Ta da! Here it is, the cover for my latest novel, A Thousand Rooms. I wrote the book about two years ago during NaNoWriMo – since then, I’ve been editing and rewriting to get it ready for publication. I’ve had some wonderful beta readers along the way, including Ali Isaac, Louise Allen and Angelika Offenwanger – thank you so much for all your valuable feedback! Esther Newton lent her editing expertise to give it a final polish, and my brother, Rich Jones at Turning Rebellion, took my photo of red shoes and created a cover which I think perfectly captures the spirit of the story – thank you!
I realise the above paragraph sounds a little bit like one of those award show acceptance speeches, but I do think it’s important to acknowledge how many people it can take to produce a book. I feel very fortunate to have found such a wonderful group of authors and bloggers around the world, and really appreciate your support.
So, what’s the book about?
You don’t wake up expecting to die…
Katie is thirty-two, single, and used to work in advertising. She’s also dead. A lost soul hitching rides with the dying, trying to find her way to… wherever she’s supposed to be.
And whoever she’s supposed to be with.
Heaven, it seems, has a thousand rooms. What will it take to find hers?
I’m just finalising the formatting, with a view to publishing, hopefully, within the week. And, once I have published… you’ll be the first to know!
I’m currently in the editing stage of my third Ambeth book, Hills and Valleys. It’s already been out to beta readers and I’ve made several adjustments based on their suggestions, all very much in keeping with the spirit of the story. And I’ve just received editorial notes from my editor, Lucy, who is fantastic in that she really ‘gets’ the story, and therefore makes really useful suggestions when it comes to narrative flow and character development. One of the great things about being an independent author is that it’s then completely up to me as to which suggestions I run with, though, as I’ve said previously, I tend to agree with most points she raises.
I’ve been writing copy for other people for years, which I find quite different to writing my own work. By the time it’s published it’s been edited back and forth, shaped and reworked to fit their vision, not mine, so I usually feel quite detached once I see it in print. But seeing my own work printed, holding my own book in my hand, knowing that the words in there are OUT now, that strangers are reading it, is quite a different thing. And so I want it, therefore, to be the best version it can be. A professional edit is, to me, worth every penny. I’m not privy to endless streams of cash, so I do have to plan ahead and budget, but it’s well worth doing. And beta readers are invaluable for picking up plot holes and inconsistencies, things we are often blind to after staring at our work for so long.
So, all this is a long way of saying: YOU MUST SHOW YOUR WORK TO OTHER PEOPLE.
This may seem completely obvious – after all, we write so that others will read our work, don’t we? And yet, especially when it’s your first book, this is something that’s easier said than done. Sometimes it might seem easier to just press ‘Publish’ and let your story wander out into the world, at the mercy of whichever reader might pick it up, rather than subjecting yourself to the ordeal of feedback from people you actually know. When you’re writing about love or anger or s-e-x, you are drawing on the deeper emotional parts of yourself – to then share these things with people you know is a curiously intimate process and can feel quite confronting.
Yet you have to. You have to do this. I attended a seminar some time ago with several literary agents and one of them made this point very clearly. You have to get used to other people seeing your work. So you have to stamp down that little voice that says it’s not ready, it’s not good enough, no-one will like it. And you will, hopefully, be surprised.
I find it much easier to do now. This blog has helped a great deal in terms of confidence, as have all the comments I’ve had, and the positive reviews. Yet there is still that moment when I see the email come back from a beta reader or editor and think ‘Oh god, did they hate it?’ Which is ridiculous, of course. But nonetheless it is there. And if they do hate it, if several readers pick up on the same thing, then I need to take it on board and make changes. After all, this sort of feedback is kinder coming from people you know before the book is published, rather than anonymously in black and white, preserved for posterity in the reviews.
So, even though it may feel as though you are stripping your soul bare, you need to step back from those words, from the story that for so long has been just the two of you in a quiet room. Share it around, show off a little. After all, writing a book is an accomplishment in itself.
It’s Monday, and the gorgeous child is back at school. Half term is over – this year is flying by already – and I’m now back to my regular schedule.
A Thousand Rooms is now starting to go out to agents and publishers. I have a carefully crafted cover letter, a sweated-over synopsis, and have had the first three chapters professionally critiqued (thanks, Esther!). I’m also getting very strong feedback on the finished manuscript from my lovely, lovely beta readers – thank you to each and every one of you for your time and honest words.
I managed to get it out the door to three agents last week. One has already got back to me, with a rejection. Ouch. But that is the game I am in, the ring I have now entered, and so I must duck and weave and armour myself against the slings and arrows of rejection, for I doubt it will be the last. I read somewhere that if you get rejected more than ten times, it’s your manuscript that’s the problem. Honestly, I think ten is far too low a number – The Help was rejected something like sixty times, to cite just one example. I think Harry Potter was knocked back at least a dozen times, to cite another. So I have a list of agents and publishers to approach before I decide to go it alone. I believe in the story and, with the feedback I’m getting, hope that it will get somewhere.
Hills and Valleys remains in the editing stage, but I’m still hoping to publish next month. There is a cover design to finalise, then the whole formatting thing to go through again.
And finally, I’ve decided to take advantage of my free KDP Days and am offering Oak and Mistfree to download until February 25th. I’ve offered it for free once before with positive results and, while I’m not a fan of giving work away, I do believe these short promotions have their benefits. In fact, I blogged about it here and here.