs are hard – I wrote this in less than an hour - in between Blurb paragraphs – there is no justice in this world)

Monday, 6 August 2012


It’s been a while since my last confession… I mean post. For what seems like months, in fact for what has been months I’ve been working on getting Dark Waters split into a series and at last book one Harvest is now out there – little pat on the back methinks.

It’s funny, Harvest was published nearly a year after Dark Waters and you’d think I’d have gotten the hang of it by now. I guess I didn’t pay much attention in class because I made the same stupid mistakes: published the wrong file, forgot to add links to my new website (not forgotten now though – another pat if you please), messed up my synopsis and totally forgot how to advertise.

Obviously I’m still a novice with a few hundred book sales underneath me. Although Dark Waters didn’t take the world by storm it did so much better than I ever thought was possible and at least publishing it has taught me how this process feels. To publish a book, whether it’s your first or fortieth is like the birth of a new child. It’s exhilarating and terrifying. The potential for it to be the best thing you ever did is levelled with the possibility it could ruin everything. You want to give it the best start in life and when it goes wrong it hits you hard.

In my experience, once I’ve fumbled through the actual publishing process, the next stage is the hardest: Promotion. Now you’ve poured your heart and soul into an e-pub it’s time to tell the world how amazing it is. I’m naturally an understated individual. When I’m asked how I am, it doesn’t matter if I’m bleeding from a severe fracture of the skull or doing back flips through the supermarket, I will always say “not too bad.” But “not too bad” is not going to sell books.

Last year I got bogged down in advertising and it sent me a bit doo-lally. I found myself so concerned with what others thought that I began to lose my identity altogether. Modesty became uncertainty and then fear. It didn’t matter that most of my feedback was excellent, nor that the nastier undercurrent of snipes I got were from people who hadn’t read my book. What mattered was I was told I should take writing classes. What mattered was that 1 return out of 200 sales. What mattered was people saying March was a great month and I had sold 2 books!

For my own already shaky sanity, I have to approach this next step with caution. You see I love my book, deep down I think it’s brilliant, but it’s so hard to openly say that without feeling like you’re setting yourself up for a fall. I would never publish anything I wasn’t happy with, but what if other people aren’t happy with it? What if it doesn’t meet their standards? What if? What if? What if? Your opinion counts to me, of course it does, that’s why I published, but your opinion will not affect my opinion, because, like the love for my son, the love for my work is unconditional. It can’t let me down because it has already exceeded my expectation.

This has to be my new mantra. I’ve posted Harvest here and there, but after some research I have decided that the best promotional technique is to just keep writing. Traitors’ Day is book 2, it’s in draft and it is exceptional (getting easier to say the more I say it). If you like Harvest, hell even if you don’t, when book 2 is published you better buy some new socks because your old ones are going to be blown off (tongue may be in cheek or it could just be the swelling from the head butt my son gave me mid handstand – his not mine – unconditional love eh?)

I think if you’re embarking on a publishing adventure, or thinking about it, you need to be strong willed and confident, not to the point of arrogance, but to a stage where the spiteful rain will fall off you. We writers seem to spend so much time and effort trying to get reviews and sales for our work we forget that we have to still be in love with our books. It’s vitally important before you expose yourself to the world that you accept your weaknesses for what they are. At some point you get to a stage where you are ready to take the plunge and publish your work and it will not be perfect, but that’s life. You will have to deal with that missing comma, that passage that people read as incredibly dirty when you really didn’t intend it to be, it will be you they are critiquing and this is about as personal as it gets.

The lesson I would stress the most is we are here to write. Whatever happens to you if you are embarking on this journey my advice is to just keep putting words down. You will only get better and this is one of the few occasions time is on your side. For every bad review, poor months of sales, dip in self-confidence knock out a page of something. Every paragraph will be a step further, a practice run, a learning curve. Don’t give up!