I first published my debut novel - Jack Strong and the Red Giant - on Amazon (Kindle and Create Space paperback) on July 7th and I can quite honestly say that I have had an exceptionally steep learning curve (and I'm still learning a great deal even as I write this). I think most of the mistakes that I made early on were purely born out of the fact that I just wanted to get the book out as soon as possible and as quick as I could so as to get it OUT THERE for people to read and buy in their hundreds and thousands (well I can dream!). The first and perhaps the biggest mistake I made was the cover. I have taken the liberty of including both the original cover (in all its textbook sexiness) below, together with the updated Hollywood movie poster version that Fantabanner on www.fiverr.com (A great website for indy writers by the way) designed for me. About 18 people downloaded (well I pestered them!) the original version but it became increasingly clear to me that if I wanted a stranger to go to the trouble of parting with his or her hard-earned money then I would have to have a cover that jumped out at them and said READ ME! Hopefully, the new cover satisfactorily addresses that issue. Another problem with the book has been the synopsis/book blurb. I'm still not happy with it - perhaps I never will be - and so far I think I've re-wrote and re-jigged it about five or six times. Not unlike the cover, I want somebody to read it and for it to jump out at them and grab their attention like the blurb for Harry Potter or else The Lord of the Rings. I will paste the current blurb/synopsis below this blog. Please feel free to give me your honest opinions about it, though like I said I'm still not entirely satisfied.
Another particularly daunting - and not to say tiring - challenge for me has been trying to take the book beyond my immediate circle of friends and trying to get strangers to look at it and buy it. So far my main focus has been the internet. Since the book's launch (though in a way it's more like an enduring campaign) I have swamped Facebook and Twitter and Google + and Linked In etc with updates and promotions all about my book. It's pretty time-consuming stuff (as those of you who are currently engaged in it will no doubt know) as I have to post links, reply to comments, and even post sample chapters (a good way to draw the reader into the quality of my book imho) in various places, all in the pursuit of sometimes scant sales. But this is where I think I have improved as an author/promoter - where once I daydreamed of a hop, skip, and a jump to international literary fame - I now come to value just how important one single sale is. It just goes to show that somebody out there thought enough of my book's blurb or the photo or any of the numerous posts I've plastered all over the internet to download my book. Sometimes as writers we have to be willing to make the hard yards in order get a few touchdowns. Actually, last week I went on holiday to France and upon my return several days later I found that five people had downloaded my book and I hadn't even promoted it whilst I'd been away. How good was that? I felt like a Terminator, that I could conquer the literary world five readers at a time.
But if there was anything that could have brought me back down to Planet Earth it was a bad review. For the past few weeks, as part of my promotional efforts, I've been sending free copies of my novel off to several book reviewers in the hope that they will adequately (or more than adequately I hope) review my book on Amazon and Facebook etc so that this will in turn generate more buzz, more positive publicity, and thus MORE SALES! As there is a direct link on Amazon between the number of positive reviews and actual sales this is acutely vital for many writers like me. Well, I got one such review and it stank like a rotten egg that had been left out in the farmyard for a month or two. I won't go too much into the details - I can't even remember the website now - but suffice to say that it was not exactly conducive to a good and happy mood on my part. I felt down about it for a while (well, pissed-off is the word) - they hated all of my main characters and much else besides - But then I just kind of thought what the hell, or as Chef might've said in South Park - Fudge em'. It's all a matter of opinion after all, and there are plenty of people who write great, snotty-nosed epics slaughtering Stephen King and Tolkien and Shakespeare et al and saying how rubbish they are. Not that I'm saying I'm as amazingly awesome as they are but it's just that as a writer I believe that whilst it's important for me to be open-minded and thoughtful of what other people say about my work, I also believe that I must have this stubborn zeal to carry on regardless, otherwise I'll end up losing all my confidence and hard work and I may, just may end up changing my voice to suit others - others who may not give a fig about my work one way or another. Besides, I've had far more positive reviews about my novel than bad and I'm still averaging five stars on Amazon from five reviews - hurray for me!
Another way I'm trying to promote my novel is through this blog. Hopefully, people who are interested in reading it will also want to check out my novel. Of course I have no stats to back this up - but like I said earlier you gotta have faith. The more work, the more innovative I get with my promotional tools the more success I believe I will ultimately get. Speaking of blogs, one promotional tool that I hope to kick start in the next few weeks or so is Jack Strong's - the main character in my book - diary. Using some artwork kindly donated by my friends I aim to set up fake accounts on twitter, facebook, blogger etc and write approximately one diary entry a week. It will be a new challenge and one that may also throw up some short stories and some poems but I think that it will help me and Jack (because in my head he feels more and more like a real person now) create that buzz, that fizz that surrounds all the successful books and drags the reader to them and not the other way around. But whatever happens I will keep on promoting and trying new things that can help me bring my book to my target audience and indeed the wider reading public as a whole. So far I've shifted 130 copies of my book and this is something, that as a writer I'm incredibly proud of. Hopefully, I will shift a few more copies over the coming weeks and months, and then maybe, just maybe a small publisher in the U.K or the U.S.A will see my book as more marketable than it had been when I first set out on this journey.
If you want to read more about Jack Strong's adventures around the galaxy please feel free to check out: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M22USRE I've also enclosed the prologue below.
The boy pulled the bundle of furs close as the last of his fire rocks went out.
He couldn’t stop shivering. It was getting colder and colder every day now.
Outside he could hear the Nagwhals calling, their shrill whine bouncing off the ice falls, reaching deep into the cave.
He was so hungry. He hadn't eaten in days.
Beneath the pile of rotten fur he held onto his brother, now stiff with cold.
Down the tunnel he heard a long, piercing shriek and a loud splash. Moments later a big silver head followed by a long silver body squeezed itself out of the darkness and slid towards him, its huge, jagged teeth snapping at his rags.
A yell and a lunge and it was all over.
He let go of his brother as the Nagwhal tugged his stiff body back down the dark tunnel.
He was alone now - the last boy alive on a long dead planet.
The boy shivered, and waited for the Nagwhal to come again.
Book blurb/short synopsis
Jack Strong and the Red Giant revolves around a young twelve year old boy, called Jack Strong. One day after getting beaten-up by the school bully he runs away from home, only to find himself face-to-face with an alien spaceship. Once on board, he must overcome his lack of confidence and low self-esteem in order to become accustomed to his strange, almost magical surroundings and get on with his new alien 'shipmates". Crash-landing on a barren, volcano-infested planet in the shadow of a Red Giant Star, he must do all that he can to ensure not just his survival but also the lives of his new found friends.
Cover 1 is the original, cover 2 is the new, current version.