Best Day EVER!

Part One.

Two weeks have passed since Thursday 29 August, also known as the best day of my life – so far. As you probably know by now (I think I may have mentioned it once or twice), my debut novel Dory’s Avengers was officially released on that day, and my lifelong dream to see my work published became a reality.

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The ‘New Books’ window display – including Dory’s Avengers!

That was two weeks ago, and – shock horror – it’s taken me until now to blog about the magnificent book signing event in the Cambridge Waterstones, the event that launched Dory’s Avengers into the literary World. It’s probably taken me so long because I’ve since journeyed from a massive high to a bit of a low (‘is that it now?’), visited confusion (‘what next?’) and finally arrived at efficiency (book clubs, shops and other potential signing venues contacted, eagerly awaiting positive replies).

Thursday 29 August 2013 found me rather more excited than the cool and composed author writing this blog post. The day dawned bright and sunny; following an inauspicious start the UK has enjoyed one of the best summers I can remember, and my book launch fell in the middle of yet another heat wave.

For once in my life, I was very organised leading up to the launch of Dory’s Avengers. Having attended a hugely enjoyable wedding earlier in August, a perfect day thanks to the organisational skills of the bride Babs, I had done some watching and learning. Therefore, by 29 August my speech was written and rehearsed, the food and wine were ordered, the hairdresser booked, and I even had time to enjoy a delicious steak baguette for lunch in the Ancient Shepherds.

Then, everything started to unravel. 1.30 came and went, no sign of hairdresser. Then, ping! In came a message from him saying he’d been held up and would be with me at 2pm.

That’s fine. Relax! There’s still plenty of time before we have to leave at 3.30.

2pm came and went. No sign of hairdresser. No sign of my friends Charles and Doug, who were due to stop on their way into town and pick up some books to take to Waterstones. No sign of anyone! I’m sure there would have been a huge tumbleweed rolling on by, but for the fact that’s not something you often see in a quintessentially English village.

My hairdresser never did turn up. He was doing dreadlocks fifteen miles away, the muppet. It’s a good job we’re friends! Luckily my hair had dried into rather cute curls rather than the tangled mess it usually favours, so disaster number one was averted.

In the grand old tradition of meticulously laid plans, they fell to pieces and instead everything happened at once. Charles and Doug drew up outside my house to collect the books at exactly the same time as my partner Andy got home from work, and my sister Sue arrived from Nottingham armed with overnight gear and a tub of tomatoes. After a short consultation, we decided it made sense for Andy to transport everyone and everything into the centre of Cambridge in his eight seater taxi, and half an hour later that’s exactly what he did.

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The author signing desk

Talk about precision timing; we arrived at Cambridge Waterstones at exactly the same time as the Majestic Wine delivery man. It took a few trips to transport seven people, five cases of wine, three boxes of books, my posh frock and a multitude of snacks up to the third floor in the tiny customer lift, which must have presented quite an unusual spectacle for the people browsing around the ground floor. As is the custom with Cambridge folk, no one took a blind bit of notice! At least the wine delivery man caught on to our excitement, and left with a promise to buy Dory’s Avengers when it’s translated into Polish – hint hint, Book Guild

Rosie, the Waterstones events manager and enthusiastic supporter of my book launch, met us on the third floor where, despite being understaffed, the lovely Waterstones people had managed to clear my area of the usual bargain books. This left us with nothing to do other than plate up (and sample) the snacks, open (and sample) some of the wine, and, in my case at least, scurry around getting ludicrously excited – which was fully to be expected. After all, it’s not every day that one’s dream comes true.

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Alison Jack – Published Author, and ‘Silly Face of the Year’ winner 2013.

Best Day EVER Part Two – Coming soon.

Amazon is Despatching!

Earlier today I had a look at Dory’s Avengers on Amazon to see if the e-version of the book is being advertised yet. It isn’t, but I did discover that:

  • The hard copies of Dory’s Avengers are now being despatched by Amazon.

And:

  • Amazon only has two copies left in stock!

There was me thinking DORY’S AVENGERS wasn’t published until next week! However, according to Book Guild, Amazon despatching now is perfectly acceptable and above board.

Of course, now I’m tempted to order a copy for myself… simply to see if the copies left in stock tally drops to one, you understand! The idea of ordering my own book puts me in mind of the elderly man attempting to track down a copy of ‘Fly Fishing’ by J R Hartley in the heart-warming old Yellow Pages advert. For those of you who don’t know what I’m on about:-

‘Hello, Amazon? Do you have a copy of Dory’s Avengers by Alison Jack? You do? Would you reserve it for me? Wonderful! My name? Ah yes, it’s Alison Jack.’

It’s no good. I’ve got to go and buy it…

Book Launch Bliss

THURSDAY 18th JULY 2013

Earlier today I walked into the Cambridge branch of Waterstones and asked to speak to the events coordinator.

‘Will she know what it’s about?’ asked the young man behind the counter.

‘She will,’ I replied, beaming my hugest smile.

Indeed she did. Within minutes we were shaking hands, then she proudly showed me the space earmarked for what promises to be the most exciting event of my life to date: the launch of my début novel, Dory’s Avengers.

Waterstones 1

I’ve been waiting for this day for weeks. When I say waiting I don’t mean I’ve sat idle. Blogging, networking, making new friends, cultivating useful contacts have kept me well occupied, but now I realise all that was just the calm before the storm. On Monday of this week I met with Book Guild’s marketing team, on Tuesday the Waterstones staff in Cambridge confirmed that they would be happy to host my book launch and on Wednesday it finally sank into my frantic brain that my dream to be a published author really is about to come true. People will soon be able to buy my beautiful book. They’ll be able to read it, talk about it, tweet about it, give it five star reviews on Amazon (please?!); and to start it all off I will be signing copies of Dory’s Avengers in a city centre bookshop! To say I’m excited would be the understatement of the century; I was so delighted following my meeting with the Waterstones events coordinator that I winked (yes winked!) at a complete stranger as I left the shop.

My head is full of so many ideas at the moment I’m finding it difficult to collect my thoughts. There’s so much to do: lists to be made, blogs to be written, catering to plan, invitations to be distributed; and do you know what? I’m loving every minute!

Author Interview with EMMA LONG

EMMA LONG

Today I am delighted to introduce EMMA LONG, my first interviewee and Quick & Easy Homemade Meals Book Coverauthor of the very well received cookery book ‘QUICK AND EASY HOMEMADE MEALS’, published by Book Guild. After several years working for The Swallow Hotel Group as an Assistant Manager, Emma set up her own Birmingham-based business, Emma’s Pantry, in 1998, which she ran until 2012 when she joined her family run property business full time. In response to demand from Emma’s Pantry staff and customers she created ‘QUICK AND EASY HOMEMADE MEALS’, in which she guides her hungry readers through easy to follow recipes making the most of common ingredients. Each recipe is accompanied by full colour photographs, showing the raw ingredients and the delicious meals that can be created.

When not cooking, Emma is a keen tennis player and gardener, an avid reader, and enjoys playing the guitar and drums. I’m delighted to say she has found time in her busy schedule to answer some questions for me. So without further ado, let’s welcome Emma and get to know her a little better.

Alison – Briefly describe your latest book / work in progress, along with details of book signings, release date (where relevant), promotional events etc.

Emma – My book “Quick and Easy Homemade Meals” was published in 2012 and is my first publication – It is as the cover states ‘A book of tasty recipes for the busy person’.

Each recipe is accompanied with a photo of the raw ingredients as well as one of the finished dish, something I feel is a unique selling point, as I have yet to discover a publication which has this feature.

I am currently writing my second book and have nearly finished ‘trying and testing’ the recipes. Additionally, I hope to combine both books to develop a student friendly version which will include advice on essential ingredients for the fridge, freezer, and store cupboard.

Alison – ‘Quick and Easy Homemade Meals’ is now on my wish list; my cookery skills are in need of some improvement! When and why did you decide to become and author?

Emma – I decided to become an author in 2011 and was inspired by not only my love of preparing food but also the pleasure I get from constructing a tasty dish by combining a few ingredients. I wanted to capture this inspiration in book form and so starting to write down my recipes.

Writing a book and having it published is a very satisfying and rewarding achievement – something I wanted to fulfil before my 40th birthday !

I do like a challenge and am always looking for new ways to add another ‘string to my bow’.

Alison – What are you reading at the moment, and what is your opinion?

Emma – I am a very keen reader and since 2010 and have on average been reading a book a week. I am currently in between books at the moment as I am just finishing “The Innocent” by Harlan Coben and am about to start “Inferno” the new novel by Dan Brown. I really enjoy Harlan Coben books as each chapter leaves you on the edge of your seat – really well written thrillers.

Alison – Has your book received favourable reviews ? Please feel free to quote from the reviews / and / or post links here.

Emma – Yes, I am pleased to say the Burton Mail (Saturday, 25th February, 2012) provided a very favourable review as have some customers on Amazon.

Caroline Kay from the Burton Mail wrote:

“I may not be a very adventurous cook, but I do like my cookery books.

Over the years I have acquired quite a few – but the one thing I like the most is to see a picture of each of the dishes which are included. Not all cookery books offer this luxury – in fact, many moons ago, I had one to review which didn’t have a single picture or illustration throughout.

Quick and Easy Homemade Meals, however, doesn’t just have a full colour photograph illustrating how each dish should look when prepared, but also a picture of the raw ingredients. Personally, I love this quirky addition.

The book is divided into 11 sections – beef dishes, pasta, chicken, fish, pork, lamb, vegetarian, alternative meals, side dishes, sauces, and sandwich fillings.

All the dishes are quick and easy to prepare and the majority don’t have a particularly long cooking time which is ideal for those, like me, who always seem to be in a rush. There is a good selection of recipes mixing classics with favourites and includes some interesting snacks and side dishes.

There are more than 100 recipes featured from an author who, unlike many of our cookery brethren, doesn’t believe in the motto ‘the more complicated the better’.

Chances are you will have most of the ingredients in your store cupboard, fridge and freezer.”

Amazon Customers have given my book a 5 star rating and the comments during 2012 – 2013 included:

“Great Book !”

“Quite a discovery”

“I highly recommend this book”

“Excellent cook book”

A local Birmingham magazine called “Gem” which is delivered to homes within the area have been very supportive, including me in two issues in 2012 and I have been approached by The Editor to write a feature for the July and August editions this year.

Recently, my old University, Oxford Brookes, from which I graduated in 1995, posted a profile detailing my career to date on their website. The link is here.

Furthermore, in order to promote my book I have designed a website  and have a dedicated Facebook page on which I post updates, news, and recipes:

Alison – It must be fabulous to know that people have not only bought ‘Quick and Easy Homemade Meals’ they have enjoyed it so much they review and recommend it. All the hard work and the long publishing process was definitely worthwhile. What have you learned from the publishing experience ? Are there things you would do differently in future ?

Emma – The publishing process was a completely new experience for me, but the publisher kept me informed at each stage so I knew what to expect. It could be said you learn from your mistakes the first time round which makes the publishing procedure easier and gives you a greater understanding for your second publication.

The Facebook page I created for my book has been very successful, and so in hindsight perhaps I should have designed one earlier, maybe pre-book launch, and thus I could have started to built an audience and gained more interest earlier.

Alison – Do you think professional editing and proof reading are essential parts of the publishing process ? Do you think an author can successfully perform these tasks themselves ? Please give reasons for your answer.

Emma – Most definitely these are essential parts. As an author you become very engrossed in your work and possibly overlook typographical errors and may miss out, in the case of a cookery book, the mention of a specific ingredient which has been listed but omitted from the method.

Proof reading and editing provide ‘a fresh pair of eyes’ and are beneficial tools in order to offer a critical evaluation.

Alison – I agree. Recently I saw a cartoon picture with the caption ‘Don’t ask an author to poof read their own work, they’ll only see whatever they intended to write’. In addition to employing the services of professional editors and proof readers, is there any other advice you would give to a budding author ?

Emma – Research your topic thoroughly and look for a USP (unique selling point) which will inevitably help sell your book. Don’t be disheartened by rejection use it positively – I was turned down by 14 Literary Agents until I found a publisher who saw the potential in my manuscript and I am now a publisher author !

Use the internet as a platform to showcase your work, such as creating a Facebook page and designing a website.

It you believe in your work, undoubtedly others will too, and thus you may well fulfil a niche in the market which has largely remained unexplored.

Alison – Social media is an invaluable marketing tool, isn’t it. After working so hard to find a publisher, it must have been great to see your book in print for the first time. How did you feel?

Emma – Thrilled and excited ! To see my initial manuscript turned into a book meant I fulfilled an ambition to be a published author by 40. As a new author the process felt quite daunting but I am delighted with the finished product. The support and positive comments have made the whole process worthwhile.

Alison – Do you think someone can be taught to write books, or is it a natural talent ?

Emma – I think there is a writer and book in everyone ! The word ‘talent’ is defined in the dictionary as an ‘ability’ which I believe each one of us has, but some may not realise. Our introduction to creative writing can start at an early age at school, but career choices, and experiences during life can provide material which could result in a book. I recommend putting pen to paper and let your creative juices flow !

Alison – What are your top five books ? A favourite series can count as one choice.

Emma- This is a very difficult question as I have enjoyed some many books by different authors over the years but I have managed to produce a short list as follows:

1)      “Angels and Demons” by Dan Brown

2)      “Hothouse Flower” by Lucinda Riley

3)      “Never Look Away” by Linwood Barclay

4)      “Tell No One” by Harlan Coben

5)      “Confessions of a Midwife” by Diane Chamberlain

Alison – Good choices! ‘Tell No One’ is a particular favourite of mine too. What do you think is the future for the physical book ? Do you think there will always be people buying hard copies of books, or will the e-reader take over completely ?

Emma – Sadly there has been a steady demise in the traditional High Street bookstore over the past few years as on line retailers, such as Amazon, have succeeded in meeting the demands of the consumer whose hectic life style limits their spare time and thus ordering a book via the internet, which can be delivered to your e-reader within seconds, removes the need to leave your desk to shop.

I, too have joined the growing band of people who own a Kindle (the device is certainly easier and weighs less to take on holiday than several novels !) and have recently uploaded a Kindle version of my book on to the Amazon website.

Perhaps, like a fashion item, the book will come back into vogue and the e-reader will become a less favourable mode of reading, only time will tell !

Alison – I think there will always be a call for real books as well as e-books, particularly for reference. I can’t imagine following recipes on my kindle, for example, so I’m sure there is a future for the traditional book. Let’s hope so!

Emma Long author photoThank you very much to Emma for her excellent comments. I hope you’ve enjoyed this interview as much as I have, and if you fancy trying Emma’s recipes for yourself QUICK AND EASY HOMEMADE MEALS can be ordered directly from Book Guild, or from  Amazon:       UK link     US Link

You can also follow Emma on FACEBOOK

Printed!

I have just had some super exciting news from my publisher, Book Guild. DORY’S AVENGERS, my début novel, has gone to press to be printed and bound. Within a month I will hold the first copy of my book in my hands, and I’m already feeling pretty overwhelmed at the mere thought. The day I actually receive my author’s copies will be a very emotional, jubilant and significant day in my life.

When I was five-years-old, like a lot of children that age,  I learned to read and write. I immediately embraced this knowledge as an amazing gift, and from that day I’ve had an insatiable appetite for the written word. Whether it be reading another writer’s work, or writing my own stories, blogs, reviews etc, the world of writing is my favourite place. Over four decades it has been a dream of mine to hold up a book and be able to say, ‘I wrote this!’

The beginning of July will bring the realisation of that dream.

Late August 2012. Brighton

When the euphoria that greeted Book Guild’s offer to publish Dory’s Avengers had finally calmed a little I took time to gauge the opinion of my partner, the eternally down to earth Andy. To my delight he was very encouraging, and being a printer by trade he was also able to make sense of any technical printing terms used by Book Guild.

Book Guild are happy for prospective authors call in to the office in Brighton and talk to the publishing team face to face. Before I committed to working with Book Guild Andy and I decided that is exactly what we would do, and so we set off on a day trip to the seaside. Oh yes, and a meeting that could change my life.

Our appointment with Carol, the top lady at Book Guild, was at 2.30, and I did become a little agitated as we made our way from London Bridge to Brighton on the slowest train in living history. Mental note to self: consult a train timetable in future! Luckily we arrived in Brighton and found the Book Guild office, located in the very heart of the town opposite the Pavilion Theatre, with time to spare.

DSC02780Opposite the Book Guild office was a the very thing I needed at that moment: a pub, of course!

Sitting at the bar, sensibly nursing a soft drink rather than the cider I craved, I gazed over the street at the Book Guild office. All around people were going about their daily lives, unaware that in their midst was a very excited author on the verge of making her dream come true. Definitely a goose flesh moment.

The informality of the Book Guild offices put me at my ease straight away. Predominantly open plan, a little untidy, bright, airy, and everywhere books, books, lovely books! They were  stacked on every surface, propped up on trolleys, displayed on book cases, all clearly well loved by the Book Guild staff. What book lover could fail to feel at home in this higgledy piggledy book-centric office?

I took to Carol straight away. She clearly loves her work, proudly showing me one Book Guild publication after another, and enthusing about the cover art and printing, individually tailored to suit each book. Naturally Andy was very interested in the printing side of the process. He and Carol discussed the finer points of printing while I daydreamed about holding a beautiful, hard covered first edition of Dory’s Avengers in my hands. At no point during the meeting did Carol try to pull the wool over my eyes. The publication process takes a long time, about a year in all, which took me rather by surprise. Also, it’s not going to be easy to get my work noticed among the thousands of books that are published every year, and often an author’s success owes more to luck than talent. However, there’s always the chance, if Dory’s Avengers is published, that I might be one of the lucky ones. Remain unpublished and I’ll never know.

The meeting with Carol was very positive, and sometimes quite exciting. It’s more than likely that I will have a book signing in the Cambridge branch of Waterstones to coincide with the launch of Dory’s Avengers, and if this goes well then there may be more book signings, perhaps even one in London. At about this point in the meeting I began to wonder when I was going to wake up from this crazy dream. Book signings? Me?

DSC02781When Andy and I finally emerged from the Book Guild offices on to the sunny streets of Brighton, we were amazed to discover we had been talking to Carol for over an hour. In need of some liquid refreshment we headed to another of Brighton’s lovely pubs, and this time I did treat myself to a cider. More than one actually as Andy and I discussed the meeting we’d just attended. I stood on the threshold of becoming the very thing I’ve wanted to be from the moment I learnt to write: a published author.

Sitting on a packed train back to London, a much faster train than the one on which we’d travelled down to Brighton, the opening lyrics of the Eminem song “Lose Yourself” kept repeating over and over again in my head:

‘Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it? Or just let it slip?’

The next morning I emailed Carol to let her know I would love Book Guild to publish Dory’s Avengers. This was my one opportunity, and there was no way I was going to let it slip.

Published!

On 15 August 2012 my life changed. I was sitting at the computer, social networking and drinking coffee, when an email popped into my inbox. Telling myself that it was almost certainly junk so there was no need to get excited, I opened my inbox to discover how wrong I was.

The email was from Book Guild Publishing of Brighton, and it read as follows:

Dear Alison

RE: DORY’S AVENGERS

With further reference to our email of 6 August we have now completed the assessment of your manuscript.

Firstly, we were impressed with Dory’s Avengers. This is a compelling novel, set in a credible alternative Britain where control of the population has reached ruthless proportions. Your characterisation is good, with a range of characters both good and evil, all convincingly portrayed. Theodore and Louis are particularly absorbing characters, and their relationship is well drawn, with excellent dialogue. Readers will certainly be satisfied by the impact Dory’s Avengers have on Lord William’s empire. We confirm that we would be pleased to work with you to publication.

I didn’t get much further than this on my initial reading of the email. They liked it! A proper, real life publisher liked my book so much that the only criticism they had to make was that it was too long. Book Guild Publishing of Brighton wanted to work with me to publish Dory’s Avengers.

I cried! Then I jumped around the living room, screamed quite a lot, cried some more, laughed, got a bit hysterical and finally phoned Andy.

Andy was delighted, I was still highly emotional. Wanda was delighted too when I texted the news to her; she phoned me back and got everyone in her office to cheer. My lovely Polish neighbours beamed at me as I skipped round our shared courtyard, talking animatedly into my phone; they obviously realised something pretty momentous had just happened in my life.

Er yes, I think momentous pretty much sums it up!

I still get a thrill thinking about 15 August 2012. It’s not not every day that a lifelong dream becomes a reality, but that is exactly what happened on that day.

I’m going to be a published author.