On the road again

There has been some journeying this week to talk about THE ILLUSIONISTS in bookshops and libraries, and it has been soothing between events to sit in rattling cross-country trains and stare out at pale green trees and fields. Even the rusty ribbons of trackside dereliction between Reading and Euston are frothed-up and festive as a wedding with cherry and blackthorn blossom.

We still have some great independent booksellers, like Booka Bookshop in Oswestry, and it’s a joy to meet readers and other writers at these talks and signings. I feel as if I’m wrapping up conversations and affection like a goody bag from a party and bringing them home to my writer’s cave to last me through to the next outing. There’s a frustrating aspect to the book tour, though. So many interesting people come to the signing table, for example the reader who knew all about the European cemetery in Leh that appears in THE KASHMIR SHAWL – because she was responsible for restoring it! There is no time to talk properly to anyone, because I am pathologically averse to keeping anyone waiting, ever, and I am always conscious of the line of people tailing back as I check the spelling of the dedicatee’s name and aim for a legible signature. I don’t know what the answer is to this. Perhaps there isn’t one. There’s also the toad squatting on my shoulder to remind me that most readers liked the book preceding the one they are now loyally purchasing, which is quite different. What if they don’t like it? And if they don’t, it’s certain they won’t care for the one I’m half way through writing now…. So goes the author’s life. Maybe I should go into accountancy!

In the last post I mentioned BORDER CROSSING, the only non-fiction book I’ve written. It’s the rollicking account of a classic car rally I entered in a restored Volvo Amazon, co-driven by Phil Bowen. When we left Peking Phil and I hardly knew each other. By the time we drove into the Place de la Concorde in Paris six weeks later we had mapped the entire Mars/Venus conflict in one old car…

The book has been out of print for quite a long time but it’s a fun read and I’m pleased to say that it now digitally available to download via this link.

Border Crossing

BorderCrossingCover

In the next couple of days there will be some pictures of our petrol-head adventures in the Gallery, too.

Post-publication

THE ILLUSIONISTS is out there and I’ve been thrashing about in the coils of the new book for what feels like a long time – but is really only since mid-January. I have written perhaps a third of it. It’s not an easy one, and it’s hard to be disciplined when the sun’s shining like it is today and there are exuberant green shoots springing up in unexpected places – including my narrative. Time for a creative break, and luckily I’m about to get one.

I’ll be heading to the north of England and then down to south Wales to visit libraries and bookshops and to talk at the Cowbridge Festival and the Wiltshire Federation of Women’s Institutes. I love meeting real readers and book buyers. Sometimes we London types get too caught up in book prize gossip and publishing chat and general FOMO anxiety, and it’s good to travel to somewhere else and talk to people who want to read a good story.

Details and dates for these events are on my News page. If you are anywhere in the vicinity, please come along.

In the next post I’ll be writing about the e-book launch of a favourite title of mine – not a novel at all, but a sort of adventure/autobiography featuring old cars and a Mars-Venus clash…

Here’s a picture.

Rally18 FB

Publication day

I’m supposed to be immersed in Chapter 6 of the new book, the sequel to THE ILLUSIONISTS, but it’s hard to think myself into 1920s London when I keep wondering about what’s happening to the other volume on its first day out in the world. I should invest in that writers’ app that shuts off the internet, no quibbling, for an interval that you pre-agree with yourself. Or perhaps I’ll just give up and do the ironing.

It is almost exactly four years, I realise, since the original idea for THE ILLUSIONISTS came to me while I was gnawing my pencil in the library on the trail of another notion altogether. It’s impossible to harvest an idea in the process of trying to have an idea – they come out of the ether when you are in the throes of something else. The writing itself is different; you chip doggedly away, on some days cutting more than you create, on other days having a small surge of a few paragraphs. It’s slow work, deliberate in intent and execution, and on a daily scale seeming removed from any process of inspiration. It’s more like tiling, or darning. Although I know that many authors don’t see it like that it all.

I love hearing other writers talk, so I’m just off to Suffolk to the Aldeburgh literary festival. I’ll be seeing Patrick Gale, Sarah Dunant and – if I can steal or forge or embezzle a ticket – Hermione Lee discussing her wonderful biography of Penelope Fitzgerald, one of my favourite writers.

Thanks to all for following these accounts of bringing a book to market.

I think I’ve got a bit of post-natal depression…..

And the next one?

The final pre-publication meeting has been and gone. The news is good. Representing what’s left of the high street Waterstones and WHS have ordered in decent numbers, and of the supermarkets Asda and Sainsbury’s have confirmed orders. Tesco look likely to do the same but have not committed to a figure yet. Supermarkets don’t take many hardbacks, so this is a really impressive achievement by the UK sales team. The book wholesalers have taken a thousand, and these will go out to whichever of the independent booksellers think they can shift a few hardback copies. Finally, the mighty Amazon is considering it for one of their big promotions of the year.

In all, twelve thousand hardbacks have been ordered pre-publication for the UK market.

(This is about as good as it gets, without writing about wizards or bondage.)

Real, actual, printed copies will be coming in in the next couple of days. This is always a special moment, to hold a finished book in your hand after so long.

My publicist has lined up a good spread of reviews and feature coverage around publication, I’ll be visiting bookshops and appearing at literary festivals, and the publishers have promised that they will promote the video trailer my nearest and dearest and I made to showcase the novel. Here’s the link again if you haven’t viewed it yet….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWuk_ycgQkM&feature=youtu.be

Selling! This is how it works in the modern book world. I love the meetings with sales and marketing executives. They have their own language… FSSU’s, ‘gifting units’ (that’s a cardboard box to you and me), ‘dual face out’, ‘bespoke POS’ and so on, and this level of professional and (frankly) quite hard-nosed skill makes me feel both woolly-minded and apprehensive. (‘Yes, but what if the book isn’t actually, you know, any good?’)

And then at the end, when we have wrapped up the day’s business, someone asks, ‘by the way, how’s the next one coming along?’

Seven pairs of eyes immediately turn to the author. The usual vague feeling of being a grain of sand under a massive inverted pyramid of expertise and expectation sharply intensifies.

‘Oh, really well’, I lie. ‘Flowing like a river’.

Everyone smiles and packs away their electronica before the next meeting. This time next year we’ll be here, talking about the as-yet-unwritten new Rosie Thomas title.  I cross my fingers in my pockets and pray. Then I shuffle off for a posh lunch with my beloved agent, after which anything seems possible – even another book.

Illusionists[1]

Here is a preview of the cover design for the Canadian edition. Interesting how diverse the approaches are for the two different markets? We have just agreed a deal for the US market too!

GETTING THERE?

Five or six weeks to publication of THE ILLUSIONISTS. The protracted business of getting a book from first manuscript version to bookstore or device is almost done. There’s one more meeting to be attended – my agent and my publicist and I will meet the publishers later this month for a strategic round-up. My agent and I will hope to hear good news about the ‘sell-in’ to the book trade and pre-orders, and about marketing campaigns. The book is going to be WHSmith’s Deal of the Week, which is good news. What else? Will Tesco be taking it? What are the numbers? How does it all look? At this point, there’s not much more I can contribute. It’s down to the sales and marketing teams. Books aren’t product, of course. But they have to be sold…. and, against the stiff competition for what I understand is called ‘the leisure pound’, sold hard.

In turn my publicist Annabel and I will tell them about the press and review coverage we hope to have achieved, and I’ll talk about what I have been doing on social media here and elsewhere. For example – with the help of some generous and creative friends I have devised, scripted, shot and edited a video trailer for the book. This is the link if you haven’t seen it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWuk_ycgQkM&feature=youtu.be

It was lots of laughs to do, although in retrospect it also took quite a bit of time and creative juice when I should really have been working on the new book. This is what writers always feel whenever they are doing anything else with their lives.  Even as I type this I’m naggingly aware that I haven’t yet written the scene I wanted to finish today!  Later, once the present book is published, I’ll be going to speak about THE ILLUSIONISTS at book festivals and reading groups. I enjoy doing this, but the same guilt will prevail.

However: all of this combined effort will, we hope, add up to SALES.

This morning over my cup of coffee I was reading The Author, which is the journal for members of the Society of Authors. Two viewpoints about this business of authorial self-promotion struck me. One was a quote from do-it-yourself author Talli Roland, who says she spends half her day writing and the other half publicising her work. Admittedly she is self published and therefore doesn’t have the back up I receive from a large commercial publishing house  – but HALF of her time? If she were able to write full time would there be twice as much, or would there be the same amount but twice as good?

It’s a frivolous speculation, but the increasing obligation to self-promote is a topic I keep coming back to. The second quote comes from Terence Blacker, novelist and columnist. He says ‘do not spend your vital writerly essence on publicity, and yet do not avoid it entirely in a spirit of Salingeresque self-importance’. Uh, I’m not quite sure how to reconcile the two poles of that, but I think I get his general drift. I’ll just carry on writing this modest blog, then.

Rosie titles-5

Finally, four more of my back list titles are now available in digital form with these bright new covers. CELEBRATION was my first book, written more than 30 years ago when I was at home with my new baby son, and FOLLIES was the second. They are a young woman’s work, mostly concerned with love in its conventional forms. I’m quite a literal writer, and I mostly do what I know. The other two are from the middle era, when life seemed a less romantic matter. A reader was remarking recently that she found a couple of the earlier books less satisfying than the more complex later ones. I’m pleased to think I’ve developed…

Learning yoga under a tree in India

New year, new mind/body is a bit obvious, but there it is. I did and do feel the need to be ‘more in the present’, as guru Binoy puts it. Predictably enough the beginner’s poses seem relatively easy to achieve, except for that sitting one with knees flat on the floor and one foot snugly tucked over the other thigh. When I do it I look like a broken shoe. But the meditation!? How do you DO that? Stop yourself suddenly remembering you need a dental check up, noticing your toenail varnish is chipped, wondering what’s for breakfast? Practice, breathing, and replacing the next with the NOW. So I am told.

In the meantime, I have been meditating on coincidence. We have been staying at some holiday villas run by a charming British/Russian couple, and on Christmas Eve we were invited to share a beach barbecue with them and their guests from the other villa. We had a lovely evening as you do, with strangers with whom you may not have much in common but who are good company when there are stars overhead and waves breaking ten feet away. But after a few drinks and some more chat we discovered the following, from a random group of 12 of us.

  1. One of the other party came from the same small town in the Midlands as one of our group.
  2. One of the other party had worked at the same advertising agency as one of our group.
  3. The British half of our host couple has been best friends from the age of six with my trekking guide and good friend Seb.

I mean, novelists (including me, quite recently) are berated for using improbable coincidences to ease a plot along, but I don’t think I could get away with three on one evening. You couldn’t make it up, as they say.

Tonight I have received my annual stats from WordPress, who provide the template for this blog. I learn that in 2013 rosiethomasauthor.com has received online visits from eighty-three countries. WOW! This makes me feel incredibly happy and proud to think of all the fiction fans and travellers and voyaging readers who have looked in in 2013. Thank you for your company, wherever you are – in Ghana, Vietnam, Bolivia, Australia, Canada or anywhere else – and may 2014 be happy and healthy.

Blogcountries

Best wishes x

Forgotten but not gone

It’s strange but true that as the publication date of a new novel comes closer, the novel itself seems to get further away.

It’s to do with the long gap that always comes between writing and being read, during which life intervenes. I finished the last work on THE ILLUSIONISTS proofs back in September and since then I’ve been on a long semi-research trip to Central Asia, spent a fun week making a promotional video for the book (more about that below), and at last immersed myself in writing the first chapters of the next book. All this activity has pushed the content of the last one quite a long way to the back of my mind. I’ll have to read it again myself before I can answer any questions!

Actually, I won’t. I’ve never re-read any one of my 20-odd novels. I can’t imagine what that would feel like, except unsatisfactory because of all the ways I now know by which they could be improved.

The single one of my books that I DO re-read is BORDER CROSSING, which isn’t a novel but a sort of travel/autobiography about competing in the Peking to Paris car rally in 1997. I like to relive all the adventures and dramas my co-driver Phil Bowen and I shared on our flat-out dash halfway round the world. The book’s been out of print for some time and the rights are mine, so I had hoped to put it up via this website as a sort of Christmas offer to friends and followers. Sadly it turned out I wasn’t up to the technicalities of doing this alone so I decided to do it commercially, and of course process (the mighty Amazon’s process, that is) has intervened and it isn’t ready yet.

It will be soon though, at a bargain price, and it’s a fun read. NOT just for old-car buffs, I promise.

The video for THE ILLUSIONISTS is all ready, and – full of excitement – I wanted to share it immediately. But those who know better (publicists and marketeers) advised me not to do anything with it until the new year, because everyone’s inboxes are already full up with Christmas. So I’ll put up the link in early January – look out for it here from the 6th.

And as part of the sales hoopla surrounding THE ILLUSIONISTS, my publishers will be releasing digital versions of some earlier titles previously unavailable in this format, with smart new cover artwork – look!

Rosie e-titlesIt’s been all go at RosieThomas MegaCorp HQ.

I’m off to India now, to Kerala, for a short Christmas holiday. I’ve only ever been to the Indian Himalayan regions and to Delhi, so I’m looking forward to this new experience. No research involved this time – just family. Luckily Santa came early and I’ve a new Kindle with lots of good reading on it. I’ll be keeping this one wrapped in cotton wool. I sat on the last one in Kazakhstan and squashed it blank.

There are some pictures from Central Asia under the ‘Gallery’ tab.