Claire King

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How to Squash all the Bookish things into 7 Days

Posted on: November 14th, 2014 by Claire - 5 Comments

I spent last week in the UK, which is something I rarely do, especially on my own. Because of that it became a very condensed seven days doing all the bookish things I would do more often (but in a more spaced out way) if I lived in Britain.

On Thursday evening was my initial reason for the trip: a Newnham College alumnae networking dinner. My old college is great at finding ways to bring people back together, and this dinner was themed around literature. There were 15 of us, including authors, screenwriters, radio producers, journalists, publishers and editors and a fascinating talk was given by Cathy Moore on how she founded and developed Cambridge Word Fest, now Cambridge Literary Festival. I was reminded how lucky I am to be part of this network of accomplished women who have gone on, and continue going on to do diverse and extraordinary things in their lives.

On Friday I called by Bloomsbury to pick up some books they were kindly donating for my school visit on Monday. I have to admit to keeping the very sexy ‘Sleeper and the Spindle’ bag they came in. I also managed to snag an hour with my lovely editor Helen for a catch up, which generally means talking about what books we have read, the state of publishing, life in general and my writing. I was happy to be able to finally tell her that she’d be shortly receiving the MS of my new novel.

London2Coffee in Bloomsbury was followed immediately by lunch in the basement of Pizza Express in Soho. The lovely Gillian Stern had organised a “twunch” (yes, it’s a thing) where a whole load of lovely literary Twitter chums get together and talk writing, publishing, books and just get to know each other a bit better in the flesh. There were more than 30 of us there and of course I didn’t get to chat with with everyone, but I managed to catch up with some familiar faces and meet some new. Just as on twitter, there was a very diverse bunch of people (although Ben, Lloyd, Barry and Alexander had to hold up the side for the men), all with interesting stories and backgrounds and all willing to be open about their writing ups and downs, to offer cheers as well as sympathy and to network in the best sense of the word, sharing experiences and ideas. A really energising and fun do, and here are the last six of us to leave after managing to make a pizza lunch last four hours…@JaneRusbridge, @IsabelCostello, @EmilyBenet, Jackie Buxton (@Jaxbees) and @KnightJennyMrsLondon1

At the twunch, fired up by a glass of prosecco, good humour and dough balls, I started talking about my new book, Everything Love Is as though it was actually a thing. That might sound like a strange thing to say, but after so long writing and editing it, and all the doubts and uncertainties that go along with writing a novel on your own, I’d become very reluctant to discuss it. But since it had already been with my agent a week or so, and now I’d told Helen she’d get it next, it had suddenly begun to seem inevitable, regardless of what fate has in store for it. It was very encouraging that when I told people ‘what it’s about’ they seemed to like the idea (although small voice inside still whispers “maybe they were just being kind”).

Over the weekend I caught up with some of the friends and family I miss so much. It was absolutely lovely to spend time with some of the people I wish I saw more of – the major downside of living over here in France

Then on Monday I was up in South Yorkshire where I grew up, visiting Bawtry Mayflower Primary school where I had a chat with a group of year 6 pupils about reading and story telling. I’d been asked to do this talk because I’m signed up as a volunteer on the Inspiring the Future project – it’s not just for writers, it’s for anyone who’d like to volunteer, offering an hour a year of their time to go and talk at local schools about what they do. The idea is to inspire the children and expand their horizons. I’d encourage you all to please sign up for this if you can.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had no idea what this class of children would like, or be like, so I’ll admit to being a little apprehensive. I was delighted to find a really lovely friendly school, with bright, polite and engaged children, full of questions and enthusiasm for books and reading, which made my job a lot easier.

We all chatted about our favourite books and why we like them (Roald Dahl did really well, but there were some very diverse books discussed and I made a note of some for my 9yo), and then we talked about why human beings tell stories and what reading stories does to your brain.

Then we talked about metaphors in story telling and discussed the idea of G.K. Chesterton that “Fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”

An interesting question that came out of that discussion was this: Why are children’s stories more fantastical whereas adult stories tend to be set in real life situations, with events that really could take place?

I thought that was a great question. We had the idea that perhaps children have more imagination, or that real problems upset children more than imaginary ones, or that children have very little power and fairytales can imbue child heroes with not only courage but also super human powers. What do you think, why do children’s books lean more to fantasy whereas in adult fiction it’s only one genre of many?

Children holding books

As part of the discussion we used the books donated by the lovely people at Bloomsbury Kids and it was brilliant to see how excited the children’ were about receiving these books for their class.

At the end of the session one of the girls asked about my writing, and when I mentioned The Night Rainbow she said “My mum has that book!” This was followed by a flurry of requests to sign autographs on scraps of paper. I’ve never been asked for an autograph before. I suddenly felt quite the star!

Tuesday and back down in London to meet my agent and find out the verdict on The New Novel. But first, since it was armistice day, I got up early to see the poppies at the tower before it got too busy. Even at 7:30am there were lots of people. London3The installation was stunning, inspiring and an invitation to contemplation, not just about the hundreds of thousands who lost their lives in the UK in the first world war, but about all those other lives lost across the world, then and in subsequent wars. About the families left behind. About the wars which are still raging today, and what is behind them, and how peace still evades our species and why. This is what I think the arts do best: yes, they can be beautiful, entertaining or relaxing, but most importantly they turn the questions back on ourselves and provoke us to think.London4

The previous day, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan had made a speech advising teenagers to steer away from arts and humanities subjects if they wanted a better range of job opportunities. That maths, science, engineering and technology would be more worthwhile. Putting economic arguments aside (but not because I believe for a minute that devaluing the arts wouldn’t harm the economy), how can we reconcile the idea of the arts being less useful with the amazing response to the tower poppies? People flocked to see them, to be moved and reminded and challenged intellectually and emotionally. The arts and the humanities are needed to balance out the STEM subjects. They make the human race human.

Some of you may know that I do also have what I call a “day job” (my day job colleagues consider that I am “also a writer”), and after seeing the poppies I popped into an office in Old Street to catch up with a few people there. And the most beautiful surprise, out of the blue I was given this beautiful leather bound copy of The Night Rainbow as a present. I now feel as though I’ve won the Booker. And it smells so good!London5

Book shopping! One of my highlights of trips to the UK, as I just love browsing in bookshops, but I do read mostly in English not in French, so it’s not as much fun over here. Right by the office I found Camden Lock Books, a gorgeous little shop with books piled high around the base of the shelves and creatively stacked to fit as many in as possible. Obviously I bought some, including a couple of Michael Morpurgo’s I hadn’t heard of for my daughters.Londonz2

Then it was off to Covent Garden to meet my agent…

Hallelujah, she loves the new book. Much rejoicing over fish pie and a cheeky lunchtime glass of wine, followed by the crossing of fingers over coffee.

Then on Wednesday it was back home to autumn sunshine, the first snow on the mountain and best of all, my lovely family. What a whirlwind of a week.

Since Helen is going to need some time to read and consider Everything Love Is, the waiting game starts here. I’ve decided to take a writing break until the new year, to refresh and catch up on reading. I’ve just read The Rosie Project and The Kite Runner, and I’m in a pause midway into The Luminaries, and now reading Carys Bray’s A Song for Issey Bradley. I bought Roald Dahls short stories in London too (it seemed appropriate after his popularity on Monday). I fully intend to gorge on books between now and Christmas.

My other plan is to do lots of “spring” cleaning as the house has suffered rather a lot during the last couple of years of writing, and to get stuck into some of the DIY that’s been waiting around. I find that smacking things with big hammers is great therapy for nerves…

How Publishing a Novel will Change your Life

Posted on: April 13th, 2014 by Claire - 9 Comments

I read a blog post today by the debut novelist Mary Miller: Publishing a novel isn’t going to change your life 

Mary says: “I don’t mean to say that publishing a novel isn’t awesome. It is. In so many ways. But it disheartens me to see my friends talk as though it will solve all of their problems and alter their lives completely when I know it won’t.”

I absolutely agree with the point that for most authors – and in this I include myself – the publication of a debut novel doesn’t lead to a life of Riley. But most writers I know don’t expect this – we do understand the publishing industry to some extent and we also network with other authors on twitter who often share their experiences both amazing and frustrating. You can hope and dream, but you have to keep your expectations realistic.

I wonder if there is a difference in expectations if you are an MFA undergraduate or graduate and are expecting writing fiction to be your career from day one. That’s a big investment in time and money and so perhaps in that situation you do expect a payback?

Or perhaps it’s that I’m older, and I’ve already learned that getting that job, that promotion, that pay rise, that man, that flat…none of those things actually change your life in any meaningful way.

Wish

I recently wrote about a few things I’ve learned after a year of being published, but having read Mary’s post I wanted tell you about three ways in which publishing a novel has changed my life:

#1. (And most importantly) I have discovered that being a writer is what I really want.

You never really know if what you want is really what you want until you get it. Only then do you see if the reality meets your expectations, and even if it doesn’t, is it a reality you want? For me it is, and this has changed my life because holding on to this opportunity, digging in deeper, raising my game – all these things now are based in a better understanding of where disappointments may lie, and the risks I am taking. I am learning as I go, but at least now I see the path clearly.

#2. (The consequences of #1) I’ve discovered where I have even more to give…and where my limitations are.

Sometimes life throws things at us that adds more to our plates and tests our ability to manage it all, our stamina and our good humour. Sometimes we throw this stuff at ourselves, and I think that’s exactly what you are doing if you are trying to get a novel published these days, be it your debut or the second or the nth. You are setting yourself up for rejection, underachievement and disappointment that you could easily do without. And it doesn’t stop after the first novel is published. Writers are continually wracked by doubt and insecurity. And once you have a book out there the pressure on you increases. You have to deliver on the next book whilst promoting the first one and carrying on with your ‘normal’ life without dropping plates. But we do this because we choose to, because we have hope, we are driving ourselves to do something that is not easy and that smacks of character. If you don’t want to write then don’t. (I’m reminded of this post, from writer Kirsty Logan “Writing is not hard.”)

#3. My daughters think I’m awesome.

Yes OK they are too young to know better, and yes I have always had the magic card of ‘Mummy – the best person in the world’, but this is different. They tell everyone they meet about my book, and how I’m a writer. They’re excited by it and proud of me. They see me working hard and they see the exciting things happen. I feel as though I am role modelling something that will serve them well later in life.

So…

If you’re looking for your first published novel to change your life financially, you probably need to revise your expectations. But don’t think it won’t change your life. One way or another it probably will.

A Year on the Shelf

Posted on: February 13th, 2014 by Claire - 22 Comments

It’s one whole year since The Night Rainbow was first published. The UK hardback and ebook were released on February 14th 2013 and the paperback six months later. So to celebrate my ‘Year on the Shelf’ (it’s Valentine’s Day, see what I did there?), here are five things I’ve learned over the course of the last twelve months:

Books coming off the printing press

Hot off the press.

(1) You don’t publish and tell 

There are quite a few things that will surprise a new author as they take this journey for the first time, and you won’t have seen them blogged about or discussed on twitter. I’m not going to talk about them either. Why? It’s the same reason why people who are already parents don’t sit their pregnant friends down and say, “Right, well let us tell you what’s about to happen to you.”  Sometimes it’s better to let people wait and see.

However, what you will need are some people who have been through it before to be there for you once you are finally living that dream. So, when it’s your turn, make sure you find author friends and mentors who will give you the lowdown if you ask.

The gorgeous window

The gorgeous window – Little Ripon Bookshop

(2) Authors are great

Other authors are generally lovely and generous and want you to succeed. Many will encourage and support you, even if they have never heard of you before. It’s a lovely group to be part of. Pass it on.

Jodi_tweet

 

(3) You will be busier than ever

Remember how you managed to squeeze writing a novel – an actual novel! – into your already full life? Well now that novel now needs taking to parties, to readings and events. And people will ask you to write about your book, and write about writing your book. For your own sanity, remember you don’t have to do everything. Decide, along with your publisher, what you want to commit to and learn to say no to the rest.

Also people will immediately start asking you when the next book is due out. It isn’t going to write itself, you know.

Marie-Claire

I was reviewed in Marie-Claire!

(4) We are not the same

Chances are that you will have highs and you will have lows, but your experience will be different from mine. It will depend on your agent, your publisher, your book, timings, the market, luck and so many other variables that there is no way to know how things will pan out for you. All you can do is get an idea of if you are falling somewhere within the spectrum of ‘normal’ –  see (1) – and hope for the best.

Will your book win prizes? Get reviewed in the New York Times? Sell foreign rights? Will Oprah pick it? Will it even get into bookshops so people can buy it? Getting into retail is harder than you think. Once your book is out there in the world, frankly it’s anybody’s guess how it will fare no matter how hard people are championing it on your behalf.

It might be that your book doesn’t get as much recognition as those you have decided to benchmark it against. On the other hand it may do better than other books that you have read and think deserve to win every prize going. You need to stop comparing. Remember you’re at the start of a long road and you need to conserve your energy.

As for sales – everything you have heard is true. Right now the prognosis is pretty shocking. But your publishers have faith, or they wouldn’t have taken your book. If you go off with a bang at launch, brilliant, congratulations! But if sales in the launch period are ‘quieter’ than you’d hoped, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your book is going to die a lonely death. If readers like it, they will spread the word, slowly but surely. Sometimes you need a bit of critical mass and that can take time for a new author. Think about how long it takes you between hearing about a book and actually buying it, and then actually reading it. For me it’s months.

Euston Station

Euston Station, August 2013

(5) Readers above all else

It is so wonderfully rewarding when people you’ve never met take the time to look you up and write to you, just to tell you that they loved your book. That you have given them something special, a story they won’t forget. That, for me, is what writing is all about.

Of course sometimes readers don’t write to you personally, but instead take the time to write a review (thank you, reviewers!). Reviews do matter, but try not to get obsessed by them as they are completely out of your control and will not always make you happy.

Sometimes they will say things like this:

***** “Officially my Book of 2013. Wow… Read it!”

and

***** “This book resonated with me. I will carry Pea with me for a very long time.”

but sometimes they will say this:

** “Ideal for nature lovers seeking a blow-by-blow description of the French countryside without the distraction of a plot line.”

And that’s all OK. Remember that all sorts of people are now reading your book (HURRAY!) and they can’t all be expected to like it.

Also, there will be reviewers who write spoilers, sometimes in the very first line of their write up. Even in national newspapers. But hey, girl, your book got reviewed in a national newspaper.

Portsmouth Fiction Prize Vote

Portsmouth Fiction Prize Vote

If you’re about to head out on the same journey, good luck to you! And for those of you who have played a part in this marvellous, exciting year of mine, a huge thank you from me.

 

Bonus Tip: Social Media

Nothing has changed. Even now you are published, Social Media is not the boss of you.

We Need to Talk about Amazon

Posted on: November 27th, 2013 by Claire - 15 Comments

While my first year being a published author has been going great guns in the UK, things have got off to a fairly quiet start in the USA.

That’s pretty much par for the course for a debut British novel, I’m told, and The Night Rainbow hasn’t done too badly. Considering there was no ‘launch campaign’ as such, around release time in April there was some great coverage in book shops, and I’ve had a modest royalty cheque, so hurray!

Then this week, Amazon.com chose The Night Rainbow for their Kindle Daily Deal. I don’t know how that works, but I am thrilled they did.

As a rule I don’t follow my rankings on Amazon, because

  • a) Frankly, I can’t actually affect them.
  • b) The numbers swing wildly about and it’s pretty unfathomable how they relate to actual books sold.
  • c) They change every hour. Can you imagine how distracting that would be to a writer if you let it?

But yesterday I made an exception, because I was interested in how the promotion – which saw the ebook price fall from around €9 to $2.99 for 24 hours – would go. Looking over the months since launch, sales on Amazon of both the printed and the e-book appear to have been close to non-existent. Yesterday my sales ranking in the Kindle Store shot up by 954,681%  (apparently*). From roughly #250,000 to #25 in the paid kindle store. That’s pretty close to the top of the list.

And at the end of the day I got to see this, which although a fleeting phenomenon, is no less exciting and, most importantly, gets The Night Rainbow noticed by readers who otherwise wouldn’t have ever come across it:

2013-11-27 at 08.40.53

Amazon USA Literary and Contemporary Fiction: #2

And also this:

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 16.42.31

Amazon Canada Literary and Contemporary Fiction: #6

I don’t know what my sales were for the day exactly (they certainly didn’t increase by a million percent) but they did shoot up quite remarkably and continued for a while after the Deal had finished, when the ebook was back to full price.

The Daily Deal was November 26th 2013, so if you’re interested in seeing how the ebook is ranking now, click here.

I also followed the ‘noise’ around the promotion. And it’s not just Amazon who market it. They publicise the deal onsite and send out emails to Kindle users, but I also noticed that on twitter and on the web in general there are lots of accounts set up to catch these deals and shout them out to their followers and readers, magnifying the effect. *It was one of those accounts that tweeting the amazing 954,681% leap in ranking. It’s a machine that works very effectively.

So far so good. Has anyone got to this point yet without screaming,

  • “Yes! But it’s AMAZON!”
  • “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Franzen etc”,
  • “Bookshops closing!”
  • “Death by ebook!”

Or something similar?

Well, yes. So to the thorny question of Amazon. As a reader, I’m a bookshop girl. I love bookshops. I love choosing books in bookshops and chatting to people who work there. As an author I also love bookshops. I love the warm welcome you get from the dedicated, passionate independent booksellers and from their customers, who they often know by name.

But Amazon have about a 30% market share of books in the USA. Many people now go straight to Amazon when they want to buy a book, and an even greater percentage when they want to buy an ebook. And obviously book shops don’t sell ebooks for Kindle (although Amazon are offering them the chance, which is a whole other debate).

Some people do prefer reading books electronically and the people that took a chance on my book yesterday because of a promotional price point and a big shout out from Amazon are not people who would have bought a paper copy from a book shop. Otherwise they’d have done it sometime in the last 7 months, I’d have thought. They are, however, people who will read it, hopefully be delighted by it, and hopefully tell that to other people.

Sometimes, as authors, it’s suggested that when we ‘self-promote’ we should limit that to encouraging people to go to bookshops. When the question of Amazon, or indeed supermarkets, comes up, even if they’ve helped market and sell actual quantities of our work, we are expected to hum and ha and shuffle our feet nervously. I did tweet several times yesterday to let people know about the offer. And every time I did, I must admit I felt worried that people might judge me for inadvertently ‘supporting’ Amazon.

But in the end, is it we authors who are responsible for the struggles that bookshops face? I don’t think so. Most authors I know would happily do signings at bookshops, support library reading groups etc., even if they find public appearances rather painful (the authors not the reading groups).

Nor are we responsible for where readers choose to shop. We have excruciatingly little influence, quite frankly, over who buys our book and from where. We can tweet our little hearts out, but unless we seriously set about a time-consuming social media campaign, it’s just not our call. The greatest influence we have is in the quality of our writing.

So, if a retailer stocks our books and readers buy them, enabling us to feed our kids and write more books, then we are happy. And if we can give that income a little boost along the way, then generally we will, as best we can.

Yesterday’s Amazon promotion was a great opportunity to boost awareness of The Night Rainbow in the USA and Canada. It’s the kind of novel that thrives on word of mouth recommendations, and as many authors can tell you, it can be frustratingly difficult to kick those off.

I hope the people who picked up the e-book for $2.99 yesterday will love it, and that they’ll consider giving it as a gift (wherever they choose to buy it) or just tell others what they thought.

And also that they will want to buy the next book. Speaking of which I’m off to finish it. Hopefully there’ll be news on that soon.

UPDATE:

Since posting this a couple of good articles have shown up on this topic, so links are here:

New York Times tongue in cheek, what Amazon is to a modern author 

New online retailer opens up in UK to offer online alternative to Amazon (The Bookseller)

 

 

We’re in the Business of Selling Dreams.

Posted on: November 19th, 2013 by Claire - 17 Comments

I want to talk about becoming an author. About publishing a book.

So you’re a writer. You get up early in the morning and you write. You drop the kids off at school and you write instead of doing the hoovering. You commute to work and you write on the bus. You stay up late at night and you write. And your dream is that one day, hopefully very soon, you will see your work published. In a book. A book that you can hold in your hands. If that’s you, I’m talking to you.

If what you dream of is your book being available in ebook format only, I’m not talking to you. Because you know that there are many options now for doing that. And personally I know very little about them, and you too have Google and Twitter. You will find your way.

But back to you, the dreamer, the one who wants to hold the solid block of pages in your hand and see your name on the cover and the printed words inside that you created and pulled together and spun into a story to be told to thousands of readers. You, who wants to be paid for your work, perhaps even for writing to be your actual job. You would like to make a living from it. Yes, well I’m really happy you’re here. Because that’s what I want to talk to you about.

Without money

If you are anything like I was, you’d be delighted to hear that somehow there is a shortcut. That agents can see through a first draft of a manuscript to the dazzling novel you know it eventually will be. Or that publishers right now are trawling the electric interweb for rising stars to pull under their wing and lead through the golden doors of literary fame and fortune. Or how the publishing landscape is changing and that now the gatekeepers have left and you are the most powerful person in the publishing supply chain, if only someone could explain to you how that works. You might even be willing to pay for that advice.

Well, my advice – which is free and you take it as it is – is that as far as I know there are no shortcuts, and you are certainly not the centre of the publishing world. Sorry. It’s not you. If I were to go out on a limb and say who I think does occupy that position, thinking about agents, publishers, bookshops, online retailers, authors, editors, and all the others, I would have to say that the most powerful person is likely to be…the reader. Maybe. But in any case it’s not you.

You are the writer, you are the author, you are the person who will create a story, and you will send it out into the world and you will ache with every rejection and bad review (and later you will soar with the offers and the delight of five fat golden stars). Or maybe you have thick skin or pure genius and that won’t happen at all.

But in the meantime I’ll tell you what you *are*. You are a market. Because of that ache for something that is out of your reach, because of your dream of something that is hard to achieve. Because there is something you really, REALLY want. Because of that, there are people out there ready to sell to you.
They are not there to sell you the magic formula, because if they had it, we’d all have it, and we’d all be hitting the jackpot, riding our fat advances to the top of the Sunday Times best-seller list. Oh but wait…
No. But what they are there for is to sell you back your own dreams.

They will tell you there are no guarantees. They will not promise you a publisher, or an advance, or literary prizes. But they will tell you that by buying something off them, a product or a service, you will be doing the right thing, putting yourself in the best position to publish that book, to be that person, the best-selling prize winning author who can give up their day job and set off on tour, gathering movie and foreign language rights as you go. They may throw in a lavish drinks reception or a star studded evening mingling with agents and publishers. Lovely. But the champagne is on you.

Do they have something that is worth your money? It’s your job to work that out. These people are in business. One of the many businesses that are set up to take advantage of the hungry market of aspiring authors. Legitimately. They are not there to take on the establishment, or create a new publishing paradigm, all for one and one for all. They are there to make money. For some that’s all it is, although of course some, often those run by well established writers, also have the very best of intentions and really want to help you succeed.

So if you are thinking of making money from writing, if that’s one of your goals, then before you pay out anything, *anything* to advance your career as a published author, be that writing courses, editorial services, social media publicists, conference fees, subscriptions to writing websites, publishing services or anything that wants your money, take yourself seriously. Make a business plan.

It doesn’t have to be complicated:
1) How much do you expect to earn?
Do you hope to earn a side-income or to give up the day job entirely? Do some research and find out how much an average debut novel earns, and an average second novel. Look into different genres too. Look at self publishing versus the traditional route. Look at advances and royalties and do some maths. Work out the probabilities.
2) How much are you willing to invest?
Do you have money to spend? If so, where is it best spent? Improving your craft; making new contacts; paying to be published, building an author platform on social media or buying a decent desk chair? Taking some paid leave in order to write, perhaps? What would each of those things give back to you and how would they help you to succeed?

I’m not suggesting at all that writing is all about making money. If you’re like most writers you do this because you love it. Because you can’t not tell stories. And sometimes we can buy things that help us along, even if it’s just a copy of Writers’ Forum or a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. But as soon as the question of handing over your money to other people comes up, and you’re tempted, think about it. And whatever you do, don’t become part of someone else’s business plan just because they talk a good talk.

That’s makes them the salesman, and you the punter.

Paperback Launch and Marketing!

Posted on: August 1st, 2013 by admin - 10 Comments

It’s paperback publication day for The Night Rainbow. I didn’t think I could possibly be as excited as I was in February when the book launched in hardback, but I really am!

Before I forget I want to say a huge thank you to everyone at Bloomsbury who has been working hard on the paperback launch – updating the cover, planning the PR and marketing campaigns (of which more in a second), championing the book so enthusiastically with retailers and basically just crossing their fingers and being so lovely and encouraging to me.

The Night Rainbow Paperback

So, the paperback is out today – a nice small supple book at a lower price than the hardback edition. Perfect for summer holidays, reading in bed etc. There are a lot of exciting things happening, but what is *VERY EXCITING* for me in particular is that there is a marketing campaign running for The Night Rainbow paperback launch, which should get it noticed by more people and help get them into book shops to buy it.

As a debut novelist, having a marketing campaign was thrilling news that I wasn’t expecting it at all, and it all happened quite recently. Thanks to the hard work of Bloomsbury’s sales team, they won really strong advance orders and enthusiasm for the paperback from retailers, including The Night Rainbow being the August Book Club pick at Sainsbury’s; being selected for Tesco’s new New Talent slot; being promoted in WH Smiths high street, train station and airport stores.   I know already there are plenty of amazing independent book shops stocking it and Waterstones too.  So do pop into your local shop – there should be paperbacks aplenty. And of course ebooks are available in all the usual places.

Here are a few places you might spot Pea this summer:

  • At railway stations: There is a huge poster going up around London and South-East England. Here are a few examples. If you keep your eyes peeled over the next few days and send in photos, you could be in with a chance of winning a copy. Follow @BloomsburyBooks and #NightRainbow on twitter for more details, and find Bloomsbury Publishing UK on Facebook.
  • On The Daily Mail online – Takeover of the Books page, it’s worth a look! (I think you can only see this wondrous juxtaposition if you’re in the UK)
  • On Mumsnet  – the giveaway is closed now, but the discussion thread is open. Hopefully spoiler free!
  • At The Reading Agency where reading groups could win copies to review.

I took the opportunity to ask Tess Viljoen, who has been responsible at Bloomsbury for the marketing around The Night Rainbow, including this beautiful book trailer to answer a couple of questions about marketing books in general.

1) Would you say it’s true that publishers expect authors to ‘market’ themselves and their books now more than ever? What does this mean in reality?

The shift towards social media has, brilliantly, put fans directly in touch with the authors they love. It’s a powerful way of communicating with readers and exciting for everyone involved. The downside of this, given it would be disingenuous for a publisher to try and impersonate an author online by running a social media stream on their behalf, is it has shifted that responsibility back on to authors. Social media can be very rewarding but it can also be immensely time consuming and doesn’t appeal to all authors. At Bloomsbury we encourage our authors to have a go, and support them as much as we can from our social media platforms but ultimately, it’s up them if they feel it is a medium they can work in.

2) When I worked in consumer goods marketing (years ago!) there was a sort of ‘chicken and egg’ situation with smaller brands, whereby advertising support was minimal or non-existent until (hopefully) word of mouth took off. This also meant it was harder to get those products stocked in shops and positioned well. Does this apply also in publishing/book retailing? If so what factors help get the ball rolling?

The percentage of books that receive advertising spend is in fact very small and so the majority of books are sold into bookstores without that support which makes it a much more level playing field. We have sales reps that go into bookshops around the country and pitch our titles directly to the booksellers and with word-of-mouth still being the most powerful form of recommendation this gives our books a strong chance to being taken by a bookseller and in turn, recommended to their customers.

3) What is more important in book marketing, the author or the book?

They are entirely inextricable. Obviously an author who is happy to do events, to be active on social media and be widely available for publicity is a strong asset for a book, but we regularly work with authors from foreign countries who for all sorts of reason cannot give us their time or physical presence and we have found ways of working around this and still build strong marketing and publicity campaigns.

Thanks, Tess!

For more information around paperback launches specifically, see this post  for an interview with Trâm Anh Doan, my paperback editor at Bloomsbury, when I talked to her about the launch last year of another Bloomsbury novel, The Cowards Tale.

 

The Night Rainbow Launch, USA & Canada!

Posted on: April 7th, 2013 by Claire - 4 Comments

I’m very excited that this week The Night Rainbow is being published in the USA and Canada.

Here she is, complete with beautiful new cover, about to whizz off to bookshops everywhere Stateside.

The Night Rainbow USA Cover

I feel a little wistful that I can’t whizz over the Atlantic to celebrate, but I have been raising a glass here in France, and lurking on twitter doing US & Canada pub-day high fives!

And look what the lovely Rachael Dunlop just sent me:

The Night Rainbow on store shelf

On the shelves at Barnes & Noble, New York City

I’ve also been busy meeting book bloggers:

  • I answered 11/20 questions at Linus’s Blanket, including what my favourite books are set in my local region of France.
  • What’s in a first line? Find out as I take part in the Friday First Lines series over at Books on the Brain.
  • I have been interviewed by Mariam Kobras over at #amwriting
  • Daria Anne DiGiovanni hosted me on #writestream, with an interview on blog talk radio which you can also find archived here, and a twitter chat – the summary of which is now here.

Thank you…

Thanks already to some of the lovely reviewers and book bloggers who have reviewed early copies:

Ilana Teitelbaum, who says, in her review in Shelf Awareness “King’s story of a young child’s quest for a light in the profound darkness of her life reaches deep into the complexities of human consciousness. As it explores adult grief through a child’s eyes, The Night Rainbow also underscores the need for stability and love ever-present in children’s lives, yet at times nearly impossible to attain.”

Catherine at Gilmore Guide to books who says “The Night Rainbow is soft, sweet, scary and immense.” *****

Nicola at My Good Bookshelf gave it 9/10 and said “I would happily recommend this book to readers interested in contemporary fiction or family dramas; this was a beautifully written tale with a shocker of a twist that I definitely did not anticipate- just brilliantly done.”

Ionia at Readful Things said “Claire King has done such a supreme job of making you want to hug these children and tell them everything is going to be okay, that it is sometimes hard to believe they are not real…I would recommend this elegantly written novel to anyone. Really a beautiful book.”

Shannon at River City Reading – Richmond, VA said “Writing from the perspective of a child, particularly one so young, without relying on cliche phrases or coming off childish is not an easy task. Claire King does it masterfully.”

Patrice Hoffman says “Claire King writes spectacularly from a child’s point of view using vivid imagery with fantastical qualities only imagination can provide.”

and Cayacosta72 calls The Night Rainbow “A story of love, loss and grace.”

The Pin Map!

In celebration and anticipation of meeting lots of new people in the USA and Canada through the launch, even only virtually, I have put together a pin map.

To get it started I’ve added places I have visited in person (the red pins).

I’m going to add new pins on the map for everyone who tells me they’ve read The Night Rainbow, so do please leave a comment or say hi on twitter, telling me where you are, and you’ll get your own purple pin.

Also, if you have a book group that would like me to call in by Skype for a few questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!

Pin Map

The travels of Claire, Margot & Pea

 

 

10 Things People Say to Published Authors

Posted on: March 8th, 2013 by Claire - 35 Comments

Two years ago I wrote the post – 10 Things Children Don’t Say to Writers – where I talked about confidence, and other people’s reactions when you say you’re a writer. It proved to be one of the most popular blog posts on this site.

Mummy is Writing

We can only see the back of your head.

At that time, March 2011, I was newly signed up to Bloomsbury, but The Night Rainbow‘s publication was still two years away.

This last month I have, at last, been enjoying celebrating publication, including launch parties, signings and a lot of chatting to a lot of people, mostly about being a writer. And things have changed. People say different things to me now that I have an actual book available to buy and read.

Broadly, they seem to fall into three categories:

 

Things people say that make me feel proud and happy. E.g.

1) I’m so impressed.

2) What a great achievement.

3) You’ve inspired me to get back into my own writing.

Hearing this is like the clouds clearing and the sun shining right onto my little patch of Earth. When you’re an unpublished writer, you don’t get enough of this food for the soul. The struggle is the thing, and it can be a lonely one.

 

Things people say that make me want to run away and hide. E.g. 

4) When is the film coming out?

5) When is the next book coming out?

6) Have you stopped work altogether now?

There’s nothing really wrong with the questions in this category. They are well-meant and show enthusiasm and a high expectation of success. So I tried to work out why I feel agitated with them rather than flattered. I think it’s that I worry I feel the bar marked ‘Success’ is being set too high and that in the end I am going to disappoint people after all.

Signing a book

Chatting at a book signing

And most notably, a *lot* more questions about my writing. E.g.

7) Have you always wanted to write?

8) Who are your favourite authors? (Note – if you ever put me on the spot with this question, be warned that I’ll expect you to reciprocate with your own list!)

9) What inspired your novel?

10) What else are you writing?

They are the kind of questions that often don’t get asked to unpublished writers. Which interests me because it’s not the same for other artistic pursuits. If someone says they are a painter or a sculptor, even on an amateur level, people seem interested and feel free to ask about it. Why is that?

It’s as if, for some, I have passed through a kind of fine, mysterious membrane that separates writers who are interesting (or approachable?) from writers who are not. But I think that membrane only exists if you believe it does. So I suggest next time you meet someone who says they are a writer, why not take the time and ask them about themselves and their writing? You could be surprised what you find out.

 

Meanwhile, for those who read the 2011 post, what are my children now saying about my writing?

- My mummy wrote that book!

- You’re in a book shop / newspaper / magazine! That’s so cool!

- I’m so proud of you, Mummy. 

…And, after they have spotted the book in the umpteenth bookshop I take them into ‘just to check’…

- Please can we choose a book now?

 

Child's drawing

A child’s eye view of a book launch party

A Launch Party Mingle

Posted on: February 1st, 2013 by Claire - 4 Comments

I’m having (whoopee!) an actual launch party in London on 13th February, on the eve of The Night Rainbow’s official publication date, but not everyone can be there, so I’ll be doing some virtual mingling over the next couple of weeks with some very smashing people indeed.

I’m hoping it will be like being at a party on the web, where you wander around chatting, you meet some new people, ask some questions, have a bit of a laugh. And all this without having to wear heels. So come on in, help yourself to a drink, and I hope you have a good time!

Champagne glasses

Take a glass and mingle

Who I’ve met so far:

Kate at For Books’ Sake, where we talk about the portraying pressures of motherhood and how long a story should be.

Jen at The View From Here literary magazine, who asks me what are the important things, and where did the idea of a night rainbow come from?

Roz Morris, about the Undercover Soundtrack to The Night Rainbow – the songs that were part of its making.

Joe at the Bristol Short Story Prize, the home of my first published short story, who asks “What has it been like?”

Dan at Dog Ear Discs  – who asks about the environment of the novel and the surrounding countryside. “It becomes as important as the characters. Was it based on an actual place?”

Simon Savidge, who pokes around my bookshelves and asks “Are there any guilty pleasures?…”

Jen Campbell – Bookshoppist and author, who I may have made happy-sad.

Caroline Smailes, who wants to know about being a debut author and asks “How has your following your dream influenced your daughters?”

Isabel Costello on her Literary Sofa, where we talk about the pleasures and challenges of writing in a child’s voice.

Waterstones blog, where I talk about the inspiration behind The Night Rainbow

Alison Bacon, who asks about my experience of the publishing process with a top publisher, as well as life on twitter!

Vanessa Gebbie, who asks “How much did you want the novel to explore notions of non-belonging?”

Alison Wells – Who has been running a series of posts exploring ways of keeping our head above water in physical, mental, emotional and creative areas. I talk to her about keeping the joy in writing

Rumjhum Biswas at Flash Fiction Chronicles where I chat about how writing short fiction has influenced my novel, and what I looked for as an editor of a literary magazine

 

Spotted across a crowded room! I’m heading towards…

Chris Mosler  over at Thinly Spread, who has things to say, and a giveaway!

Nik Perring, about getting started and keeping going on a novel and…

… Jonathan Pinnock, who wants to know how I managed to wait out the two years from signing a book contract to publication…

and other people too…I hope there’s enough champagne.

The-Night-Rainbow-front

Paparazzi!

Marie-Claire selected The Night Rainbow as one of their top reads for the month.

Marie Claire Book Review

“An original and beguiling debut.”

Stylist magazine tipped me as one of their 4 soon to be bestsellers (alongside Maya Angelou and Dan Brown!)

You'll be on tenterhooks throughout

You’ll be on tenterhooks throughout

Good To Know magazine have listed The Night Rainbow as one of their 2013 book club picks (alongside Jodi Picoult, Yann Martel and Jojo Moyes!). If you post a review here you could win an e-reader.

 

Overheard…”Have you read it yet?”

Dan at Dog Ear Discs – The picturesque setting of Southern France in the midst of a heat wave is almost hypnotic.”

Nettie Thompson - “Pea and Margot are characters who stay with you, long after the last page is turned “

Teresa Majury - “…a narrator who will grab your heartstrings and never let go”

Tracey Upchurch – “Favourite character? Margot — little sister, voice of reason, bearer of night rainbows.

Laura Vickers at For Books’ Sake Recommended for… Dreamers, mothers, lovers of the rich landscape of the south of France, and those in need of warming up.”

See more reviews on this page.

I’ll update the page with links as they happen.

For mingling in person, please see my events page here.

Champagne photo (c) Chris Chapman

 

 

 

Christmas at the Printers

Posted on: December 20th, 2012 by Claire - 15 Comments

Some of you might know I had a Big Adventure this week.

Last week the Night Rainbow started its first print run, and on Monday the very first finished copies were born.

I had been asking the team at Bloomsbury if it would be possible for me to visit the printers with my daughters. I knew it was a long shot, because of many things – the chance of getting to the UK to coincide with the print schedule, the fact it’s time-consuming for Bloomsbury and the printers to arrange that kind of visit, the fact I was asking to bring my children. But my girls are so curious about books, my writing, and how what I do turns into a book, that I had to ask, just in case.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, thanks to the special efforts of my editors at Bloomsbury, the production people there and the people at CPI printers, I was told it could happen. Astonishment! Wheee! Cue mad booking of flights.

The Night Rainbow was being produced at CPI Mackays in Kent. Liz from Bloomsbury was meeting me there. There were to be books printed, and sandwiches.

It did feel odd arriving with children in tow, but everyone was so welcoming and kind to me and my two girls. We asked lots of questions about the printers: Q. How many books do they print a day there? A. 300,000-500,000! Q. Do books really come hot off the press? A. more warm than hot. Q: How is recycling managed? A. Error and therefore waste is kept to a minimum. Q: What about quality control? A. Happens at every step of the way. Some is human, some is computerised. Q: What is the impact of e-books? Q (daughters): How do the shiny bits get onto the book covers and please may we have another cookie? Etc.

Then Liz and I were taken into the factory. It smelled like new books. If only you could bottle it…And there, there were big piles of inners, boards, covers with purple foil stars, purple stitching…it was The Night Rainbow being born. Author swoons.

inners

Then Jonathan whipped a finished book off the line and handed it to me.

“Can I hold it?” I said.

He looked at me. “Um, it’s *your* book!”

So there is was. 3 years after first putting pen to paper. *My* book.

I learned all sorts of interesting things about how the books are put together, including how the spines become curved not flat, how books are born as twins and separated at birth and how the thousands of covers are so neatly folded onto the hardback books.

The other thing I learned is the thought that goes into producing a book that is durable and beautiful.

And here are the first copies coming off the line.

books

My oldest daughter, who is 7, was planning on doing a talk when she goes back to school about what she learned. The children were allowed into a restricted part of the plant but no further, as obviously it’s too dangerous (but it was enough to cause dropped jaws and excited exclamations).

Since they couldn’t see as much as we did, as we went along the line, watching the book go from one step to the next, Jonathan from CPI kindly put together a pack of the book at its different stages of the process, so that Amélie could take them in to show her class. How kind and thoughtful is that?

All in all an utterly magical day for us all. What a special privilege none of us will forget. Thank you so much to Bloomsbury for making it happen, and to CPI Mackays for hosting.

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