Posts Tagged ‘tasks’

With 45 hours to go…….

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

I’d like to open this particular blog post today by mentioning for the fifty-thousandth time my FIRST EVER REVIEW!!!!!!!  And how amazingly pleased I was with it; you will see the link to it on this page but if I can just give you a small extract: “….Sarah Haynes…… is definitely an author I want to read more from based on this brilliant book .” To be honest, even if I’d have written it myself I wouldn’t have made it as good as Chloe from did. I was astonished when I read it. And thrilled, clearly, but I hadn’t predicted what she wrote in the slightest. It’s a very strange feeling to know that someone has read your book and was entertained by what you’ve written and sort of mind-boggling to get such a glowing review. And yes, I know, it’s only one and there are (hopefully) many more to come and they won’t all be so good but I was very anxious about my first one and consequently very relieved. I smiled for ages! Days, in fact.

But moving on to more pressing matters, I must say that – if I had drums, I’d be rolling them.

If I had a Geordie accent I’d be saying “It’s day 10,454 in the life of Sarah Haynes and there are only two days to go until the release of her debut novel”.

If I had enough breath I’d be holding it – but no. Instead I am settling for a tense feeling of nervous anticipation and excitement as I rapidly approach the publication date, which I actually can’t believe is almost here. Just think back to mid-May of this year when I sent a very casual email to the publishers enquiring when my book was actually due for release and received the startling response of “July 30th” which was a lot sooner than I had anticipated. I wondered briefly why they hadn’t sought to mention this to me before? But no matter, my book was being published! And having an actual date made it all so much more real. Being slightly naïve I had no idea that there was potential for me to fiddle around with the release date, and for a couple of days I just accepted it and, in fairness, was quite excited. Then I thought about it a bit more and realised that I had no front cover. Or news release. Or book summary sheet. Or website. Or – well – anything really. And after some to-ing and fro-ing and gentle persuasion from friends I eventually decided that yes, it was better to push it back by two months and plan properly. My instinct was to rush headlong into it and see where the pieces fell. Luckily I had some firm hands of guidance and thus the date of 24th September was settled upon and my preparatory Task List was born. Much like a real child I have resented it at times, but equally like a real child I couldn’t do without it. And believe me, I’ve tried (with both the task list and children).  But as I sailed forth in blissful ignorance into the feverish world of book promotion I have been very grateful for its steadying presence. And that of its offspring, because the master Task List spawned smaller lists; media targets, review targets, guests lists, potential launch event venues, costs, items that were/are needed, priorities and a sequence for which these things should be approached. I must be brutally honest here and admit that I haven’t always adhered to the Task List as I might have done….it has, at times, been overwhelming. It didn’t help that the summer holidays and therefore the continual presence of both of my young-ish children fell right into the middle of when I needed to be most productive. As some of you will know, it is very hard to write/organise/speak to people charmingly on the phone simultaneously whilst one child begs for Charlie and Lola DVDs and flapjacks and the other one wants immediate details of exactly how the human body can manage all of its many functions at once. My answer was “The brain, darling,” whilst fearing for the wellbeing of mine.

So as fast as I seemed to be accomplishing things, more were being added on to the bottom of my List – from Florida by this point as you might remember. But counting my blessings, I had (and still have) a form of website where information is available to people, I have this blog site (which I LOVE) and very luckily a few people who saunter along every so often to see what I’ve written. I mean of course those of you who I haven’t directed here imperiously from Facebook. God bless Facebook and its whip-cracking effect. I think if I ever do become a highly-successful author I shall have to credit Facebook with some of my success.

With all this under my belt the next thing I began to tackle was Twitter. And you all know I was far from enchanted at the beginning but, begrudgingly, I have to admit that it is useful, but as well as that I have made contact with some very lovely people through it. Cari Rosen being one, and Elizabeth Buchan (author of Separate Beds which I am currently reading and loving) being another. It’s still an unfamiliar sphere, but I am getting there with it. Of course something did threaten to stop me in my twittering/facebooking/skype-ing/emailing tracks and that was the demise of my old laptop. This was a disaster in the most forceful meaning of that word (in my world at least). Not only did I lose the ability to do any of the above, I couldn’t work on my new manuscript (which I must start doing at some point) or write blog posts or indeed anything at all. I swiftly came to see that I must have a new one and although this was far from financially ideal, it really could not be avoided. And I must say, it is a huge relief to have a computer than I can rely on to function and save things and not overheat and that the latest version of iTunes works nicely on.

So with the last, pitifully short four months behind me, I am now sitting here just two days away from publication, feeling slightly wondrous and amazed at everything I’ve managed to achieve in that time and I’m waiting for a sense of relief to hit me. Of course it won’t because this is far from the end; in fact it’s only the beginning of the beginning as far as I’m concerned. But I’m changing direction now, and rather than focussing on preparation I feel like it’s time to charge forwards into everything that I’ve prepared. Instead of lists of media targets and guests and business cards I need to concentrate on the launch (SO EXCITING! I do adore parties) and book-signings and promotional appearances. Rather than reading proofs and approving covers and posters, my mind should be turning towards getting my book stocked in as many places as possible, and indeed getting myself around as many places as possible to sign them for people.

I’m pleased with what I’ve achieved over the last four months and all the things I’ve done, and I should be looking ahead with excitement and confidence. Of course I am, but as well as that there’s something else – and that’s a vague sense of unease about the things I haven’t yet done. Oh well, nobody’s perfect.

Except for Boris of course.

cardboard cutout

Progressive excitement!

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

I am ridiculously excited once again. Last Friday it was the arrival of my books and this Friday it’s the arrival of my business cards! This has sent me through the roof with excitement today and I’m not quite clear why. It is at least a vast improvement on ripping bits of paper out of my notebook and scribbling my website address down which is what I was having to do – hardly the most professional approach. Mind you, neither will leaping up and down with excitement be as I hand them out.

my terrifically exciting cards!

I am also pleased to announce that real progress has been made on my task list. Further to my last, frivolous, blog I got an absolutely stinging email from Florida saying “….you might write lightly about panicking but I am getting very concerned about the lack of progress. I am saying this for your benefit. We need to be in the strongest position to go forward successfully.” I read this at 5:30am UK time, and thought – right, I’ll do it then. Over an hour I sent ten emails, most of them to Florida, created several lists, drank two pots of tea and generally sorted my life out. At some point my youngest daughter joined me (thank God for CBeebies) and shortly after that I was finished for the moment. Or I thought I was. So I was quite shocked when at 8am the replies started pinging back from Florida. I have no idea what on earth the time would have been there, but it wouldn’t have been a welcoming one. I was also very tired and therefore eating Smarties by the handful to try and stay focussed. Progress is clearly good for the mind, not so much for the waistline….

Whilst I’m on the subject of minds, one thing that is definitely not good for them is the cognitive behavioural therapy I am undergoing at the moment. It’s for my phobia of vomiting (real name: emetophobia) and joking aside, this is a very debilitating phobia and one that I do struggle to cope with and have done all my life. I thought being twenty-eight and having two young and occasionally vomiting children might be a reason for me to start sorting it out now. However this CBT has done nothing but make me feel worse so far. I waltzed into my appointment, not really thinking a great deal about it, to be faced by not one, but two psychologists with very serious faces. I sat down opposite them both feeling a little like I was on trial. They then grilled me at length on several different subjects, from “How many siblings do you have?” to the more disturbing “Have you ever thought about killing yourself?” Was this a question or a suggestion?? It was hard to tell. I may need treatment but I don’t feel that’s the answer, even for the cash-strapped NHS. I felt as though every completely rational point that I made was taken as further evidence of my lunacy and I walked out not being sure about anything. But if I can stop being terrified of people being sick then it’s worth it.

So – now – having completed so many tasks and so quickly, I now need to concentrate on the penultimate one; my guest list for the book launch. It’s going to be hard to wriggle through this minefield without offending someone, I suspect. I’d like to make it clear at this point that it is open invitation, anyone is welcome – and indeed encouraged – to come along, but I cannot send invitations to everybody. Either practically or financially. My friends will understand, it’s more my mother who won’t. But perhaps she will be too busy tending to her flock of cats to notice. Anyway, happily my children go back to school next week (WHERE has the summer gone??? I know I say that every year, but really, it’s mad how quickly eight weeks go) so this will leave me with a lot more disposable time to do my guest list. And to be managed effectively.

I thought I was doing quite well actually with this whole writing/child-rearing/keeping house clean business recently. Everything seemed more under control. Sainsburys had delivered the right food in the shopping (always makes me feel better to buy fruit and vegetables – even if we then don’t go on to eat them my fridge looks good), the girls had some sort of structure to their day, I was fitting in everything that I needed to AND managing to spend time with my long-suffering husband. Result. Then feeling quite smug I went to get my washing in off the line and realised that I’d left it there for so long that spiders had spun their webs in it. More practice required, clearly.

The Importance of Being Reviewed

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Right, this is it. I have come down from the dizzy high of receiving my books and now it is time to get serious (I am mostly lecturing myself here). Things He Never Knew is going to be released in 24 days and I need to be prepared.

You would think that my time management skills are excellent, having juggled a baby and a Law degree in the past – not to mention my hectic social life at the time – and indeed they might have been back in the day. Now, they are lamentably awful. Clearly a lot of you will be used to working and running a household with everything that entails, but I am not. This is all very new to me and I am struggling a bit to fit everything in and get it all in the right order. For example, my house is quite clean but my children still look a little bohemian; this is not by design but rather through lack of ironed clothes. I can get away with this because as a writer it’s possible that I could be slightly bohemian myself, but as anyone who knows me will tell you – I am not. Headscarves and flip-flops and maxi dresses and coloured beads and string bags are not to be found in my wardrobe. I’m not very tall and I think I’d look silly in a maxi dress. Mini is more my style.

So obviously I am thrilled and delighted to be in this position of having a book published, not to mention lucky, but that said I had no idea that so much – well – work went along with it. I have a friend who is knowledgeable in the fields of marketing and promotion and things and I am exceedingly lucky that he has taken me under his very skilled wing, but along with that comes a task list which is longer than me. And enforced rigorously. Even from afar. For example, he is abroad at this moment on holiday in Florida which I thought might lessen his communication levels. Not a bit of it, in fact he’s become inadvertently more effective at nagging because of the time difference. Every morning when I wake up and check my emails, there is always a little one entitled “Task List” sitting menacingly in my inbox, and it contains tasks – obviously – and then the final, killer, line: “….and when you’ve done them, send them to me.” It is precisely like being at school and catches me at my most unaware. But I must admit that it has the effect of making me do things that I might otherwise prevaricate about. Like thinking of ways to get people to review my book. At this stage they don’t even have to be favourable; just someone reading it would be fab. No, I am JOKING. Let me tell you that the idea of getting bad reviews strikes a chill into my very soul. It would silly of me to think that I can avoid it forever but frankly, the longer the better. For those of you not in the know, good reviews are completely necessary to the success of a book. This is because they draw the attention of far more people than mere advertising could do and not only that, but it’s a very effective method of imparting the salient information about the book and then hopefully following it up by a recommendation. Which brings me onto my next point, it needs to be a recommendation from someone whose opinion could be respected. I could get one hundred of my friends to write nice things about my book but it doesn’t count so much if I could have bribed/cajoled/threatened/blackmailed them into it. Far be it from me to do that, of course. In fact I have offered it out for review to a couple of important people so far and happily they have said yes, but the caveat that I have given them is that they are under no obligation to deliver a good review. All I’ve said is that I’d love them to read it and if they have something nice to say would they mind writing it down for me to use in my promotional material? I think it’s important not to make people feel that they must say nice things, which is a risk if you’re doing it through a semi-personal route, as I have done. When I begin approaching people and publications in a more formal manner then I will include no such caveat; I will simply request a review. But it will be done in an artful and persuasive manner.

Featuring prominently in this morning’s email was compiling a suitable list of people to target for review. As it has been for the past sixteen mornings. When I say ‘prominently’ I mean number one out of approximately 164. I have never known a task list to breed so prolifically. And I have 24 days in which to complete it………I can’t help feeling that I need an urgent lesson in time management; the way I did it before was a little extreme. In my defence all the stuff that I need to do is necessarily creative, and you can’t just switch creativity on at the drop of a hat. But I am also easily sidetracked.

Damn you, facebook.

Compiling my final list will take careful research and time, of which I am perilously short. I think I know this sub-consciously because I’ve started waking up in the night wondering what I should do next – the minute I can translate this into useful output during the day I will be sorted. The target review list has become something of a hurdle, and even when I had my ponies I was never very good at jumping. It’s even harder to scramble over a hurdle when circumstances conspire against you – take Monday night for example. I was trying to write (and trying is the operative word) but every five minutes my laptop just shut itself down with no warning. And I’m sorry but I cannot write whilst having to pause every two seconds to save the blasted thing. This malfunction nearly caused a complete meltdown from me – my husband watched me out of one eye anxiously whilst I watched him to see what he was going to do about it. I effectively lit the touch paper by mentioning the words “buy”, “new” and “laptop” all in the same sentence, whereupon he leapt up, took the computer apart, cleaned five years worth of dust and crap from it (ooops….) and then, magically, it worked. And whilst all this was going on, I was trying to remember what I was going to write, do the ironing and watch Coronation Street.

It’s a hard life being a writer.